This morning, I lead my first service as an On Trial Preacher. It was a morning of firsts as it was also the first time I had preached in a URC church. The circuit I belong to is ecumenical. Some of the churches are an amalgamation of URC and Methodist congregations, most of the churches are Methodist and a few are URC.
The only difference in the preparation for preaching for a URC congregation rather than a Methodist one was the use of Rejoice and Sing rather than Hymns and Psalms or Singing the Faith.
That isn’t to say that my preparations for the service were easy. Now that I do not have to send my sermon to my mentor for checking, I found myself niggling away at it until it became so convoluted that I deleted the whole thing and started over. Twice. Most recently, yesterday.
That’s a good note: each time I change a sermon, I will save it as a new version so that I can go back to what I had before I complicated it with unnecessary additions.
As the URC congregation meets in the next village I decided to walk there. Not wearing a watch, I panicked a little when I arrived to find several cars in the car park. Entering the church I, rather breathlessly, asked if I had arrived late and I was relieved to discover that I had half an hour before the service started. It seems that that the elders of the church are in the habit of arriving early for a brief meeting. Phew!
This week’s readings, from the book of Jonah and the gospel of Matthew, suggested a theme of the dangers of being angry at God. As unit 4 of the Faith and Worship training course requires a narrative sermon, I got some practice by interweaving an exegesis of each reading with the story of Bruce Almighty focusing on the change in Bruce’s relationship with God.
With the exception of the second hymn, ‘For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God’, which nobody – including me – seemed to know, the service seemed to be well received by the congregation. It being the third Sunday of the month, I was able to talk to several members (about slugs, snails and compost; we were typical gardeners!), over a cup of tea and a biscuit afterwards.
And, as quickly as that, my first service was over and it is time to begin preparations for the next.
This seems to be a natural point to look back on my decision to heed the call.
It has been a surprising and rewarding few months. I had thought my knowledge of Scripture was not great but, at least, reasonable but I knew not one tenth of my current knowledge and, I am sure that in six more months I will be able to look back to today and say the same.
My faith is calmer than it was; I don’t know why, and I am not sure I could explain how, but I feel almost serene on occasion. I like to think it is because I am no longer fighting the call to preach.
In some ways, I have started to think of preaching as my true work funded by my day job. That is not to say that I have lost my sense of vocation for my paid work; more that it has a more balanced position in my life.
I have had many hugs, hundreds of handshakes and, every time, compliments on my speaking voice. Never a mention of my singing voice, thankfully.
Even during the periods of controlled panic immediately before – and after – each service, I am very pleased I stopped protesting and very grateful for the opportunity to facilitate the worship of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I heartily recommend giving into the ministry to which you are called.
God bless you and keep you x