February 13, 2008

roundtable preaching

This past semester I got to work on my senior project with Dr. John McClure, a professor of homiletics at Vanderbilt Divinity. My project has been on the intersection of so-called postmodern church practices with rural churches in Iowa and one of his suggestions, as a homiletician, was that I incorporate some kind of collaborative preaching model.

And to be honest, with my leadership style and my own values, I desperately want to do so. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit brings us to and reveals to us the Word of God as we read scriptures and as we pray about what to preach. And I also believe that I am not the only person the Holy Spirit speaks to in my church! There is a word to be proclaimed and who knows who might have the message from God this week. I think there is also something that we each bring to the text, experiences that we have that need to be shared with others. And that whenever two or more are gathered, Christ is present.

So I made the invitation to people in the church to join me on Monday afternoons for a "roundtable" discussion about the text for the week. And unfortunately the weather both weeks so far has been awful - snowy, icy, foggy. And as I might have expected this early in my ministry at this church, the participants are all the same faithful people who show up for each and every other church group. The good thing about this group is that it is designed to change completely every few months, so in May I will be asking those individuals to stop coming and to help me recruit others.

One of my greatest temptations in this group is to talk too much. I really want to hear what their perspectives and their questions in relation to the text are. I spend monday afternoons doing some serious research so that I can at least begin to address whatever might come up. So far, there have been good outcomes! Last week we were looking at Jesus in the wilderness and the temptation, but because the lectionary places that text alongside Adam and Eve in the garden we got to talking about how as humans we can resist temptation... and that got us thinking about holding each other accountable. I don't know that I ever would have gone the direction of accountability with the sermon had it not been for the group, but they are aware that as a church we need to be more actively supporting one another. It turned into a great message!

I'm still learning how to incorporate their ideas into the sermon in more compelling ways, however. I realized halfway through the sermon that I said "in our roundtable group this week we discussed.." or some variation of that too many times. I need to refresh myself on the last chapter in McClure's book "The Roundtable Pulpit"

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