What do you pray aloud before a sermon?

The pulpit at All Saints Basingstoke
The pulpit at All Saints Basingstoke

I’m back preaching on Sunday, for the first time in 10 months. I’m back in a proper pulpit for the first time since… I can’t remember when.

In my present church, we usually preach from a little portable lectern on the dais, not one of the matching lecterns either side the altar slightly further back. Often, the service leader will pray for the preacher before they start their sermon. Otherwise the preacher just launches in. Sometimes I’ve been comfortable doing that – especially if I’ve got a particularly strong opening to a sermon – but sometimes it doesn’t feel quite right.

I’m a guest preacher, on a special occasion, at All Saints, Basingstoke this weekend. It would be appropriate I feel, to offer a prayer before I preach. I will need it to settle myself into a now unfamiliar routine and place just as much as I think it right to formally recognise that what is offered before God and the people may need the ‘babel-fish’ of the Holy Spirit to speak into people’s hearts and minds.

But what words to use? (They might not get the Hitch-Hikers reference, or feel it appropriate!)

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” is true, but it’s a bit formal and stuffy for me.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD” (Psalm 19:14) is in the same league.

I’ve heard some lovely prayers from pulpits over the years, often thought I should ‘write that one down’ for future reference, but I never have.

So, as I ponder something that has authenticity for me (which may I realise be different in different circumstances), if you feel able to share some of your favourite prayers before preaching, I’d really welcome your encouragement and guidance.

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Here endeth my Reader Ministry

Today, Pentecost 2013 marks the end of my Reader Ministry.

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Ramtopsrac: Church of England Reader – 3rd Oct 2009 – 19th May 2013

The different diocese of the Anglican church are not known for their consistency in approach to patterns of, or peoples development through, different ministries. But in the Diocese of Winchester the rule is normally that if you are a Reader selected for ordination training, then you are asked to surrender your license as you start college.

The idea is that this change of status marks and somehow enables the change in that slightly nebulous, unexplainable, but very important element of ordination training that goes by the name ‘formation’. I have to say that this has seem a rather odd idea which I really haven’t understood.

The observant or regular follower of this blog will note that I’ve completed nearly a year of my two-year ordination training, and yet I am only surrendering my Reader License today. The intention was that, agreed by my vicar and Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO), by keeping my license I could continue to take funerals and therefore support that element of ministry within my parish; funerals were the only thing I couldn’t do as an ordinand that the Reader License enabled me to do. Except, I haven’t in fact taken a funeral since about last July – it’s just the way things worked out.

However, being asked to surrender my Reader License today, suddenly feels very significant.

Partly, it’s because I know how important my Reader ministry, and funerals in particular, were to my discerning my calling to the priesthood. I may have said before, but I had to be a Reader to understand my calling to the priesthood.

However, despite retaining my license till today, I have (at the request of my DDO) undertaken so little ‘ministerial’ practice in the parish (I’ve not preached since August last year) that when I led our Ash Wednesday service at St. Peter’s, some people were surprised because they thought I’d already left the parish!

And I’ve hated that. I’ve hated not being able to, or allowed to, do those things that were so important to me as minister, and so important to my discernment process. Not having the chance to preach has been like having a limb cut off – I’ve not engaged in-depth with individual chunks of Bible for months!

Equally I know that the advice was probably sound; I have struggled so much academically this year that the additional load of active parish ministry would probably have been the straw that broke the camels back. (I’ll try and explain that better in another blog post soon.)

What I’m wondering now is that, since this comes at the end of a week of sorting out with my tutors some academic niggles, and actually falls just a fortnight before I do at last preach again but as an ordinand, finally surrendering my Reader License will after all mark a significant turning point in my emotional engagement and the confidence I exhibit in myself, within in my ordination training.

When I wrote about my licensing in 2009 I talked about things feeling ‘right’, and in God’s timing, and about starting out on a fresh new journey, again. Possibly surrendering my Reader License is something I should have done months ago, but actually it’s something that feels ‘right’ for now, for a point where I’m finally getting some grip on what it is that I can realistically achieve academically in ordination training, and at last feel some sense of excitement as to what God has in store for me within that, and within the active ministry that will follow ordination next year.

Roe Buck and other spring evening delights

Peacock Butterfly on Gorse
Peacock Butterfly on Gorse

Very quick post with a record of our evening stroll. The venue was Blackbushe and it’s surroundings again as usual.

This Peacock Butterfly looks like it overwintered – though how any butterfly can survive the winter we’ve had, I really don’t know.

Whitethroat, Blackbushe, Yateley
Whitethroat, Blackbushe, Yateley

 

The Whitethroats are still showing well, and with patience, I’m getting closer!

The Roe Buck was the star of the evening though, he was in the bottom corner of my favourite field, not far from the gate. I got close enough to lean the camera on the gatepost, and took loads of photos, until a couple who had entered the top of the field and walked round to the gate, disturbed it and it headed back into the copse. We were surprised, they never even paused to watch, even though they can’t have failed to see it!

Roe Buck, Yateley 1st May 2013 - looking slightly moth-eaten because it's starting to moult into its' summer coat (which is a much more glossy chestnut)
Roe Buck, Yateley 1st May 2013 – looking slightly moth-eaten because it’s starting to moult into its’ summer coat (which is a much more glossy chestnut)

There are more photo’s on my Flickr site, including a couple taken yesterday in the old chapel at college. They’ve kept the ‘chancel’ area round the altar for quiet prayer meetings, but the rest is now a quiet space to work in – by far the most comfortable and now my favourite place in college.

In case you’re wondering, the walks are an attempt to keep me sane when I’ve got lots of stuff to think through, and the fresh air and exercise are good for me too!