Ian T. mentioned that his son really enjoys this book about a child whose church experience is very different from his own.
Having a poem for each pageIan T. mentioned that his son really enjoys this book about a child whose church experience is very different from his own.
Having a poem for each page is a neat way to break up the scenes.
One thing I was struck by is how much the protagonist character connects with God -- in the poem whose lines intersperse with "Rock-a-my-soul," she says, "I gently sway and / I close my eyes and / my feet start dancing and / I reach for heaven and / I touch God's face and / He rocks my soul," and in the poem "My Offering," she matter-of-factly says, "Daddy says to give whatever God tells me to, / which is what I usually do--- / unless I need an ice-cream cone, / and even then, if I'm alone, / I offer God a lick." I also really enjoyed in "Esther," she asserts that her favorite person in the Bible is Ester "because she's brave / and she's smart / and she's a girl--- / and I'm all of that, too. / Just ask God. / He'll tell you." I also appreciated the visiting preacher "Sister Beverly," at whose preaching the pastor says, "Amen, Sister!" It's easy to position Black church as a patriarchal institution, and certainly some of it still is, but as with all cultures/institutions, there's variety....more
The workshop list for Super Saturday 2016 included
UnCommon Preaching: An Alternative to the Lectionary Make the most of your 20 minutes of airtime. Pr
The workshop list for Super Saturday 2016 included
UnCommon Preaching: An Alternative to the Lectionary Make the most of your 20 minutes of airtime. Preach in a way that is more intuitive to reach today's audience, seasoned members and newcomers alike through themed preaching. Susan will talk about her experience developing a new way to preach, and share insights from her new book. Rev. Dr. Susan Cartmell -- Author of UnCommon Preaching: An Alternative to the Lectionary
I was somewhat dubious and decided to check out the book.
I realized early on in this book that I'm not the target audience. Cartmell says that people come to church "searching for inspiration to deal with personal concerns that have them tied up in knots" etc. (page 1) whereas I have availed myself of pastoral care almost never and don't seek out Christian worship or Christian community (that I am not wired for spiritual experience and that I've had a fairly comfortable life likely both contribute to this fact).
I come to church because I'm really interested in the Christian story. I often wanted Molly's sermons to be more Bible exegesis and less personal anecdote. I basically want a mini Bible study lesson in the sermon every week. Yes, I think relating your sermon to the contextual moment of your audience is important, but I think my interest is text first, theme second.
Cartmell talks (page 17 and surrounding) about going to places like Mars Hill where a multi-week sermon series on a single topic is the norm and noting how much more effective that was than preaching on the same topic once a year (allowing the preacher to lay groundwork, reinforce, etc). I think sermon series can be great and am certainly not opposed to people going off lectionary (I grew up with an American Baptist influenced pastor and didn't know what a lectionary was until college or later), but I think one can do themes within the confines of the lectionary or can at least use the lectionary as your starting point and choose at times to go off-lectionary without needing to scrap the lectionary entirely.
Cartmell says, "The organization of the [lectionary] readings offers a calendar approach to the story of Jesus. This story begins in Advent and goes on through Pentecost, and it assumes that today's congregations comprehend that they are accompanying Jesus through his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension as they celebrate Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost" (pp. 29-30). But really, it is not that difficult to explain to a congregation how the liturgical year works and to reinforce that as you go. Think of it as a months long sermon series on the theme of the liturgical year! :P
She goes on to say, "Even if one were determined to give all church participants a crash course in the theological underpinnings of the lectionary, it would be a daunting task, given the scope of religious experience represented in most congregations every week" (p. 30) but really, our pastors have been giving a brief contextualizing note for the Scripture since Ian H. was our support pastor while Molly was out on medical leave back in 2010-2011 and it's like a paragraph or two. I can't speak to how difficult the process of researching and concisely summing up is for the preacher, but I think it's been super-helpful and appreciated by newbies as well as Bible nerds like myself.
I wanted to throw the book across the room around page 40 where she disses on the assigned Advent readings. Yes, the RCL has a lot of agendas in its selection and juxtaposition of texts, and I do not love that "The authors of the lectionary promote the notion that the Hebrew Bible is best seen as a foreshadow of the New Testament" (p. 39), and I'm not saying you have to retain the RCL's focus on the Second Coming as you preach your way through Advent, but (a) John the Baptist is fucking about hope (come on, Advent 2C for example gives us "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" -- Luke 3:6, echoing Isaiah) and (b) Christ's coming into the world was (is) not *just* about hope but also about a radical re-ordering of society, so please don't give me this, "[most people in the pews] come to church expecting to hear about a sweet little baby boy born to a world that had lost hope. Instead, through much of Advent, the lectionary offers them a wild-eyed fanatic who dwells at the edge of society. Even the most diligent of clergy is hard-pressed to feed the flock this castor oil when they come expecting Figgie pudding" (p. 40).
(In fairness to Cartmell, in her closing chapter, "Launching a New Preaching Model," she says, "Though I think it is hard to use John the Baptist for two of the four Sundays [of Advent], one sermon on John can offer a prophetic lens on the story of the incarnation. John's zeal sets the state for a heightened expectation that can alert worshippers to the fact that Jesus is so much more than most of us can imagine" --pp. 88-89.)
Also, I remain angry about The Unrelenting War On Advent (TM Ari), so "the lectionary takes us on a journey of collective amnesia as it outlines the background leading up to Christ's birth, without spoiling the ending until Christmas Eve" (pp. 40-41) is the moment at which I noped out and wrote out my anger before returning to the book.
In the remainder of the book, she does a fairly good job selling the idea of doing month-long theme series, being attentive to what's going on in the liturgical and secular calendar so your preaching still feels relevant and connected, exploring themes that are relevant and of interest to the congregants and which are also themes the Bible has a consistent message about (or at least a lot to say about), taking the Hebrew Bible stories seriously and on their own merits and in their own context.
However, I still don't feel like theme-preaching as the sole way of organizing what gets preached on would be a particularly appealing model for me were I looking for a new church, nor do I think it's something that would be particularly useful/beneficial in my current church....more
I was intrigued by the idea behind this book, and the illustrations are quite lovely, but I felt like I wanted more out of the ending -- I think mostlI was intrigued by the idea behind this book, and the illustrations are quite lovely, but I felt like I wanted more out of the ending -- I think mostly because (view spoiler)[the African woman's baby kisses baby Jesus, in a sort of blessing, and that gets turned into (in the closing bit about the star-baby never forgetting the women and their gifts, showing how their gifts lived on his life) "And the man whose birth had been marked by a new star taught the whole world that the greatest gift of all is love," which is just such a weird sentence, because the two halves aren't connected unless you think "a baby whose birth is marked by a star needs lots of earthly presents because obviously this marks him as a great king or whatever" which I really appreciated *wasn't* talked about explicitly in the book (though it was certainly alluded to) (hide spoiler)]....more
I saw this book mentioned a lot (UCC + mental illness), but I really didn't wanna read it. I wasn't a fan of the title (I don't think we've reclaimedI saw this book mentioned a lot (UCC + mental illness), but I really didn't wanna read it. I wasn't a fan of the title (I don't think we've reclaimed "crazy" enough that people who don't personally identity with that tern get to throw it around), and I'm not that interested in people talking about their experience as someone who KNOWS someone in a marginalized position (whether that's trans people, mentally ill people, whatever) -- can we please center the stories of marginalized people themselves?
But the author was gonna be at a small conference I was going to, so I got a copy.
I was prepared to have a lot of negative feelings, but honestly I was mostly "meh."
In the Foreword, Donald Capps quotes Sarah saying, "Telling the stories about my crazy father, bipolar brother, executed cousin, and my own spiritual visions makes room for light and air, the things of God's Spirit, to enter in" (p. vi) and the book does consist of her telling each of those stories, in that order. I agree that sharing one's story is important, but the mental health struggles of Sarah's family members are so severe as to feel somewhat distancing -- like we're watching terrible things that we hope we never have to deal with and have no idea how to deal with if they showed up in our midst. (And she really doesn't offer much in the way of suggestions for how church communities could/should handle these sorts of situations, other than occasional mentions of opening up space where people can be honest, and the obvious that you shouldn't teach people that if they're depressed it's a sign that their faith isn't strong enough etc.) And I don't feel like her own mystical visions mean she gets to throw around the word "crazy," though I was somewhat convinced by her talk about how having mental illness in her family meant she was hyper-attentive to possible manifestations thereof in herself -- I'm not necessarily going to police her use of the term "crazy (in the blood)," but I really wish she had unpacked it some, talked about care around usage, rather than just opening with "I acknowledge that the language we use to talk about mental illness can be controversial because of various ways it is understood. I use the language that most closely reflects my experiences" (p. v) and leaving it at that.
Rev. Molly commented to me that this book is helping to start an important conversation. I am glad that people who weren't previously engaging with this issue are doing so, but I don't feel like this book does much to get the conversation beyond "sharing your story." And I also wish that it was stories of people who themselves lived daily with mental illness whose stories got to be centered in this conversation, who got the book tours and speaking engagements......more
This book is a quick, easy read, but I didn't feel like I got a whole lot out of it.
The first third or so I found fairly repetitive -- one goes througThis book is a quick, easy read, but I didn't feel like I got a whole lot out of it.
The first third or so I found fairly repetitive -- one goes through fallow periods, continuing to go through the motions is valuable, being honest about what you're (not) feeling is valuable, etc.
And the remainder felt somewhat scattershot -- various vignettes from her life that didn't always have clear takeaways or felt like they could have been developed more (especially after we spent sixty-some pages on fallow periods and God's silence, to breeze through Sabbath, ritual, the value of showing up, etc. in only a few pages each felt odd) and the stories got increasingly autobiographical without much sense to me of why this particular life story was in this particular book. I frequently reminded myself of the title ("listening for God") as the through-thread, but I wanted the text to do more of the work....more