homilies should be brief to cater for people with short attention spansSo says the Roman Catholic Church in the Guardian. It would appear that not all denominations agree however (see this blog). This set me thinking about sermons and what I am trying to achieve. As set out here:
There are people there of different ages, different experiences, different cultures, some who have been on the Christian journey for much longer than me and others who have only just become interested. How can anything be meaningful to everyone?and when it comes to attention span there are varying thoughts about lectures here. However I am not trying to lecture. My aim is to encourage people to work out for themselves what the Bible (usually Gospel) reading means to them. I have been thanked too often for saying helpful things that to my knowledge I never said to believe that what I say matters - it is what people hear (if I said nothing I wonder what they would hear?).
By using this approach it does mean that I am not trying to teach facts in the traditional sense - 10 minutes plus or minus hardly gives any space for that. Certainly I will give some historical background if appropriate - but I won't explain what that means the passage means - that is up to the congregation. I much prefer story as a way of explaining (or not), after all there is a precedent for the use of unexplained story - and it is also more entertaining - something that the survey said that Anglicans wanted!
There is also the question of where I stand. I went on a course a long time ago where the leader said that congregations who insist that the preacher use the pulpit are insisting on a parent child relationship (a la Transactional Analysis and here) - the infamous 6 feet above contradiction - wanting the answers handed down to them. You will have seen from above that that is not my style of preaching and I try to stand level with the congregation to encourage a more adult-adult interaction. However, there are issues with visibility and audibility - though as I use a microphone I can only assume it is some form of lip reading that can't be seen - and for this reason I will occasionally use a pulpit if I am in a strange church.