I arrived at the church shortly after 10am to meet with my preacher-mentor, M. Feeling sick, apprehensive and unworthy, I entered the church.
This was my first visit to this particular church so I had a little look round and M and I decided where each of us would sit and stand.
We then went into the vestry to discuss details with the church stewards such as which hymn books we would be using (hymns and psalms) and whether we would need radio mics (I would, M wouldn’t). Both stewards were charming and made me feel very welcome. I actually knew one from a retreat I attend each year which made me feel a lot better.
And then it was 10:28, time for a vestry prayer and the walk to the lectern. Luckily, this involved crossing the church and I could focus on getting to my seat rather than making eye contact with the large congregation.
M started off with an opening prayer amd hymn and I had a problem! No hymn book and I could not see the screen from where I was. I sidled along the side of the platform to see the screen better but the angle was very shallow making it difficult. A steward came to the rescue with a copy ofbhymns and psalms but it did not match the words everyone else was singing. The screen had been fed with the updated lyrics from Singing the Faith. Lesson learned: let the stewards know which version of a hymn I intend to use.
But, I had no time to dwell on this because it was time for me to lead the prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving.
I stood, I approached the lectern and I said “let us pray”. At the exact same moment, M started a small speech introducing me. Because the lectern is positioned further forward than the pulpit, I had not seen her stand and we had not arranged for the speech so I had not expected it. I will have to check with M whether she will introduce me at every service and at what point of each service she will do so to avoid that happening again.
It was now that I discovered a problem with my printing. Because the sheets were double-sided, there was a good chance they would hit the mic on the lectern whenever I turned the page. Another lesson learned: always print single-sided.
Delivery of the prayers seemed to go well though there was some fidgeting during the reflective silences I had allowed. I don’t know whether that is normal or indicated that I hadn’t made the purpose of the silence clear enough or that I let it go on too long. Normally, I am only aware of what I do during those times.
I moved onto the first reading and that seemed to go well, practicing had helped. Also, I had marked when I intended to pause or emphasise certain words:
Then it was time for a hymn and for M to introduce today’s theme (don’t look for God in the wrong places).
As the offering was made, I attached the radio mic and went forward to receive it. It was so difficult not to dip my head to the mic! And I had to do this without my notes.
I returned to the lectern for the final reading which also seemed to go well. The next hymn was Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. A look of anxiety crossed the face of the steward manning (womanning?) the laptop attached to the big screen. No words appeared. Other stewards headed to the back of the church. I knew I had to acknowledge what was happening so I said “ladies and gentlemen, hymn books are being brought forward now”. At which point, the screen came to life behind me. I only knew because of the laughter that rippled through the church. I congratulated the stewards on their quick responses and we began to sing.
That was me done – or so I thought.
At the end of the service, M said I should be with her at the door to shake hands with the congregation. Some left immediately, others stayed for yea and coffee. We stood at the door for over half an hour and shook hands with about 80 people.
So what feedback did I get? I have a clear voice. Several people said they would look forward to me returning alone to preach. I was told I dealt well with the hymn lyric issue. And, from a young man I know “you did better than I thouhht you would”. When I asked whether I should take that as a compliment, he said he had known I would be food but I had been better than good.
I class that all as a successful firat aervice. Nobody walked out and I have things to build on.
Next week, I have meetings with both M, to plan our next service and with my tutor.
God bless you and keep you x