I’ve just had a lovely day with the College of Preachers at Methodist Central Hall.
Speakers included Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, Malcolm Guite, Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge, and Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James, Piccadilly.
Bishop Steven, urged us to not to listen to those that say that in the modern age concentration span is only a few minutes, and reminded that Stand Up Comedians can hold an audience for up to 2 hours without a single visual aid. Comedians tell stories, and show you how absurd life is, and people laugh. As preachers we need to tell stories, and show people how beautiful and mysterious life is, we do this so people can worship. Steven reminded us that someone else was quite famous in telling stories.
Malcolm Guite reminded us, we need to use our poetic imagination, to get anwhere near to loving God with all our minds and all our hearts. He went on to show us how we could use poems in our preaching, such as “The Rain Stick” by Seamus Heaney, or Prayer by George Herbert
Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.
Lucy Winkett talked about keeping our preaching fresh. By this she meant that it should be like the living water that Jesus offered the woman at the well, that always quenches the thirst. We need to recognise the thirst and feed it with the water and breathe of life. Remember Jesus saying “come to me all you who are hungry”. She offered that we should be “expressing the eternal through everyday stories”.While keeping it fresh, we should avoid the clichés in the bible stories, and try to see the stories from the perspectives of others in the stories. What we need to be interested in is “God’s relationship with the congregation – remember that God Loves You, and cannot bear to be parted from you.” Lucy continued to tell us to “Speak Human – avoid clichés, jargon, churchy talk, speak in plain English. Adopt the Phyllis Trebble model of Bible study, we grasp the bible firmly and shout at it, “what do you have to say to us” as if we were wrestling with the angel. But don’t be surprised if we come away with our hip broken! Speak with passion and enthusiasm “come look at this, I can’t believe what I’ve read, come let’s look at this together” – there is an irresistible invitation to live and be fulfilled. Preaching should be a collective act of cultivating wisdom.
In his closing remarks Bishop Steven left us with a few thoughts –
- For each of us as Preachers – Where is our place of replenishment? (We should have a thirsting heart).
- Do we need to re-negotiate the Sunday Contract – there appears to be a contract for a 1hr service on a Sunday morning, and we are failing now to get congregations back for a second 1hr in the evening. What would church look like if we changed the contract to 1.5 or 2hrs, maybe even only once a month, how much more learning and teaching we could do.
- Review what you do? Is your preaching stuck in a rut? If we want to change the way we preach, then perhaps we need to change how we prepare.
A good day, perhaps I need to attend more……..