How to become a local preacher with the Methodist Church in the U.K.
Why do you want to be a preacher?
A summary of the process of becoming a preacher written by someone going through the process herself. Follow me as I work through the Faith and Worship course of the Methodist Church.
Listen to my thoughts on this course and answer back at the bottom of the page where there is a guestbook. Hear my trials and tribulation and also my delight at taking services, helping people to worship.
All photos on this hub are mine.
If you haven't had a call from God to be a preacher, just stop right there. It won't work. It will be a waste of your time. But only you will know if you have had a call. It may come suddenly, or it may develop over years until the desire to preach is irresistible.
It may be that other people are convinced this is the way forward for you. It may be that reading scripture one day you are struck by the experience of others in the past who have felt that not to preach is an uncomfortable thing, a burden that cannot be borne and that the only relief is to be found in preaching. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel."
If this is how you feel you are at the starting gate. My experience is within the Methodist Church, but I'm sure there will be common ground in other denominations.
We have some quaint ways of doing things in the Methodist church and some quaint labels. If you are accepted for training you get a letter from the Superintendent minister saying that you are "on note". I guess this term dates back to the 1800's.
This first stage is to give you a taste of helping with services and getting a sermon together to preach. This stage is also for backing out if you discover it is not for you after all. During this time you also start studying the Faith and Worship course with a tutor.
When you are ready you give a trial service with your tutor and the minister present and assessing how you are doing. If they think you are ready they recommend that you go on to the "on trial" stage, but this takes a while to organize as it has to be sanctioned by the meeting of local preachers.
This church is in ruins. We don't want that!!
You remain "on trial" for as long as it takes to become an accredited preacher. This will be not shorter than one year and not longer than five. Although this upper limit is sometimes relaxed if you have special circumstances that have impeded your progress.
During this time you take many services in your circuit and learn from experience as well as studying the course work and writing assignments. There are things I don't like about the course, such as its broad doctrinal base. However it is good to see what viewpoints you are likely to meet with, and see how other people "tick".
One of my pet hates early on was the grid provided as a basis for working out a sermon. I hated doing it on paper as it seemed so messy, but then my tutor transferred it to the computer and it has become an old friend which I constantly use. Of course it is only an aid. Finding material for you sermon means reading your Bible passage and mulling it over, but most important of all, praying and asking God for His message for His people.
The course does mention this, but I wish it would come back to it again and again throughout the course.
Answering the Call
Of course it is very important that you relate to the people in your congregation. Not only must your sermon be in the range of experience that they have, but also you must be able to talk to them after the service.
It is important to take on board the things they have to say about your service, such as whether they could hear you or no. This may feel a bit uncomfortable at times but it is the only way to learn and improve. Then speaking a few kind words to your congregation is important. They have to know that you care about them as individuals not just as the "congregation".
You may have had chance to show this in your intercessory prayers, when you asked for names of people needing prayer. If you are a shy person you may find this a little difficult, but you can make improvements if you try. Make yourself talk to people, if only to comment on the weather. It all helps.
How to use the grid
The grid appears in unit 2 of Faith and worship. It is not an optional extra as you will find you are required to fill it out in following units. At first I took a real disliking to the grid, especially on paper. I think that is because there is not enough room to write what you want to by hand.
However I found that when my tutor put it onto computer using Word, it was much more acceptable, because with word boxes and a small font there was now plenty of room for all one wanted to say. Unit 2 tells you the sort of things you need to collect together in each quadrant.
The worship section is for hymns, prayers and poems etc. the exegesis is for seeing what things hang around the reading, what came before and after in the Bible story and any other readings that tie in. The Preacher part is where you bring out your own"take" on the reading. By the way the reading is written in the centre box,
Last of all the most important box, the People box. How will the people relate to the reading,?Are there likely to be misunderstandings? How can we move them forward in their christian walk? In this box you can think of illustrations from everyday life which will help understanding.
If you have trouble with the grid see if you can devise something more user friendly for you which will do the same job. I like to lie in bed and think about my sermons. Some people like to walk the dog to do it. However the grid is a useful tool.
This sort of person
What sort of person?
All sorts, I would say. You could be in your teens or twenties or anything upwards until my age, 62. I'm hoping to give twenty years service as a local preacher as it seems to keep people young!
For me there is plenty of time to study, being retired. It must be quite an undertaking for someone with a young family and a job and a husband or wife. I believe the faith and worship course is putting off a lot of potentially good preachers because they cannot commit the time needed.
You don't have to be an academic to be a good preacher. Perhaps it would be good to have some seminars where people could commit to a Saturday perhaps once a month and have an intensive session, which they could then mull over in between.
Certainly it would be worth asking people what they could cope with best. If you are thinking of becoming a local preacher talk it over with your minister and tell him your mis-givings about the course. If the Lord is calling you, you will find a way around the difficulties.
We all get nervous when we have to stand up and lead worship. In fact it would not be a good sign if you were totally confident and lacking any feeling of nervousness. It would suggest that you didn't have a proper sense of the responsibility of preaching. You can help keep nerves under control by being thoroughly prepared for the service.
I always work my way through a service at home speaking out loud and singing all the hymns and even imagining the offering. This is the only way I can be sure my service is long enough, or short enough. Also the more times you read through your sermon the more you will remember it and so be able to deliver it rather than read it.
Always make sure you have a glass of water handy as nervousness dries your mouth so that you feel your lips are not moving around your words properly. Do not rush from one part to the other. Pauses are vital in helping the congregation get ready for each new part. But also do not expect too much of yourself to start with. There is plenty of time for improvements. Rome wasn't built in a day!
If you are feeling discouraged have a listen to accredited local preachers, or even ministers. They often fall down on some of the things you have been told not to do. So take heart, they got where they are even so, so there is hope for you too! Just remember if you are called of God He will bring you through the process.
Let me tell you about my first service, and remember I am still "on trial" myself. My first service I was just going to take the sermon but then the organist rang up to say she was ill and could I play for her. Actually this worked in my favour as I was so busy playing the hymns I didn't have time to worry about the sermon, but it's not really what you expect when you are taking your first sermon.
I was talking about sheep (Ezekiel 34) to people from a farming community. It all went well and I have a super mentor encouraging me. That is rather important. Remember I am no expert but just another preacher learning as I go.
How would you deal with intercessory prayer? I believe it is vital to involve your congregation fully in this part of the worship. Ask for requests for prayer and realize that these requests are important, particularly for the person making the request.
Recently, well I've only been preaching for six months, as I say recently I had a request from a young man for me to pray for his cat which had been missing for a week. Obviously it was very important for him. So pray for the cat I did and in passing mentioned how important our pets are to us. You will be glad to know that the cat returned home quite soon. If something is important enough for listeners to mention out loud you should be praying for it and them.
This is one time when they can be particularly involved in the service. In these prayers one should pray about various issues close to home and worldwide, but leave gaps of silence when the individuals can pray, perhaps about things they don't feel they can mention out loud. This is a time to remind everyone of God's love and care for us all.
Support and help
When you are training to become a local preacher you will get lots of support from your fellow preachers. Meetings are held regularly with study meetings where various topics are discussed. Your progress will be watched with interest and helpful suggestions made but you will also be encouraged to join in discussions on how preaching in the circuit can be made more relevant to today's congregations.
In our circuit recently we discussed "Theme Preaching" where the same topic could be preached on for a number of weeks by the preachers planned at a particular church. Previous topics have been on using the lectionary readings and on preaching from Mark's gospel. Meetings like this continue for all the preachers after they have been accredited giving continued support and a feeling of family to all the preachers in the circuit.
Undoubtedly the best part about the training is taking the services. The Faith and Worship units are just there to give you the nudge towards putting in the study that enables you to bring to life the Bible and its message of love and salvation. It is the getting up in front of people and delivering the message and then feeling the warm response of the people to that message which is the real joy in this whole process.
This past Sunday someone asked me why I hadn't become a local preacher much sooner. I don't really know although I guess I wasn't ready. I had a very sheltered life until ten years ago. I guess I needed to come out of the cottonwool.
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Always take a cake, we're Methodists
So let me tell you about my service last Sunday, which was Pentecost. Well I thought to myself this is the church's birthday so let's take a cake, well two actually as there were 24 in the congregation. I put candles on it, just three and walked in with it at the beginning with the steward.
The candles were not lit, that would come later, although I did light a separate candle and put it on the table beside the cake. By the way you have to keep your nerve when working with candles. They have a habit of refusing to light. Tapers are a good idea as you are less likely to burn your fingers. However candles are very expressive things especially when you are thinking about the Holy Spirit who came in fire at Pentecost.
We sang Holy, holy,holy. Then had the Bible readings. Soon it was time for the sermon. The first part was a personalized narrative sermon. I put a blue shawl over my head and played the part of Mary Magdalen telling the story of Pentecost from her perspective. Then I read Acts 2 v 1-21 to make sure Mary had it right. Then I began talking about the Holy Spirit in our lives today. I spoke about how we can quench the Holy Spirit and to illustrate this I lit one of the candles on the cake and then said that sometimes we feel the Holy Spirit prompting us to speak about Jesus to our neighbour but we don't want to do it. I blew out the candle.
It was one of those relighting ones. You've guessed it, no flame, it didn't relight. I said,"Never work with animals,children or candles." Then I re-lit the candle and this time when I blew it out it re-lit on its own. Never be phased by this sort of thing it makes it stick better in people's minds. Everyone loves it when it goes wrong. I was illustrating that when we are believers although we can quench the spirit for a time he never leaves us.
The cake was well received, one chocolate one and one coffee.
You thought you would meander
Through the days
At peace and satisfied.
But in fact
There are so many
Things to do.
So many people needing you.
This , of course, is good
You need to say "No"
Or they will all take your "Yes"
I have been called
To be a preacher.
I need to remember this.
And there are many things
To which I must say"No"
If I am to give
The needed time
To my sermons
Sending God's word forth
Is the important thing.
Have you ever noticed how the lectionary readings leave out any awkward bits in the Bible readings. Whenever I see the verses looking like this:- 1-6 & 14-23, the alarm bells sound and I look at those missing verses, and usually I put them back in. After all I don't want to preach half a gospel, especially the times when it is the words of Jesus that have been left out.
If Jesus is warning of judgment and Hell we should do the same. Once you start hacking bits out of the Bible, because you don't like them, there is no telling when it will stop. My advice to you is to grapple with those pieces of scripture. Until recently our Bible had stayed intact for nearly two thousand years. Who are we to start pulling it apart when God preserved it like that for so many years.
A warm welcome
This is a lovely little chapel out in the wilds although near quite a big community. The people are very warmhearted . I often worship with them on a Sunday morning, if I am available. I was fairly pleased with how I did things there this Sunday. I took water and ice, in a flask, and boiled a kettle in the service to produce steam. this was all to illustrate that one thing H2O can be expressed in three very different ways, and yet still be H2O all the time. This was to help us come some way to understanding how God can be three persons, Father,Son and Holy Spirit and yet still be only one God.
When we start preaching we have a tendency to speak too quickly and not look up at the congregation enough. I am still battling with this. Don't ever let this depress you. You have only to watch accredited preachers preach to realize it is an ongoing problem and not one that is going to stop you being accredited. It is a good idea to be determined to always keep these problems in mind and work to improve them.
If you have positive feedback from your congregation you can believe it, especially if it is specific. If it is not well received you will usually get a non-committal reaction.
Of course you could get an adverse reaction and still be doing God's will. Maybe you have just hit a raw nerve that needed hitting. Your service, however should always contain encouragement as well as challenge. The gospel is a challenge to those who have not received it, but a huge encouragement to those who have, so the words of your sermon might be a challenge and an encouragement all at the same time.
I guess I'm going to have to read through my sermons at least six times when preparing, because it seems to me, that you need to be having eye contact with your congregation a lot more than I'm doing at the moment. I need to know what I'm going to say so thoroughly, that I can actually talk to the people on the subject and not necessarily be saying the words exactly as they are in the written sermon.
The last sermon I delivered began with me talking about a trip I made by sea to Southern Ireland. Naturally I just told it without a script and apparently that came over best of all. I asked the opinion of a local preacher who was there and although I had made a conscious effort to look up he felt I could do it still more. So if you are in training bear this in mind, you can never look up too much. Of course, that is also true when you are preparing, always look up.
My second trial service
I'm getting ready for a trial service at the end of this week. Also I will be visiting a synagogue on Friday evening, so it's quite an eventful time. I'm working on unit 7 which is all about worship past and present. My readings for Sunday are Jeremiah 20 v1-11; and Luke 10 v 1-20. I have an awful desire to thoroughly lash my congregation. It's to do with my childhood when I was not in the Methodist church. Mind you we all need to be challenged about our treatment of God, as to whether we do give Him anything like enough attention.
But I don't suppose the dear ladies in my congregation have sacrificed any children lately, so I must build in some encouragement for them also. Isn't it wonderful how human nature works. I find myself giving extra attention to this service just because it is a trial service. Perhaps I can use it to raise my game and not slip back into a lower standard again.
Over another hurdle
The assessed service was fine. I felt comfortable taking it and felt that I related to the congregation quite well. Apparently I have quite a good speaking voice. I tend to rush from one item to the next, so I must learn to relax and take things at a leisurely pace. I added in some thoughts to my sermon and at the end found that I was running out of time, so I cut out the next hymn and went to the prayers of intercession and the final hymn.
After the service three gentlemen deliberated in another room and then called me in to discuss their thoughts on the service. At these times you tend to think you are about to be thrown out no matter how confident you feel. But it was not an unpleasant experience and their comments were helpful. And so we proceed.
What to wear for a service
This is not the most vital of issues but does deserve some thought. You need to dress according to the church you will be speaking in. If your congregation is elderly and conservative in dress you should dress this way too. If you have a younger casually dressed congregation then you will look out of place in a suit. It is all a matter of common sense. We ladies need to resist the temptation to dress like a model and also need to dress modestly in other ways.
Clean and tidy my mother would have suggested. Also be careful with your colour scheme; you are not there to dazzle the congregation, the focus should be the word of God. Your sermon should be the thing that stands out and shines into the life of each one present.
Some more thoughts on my assessed service
It is only natural to feel a little discouraged at receiving even helpful criticism so I was very pleased that I had recorded the service on my little dictaphone. This meant I could hear for myself exactly how I had presented the service. Indeed I do rush onward from item to item and my general speed in the sermon is a little fast. However what pleased me most was that I felt most of my content was good and that I was presenting the word of God to the people of God. I strongly recommend you to tape your services, that way you cannot wriggle out of what you are being told needs improving, but you also get an objective view of what you have said and done.
Another mistake I made was that I asked people for items for prayer, but because it was a bigger building than I am used to and of course ,they all sat at the back, I could not hear what was said and so didn't actually include anything in the prayers. With hindsight I realize I should have boldly walked down the aisle and asked again. Always have a pen and paper ready at these occasions as you will not remember requests otherwise.
Invaluable for Assessing your progress
Record your sermons either with a dictaphone, which you can use yourself; or get a friend to video you. Find out if you have any irritating gesture or if your voice fades sometimes. You might not enjoy watching yourself but it is a very good way to assess how you come over for other people.
You will find you will be encouraged to use illustrations from everyday life. This is a way of connecting with your congregation and shows them the relevance of your message. If you can do this they will follow you into your Bible examples. Show them that life has been going on the same for thousands of years, on an emotional level.
Show them that the problems of David, or Samson ,or Jeremiah are the same as our problems today. Their struggles with faith are the same as ours. However the illustration should be just that and not take over the bulk of the sermon. Also it must be relevant, not just something with which to amuse your listeners.
The best place to get illustrations is from your own life. The more interesting your daily life is, the easier it will be to find examples. Try to take an interest in as many things as possible. If you have a boring life your sermons will also be boring. Variety is the spice of life. Mixing with different people will also give you an insight into what interests people. I have several interests. I play short mat bowling and I play in an amateur orchestra. The possibilities are there to find illustrations. A lot about team work and perseverance.
Family life also provides examples. We had a perfect illustration of childlike faith. My husband was looking out of the window one Sunday afternoon when he saw a lovely rainbow. He called our three-year-old son to come and have a look. He picked him up and they looked together until the rainbow faded. Our son looked at his Dad then and said,"Do it again, Daddy" He had such faith in his Dad, and that is how we should trust our Heavenly Father. Illustrations are there if you will only look for them.
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From the fountain of life
I took a ewer of water
The clearest ever seen.
It flowed from the mount
Where my saviour died
The truth of his love in every sip.
I took it down to the valley
Where the people's life was poor.
They thirsted they knew not what for.
I took them my ewer
And filled each glass
To the brim.
Some drank and were quenched
A new light in their eyes.
But others would not drink
Would not even sip
They dipped brushes in the glasses
And painted fantastical paintings
With no resemblance to my Lord.
But still patiently I returned to the fountain
And brought them more water.
I did this and each time
Someone would realise that they must drink.
While there was hope of this I continued to
Bear the water to them.
I've just posted off my section A work to be assessed at Local Preacher H.Q. It consists of two exegesis, one on Nathan saying to David "Thou art the man" (oops slipped into the A.V. then) and one on the man who was lowered through the roof to Jesus for healing from paralysis.Then there was the sermon from my assessed service, a reflection on someone else's service and my assignments from units 4,5 and 6.
Will have to wait till November to hear anything. So meanwhile it's on with Unit 7.If you are training like me I would love to hear from you. You can comment here of talk to me on Blogger. I'm Lizpreach on there.You can find a link to Blogger just below "Do you find this lens helpful." Tell your mates about this lens too. After all it is helpful to share our experiences.
This is somewhat painful to write but I want to encourage anyone in the same troubles. I have just had unit 7 given a very poor mark. I am 62 and haven't written essays for 40 years so I suppose it is not surprising I am having difficulties. It knocks the pride to have a bad mark, which I suppose is not a bad thing. This is also my tutor's first time as a tutor so both of us were unsure if he had marked correctly, so he sent the assignment off to another tutor who backed him up.
Apparently it is a common fault that we students may have plenty of knowledge but are not so good at evaluation. I now have to settle down and re-do the assignment taking into consideration my tutor's suggestions and those of the other tutor.
I threw a wobbly when all this happened. Yes, I am a human being with feelings that get hurt, especially when I feel I have put my best work into a piece of work. I tell you this in case you go through this experience. One more thing, if you are called to preach by God, you will get through all these difficulties, so plod on and I'll see you at the end as an accredited local preacher.
A better mark
I re-did my assignment for unit 7. The first time I had 42!! and the second time 54. Not spectacular but quite sufficient. My tutor would like me to excel but I am quite content to be adequate and save my energies for my services. Unit 8 was much more to my liking and I gained 65 for that. I did have as a target to get the course completed by next September, however I have decided that there is really no need to steam along like that. As the course includes lots of taking of services and that's what I feel called to do why am I bothered about whether I am accredited or not within a particular time scale? I need to sit back a little and enjoy the experience.
On November 8th 2009 I took my first remembrance Sunday service in a little chapel with about twenty people present. I had been apprehensive about this before hand, partly because of timing the two minute silence and partly because I had previously found these services not particularly meaningful, because my life started after the Second World War, and also very few of my relatives had been lost in war coming as they did from the farming community. However this year I have been more aware of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and this is where my focus lay. I read the following poem of mine just before the two minutes' silence.
He was young and brash
And strapped for cash,
So he thought he would join the army.
Then he had his mates
And money a plenty.
A good decision he had made he said.
He trained and trained,
Got his fitness sorted,
Learnt to handle a weapon,
Married the girl he wanted.
Then off he went to see the world.
Ended up in Afghanistan.
He stood by his mates
As they fought for democracy,
For a downtrodden people,
That's how he saw it.
His wife at home
Was proud of her man
As she chewed her nails with worry.
One day he went out in the tank.
It was not a good day
The tank was blown apart by the enemy's bomb
And our man with it.
They gathered him up
To put in a coffin
To fly him home.
His job done.
He was only a lad of 22
His widow much the same age
They had paid the price for wanting a life.
He had given his life for country and home.
My sermon was about making sacrifices for others, including the widow from Zarephath; the widow who put a small amount in the collection, but it was all that she had; about soldiers giving their lives for their country and best of all Jesus giving his life for us to bring us back to God.
In my part of the country the congregation tends not to give much of a reaction to the service and so it is difficult to know if one is making any impression, good or bad. I will have to see if I get planned there again!!
A recurring problem
I've been having a recurring problem with my services; a tendency to rush from item to item. I have now learned to give space between items. It was not enough to count seconds in my head between items I had to be sure it was really working, so I used a dictaphone to record myself. Annoyingly at first I found that I was still not leaving enough space. However after a few services with the dictaphone I cracked it and now there is a perfect amount of space when moving from hymn to reading and reading to prayer. I have also improved on space within items. I forgot my dictaphone today, but I don't think it is a good idea to stop recording yet, things could slip back!
What does it feel like to pass section A?
I tell you , it feels great. Yes, I have passed the first section of the Faith and Worship course. Now I can have confidence in what I am doing and my tutor can have confidence in his marking, which, of course gives me confidence in him too.
So if he marks me down in future I know I have to think again and put in some more work. To any new tutors out there I would suggest that you do not express any doubts in how you are marking, be decisive and confident. Your student needs to trust your judgment.
And so on with section B. This consists of Unit 7, 8, 9 and 10. I am currently working on 9. I am struggling with the modern art representations of Jesus on which I have to write a meditation. I feel not many people in my circuit would gain much from these paintings. I could write a meditation on Jesus quite happily but I find most of these representations of him offensive.
We are given no clues in scripture as to what Jesus looked like so obviously this is most unimportant. It is his words and actions that we need to meditate on. I could write a long essay on why I do not want to meditate on these pictures. No doubt I will calm down and manage to complete this part of the unit. At least the course is challenging. Now I am one more step on the road to becoming a local preacher
Section B complete
I have all the written work for section B ready to send off for assessment. I have just another assessed service to complete and then all will be ready. I am speaking about the faithfulness of God both to Bible people and to us. I am using the life of Jacob for this. He wasn't always a saintly character. He stole his brother's blessing by trickery.
God is not faithful to us because we are good, he is faithful to us because it is in his nature to be faithful. I am hoping to be able to complete sections C and D by September. I seem to work better under pressure so there is no use hanging about. I have made a start on unit 11 about what it means to be a human. The assignment includes taking a news item and saying how it illustrates scripture and then using it for a sermon illustration. Sometimes it feels as if I will never understand what is wanted, but then everything falls into place after a bit of thought. I shall have the result of Section B at the end of May.
Why do we expect to be perfect?
There can be only one explanation of why we are so disappointed when what we feel are our best efforts are criticized. We expect ourselves to be perfect and really squirm when we are told we are not. Let me tell you my experience of my assessed service for section B. I really worked hard on it. You can get a flavour of it by visiting my lens Interesting Bible People: Jacob. See the link below.
. I used power point for the first time in this service but made sure it was just a mood setter at the beginning of the service, then if I couldn't get the technical stuff to work it wouldn't completely spoil the service. I had hymns which fitted perfectly with the theme and prayers around the theme too, which was the faithfulness of God. I even had an object lesson with eggs! Everything went well except that when it came to the prayers of intercession I forgot to announce at the beginning that we would have a sung response, the well known "O Lord hear my prayer" from Taize. Well I find that response is so good at involving the congregation that I could not leave it out, so I announced it after the first section of the prayer, which of course, did create a bit of an hiatus. But I was glad I did it, even if cross with myself for forgetting it at the beginning.
I thought I was making a big effort to pace the service with pauses, but apparently not as this old criticism came up to haunt me again. I also thought I looked at the congregation enough, but apparently not. I guess these are too of the commonest criticisms that come up for we beginners at preaching. I console myself with the thought that what I am saying is acceptable and that the congregation can hear me. I have a friend who was a nurse who tells me that when he had inspections, if the inspector complained he had cobwebs on the rafters he knew he had passed well if that was all they had to complain about.
Whilst urging all preacher's to pace their services with adequate pauses, and look frequently at their congregation, I would also encourage the sensitive souls like me to consider these things to be just cobwebs in the rafters. After all your assessors can't give you a completely glowing report at section B or what could they say for section C and D.
Problems with your tutor
So how do you cope if your tutor doesn't want to work as quickly as you do? How do you cope when your tutor is a first time tutor and he's learning as much as you are? Well you take a deep breath and think of how he is doing it for free and in his leisure time. You realise he is the tutor that God decided to give you. You show a bit of thanks that he offered to do the job, otherwise you could be travelling big distances to find someone else, as no one else in the circuit has offered. Then you work at the pace you want to work at, especially if like me you have a good grounding in the Bible, although there are others aspects I need help with. If you feel you can work through the units sometimes on your own and still produce passable assignments, then go for it. But don't fall out with your tutor, he or she is doing their best or they wouldn't have offered in the first place.You have the privilege of helping him or her on their way to being an experienced and valuable tutor. Here's to you Paul.
Great rejoicing I have just heard that I have passed Section B of Faith and Worship. Halfway through now. My plans to rush through the next two sections and finish in September this year are having to be shelved. I now plan to finish in March 2011. Why I wanted to steam ahead I'm sure I don't know. As we learn by taking services and that is what I love doing, my status is really immaterial.
I have had a lot of trouble with Unit 11. Not the understanding of the material but the managing of the assignment. It is quite difficult to stick to the references given for describing human traits. Even more difficult when your tutor has an old copy of Faith and Worship which excludes a given reference you are using and naturally he can't give you any marks for that section. Fortunately we discovered the anomaly and I'm getting some more marks. We managed to settle this all amicably. It is always worth checking your material against your tutor's notes to look out for anomalies like these.
Recently I spoke to some unchurched friends and we were discussing how they don't like the idea of listening to someone telling them what to do in a sermon. Instead they would like the opportunity to butt in and put their viewpoint. I think this is a good idea. it would require a lot of work on the preacher's part in preparation but that would do us no harm.
I was recently at a meeting of the College of Preacher's. The speaker spoke of different ways of preaching. He said there was the way of saying,"I've been hard at work in my study all week, this is what I've discovered. It's for you to accept." He then spoke of saying,"Let's find out together." However when he asked a question in his sermon and paused I piped up and answered. Apparently I wasn't meant to do that! So really he was giving us the first option disguised as something else.
I think it's time we involved our congregations in the sermon, not just as listeners. There are some very wise people in our congregations; we need to hear that wisdom. Also it would keep us who lead on our toes, which would be a good thing. So, by all means give a monologue introduction to your sermon time but then take your roving mike and get out among the congregation and lead them. Don't brow beat them, lead them. Then sum up. If we had new people in we would soon find out what they needed to help them if we were working in this way. I think this needs exploring.
November 2010 and I've passed section C
Despite the trouble with Unit 11 mentioned above, I have passed section C. It's true I only got the pass mark for unit 11, but I won't grumble about that. I'm not here to get accolades and distinctions, I'm hear to get through the course, so that I can continue to do what I have come to love, preach. The course, however, is not a necessary evil, but, in fact, a useful tool for stretching the mind and the spirit to tackle and deal with all sorts of thorny problems. I struggled at first, but now see it as something which has helped me to develop. There were times when I thought my precious beliefs were under attack. Those attacks have served to confirm me in my beliefs, but I have also learnt to allow others to have their own thoughts on a subject and not feel I have to ram my thoughts down their throat.
I am progressing well with section D, having had my unit 14 assignment passed by my tutor. I have also sent him unit 15 and am now reading through 16. I have written my personal reflection on a service for this section and intend to work on the exegeses over the Christmas period while my tutor is busy with family matters. So I am well on target to have everything ready to send up in March.
I hope it is not presumptuous of me, but I have my previous minister standing by to conduct my accreditation service sometime in the Summer of 2011. This is an exciting time.
The end is in sight!!
That is the end is in sight of the Faith and Worship course. I have just unit 16 and unit 17 to complete. Then with a service to be assessed on February 13th, 2011 and two exegesis passages to do I will be all ready to send in Section D for the end of March. Barring accidents I'm well on target to meet that deadline. After that there are a few more hurdles to jump, including an interview which includes discussing John Wesley's sermons, a final assessed service and a recommendation from the Local preacher's meeting that I should become a local preacher. If all this is acceptable I will be able to arrange a service of recognition. So I must leave you now and get back to my overview of church history.
New Proposals for training
There are new proposals for how Local Preachers will be trained and although these come too late to affect me I am interested and want to spread the word. It is proposed that the training will take only eighteen months but will include residential weekends of study. This will mean larger groups and therefore better discussions and ideas to stimulate thought on various subjects. I have been learning one to one with a tutor and with the best will in the world it is not possible to have great discussion with only two people. I have plenty of time on my hands, but for those with a job to go to and family to bring up, I feel residentials, where there is an intense time of learning, will be more suitable. This looks like a very good way forward and I look forward to the meeting to discuss these proposals.
Down The Home Straight
May 6th, 2011
Now it's May. I made the March deadline with Section D and all was sent off to London in good time. Now I am waiting, fairly patiently, for the end of May to come and the results for Section D. I'm confident the main assignments will pass as my tutor is an excellent marker and understands what is required. If he passes an assignment I can be sure it will pass at HQ too. I have just a niggly doubt about one of my exegesis passages. Time will tell. I am now concentrating on my services and on reading John Wesley's sermons. I need to be able to discuss these at an interview in September. Fortunately I have them in modern English. Also in Unit 18 there are summaries of the sermons required.
So now I await my results and then have one more assessed service and one interview. Best wishes to you all on the course. Keep plodding forward and you will reach your goal.
You guessed it, I didn't pass Section D. I have two exegesis passages to re-do. How do I feel? Disappointed, cross, frustrated and depressed. It's hard to admit to being a human being and having such unworthy thoughts as,"Well I'll pack it all in. They can do without me as a preacher." Now after sulking for a week I've settled down to re-working them. One can't help feeling, "What if they fail me again?" I shall have to meet that if it comes. I passed everything first time up to now, so what was so different about the exegesis this time? I comfort myself with the thought that in a few months time this will all have blown over and not matter at all. Meanwhile I continue to preach, which is what it is all about.
Success at last
After a minor hiccough with my exegesis, I have now re-submitted and passed. Notice that I failed at the end of May, re-sumitted two weeks later and got my result on June 23rd, so you do not have to wait for the September deadline, which means you can usually keep to the schedule of events you had planned next, that is the interview. Now I'm ready for my final assessed service and my interview. I'm deep into Wesley's sermons and considering the topic for my presentation. I have come up with some real hot potatoes but sensibly decided to speak about my hopes for my tiny rural church, Where I hope us to be in five years time and how I think we can get there. It may not be a hot potato but it is a very important subject.
To those of you still struggling with Faith and Worship, keep going, if I can do it so can you and don't be put off by any little set-backs on the way. Just keep plugging away at it and you will get there. Next I will report back on my interview.
I think I've finally got the message.
Yesterday I had my final assessed service. I have been working hard at looking up from my notes. To remind me I had written "SLOW DOWN, LOOK UP" at the top of each page. But still this wasn't good enough for my assessors. Finally the penny has dropped that I need to get away from my notes and deliver the sermon ad lib to my congregation, thereby making a better connection with them. I had done this recently when speaking to a congregation of three. I was also using power point which gave me the necessary reminders for what I was next wanting to say. I think it just needs a leap of confidence for me to do this on every occasion. After all I do know what I am trying to express and as long as the desired meaning is brought out the exact words of the script do not matter. When I am first thinking of a sermon I usually find myself, in my head ,preaching a sermon in a lucid way, so once I have written everything down, I should be quite familiar with the content. I want to encourage other students who are trapped by their script; take a leap of faith and connect with their congregation.
The Second Interview
The evening for my second interview came. My nerves were not debilitating, just enough to prove that I cared. I knew I had made good preparation with the Wesley sermon that was chosen, Justification by faith. I had been so thorough with it that I couldn't bear to read it again on the day. The atmosphere in the meeting was so supportive and loving. First I answered questions about my call. I decided to talk about the problems I had had being a women preaching at all. My childhood had been spent in a Baptist church which was heavily influenced by the Plymouth Brethren. I had been brought up to believe that women did not preach. No matter what you come to believe in adult life those things taught you as a child stick with you. I had really had to think these things through. I had found the story of Huldah the Prophetess in Joash's reign to be very influential in my finally believing that God had called me, no matter what friends said about it.
Next it was time for my presentation and I spoke about how and if we can keep going in our small rural churches. You can read more about this in the page featured just below.
The meeting voted to accept me as a local preacher. It will be a long time before I forget the warmth and friendliness of that meeting.
The end of the beginning and the beginning of the future
October 23rd, 2011
My service of admission as a Local Preacher took place on October 23rd, 2011 at Wellington Methodist Church. About 120 people attended, all friends and family. Our circuit choir came and made a magnificent contribution the sense of occasion. I had had little advice as to what would happen, but in my usual resourceful way had looked up the events which would happen in the Worship Book. I saw that it mentioned a chance for me to speak about my call to preach, there again no one had mentioned this to me. Maybe it is the laidback rural atmosphere that leads to this way of running things
We had lovely hymns, including O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end. Also, One shall tell another (chorus, Come on in and taste the new wine.) This was new to me. I enjoyed its Jewish flavour. There was a reading from Romans 10 v 1 - 15 and 2 Timothy 4 v 1-2. A great friend and previous minister of mine, Rev. Alan Taylor (Ipswich) gave the sermon. I've never been preached directly at before, but it was not an unpleasant experience but rather an uplifting one.
After the formal making of promises with God's help to fulfil the offices of a preacher I was indeed given the opportunity to say a few words. Just previous to this there had been a little incident where the super had not put enough verses of the hymn on the power point. This gave me my opening. I said I liked it when these little incidents happened as it was a reminder to us that we are not perfect and if we remember that we can be of help to other people who feel their imperfections and point them to Jesus. I spoke of my call to preach. As a teenager when I was a Baptist I would walk up the hill from my home and look down over the nearby village and pray that revival would come and people would turn to God. One day when I did this I said,"If you don't want to use us Baptists perhaps you would use the Methodists." What a strange thing for me to pray. I'm not sure I ever thought of that prayer until three years ago when I remembered it and realised that I was now one of those Methodists. I thought that God might be asking me to be a part of the answer to the prayer I had made. That was when I started to feel a call to preach and that call has strengthened through the next three years.. After the service we had tea and cake and a good chat. That is something Methodists do really well.
Continuing Local Preacher Development
Once you have arrived as a Local Preacher it is important to make continuing efforts to improve. It is important to do your own Bible study and prayer. Unless you keep close to God you cannot you cannot help your congregations to get close to God.
There will be things in your preaching which will need constant attention to improve, little habits you have that need weeding out. The Local Preacher's meeting will provide you with topic to discuss and techniques to learn. There will also be events in the disrict to help you developed. I always find these things very enjoyable. The support from one another in the circuit is second to none. I'm off to Plymouth soon for a meeting entitled "Hug an L.P." Sounds fun.
A male friend who doesn't really approve of women preacher's, wrote this poem for me. I think it shows a sneaking admiration. See what you think.
A Lady Preacher
She stands declaring Heaven's Good News
To sinners seated in their pews.
Her notes before her, in a list,
This herald called a Methodist.
Her head held high,now fancy that
A preacher in a purple hat.
Perched fixedly upon her head,
A covering true, it must be said.
No longer sitting on the fence
As preacher gains in confidence.
The people sit, with gaze enrapt
On that infernal purple hat.
I have recently been asked to take two funerals. The first was for a friend who belonged to a club with me. She was terminally ill when she asked me if I would take her service and I agreed. It is a strange thing but anyone can take a funeral. If it is to be in a church you need the permision of the minister and your superintendent, but usually you will be asked by people who are having a cremation, then you do not need permission. If the family are happy with you that is all that is required.
The first funeral was at the crematorium. It took place on a Saturday with no service before or after, so we did not need to worry about the usual time restrictions. Our local crematorium allows just thirty minutes for each service, including walking in and out. I felt great peace although somewhat nervous and also a great sense of being meant to be there helping the family and friends in their time of grief. The family were very appreciative.
The second service was a little unusual in that it was just a short time in the cemetery followed by a burial. This was the wish of the lady concerned and her family wanted as little fuss as possible. They were not "religious" but once I had gained their confidence they allowed me to include Bible passages and prayer in the short service. I made sure they were happy with all the material before using it.There were also poems. Again I was amazed by the sense of privilege I felt in being able to come alongside this family in their grief and be able to express that grief for them in a small way.
I suppose funerals will not suit all temperaments and maybe you will not have this opportunity, but for me it feels like a job that has always been meant for me.
Even if you don't take a funeral service, you may be in a position to help someone prepare a service.
How Often do I Take Services and Where?
On average I take six services a quarter. Sometimes these are spread out and sometimes they come in a bunch. Recently I had two services on the same Sunday and I also played the organ at both of them. Methodist Churches are banded together in circuits. Our circuit has ten churches altogether and is a very rural circuit. Only two of the churches are in small towns. Membership numbers are low and finding an organist is often difficult, that's why I do the two jobs of playing and preaching. It's good to be flexible and I really don't find it a strain. I expect it keeps me fit. Also the organs are small and near the preaching position. It would be more difficult if I was having to play a "proper" organ.
So we have two town churches and eight country ones. The circuit is a wonderful invention because the larger churches can help support the smaller ones. We also have two ministers. There was a need to have more people to take the communion so two of our most experienced local preachers were given permission to do so, by connexion, that is the national Methodist church.
My own views
Any views expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the Methodist Church