Free to move

I was taking the service this evening in my home church and it was a very odd experience. I’ve not preached there for quite a while and I was surprised at just how ‘different’ it felt from my placement. The evening service is a slightly different format anyway, but that’s not the issue. There’s a lot more input from the worship group (there is a worship group, even) which is great because I have a bit more freedom on the choice of music. The pulpit, normally used in the morning, isn’t used in the evening and the service is generally conducted from the communion table. And that’s the difference. Not that I would have preferred the pulpit, but that I was working from behind the communion table.

In my placement church the pulpit is never used (unless some of the kids are especially adventurous and make a beeline for it – and can get past the barricade of chairs that’s now in the way) and the service is conducted from the communion table. Except the sermon. That’s delivered from out front using a music stand as a lectern.

And it’s amazing the freedom that brings. I really hadn’t appreciated it until tonight. Now. it’s true to say that I am only just beginning to feel ‘relaxed’ enough when I preach to feel free to move around a bit, but I was conscious of just how restricted I felt in the small gap betweeen the chair and the communion table. Now, perhaps I should have moved out from behind it anyway, but I didn’t think to do so, because I didn’t fully appreciate what a difference it would make. And I was also conscious of falling into the same habits of mannerisms and style that I’ve been working hard to break away from. When my movements restricted I don’t know what to do with my hands. When I don’t have the room to move, I don’t gesticulate, and anyone who knows me also knows that I tend to talk with my hands as much as my mouth. And so my delivery suffers when I can’t move.

One thing that my supervisor has been encouraging me to do is break free a bit more from my notes and that’s tied up with being free then to move around a bit more. I’m not talking about dancing around, but simply being free to be more expressive. Now there are issues about too much movement. It makes it more difficult for anyone who is augmenting their hearing with lip-reading to follow what you are saying. It can become distracting if movements are repetitive. But these are also bad habits that can be removed with awareness and practice.

So, next time I’m preaching in my placement church I’m going to try and be much more aware of the space to be used, more familiar with my notes so that I am comfortable about moving away from them and make an effort to be as ‘natural’ as possible. So, no biggies there, just become the perfect preacher overnight.

And here’s hoping for a charge that doesn’t have a pulpit., but can afford music stands.


4 responses to “Free to move”

  1. Music stands (plural…) So, looking for a praise orchestra, maybe ???
    Freedom of movement is a good thing, but the congregation needs to be educated into that idea. Your placement has had that process. I’d like to try and move around a little and at the moment I’m educating folk into the fact that robes don’t need to be worn every week (or for that matter the dreaded collar!), so I’m guessing that preaching outside the pulpit is a long journey. That said, our evening communion is reflective and led from the table….. Maybe I’m a bit further along the road than I thought!
    I reflected on preaching in  my home church, and that proved to be a mixed remembrance. It was a privilege to be in the pulpit, but a sadness too that it didn’t really feel right to be there. It wasn’t home anymore, I guess. 
    The bottom line is finding a style that is comfortable for you, that allows you to remain true to your calling and to yourself.

  2. No robes!? You need from lessons from Stuart who has ‘disrobing’ down to a fine art. He can be in robes for, say, communion and during the next hymn vanishes only to reappear in ‘civvies’.

    It was a privilege to be in the pulpit, but a sadness too that it didn’t really feel right to be there. It wasn’t home anymore, I guess.

    I think that’s a good observation and probably a contributory factor in not feeling settled. And I think the reasons behind the feeling are complex. There is the idea of it not being ‘home’ but there’s also the acknowledgement of growing apart in many ways – theology, style, aspirations and so on. Yes, I think you’re right. There is an element of ‘sadness’.

  3. The sense of growing apart is a real one. I always have a sense of thankfulness for the opportunities given to me at my ‘home’ church. It is a real sadness that I hear of them probably uniting with another church in St. Andrews (although as is nearly always the case in such things there is something of a battle!). Moving on always brings that tinge of sadness at things held dear being let go. A grieving, I suppose, too.
    But our faith is never static… I had the boost on Sunday of having one of the retired clergy in the congregation bouncing up to me with a crystalising of something I’d said in the sermon. I’ll acknowledge it on Sunday. It’s getting these encouragements that keeps us going. A Barnabas moment.

  4. ‘I’m not talking about dancing around’
    John, oh, go on, you know you want to!  A little light liturgical conga-line would wake a few folk up 🙂

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