The random, thoughts, views and opinions of a young Methodist student minister, musician and University student.

Enjoy :)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Powerful presence - authoritative preaching......really?

Well, I had my first assessed service - not my first ever assessed service but my first in terms of the assessment team coming from my new "base" in Cambridge rather than my usual colleagues in London. The service was a rather difficult one as it was taking place on remembrance Sunday and I'm a hardcore pacifist who was determined to preach a totally pacifist sermon!

Taking my pacifist views into the pulpit was not necessarily the wisest thing to do - but what do we do as preachers when the Holy Spirit urges us to preach on something difficult? After all the word of God is 'sharper than any two-edged sword'! Faced with this challenge I decided that I wouldn't tone down a sermon which I myself have to admit was bloody hard to write, let alone preach. In challenging the congregation, I myself was faced with a challenge, not only did I find myself having to go over my thoughts on war, but, I also found myself struggling to see how pacifism worked out in some very difficult situations. I soon realised that if we all waited till we had worked out everything that was floating around the topics we were preaching on - then we would never preach!

Doubts, fears, confusion, challenge aside - the sermon was preached, and to my surprise, it was well received!

After the service more than half the congregation said how helpful it was to be made to think for a change and how much they appreciated the challenging sermon. I still of course, had no idea what my assessors thought of it all and I had a three day wait before I was given the verdict.

Knowing how much of a risk I took by preaching such a hard to hear message - I was expecting the worst but every member of the assessment team agreed that I preached in an informed and challenging way and that it was great to have such a thoughtful response to a very hard topic.

I was then taken aback, when the focus changed from the sermon itself to the supposed authority and presence which I am said to carry....... I'm not aware of this myself but it did make me think.

For me, preaching has always been about making sure I preach about the 'hard to hear' things. After all, Is there really any point in us preaching if all we are going to do is patronise people by telling them what they already know - or - is it about dealing with some of the hard, tough, questions which the Gospel often faces us with?

I think it's the latter rather than the former and I hope we all keep challenging those we are preaching to, I hope we all keep challenging ourselves! And if you happen to be a person who spends more time in the pew than the pulpit then you ought to tell your preachers when they're not doing what they should be because you only get the preaching you deserve!

Sunday, 14 November 2010



I thought it's about time I updated this just a bit........I hope you like the name change and the new layout! In case you're wondering what a Hesychast is.....look it up :)

Anywho, I've arrived! I'm in Cambridge now, studying Theology at a small theological college for student ordinands (trainee vicars). Cambridge is a lovely city, very small (compared to London) and as a university city usually is, it's full of students.

I've been here nearly two months now and you know that "WOW" factor you always get at the beginning of a new venture...yup that fuzzy positive feeling - it hasn't (as usual) lasted very long!

Before the start of my first term here, I decided to spend a serious amount of time in a monastery of monks, where I lived the Benedictine life of prayer, work and study and spent some time reflecting on the common threads of spirituality in the lives of John Wesley and Benedict of Nursia. Living now, in a very different community, where speech is free, prayer not necessarily forced and manual labour not a routine there a many contrasts to be made. One thing I have come to value is the importance of silence in any community which is to grow and develop. Benedict in chapter 6 of his rule speaks of 'cherishing silence in the monastery' and in chapter 42 he says that 'silence should be sought at all times' - in the world it's not easy to make complete sense of this, however, having lived in two completely different types of "religious" communities I can see why Benedict makes silence such a strict obligation. It prevents petty argument, gossip, backchat and all other sorts of conversation which breed bad energy. So basically what I'm saying is that silence seems to be the glue that holds everything together in a community of Christians who have to live in the same place......I wonder how the early church felt about it and how this lack of silence will affect life here at college...........

In the mean time though, I shall continue to be the baffling, meditative hesychast that I am, pondering on the sayings of the fathers, reciting the offices and I mustn't forget to attend lectures and write essays too!

More later! x