A little while ago, The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht – the minister at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough – asked me if I would be the guest speaker at the 123rd anniversary service of St. Andrew’s, to be held this coming Sunday (June 30). She had read and liked one of my posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and thought it might serve as the basis of a sermon that people at the church would find of interest. (I’m not going to tell you which post it was, in case you’re planning to be at church on Sunday. You don’t want to hear about it twice!)
I was honoured to be asked, especially given that guest speakers at church anniversary services are generally ministers and I of course am not; but I was extremely hesitant and almost said no. And then I suddenly found myself saying yes.
Which meant, of course, that I had to write a sermon.
And let me tell you, that process has given me a whole new respect for ministers who write sermons every week – especially good sermons, like Caroline writes. (These days there’s not as much good sermon-writing about as one might wish.) It is hard work.
And the one I’ve written – I’m very pleased to say this evening that it is written, and has been revised, and revised some more, and is finally done – was nowhere near as much work as the sermons that Caroline writes, or that my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, wrote during his many years as a United Church of Canada minister. (Including 11 years as minister at St. Andrew’s.) For one thing, I had that already-written blog post to base it on, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. And for another, I didn’t even try to insert any scholarly analysis, whether my own (since I didn’t actually have any scholarly analysis to impart) or from one of those thousands of Christian thinkers, writers and philosophers whose work ministers are expected to read and keep up on. And I certainly didn’t study the scripture lessons in their original Greek and Hebrew (as ministers often do) to consider the nuances of the text and the translation.
No, I took the comparatively easy route, just writing the words that came. And it was still really hard work.
So yes, my understanding and appreciation of what it takes to put together a good sermon – not to mention the rest of a church service – have increased exponentially in recent days. I always knew that Dad was working hard as he burned the midnight oil on Saturday nights, and sometimes early Sunday mornings, in his study at the Manse, getting the sermon ready for the next day’s services. But until now, I never realized quite how challenging, even draining, that work must have been. And to do it week after week after week!
You know what? Ministry is not for the faint of heart. Or those without an unflinching work ethic.