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Source: (consider it) Thread: What is a sermon for?
Martin60
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Haven't bin Somerset for years.

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Love wins

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L'organist
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A less-than-devout organist friend knows exactly what sermons are for: tidying the organ loft and mapping out future music lists. [Snigger]

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Rara temporum felicitate ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet

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Gamaliel
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I think that Kaplan's right that sermons tend to work by 'osmosis' - and I'd suggest that spiritually speaking, we are all largely the product of whatever the main emphases and practices are in our respective traditions - be it hymn-singing, Bible study, spome kind of eucharistic discipline, saying the rosary, contemplative prayer or whatever else.

No preaching or teaching happens in a vacuum and however it's done it will both shape what's going on in our particular contexts and be shaped by it.

That applies as much in a context like Nick Tamen's where the sermon is a big deal and the highlight - if you like - of the service as it does to one where the sermon simply sits alongside other elements or plays a 'lesser' role in some way

It's often been said that churches get the preachers they deserve ... I think there's something in that ... in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy type way.

Meanwhile, I rather wish that preachers would address me as if I were an intelligent 12 year-old ...

To be fair, not all the sermons I hear these days are dumbed down ... but still ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Uriel:
As I am fortunate in only preaching about once every 6 weeks, I am able to put a lot into preparation. By the time I stand up to preach I have usually put in several hours reading, praying and thinking, several more hours structuring, writing, editing and then preached through the sermon at least 6 or 7 times so that it feels natural and comes over as if I am having a conversation.

Which is perhaps why folk shouldn't be too critical if those of us who have to preach twice each Sunday don't always manage to hit the mark.
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SusanDoris

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I have tried listening to quite a few sermons this afternoon, but I'm afraid I didn't get very far!! They were, though, American so rather too many flourishes for me. I'll see if I can find some English ones.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
No preaching or teaching happens in a vacuum and however it's done it will both shape what's going on in our particular contexts and be shaped by it.

Yes! This facet is, I think, ignored far too often.

quote:
That applies as much in a context like Nick Tamen's where the sermon is a big deal and the highlight - if you like - of the service . . . .
Only if there is no Communion, or in a congregation that does it up like mine, baptism. [Biased]

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I have tried listening to quite a few sermons this afternoon, but I'm afraid I didn't get very far!! They were, though, American so rather too many flourishes for me. I'll see if I can find some English ones.

Kelvin Holdsworth of www.thurible.net puts his online pretty frequently, both text and audio.
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Baptist Trainfan
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I find listening to sermons online etc. is hopeless. They are delivered in a service of worship and that context shapes the way we hear them.

Also, a preacher uses more than his/her voice in the act of preaching. You don't get that in an audio recording (or from a written record) unless you already know them well.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
Kelvin Holdsworth of www.thurible.net puts his online pretty frequently, both text and audio.

Thank you - I'll have a look.
There were two from St Paul's Cathedral I have listened to. An Advent one talkng about Mary and the angel/birth/mystery/truth managed to skate round any need for reality here.


I have followed the link and listened to the sermon about the crib etc. I see there is a space for comments, but, although I can think of plenty of things to say, I am not motivated enough to write and post them there just at the moment.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Aravis
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I rarely preach these days, mainly because I can also play the organ and we're better off for preachers than organists at the moment, but I have given some thought to what the sermon is for.

Personally I can't see any point in a sermon as a collection of Christian platitudes that simply reinforce your vocabulary of the Christianity club while bypassing your brain.

Assuming you have one or more Bible readings in the service, the sermon could tackle difficult aspects of one of them (e.g. why was Jesus so rude to the woman in this story?) or something that people have preconceptions about (e.g. what does "born again" actually mean?).

Ideally, a sermon should balance several aspects. Some teaching and/or interesting facts and background, but not just that; it's not a lecture. A story somewhere, because a lot of people need a story to hang the rest on; not everyone has the ability to concentrate on reasoned argument. A structure and a certain amount of logical progression, that doesn't skip around all over the place. A link to something happening now, in your life, work, the church, the world. A spiritual dimension; that should go without saying, and shouldn't be shoehorned in during the final few sentences. A conclusion that sums up some of the ideas, preferably in a sentence that's memorable, and one that gives you something to think about further yourself.

It is hard work to do that in ten minutes but it is possible. I wouldn't like to have to attempt that twice a week though and I have the greatest admiration for those who do so.

I have positive feedback when I do preach. Not always from the same people.

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footwasher
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[Big Grin]
[/qb][/QUOTE]For me, it is not debate I want, it is discussion. I want to be listened to, and, if someone is going to tell me what they believe, I want to know why, and I want to be able to challenge this and be responded to.

I don't want someone "encouraging" me, unless they have first heard why I am discouraged. I don't want someone trying to explain how I should live my faith out in the 21st century when they have no idea how I already live in the 21st Century. Or, as so often, they have no idea how to live in the 21st Century, because they are completely stuck in a 19th century version of their faith.

I do find a problem with other peoples sermons, because they are not the message I would preach from them. So I tend to spend my time thinking about what I would preach from the same starting point. So I have my own internal discussion.

So yes, sermoned out, churched out. [/QB][/QUOTE]

Then you want the college lecture model. Where you benefit not only from the questions you ask, but also from the questions other students asked.

Strangely, that's how it used to be:

1 Corinthians 14:29

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Ship's crimp

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Alan Cresswell

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I preach occasionally, at present about 6 times a year. I think a sermon fills many roles, and so therefore what it's for is a very complex question.

But, for me, I would say that the sermon slot is the primary time for the congregation to reflect on the text(s) of Scripture that have been read. It's not the only time - the choice of hymns/songs, a "children's address" or similar, the prayers and collects, and so on should IMO reflect those passages. Now, that could be achieved by a period of silence for everyone to think about what was read. But, ultimately church is collective, and therefore our reflection on Scripture should be collective.

In that light, I tend to see the sermon as a guided reflection or meditation on the texts read. A sermon should follow a path, and do so that allows the congregation to come along with the preacher. The preacher is like a guide taking a group of people up a mountain. We prepare in advance so that we know the route, we identify where we may need to slow down to let others catch up, where the difficult scrambles where we need to help others along are, where we can take a short detour from the main path to have lunch with a great view. We need to plan the route knowing there are some who will want to stop at the bottom and just watch the stream tumbling down the hillside through the woods at the valley floor, and some who may want to stop part way and rest, and we need to make sure we pick them up on the way back down. Sometimes a sermon will take people to the mountain top, and a good sermon will bring them back down to earth again. Sometimes it will be a pleasant stroll along the canal towpath. Sometimes just a time at the beach hanging out. The skill of the preacher is to know the area well enough to guide the congregation on a walk that will be what they need.

And, sometimes the sermon slot is just a chance to sleep. It's Biblical - just avoid the space by the window.

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Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Eutychus
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Indeed, as my namesake can attest.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:
I am suspicious of those who whip out their smart phones at the beginning of sermons, allegedly to look up, and follow, the Bible reading.

I suspect that they use the opportunity to look up other things, and am jealous that I, with my ordinary phone, have to struggle to stay awake and concentrate on the sermon, while they are enjoying following the football scores.

I've only become aware of this fairly recently, because the churches I usually go to are mostly attended by old people who don't have flashy phones, but do have a fairly high boredom threshold.

How, I wonder, do the rarer churches with middle aged and younger congregations deal with the ubiquitous smart phones? Is this something that church leaders are starting to get concerned about?

Their church leaders are probably preaching from ipads so I doubt they're concerned - following the Bible passage on your phone has been normal for quite some time in such circles, since smartphones arrived really. Definitely the norm in wealthy young churches.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
Their church leaders are probably preaching from ipads so I doubt they're concerned - following the Bible passage on your phone has been normal for quite some time in such circles, since smartphones arrived really. Definitely the norm in wealthy young churches.

I don't think that the preacher using an ipad stops the congregation from using their smartphones for other purposes - which was presumably the OPs point.

Up thread, I think Gamaliel is correct about the osmosis factor, and this goes as much for the more 'word' centred denominational groupings as everyone else.

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SvitlanaV2
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Pomona

Using a smartphone to follow readings makes sense, but I was wondering if there's any concern that individuals might be using their phones for the purposes of distraction. I've had glimpses of phones being used in this way, but perhaps it's one of those things that ministers just have to let slide.

Going back to sermons, I think it's interesting that John Wesley realised that they were very limited in effecting transformation. This doesn't just apply to Wesley's hot evangelical concerns. I've heard it said more than once (and often with frustration) that congregations often fail to absorb and act upon the messages of kindness, open-mindedness and willingness to accept change that they hear from the pulpits of moderate churches. What this highlights for me is that although sermons can be very good and even inspiring to listen to, they can't carry the burden that some preachers (and some congregations) put on them.

For Wesley, the answer to this problem was class meetings. Modern evangelical churches have their small groups. This is because people are better able to grapple with challenging teachings and the process the relevance of spirituality in their own lives when they can explore these in a hands-on way, in a more intimate setting. In this kind of church, Sunday sermons can be inspiring and thought-provoking, but they're not expected to achieve the outcomes that are being worked on in smaller groups in the broader life of the church.

By contract, in churches that place a low priority on small groups the sermon bears a much greater burden to serve a whole bunch of different purposes. Unfortunately, the likelihood of success in most cases is lower, and the chance of clergy frustration higher.

This is how ISTM anyway.

[ 01. January 2016, 14:17: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Raptor Eye
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The replies are giving me a great deal of food for thought, thank you all.

To add another dimension: someone recently suggested to me that the Holy Spirit only works spontaneously, so that sermons prepared in advance would exclude God's input - but surely sermons that are not prepared beforehand ramble on, and are less likely to be listened to by anyone. It occurs to me however that one of the purposes of a sermon must be to help people to encounter God, whether or not in the sacramental way that some have suggested.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Gamaliel
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God the Holy Spirit only works spontaneously?

[Help]

[Disappointed]

I think I'd have had some strong words to say to that particular individual ...

I expect they thought the scriptures were 'dictated' in some form of automatic-writing type way too ...

On the efficacy or otherwise of sermons, coming back to the 'osmosis' thing - I suggest that ALL spiritual disciplines work that way - whether it be listening to sermons, congregational hymn-singing, engaging in Bible study in a small group, whether lectio-divina, contemplative prayer, saying the rosary, fasting, venerating icons, engaging in Quaker 'gathered silence' or whatever else Christians of various stripes get up to ...

It's interesting, historically, to see how voluntarist groups like the Freemasons came along to fill a gap left by the Reformation dismantling of religious guilds and 'confraternaties' ... or how some of the more radical reformed groups tried to create almost monastic communities (albeit in a non-celibate way) in the way they withdrew 'from the world' ...

Sermons have their place, of course - but not in a vacuum. They have their place alongside personal and corporate spiritual disciplines.

I was struck recently listening to an RC ecumenical worker - with an Maltese background - observe how the gradual disappearance of 'domestic' piety among RCs was having an effect on younger generations of Catholics ...

Time was when RC mums would make the sign of the cross over their offspring when tucking them up in bed at night - or would pray with them or invoke some Saint or other ...

Now they simply switch off the light just like anyone else.

However we 'do' these things and whatever 'outward forms' we use (or choose not to use) it's a case of 'line upon line, rule upon rule, here a little, there a little ...'

http://biblehub.com/isaiah/28-10.htm

This applies as much to 'word' based settings as to what we might call more 'sacramental' ones - as Chris Stiles observes.

The evangelical practice of a 'quiet time' or the use of 'memory-verses' or 'read the Bible in a year' plans and aids are all part and parcel of the same thing.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Kaplan Corday
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Children's sermons (or kids' talks) on the other hand, are a doddle.

You just think of some story or incident which will amuse them, append the inevitable: "You know, boys and girls, we're all a bit like that....[person, animal, object, whatever]" and draw some trite spiritual or moral lesson.

Come to think of it, there are some adults who don't object to that approach either....

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SvitlanaV2
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The 'osmosis' theory makes sense up to a point, but it does assume that simply hanging around in churches is going to make you a certain type of person. But what churchgoing actually does for us morally and spiritually is of course debatable.

As I've said, plenty of Christians on this website and elsewhere grumble about fellow churchgoers who don't seem to have absorbed the 'right' messages despite decades of churchgoing and listening to sermons.

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Gamaliel
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I wasn't saying that the 'osmosis' thing is sufficient in and of itself ... 'faith comes by hearing' but we still have to put it into practice in some way ... whether in a church / congregational context or beyond it - or, preferably, both.

What I'm suggesting is that we pick up the 'core' of whatever belief system or tradition we are part of by osmosis - by hanging around in church, by singing hymns, listening to sermons, lighting candles or whatever else ... but we still have to 'appropriate' that or act upon it in some way.

A Greek Orthodox lad once told me - with sadness - that many of his fellow Greeks 'know how to behave' in church - in terms of the 'moves' and gestures/behaviours expected - but don't necessarily understand what they are doing as it's never been explained to them, they've never been catechised and the Liturgy is presented in a language they barely understand (a form of medieval Greek).

I would suggest that osmosis takes them some distance ... and it wouldn't be for me to judge or assess how far - but equally, they'd need more than that -- forms of instruction, some regime of spiritual reading and participation in spiritual exercises beyond occasional church attendance.

It's like anything else ... I hung around charismatic style meetings and services for a while before I took the plunge and got fully immersed in it all. I would have picked up some of the ethos and atmosphere, as it were, by osmosis, but I wasn't fully involved until ... well, until I was fully engaged and involved.

I've picked up a fair bit about Orthodoxy by hanging around with Orthodox people over the years, by attending the occasional Vespers and Liturgy. Whilst I know a fair bit 'about' it, I wouldn't fully know it from the inside unless I plunged in and committed myself to it ...

The same applies to any Christian tradition. I can say what I think about Roman Catholicism, but unless I became a Roman Catholic and immersed myself in it I wouldn't understand it as fully as the RC faithful do.

The point I'm making is essentially that we learn by doing ... sermons, hymn-singing, the eucharist - all these things are valuable ... but I've still got to 'apply' all that in my daily, everyday life - the way I relate to people, the way I interact, my attitude towards the world and people around me ...

It's a bit like Peter Bohler's advice to John Wesley, 'Preach faith until you have it ...'

I'm not talking about some kind of blind rote repetition - some kind of spiritual two-times table - but I am talking about cultivating a way of life which 'embeds' whatever we do in church contexts into the way we live.

As for complaints that people who habitually listen to sermons don't 'get' it - or don't 'change' visibly or tangibly as a result of hearing sermons week by week ... that's always going to be difficult to assess.

I'm still as much of a prat and as much of a sinner now as I was when I underwent an evangelical conversion at the age of 19 - back in 1981.

Does that make the last few decades a complete waste of time?

I have no idea how to answer those MoTR preachers you're telling us about, SvitlanaV2, who complain about the apparent lack of 'results' from their preaching in people's lives.

At the risk of platitudes, we don't always see the results - and ultimately it's beyond this life that the fruits will be seen ...

So, at the risk of annoying everyone with another both/and statement ... it's both/and ... we absorb things by osmosis and yet we still have to 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling.'

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:
Children's sermons (or kids' talks) on the other hand, are a doddle.

You just think of some story or incident which will amuse them, append the inevitable: "You know, boys and girls, we're all a bit like that....[person, animal, object, whatever]" and draw some trite spiritual or moral lesson.

Come to think of it, there are some adults who don't object to that approach either....

Whaaat?

Kaplan, when I first read what you'd said, I thought you must be either a very unusual person, or spectacularly un-self-aware. It wasn't until I spotted the word 'trite' that I realised you were taking the p**s.

[ 02. January 2016, 11:08: Message edited by: Enoch ]

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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Gamaliel
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Sadly, I think Kaplan's comment is truer than many of us would like to think ...

[Frown] [Biased]

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Sadly, I think Kaplan's comment is truer than many of us would like to think ...

[Frown] [Biased]

Having grown up in a tradition without these children's talks, I find myself at a bit of a loss as to how to approach them. I'm fairly sure they're the thing I do least well in planning for worship.
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Alan Cresswell

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Children's addresses can be very hard to do well (like everything else, very easy to do badly). Part of that is that the purpose is even less clear than for the sermon.

In churches where the children are absent for most of the service for their own activities then there is no need for the children's address to teach the children anything, and it's an attempt to include children within the service - personally, I think I would prefer it if the children are absent from the start, and come in towards the end (eg: for Communion, if served) and the children's slot is then, and it's a time for the children to tell everyone else what they've been doing.

Where the children are present throughout the service then the children's address is (by definition) singling out one part of the congregation for special attention. If we're going to do that then why not go the whole way and have bits of the service specifically for the men, for the women, for the parents, for the elderly ... ?

My church has a slot labelled "Children's address". I don't know what happens when I'm not there, since I bring the only children. But, we try to include a question and answer session for the children. When I lead worship I use that time to present the main theme of my sermon in a different way from standing behind the lectern (we have no pulpit) and talking. I do this for the benefit of the whole congregation, not just the children. It starts people thinking about the theme I'm going to guide them down before the readings, it naturally lends itself to the second hymn being directly relevant to the theme etc. An appetiser for the main course of the sermon, if you like the metaphor. I will use different approaches - some question/answer (encouraging the adults to join in as well), sometimes a film clip or something will be relevant, since they are my kids I can prime them in advance if there's an activity (read poem, or something) I want them to do for me.

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Eutychus
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I once heard a talk on this very subject, which drew on Paul's comments to the Corinthians on "the foolishness of preaching".

What, asked the speaker (himself quite an accomplished preacher) was the point of declaiming for half an hour or so when most people weren't paying attention and in all probability nobody at all would remember any of it a week later?

Well, it was God's chosen instrument for salvation.

Ironically enough, that thought has stuck with me for many years since.

I also have a theory that preaching is primarily for the good of the preacher. I often quip that God called me to preach, because it was the only way he could be sure of getting me to open a Bible - and come to church - with any regularity.

[ 02. January 2016, 18:03: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:


I also have a theory that preaching is primarily for the good of the preacher. I often quip that God called me to preach, because it was the only way he could be sure of getting me to open a Bible - and come to church - with any regularity.

Yes, I can imagine that. In a way, though, you've outlined the very problem with preaching.

You've got a physical and professional reason to be in church and to engage with the texts and the stories. Your careful preparation in terms of form and content must mean you end up with a fantastic memory for and awareness of the material. But those who are asked to sit in the pews week after week, perhaps with little other responsibility, are more like eternal schoolchildren who never learn their lessons and pass their leaving exam. For many of them there's inevitably going to be more ambivalence about the whole thing.

As for Paul, I understand that some seem to think that the style, context and purpose of his preaching was rather different from what we take to be normative today. Of course, times change and the Church is a different thing today. But I'm wondering if perhaps what we see as normative preaching these days is itself running out of steam. Or it would be if preachers themselves didn't get so much out of it?

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
But those who are asked to sit in the pews week after week

Nobody's asking them to. They can always up and leave - some do.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Belle Ringer
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
...the very problem with preaching...
those who are asked to sit in the pews week after week...are more like eternal schoolchildren who never learn their lessons and pass their leaving exam. For many of them there's inevitably going to be more ambivalence about the whole thing.

...I'm wondering if perhaps what we see as normative preaching these days is itself running out of steam. Or it would be if preachers themselves didn't get so much out of it?

Several years ago some Shipmate offered a link to a talk or essay that said church treats its members like perpetual children. In real schools, you progress, then you graduate, you don't know anywhere near everything but you know enough to leave school and go out in the world and start doing stuff. Church, you are expected to continue sitting in class your whole life, you are never told "you graduate, get up, go out, and do."

He said church follows the academic model where you sit in class until you move up to leading class that others sit in, but that model requires most people to take the role of perpetual student.

The essay ended with "I declare you graduated. Get off the chair, leave the school, go out do Christianity instead of sitting and studying it."

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Sadly, I think Kaplan's comment is truer than many of us would like to think ...

[Frown] [Biased]

Having grown up in a tradition without these children's talks, I find myself at a bit of a loss as to how to approach them. I'm fairly sure they're the thing I do least well in planning for worship.
Agreed. Very few do them well, and in most cases its a jarring interruption in the rest of the service. They can feel patronizing and leave kids feeling like zoo animals on display ("look how inclusive we are! We have kids!!!").

A better alternative, IMHO, is if the kids are on their way out of the service to some age-segregated program (or on their way back) would be just to have them come forward for a simple blessing, followed by a hymn during which they depart (or join their parents in the pews).

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle Ringer:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
...the very problem with preaching...
those who are asked to sit in the pews week after week...are more like eternal schoolchildren who never learn their lessons and pass their leaving exam. For many of them there's inevitably going to be more ambivalence about the whole thing.

...I'm wondering if perhaps what we see as normative preaching these days is itself running out of steam. Or it would be if preachers themselves didn't get so much out of it?

Several years ago some Shipmate offered a link to a talk or essay that said church treats its members like perpetual children. In real schools, you progress, then you graduate, you don't know anywhere near everything but you know enough to leave school and go out in the world and start doing stuff. Church, you are expected to continue sitting in class your whole life, you are never told "you graduate, get up, go out, and do."

He said church follows the academic model where you sit in class until you move up to leading class that others sit in, but that model requires most people to take the role of perpetual student.

The essay ended with "I declare you graduated. Get off the chair, leave the school, go out do Christianity instead of sitting and studying it."

Except that in many more formally liturgical churches, the congregation are active participants in the liturgy. I don't think it is a coincidence that these churches tend to have shorter sermons. Hymn-sermon sandwich churches tend to be far more along listening to a lecture lines.

An illustration - a friend was involved in Catholic student organisations which had European gatherings, I think sometimes also involved in ecumenical gatherings. One Sunday at one of the gatherings, the RC priest was unavailable and an Anglican priest took the service. For some reason he was unaware of the Sunday obligation for Catholics and it was not a Eucharistic service. Afterwards one of the Catholic students went up to my friend, very confused, and said 'But that wasn't church, that was just talking!'.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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LucyP
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quote:

Originally posted by Belle Ringer

He said church follows the academic model where you sit in class until you move up to leading class that others sit in, but that model requires most people to take the role of perpetual student.

The essay ended with "I declare you graduated. Get off the chair, leave the school, go out do Christianity instead of sitting and studying it."

My job involves a requirement for continuing professional development. Attending live CPD lectures is a popular option among many of my peers, (there are other options, like online interactive courses) since we graduated from a demanding academic course and most of us learn well through listening to well presented information. Our jobs are challenging and we benefit both from being given theoretical perspectives to think about, and also from practical advice on to keep us up to date, help us deal with difficult situations, or improve our standards.

So personally, graduation did not result in the cessation of learning for me, but was the beginning of a lifetime of ongoing (part time, applied) learning.

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footwasher
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Why not combine the two, have a lecture with participation and discussion , similar to college lectures, as I have already mentioned.

Information is accessed in different ways.

Let's take a sample case.

What is the most common understanding of charismatic manifestations? The two major views are cessationism and continuationism. The former quote 1 Corinthians13:10 as biblical support, interpreting the finalization of Canon as the arrival of the perfect.

The continuationists use Acts 2:17 to legitimize THEIR seeking after the charismatic gifts.

In the first place, employing the grammatical historical hermeneutics is following a course of action laden with numerous rocks, in view of the unstable nature of language. Many are the ship wrecks strewn at the ocean bottom found along the trail followed by those employing this method, in the form of dead locked position with neither side giving way, in turn leading to divisions and schisms.

What is required is some form of lateral thinking, using a technique that does not follow the normal path, maybe even several techniques.

The way out off this particular dilemma is to examine the various occasions where the gifts are mentioned and try to find a pattern.

Electronic chatter about the recipe for the perfect "compote" suddenly becomes a different animal when the cooks excitedly inform each other that the ingredients have been assembled and the time has arrived to get together and put together the recipe. Now it looks more like a plan to launch an attack, compotes more with patterns for the latter!


Employing the same pattern recognition techniques that homeland security uses, I try and finally find a theme, and a passage that epitomizes that theme.

It is when Moses has been commanded by God to return to Egypt and extract Israel.

The situation is not that simple however. Israel cried out for deliverance, but what is the alternative? Christians in the work force are asked to take unethical steps in the course of completing a task and shrink back, but what are the alternatives? The Good News is that the Kingdom of God has arrived, it is a realistic alternative, so that those who seek it are assured that all that is necessary for life will be added to them.

Israel is promised transportation to a destination flowing with milk and honey, provision for life and more, without engaging in unrighteous activity. But what is the guarantee? Why should they listen to Moses? The land is accessed by faith, not being in sight, and a desert lies in between.

This then is the question Moses poses to God: why should Israel listen to him? He has raised a reasonable objection to the launching of the plan.

God then equips him with signs and wonders, words and works. If Israel is not coincidence by the words, of life, that warms the heart, at least they should believe the works.

Notice what I did just there: offered a new view about the part signs and wonders plays in following God's instructions .

A new approach to the problem.

Where before signs and wonders were one of the a tools to help evangelism, the premise has now changed to that of claiming signs and wonders are essential to evangelism. How else are you going to prise God's people out of a safe but oppressive situation serving da Man, into a risky but rewarding situation serving da Boss? You have to show them the "money", the proof.

Of course that is an improvement over the existing understanding or at least an extra option made available in addition to the present number of explanations, so I am not claiming that to be the definitive view and that is not the purpose of this post . The thing is that in this approach to accessing information, there is no closing of the door to other options. A newcomer, the next person, may provide even more light, more convincing arguments.

Unfortunately the sermon is not the setting in which multiple views can be put up for review. That setting is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26, the form the gathering of the saints took, in the early church.

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Alan Cresswell

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In different ways most people are familiar with continuing to learn after the end of school. Whether that's the CPD courses Lucy mentioned, in-service training for teachers and others, refresher courses (I'm probably not alone in having to attend, and pass a short test, a course on fire safety every three years going over the same material on the different types of fire extinguisher and the importance of keeping emergency exits clear), etc. Or, the fact that we all continually hone skills gained through their use - when I passed my driving test my instructor told me that didn't mean I'd learnt to drive, it meant I'd gained enough competence to continue learning on my own (and, everyone knows the value of re-reading the Highway Code every-so-often to check that that learning hasn't taught you something wrong. Some may be familiar with 'invitations' to attend a road safety awareness course when that self-learning results in getting caught doing something you shouldn't).

The Christian faith is something that develops when it is lived, we learn by being. Most people go through a dedicated learning phase - Sunday School, catechumen, or less formal approaches - but we all end up striking out on our own and learning as we go. Many churches even provide a "graduation ceremony" to mark that event - confirmation, reception into membership, believers baptism.

Church services (of which the sermon is a part), and other events such as small fellowship groups, provide a combination of opportunity to check what you've learned through life against the basics you were originally taught, refresher courses on basics, continuing development and in-service training, and even research.

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Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
But those who are asked to sit in the pews week after week [might be ambivalent about sermons.]

Nobody's asking them to. They can always up and leave - some do.
Of course, some people are asked to join particular churches, which usually implies regular attendance. I know I've been asked to do so.

As for people leaving, the problem is that so many do. In your situation this might not be a big deal, but IME it's not a good thing for the church when large numbers of people grow dissatisfied and leave, and others don't replace them....

Look, I'm not saying that preaching needs to be abolished. The vast majority of sermons I've ever heard have been thought-provoking, and clearly well-prepared. But I'm not convinced that preaching in its current form should be untouchable in Western Protestantism. I certainly don't see the contemporary justification for its elevated status.

I agree with Pomona that liturgical churches do well to keep their sermons short. Mainstream denominations ought to discourage sermons that last longer than about 10-12 minutes. I understand that short sermons are the hardest to write, but I've heard too many sermons that were rambling and padded out - though still with a valuable kernel of some sort.

However, since sermons are considered to be so important, perhaps we could have centres of preaching excellence, where lay and ordained preachers could go to develop their skills. If attached to flourishing congregations this could be an excellent way of supporting 'traditional' Protestant church culture.

The future likely to include a great shortage of clergy, smaller congregations and changing cultural realities, but many Christians might still benefit from excellent preaching by occasionally attending 'preaching services' at churches where maintaining this heritage has become a priority, rather than something that's just taken for granted.

[ 03. January 2016, 14:30: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Cathscats
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A few months ago I had the privilege of being in conversation with one of the people for whom you have to learn to curtesy. The oldest one. He asked me what I thought were the reasons people attended my churches. So I thought of the people and went through the reasons: to worship God, to be with others of like mind, to be with others full stop, to show community spirit, to sing the hymns, to have a chance to be led in prayer, which some find difficult when alone, etc.
At the end of my list he said " You didn't mention the sermon, despite having preached one this morning." And I had to say that although I am fortunate in having congregations who give me feedback on my sermons and discuss them with me, sometimes a few days later (!) I don't really think anyone comes to church for the sermon, despite it being the "main event" in most services in my denomination. They come for other reasons, but once they are there the sermon is not unimportant, I think.

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"...damp hands and theological doubts - the two always seem to go together..." (O. Douglas, "The Setons")

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Martin60
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Anyone heard ANY, given ANY declaring peace? Unqualified peace?

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Love wins

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Evensong
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Sermons ( like the liturgy in the Anglican tradition) shape your worldview.

You may not remember details of a sermon but you will be (often subconsciously) influenced by the preacher's worldview.

If the definition of religion is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are and how we should spend our time, then the sermon is one of the avenues through which this happens.

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a theological scrapbook

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Helen-Eva
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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
A less-than-devout organist friend knows exactly what sermons are for: tidying the organ loft and mapping out future music lists. [Snigger]

That would be a strategic less-than-devout organist who plans ahead and has time for tidying. The tactical less-than-devout organist will be attempting to put the music for the rest of the service in order and, where necessary, learning to play any bits of it that look unfamiliar.

When with the choir I have also got in a lot of work on orchestral music during sermons, which probably makes me very wicked but also a better viola player. Prayer books make good pseudo-finger boards for going through those tricky fingerings.

Of course if the sermon catches my attention then I stop practising and listen to it...

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I thought the radio 3 announcer said "Weber" but it turned out to be Webern. Story of my life.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Which must beg the question: what, in a sermon, will attract your attention?
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Helen-Eva
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Which must beg the question: what, in a sermon, will attract your attention?

Similar things to those listed above - a striking image, something that surprised me in some way or made me think (I'm always at least half listening) - I'm one of those people who when they try to listen to the sermon finds it virtually impossible to remember after the service what it was about. (The weather forecast is the same - I can watch it carefully very much wanting to know what the weather will be but still at the end of it have no idea because the information doesn't stick). The things that catch my attention are ones that lodge in my brain and are remembered - I'm afraid I don't really have an analysis of what makes the difference between remembering or forgetting (chiefly because I can't remember what I can't remember).
I have noticed that sermons from people who don't preach often tend to stick more, possibly because of the novelty, or possibly because not preaching very often they have more time to prepare and construct an argument with a beginning, middle and end.

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I thought the radio 3 announcer said "Weber" but it turned out to be Webern. Story of my life.

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Gamaliel
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The thing is, Martin, even if there were a sermon that 'declared peace, unqualified peace ...' there'd have to be some kind of 'qualification' about what was meant ...

Heck, even 'Blessed are the peacemakers ...' from the Sermon on the Mount has been pored over and pontificated over ad infinitum as to what it actually means ...

Is it 'spiritual peace' or actual physical peace ... as in no more wars ... ?

Etc etc etc ...

If you're going to denounce anyone who doesn't call for absolute, no-holds-barred utter, utter, utter pacifism as Anti-Christ (as you seem to have done on another thread) then there are plenty of Anti-Christs around ...

I've certainly heard sermons laying out very 'peaceful' principles ... I'd argue, though, that sermonising about such things is one thing - actually living that out in practice is something else again ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:


I've certainly heard sermons laying out very 'peaceful' principles ... I'd argue, though, that sermonising about such things is one thing - actually living that out in practice is something else again ...

I wonder whether simply reminding people of those principles may be one of the purposes of a sermon? 'You brood of vipers....' comes to mind....

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Gamaliel
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Yes, except that seems to have been uttered in some kind of street confrontation rather than in a cosy sermon in a church or synagogue ...

[Biased]

Which might also tell us something ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Belle Ringer
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quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
Sermons ( like the liturgy in the Anglican tradition) shape your worldview.

You may not remember details of a sermon but you will be (often subconsciously) influenced by the preacher's worldview.

And that world view may or may not align somewhat with God's.

Many Ship discussions focus on disagreements with one or another theology some churches or clergy teach and others reject.

More broadly, just about anything we do, any book we read, show we watch, person we encounter contributes to shaping us - but that doesn't mean every encounter is healthy for us.

Nor is every sermon good for us. Many a sermon mis-teaches, mis-leads, mis-explains, reveals more about the preacher's hangups than about God -- many a seminary graduate believes differently that their classmates and is giving an opposite sermon in a different church. It just doesn't make sense to say anything labeled "sermon" is automatically "good for all hearers."

The idea a sermon does good and only good is deadly because it says we are to accept whatever is preached without using any personal analysis or discernment.

How about figuring out what makes a sermon a good conveyance of God's truth, and what doesn't, instead of blindly assuming "my sermon does people good" while more and more people quietly slip out of church.

(If sermon is an obsolete concept, what would get the church, any church, to recognize and accept that?)

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Gamaliel
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I don't think I've seen anyone here suggest that sermons are almost invariably 'good' - quite the opposite in fact ...

To say that we are shaped by the style and content of sermons just as we are by the style and content of liturgy or whatever means or modes of worship and service / expressions of faith we encounter in whatever kind of church we're in or have been involved with isn't to indicate any kind of value judgement ... it's simply stating a fact.

Whether it's bells and smells, high-octane Pentecostal preaching or a painstakingly scholarly Presbyterian approach, the whole thing will add up to something that 'shapes' our outlook and behaviour in some way ... just as if we spent the time doing alternative things - like going to the gym, running round the block, fishing, playing golf or sitting in front of the telly ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Anselmina
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I think it's only to be expected that some of us will find preaching a difficult thing to connect with. Some of us find certain kinds of music or liturgies or modes of language, or church-ordering difficult to connect with. So not surprising if a particlar form of religious liturgical commentary - and coming in so many variations, too - strikes out with a fair proportion of worshippers.

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Ethne Alba
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I quite enjoyed Sunday morning services in school holiday time (without Sunday School) : all that time during the sermon to play lego on the floor between our pews.

[ 07. January 2016, 15:48: Message edited by: Ethne Alba ]

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Raptor Eye
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Perhaps everyone could be given some building blocks as an alternative to the sermon. If asked to connect what we made to the Bible readings, we might learn as much?

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Anselmina
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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Perhaps everyone could be given some building blocks as an alternative to the sermon. If asked to connect what we made to the Bible readings, we might learn as much?

Isn't that how Messy Church works?

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Irish dogs needing homes! http://www.dogactionwelfaregroup.ie/ Greyhounds and Lurchers are shipped over to England for rehoming too!

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