So, church. I make no secret of the fact that I am a believer in God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc. After all, I’m a priest, who was raised in the Anglican church and despite lack of attendance at various periods of my life, I never stopped believing. It just seemed that other things got in the way and I’m afraid that truthfully, laziness was the primary reason.
These days, if I’m in town, I head up to St. George’s Anglican Church in Gores Landing for Sunday service. It’s only about 20 minutes away and it’s a lovely old church, with a wonderful group of parishioners who have been very welcoming. I was hoping to preach a bit, but since I was not ordained in the Anglican church, I may only do readings. I’m okay with that, although I am hoping to win them over, one day.
Just this week, I came across two quotes about church that I would like to share, because they made me think:
“The church is a hospital and not a courtroom, for souls. She does not condemn on behalf of sins, but grants remission of sins.” St. John Chrysostom
“The mark of a great church is not how many come but how many people live differently as a result of being there.” Unknown
Both of these quotes speak to me. The first because I have always believed that we are not here to judge, that is the job of someone much greater than us. The second because I have also always believed that we attend church to get something out of it--some ideas of how to be better people. Those ideas need to be actioned.
So, essentially, I attend church expecting to be given two main things: forgiveness for my sins and some ideas on how to live a better life, not only for myself, but how to help others live a better life. These two thoughts are also influencing my thoughts on sermons. I have discovered that I really like to write and deliver homilies. When I was in training, I learned that there are usually four parts to a sermon: 1. Trouble then, 2. Grace then, 3. Trouble now, 4. Grace now. These parts can be woven together nicely and not necessarily presented in that order, and I think that a really good preacher can do that fairly seamlessly.
I am thinking, however, that you need to go one step further and actually give your congregation something actionable. My sermons often end with something like ‘How will you serve Christ this week?’. But perhaps I need to be more specific and give them some ideas on how to do that. I need to make them understand that they are forgiven for their sins and that they can do better, with some guidance. They need some guidance on how to avoid the trouble entirely and to take it one step further, not only avoid the trouble, but help someone else avoid the trouble, or at least somehow let someone else know they are not alone.
I’m still pretty new at this and truly, I think you never stop learning how to reach people. I will continue to learn and grow, and hopefully over time, continue to improve the messages that I share and how I share them.
I’ll keep looking for better and better messages and better ways to present them. May you find better and better ways to do what you do too! God bless!