Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pulled out of the desert

Oh, don't you just love it when you've been wandering, wandering ... wandering around the desert, no idea where you are, you shoulda taken that left at Albuquerkay, to quote Bugs Bunny, and then someone quietly nudges you, and there's the path, right there?

Personal sermons and navel gazing in worship, oh my! What was my damage, Heather? I mean, I like some good introspection as much as the next person, and have a problem with the folks who just flat out refuse to look inside and consider their motivations. Was my problem one of the-sermon-as-therapy, or a desire for a call to action, or a fear of creating narcissism in the pews?

Or not.

The issue, which I realized as soon as I read Rev. Sean's words, was one of balance. And I have been to seriously out-of-balance churches.
I am constantly trying to offer a variety of preaching styles: prophetic, pastoral, psychological, theological, calls to action, calls to contemplation, sermons about what it means to be a church, sermons about the history of our movement and our congregation, “cheerleader” sermons, sermons that acknowledge brokenness and limitations… (Rev. Sean)
His entire post on what worship is like in his congregation is just ... well, for my taste and preferences, it's just delicious. I hope other ministers and layleaders will jump on the bandwagon and post what worship is like in their congregations. And I'm not just saying that because I'm leading a worship committee retreat next month.

But back to the point ... variety!

I like sermons that focus on the personal. Things that people can take back into their lives. But there is also a time for a call to action. I do not believe in the philosophy that says the improvement of the self, from the inside out, is the sole reason we are here. An essay was circulated at my church a few months ago that said that everything is out there for a purpose, and we need to just let it be, and focus on ourselves. Rather than marching for peace, rather than protesting injustice, we need to stay at home and meditate on finding peace within ourselves.

Egad.

And that is why I had the knee jerk reaction to the idea that every Sunday should focus on the personal, because I envisioned a church where, every Sunday, members goes deep into themselves, and think about why they do things, and think about poverty of the spirit and such, and how they really need to give themselves more love, and then they get in their cars and go home and have a nice dinner with their family and meanwhile, at the church next door, they learned about how the local food bank is really struggling, so after church, they all went down, went shopping for some of the items that were really needed and signed up to take turns manning the "store" where the needy could come "shop" for staples to get them through one more week.

Variety. Because we need calls to action and history lessons and a connection to the interdependent web and to each other and we need therapy and encouragement and education. And personal sermons, too, oh yes.

3 comments:

Comrade Kevin said...

Personal narrative reaches beyond abstract grandstanding. In my opinion, there needs to be a balance that incorporates the personal with the cold, hard, facts.

There's no way to make experience uniform across the divide--individuals will form their own responses, or not responses and often times what makes the deepest impact varies considerably from person to person.

Nancy said...

I think no matter what you speak about or how you deliver it, it is bound to touch people in a thousand different ways.

P.S. Your Heathers reference made me snort.

mev said...

I happened on your blog while looking for help for a friend. I am a UU, too.

My friend's baby is six weeks old and has cancer. The baby has just finished her first round of chemo. My friend is looking to talk with another mother who has experience in getting a baby back to the breast after chemo.

Would you be willing to talk with my friend.

If so, please contact me and I will put you in touch with her.

purpledogwood@gmail.com