I have a whole new respect for the art and craft of sermon-writing.

Dad's desk in the Manse study

The desk in the Manse’s study – my father’s desk, and my father’s study, back in the 1960s and ’70s, though this photo was taken only a few months ago – where he wrote his sermons for 11 years, late into the night every Saturday night. As I wrote in a post here, it was comforting when I was a little kid to snuggle into bed after the requisite Saturday-night bath knowing that Dad was at work in the study down the hall. The world was as it should have been.

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.

10 thoughts on “I have a whole new respect for the art and craft of sermon-writing.

    • Lorraine, you should come visit St. Andrew’s this Sunday! I only hope I have done a reasonable job of producing something that people will find interesting and (even better) meaningful.

  1. You will do a wonderfully sensitive and intelligent job Katherine. I am seriously thinking of driving up to have a listen. But I wouldn’t want your carefully maintained St. Andrew’s walls to collapse with the surprise. Reading the book, channeling the optimism and strength, directing it your way.

  2. Katherine, there is also the issue that folks what folks will hear is not necessarily what you have written or preached (since one does not always say exactly what is on on the paper.) I trust that the Spirit will move through your words as it did through those of your Father. My own call to ministry started with an invitation to preach. I said no in my head, but yes came out my mouth, and now here I am! Rev. Cathy Hamilton… so watch out!

  3. After reading your blog for a year, I am almost certain that your sermon will have captured the interest of many today. I hope it went well and that you will share it with us one day!

    • Thank you, Eloise! I think people found it interesting (at least, they were kind enough to say they did) because there was a lot of local history in it. It was a nice service, and of course, as always at St. Andrea’s United, the lunch afterward was wonderful!

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