Part 2: Did it Work and What I’ve learned?
Did it work?
I think so? Or, rather, I can’t fully answer. Is my preaching better now than it was nine months ago? Maybe. Go listen and let me know what you think.
When I started this I wrote, “I believe I am a good preacher. I know I have bad weeks. I believe that even my good weeks can be better.” Six months later, I believe that’s still basically true. I think I’m more honest, at least here, about it. I think my good might be a little bit better. I do a better job of finding evidence of the Holy Spirit in sermons during the bad weeks.
I think that I get stuck in on type of sermon, one theology, one note less often. I think that I do a better job of realizing what I didn’t like faster and then moving on.
The reality of preaching in a parish is that every week can’t be a home run. I work hard on my sermons, but they can’t be everything I do. Other weeks are not going to have much time for reflection on last week’s sermon because I’m eking out time to write Sunday’s sermon.
Fortunately, I love what I do. And I believe that this is helping me do part of it a little better.
I have gained is another small discipline towards consistent preaching, another practice towards sermons that are, prayerfully, more likely to be heard by people.
What have I learned?
Perhaps my greatest fear going into this was how much time this project was going to take. Time is my most valuable resource and dedicating a weekly block of it wasn’t something I did lightly. I was delighted that it didn’t take as much time to review my own work as I feared it might. (A lot of that is, to confess my own self-critical nature, because I critique myself between the end of the sermon and the beginning of the Nicene Creed.)
I’ve come to look forward to the time I spend on reviewing my sermon. This practice helps keep me from getting caught up in what I did or didn’t do last Sunday and focus on writing the next sermon. It gives me some distance from whatever I preached.
Finding other sermons has been one of the hardest and best parts of this. Just as there is a discipline in preaching every week, there is a discipline in recording and uploading a sermon to the internet every week. Finding other Episcopalians who do this regularly was not easy. Building a list large enough so that I could genuinely find a few great (to me) sermons has not been easy.
Taking the time to listen to other sermons has fed me with preaching from around the Church in voices, styles, and theologies not my own. Even if it has not had a direct impact on my preaching, it has been good for my theology, my relationship with God, with the Church, and if those are stronger my preaching will be better.
“I believe I am a good preacher. I know I have bad weeks. I believe that even my good weeks can be better.” me, introducing sermon reviews.