Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rambling Thoughts: Preachers

(The following is a post written by Bishop Monk Bryan, my grandfather, whose "rambling thoughts" about God, church, and life in general may become a periodic feature of Enter the Rainbow, depending on how freely he will offer them!)

Of the couple of dozen+ preachers I have heard, most are difficult at times to understand. Though my hearing is not what it was 40 years ago, it is still pretty good. Maybe some of the problem is in the acoustics or speaker system. But most of it is with the preachers.

Going back to [my father, Rev.] Gid J. Bryan about 1938 - every congregation has people with varying degrees of hearing. It is a strain to have to try to hear. Such a person will try for a while, then tire, and close off the sermon. For those people, the preacher may as well shut up and go home.

It is not so much a matter of volume as of pronunciation and projection of voice. [As a preacher in Columbia, Missouri], I used to go into the sanctuary when people were least likely to be there (the doors were always unlocked), take with me the copy of some sermon by some good preacher, and read it aloud from the pulpit. Sometimes I would concentrate on enunciation; sometimes on projection to various areas of the sanctuary, or timing and pauses, or gestures. And I would still get something of the sermon and the preaching style.

Lots of preachers look down a lot. (PREACHING BY READING FROM A MANUSCRIPT IS NOT GOOD.) Others weave their heads from side to side across a mike that functions well in a narrow range of positions.

I have been in a number of services of Holy Communion - thanks be. How, O how, can we ministers read and speak that magnificent ritual in a way that conveys its richness, depth, and meaning? Some go through it in a monotone. [I know one who] reads it as if he wants to get it over with as fast as possible. Do we need to use every sentence of the ritual?

By chance, I watched a Presbyterian minister on TV; maybe an old guy in his late 60s. Obviously, the ritual meant a great deal to him. Inflection, timing, pauses, variation in emphasis and volume. It was so meaningful, I did not care how long it lasted.


Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for sharing this Andy:

How, O how, can we ministers read and speak that magnificent ritual in a way that conveys its richness, depth, and meaning?

Speaking from our hearts about such things is often difficult because we might appear to be a bit emotional and some are not comfortable with emotion on Sunday morning. A good reminder that we pray to an audience of One ... and He can handle a little emotion :)

Conrad said...

There is certianly something for putting a lot of study and writing into a sermon and many pastors make transcripts available. This does not mean that they should read the sermon.

I would much rather have a few bumbles in the sermon and have the pastor talking to the congregation.

Maybe seminary should have a class on enunciation and inflection. AND choosing the proper hymns. It is amazing how much people will forget a bungled sermon if the closing hymn is good enough.