Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Question Box Sermon

I like to do kind of quirky things on my Sundays in the pulpit. Not always, just often enough to stir things up a bit. I usually am pretty conventional, the ole "hymn sandwich" type of liturgy being a comfortable style for me, but every once in awhile, I am tired of doing things the same way and try to do something different: sing an old traditional Baptist hymn, dance around the sanctuary with the kids to "Come and Go With Me", have an Easter Parade with Easter bonnets as the postlude, T-Shirt Theology Sunday, for example.

This Sunday is a case in point. I first encountered a Question Box format years ago when I visited First Unitarian in Portland, Oregon, and watched Marilyn Sewell deftly handle a wide variety of questions. I've done it once before, at my former parish, and had a good experience, so I thought I'd try it here on Whidbey Island.

So far three questions have been turned in (the congregation has had advance notice and were invited to email me their questions) and a couple are doozies. One person wrote "how can we find an emotional and psychological balance on the environmental issue after seeing 'An Inconvenient Truth' and not get depressed that we're not doing enough?" And another person wrote "How do we forgive and forget?" The third question is easier: "Why do we call ourselves a congregation and not a church?"

I find myself mulling over possible responses during long waits in the ferry line. I struggle with all these questions and their answers. I haven't yet seen the Gore movie, but I know it's going to depress and frustrate and infuriate me when I do. I admit to wanting to hide my head in the sand and pretend everything's just fine, but obviously I can't do that. And I'm not so hot at forgiving and forgetting either. I often just wish we could be a church, so I didn't have to write out 'c.o.n.g.r.e.g.a.t.i.o.n." every time.

Gaahhh------what made me think this would be a good idea? But it is making me think hard about what I have to offer to my congregations. I am not great at extemporaneous speaking unless I know my subject matter backwards and forwards; off the cuff sometimes turns into a problem for me. So I have to be careful about getting out on a limb that I subsequently cut off behind me. Once in a parish far far away, those who were evaluating me told me that they wanted me to preach without a manuscript. They didn't know what they were suggesting! Needless to say, I did not follow that particular piece of advice.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes. The service will be on "the land" (our acreage that is being turned into our own church building site), which means in the woods on picnic benches and there is a picnic at my house afterwards. That's actually probably more scary than the questions!

1 comment:

Chalicechick said...

I really like question box sermons.