Monday, August 8, 2011

Even Longer

Wow! And I thought I took a break last time! I haven't posted a post in ages, not even a sermon. I guess I have some work to do to get caught up. I hate playing catch up, and in recent months I've been letting myself off the hook and letting go of that irrational need to be "caught up" in things that don't matter so much. However, having all my sermons in one place for future reference is important and helpful to me, so even if I can't reclaim lost bloggables in other ways, I will get the sermons posted. The loss of my original iPad was my wake-up call there. Must get those off the device an onto the web (like it's much safer?).

That said, they may be some of my last sermons to post. No I'm not leaving the preaching ministry, but I might not be WRITING my sermons much longer. I took a wonderful class at Synod School taught by the Rev. Burns Stanfield called "Preaching Without Notes." I just might be hooked. I liked the idea and believed the class would help me even if I didn't change my style forever, but I did go into it a little skeptical. I love my words. I love the way I choose them. I love where I place them. I love how I balance them. Even if they are not the best words, I love them. It sounded very difficult to me to give up their careful positioning and let them flow more freely from my mouth. I got that "without notes" doesn't mean "without preparation." "But still..." I kept saying.

Until I tried it. As a part of the class we each prepared at 6 minutes sermon to preach without notes. I didn't have a lot of resources and definitely not a lot of time to work on it, but still I did it. And, well, I loved it. The preparation wasn't MUCH different. I mean, it was, but it wasn't. I tried to just put down an outline first. Of course, as I was jotting that down I found some words that I loved and would go off on a tangent writing them down. Then I'd have to rein myself back in to stay on task.

When I got to the end of the outline the first time it was several notebook pages long (sort of scribbled around on the page) because of the diversions I took, and I wanted it all on one page to look at and "practice." So I tried again. Surprise, surprise. The same thing happened again in new places. Some words I loved would come to me, so I'd write them, then I'd get back on track and try to finish. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Eventually, after about 3 tries at the outline I finally wrote a 4th that truly was just the outline, but when I looked back through my notes I discovered that I had written out much of the sermon with words I loved - - just not all consecutively. I found when I spoke my sermon outloud the first time it was actually quite easy. I had been through the outline 4 times already and with some detail in just about every part. It flowed well, I had committed to my memory (I don't want to say memorized) some of those words that I loved without even trying and they felt natural that way. The whole process on this short sermon wasn't really longer or shorter than writing a manuscript, except maybe that I didn't have the distraction of the computer since I was doing it all by hand. Very very interesting.

The day of delivery things went a little wonky. Pearl had had a fever through the night so she couldn't go to the daycare at Synod School. I didn't want to mess up the class schedule so I brought her to class with me. I was going to try to get someone to hold her while I preached, but the poor girl was a little clingy. I delivered my sermon with her on my hip. You gotta do what you gotta do. That said, I loved it. I really did.

I think I'm going to try it right away my first Sunday back from Synod School and the week's vacation that followed. I'm afraid if I don't start again I'll let it slip and never get back into the swing of it. Of course this week is a notoriously difficult text from Matthew - - the Canaanite woman who begs from scraps from the table. I've never preached it before, and I'm a little nervous about that part in particular. I already feel a little tug wanting a manuscript so I don't say something "wrong." That's my fear if I have one, that I'll get off track and spew out something completely heretical!

The other night on vacation, though, I was having horrible insomnia, and part of that insomnia was unrequested sermon inspiration! I got out of bed, grabbed the iPad, and bought a whiteboard app to get my brainstorm down on "paper." I need to ask Rev. Nancy Fitz what Mind Mapping app she uses. The ones I saw were fairly expensive which doesn't scare me away, but I want a recommendation before I spend that kind of money. I think one would help. Anyway, I have those thoughts down. I'll spend more time with them tomorrow, I think. I've got a vow renewal service to finish planning for Saturday and two fairly sick members to attend to now that I'm back at work.

Synod School was FANTASTIC! Vacation was a blessing! I think I'm ready to blog again and will probably use the NaBloPoMo daily questions to help. The monthly thing was less structured than I like, but a good discipline. Another blogger, Tweeter, FB-er, Presbyterian I follow, Abbie Watters has also been posting some really fun answers to questions from The Legacy Project. I might try some of those, too. Fun.

So, I called this post "Even Longer" in reference to what I called my last post, but now I see it has two meanings. Off I go. I need some lunch, and I just saw a new restaurant in town. Must go check it out!


Common Household Mom said...

Welcome back! It's interesting to read how a 'sermon without notes' comes to be. Sometimes our pastor preaches that way, sometimes not. Both ways are effective. And it sounds like both ways take ample amounts of preparation.

Rev Nancy Fitz said...

Interesting. Actually since I've started preaching from the iPad, I leave the page more often. On sunday, I had trouble coming back. It was my issue b/c i did most of the sermon on Saturday which means less prep for me and I ended "Landed" too quickly. (My husband said it was a carrier landing, the hook came out, grabbed me and I stopped...) sheesh.
Total Recall is the mind-mapping app I use. I think there's a free version and i only paid a couple bucks for it in order to store more maps. Not sure how helpful the old ones are.
I need to work on my filing. What did you end up doing? Put them all on-line?

Stephanie Anthony/She Rev said...

Thank CHMom! I don't know how others do it, but that's how I did it! I don't think the prep time is any less (accept for the fact that at least this time I stayed on track more), but it is different. I fear that I could fool myself into thinking it takes less time and then lose some quality. I also don't know if it's quite as conducive to my usual Saturday night/Sunday morning final preparation pattern. We'll see. I'm committed to trying this week so I don't lose the excitement before I ever try it.

Thanks, Nancy! I added the free version to the iPad yesterday and will play around on it today, I think.

You also hit on one of my "fears" of going without notes - - that I'll get to my "punchline" too soon and then fumble around trying to fill time. I guess that's why our instructor really emphasized having a structure you know well, a simple structure, but one you know well.

I am still just putting sermons on-line, although I'm farther behind than I like to be. When I went to the iPad I got lazy about it, because there are formatting tweaks I have to make to get it to post right. I just got lazy.

My other "worry" about going without notes is losing that archive of my sermons to look back at. I guess I can still blog my general outline and thoughts without blogging the whole sermon. We are also getting ready to post videos of each sermon on the web, so maybe the video archives will be all I have. Interesting.

spaciousfaith said...

I had to preach without notes for my preaching class in seminary once. I liked it, but haven't done it since. Your blog post is a good encouragement to try it again. Though I think I will always need to write out a sermon manuscript to begin with--I think as I write. Thanks for this encouragement!