Noticings – May 17, 2023

Tomorrow I will be officiating at a funeral for a lady from Trinity United (not Faith United). Most Noticings readers will know that Trinity was a church in nearby Bowmanville that closed in June of last year. Without their ‘home’ church to turn to they sought out the most recent minister who served at Trinity, and then looked to their neighbouring churches, but none of those ministers were available. The reason is that many of my colleagues are in Minneapolis right now attending a huge preaching conference. Imagine a couple of thousand preachers gathering in great big churches to worship together and hear the best preachers in the world. Some day I’ll probably go too.

It got me thinking about what ‘great preaching’ means. Our Moderator, the Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, is also attending the conference. Here’s what she wrote on her Facebook page: “Sometimes you have an experience listening to a preacher that you know just changed your life forever. Bishop Michael Curry did that for me this morning. Although the lecture especially was very targeted for the Americans in the church, I found it deeply affirming of our new call and vision of the United Church: Deep spirituality, bold discipleship, daring justice.”

Last weekend the choir that my spouse and I sing in participated in a gala celebrating Cobourg’s Victoria Hall. It was a lovely affair. We got chatting with one of the soloists during the dinner break and we realized that our he, our conductor, and my spouse and I, all overlapped attending the same university music program. In fact, the soloist and I sang in two choirs together – one at the university, and one at the church we attended. One of the best parts of the conversation was remembering the preacher at that church. He was fantastic. Isn’t it amazing that almost forty years later (!) the memory we returned to was about great preaching?!

I’m not sure what exactly makes a ‘great preacher’? I think it might be a combination of insight into scripture and inspiration for living faithfully. Maybe it’s like ‘great music’ – hard to describe, but when you hear it, you know it. Our United Church is not renowned for our great preaching. We’re more of a justice-focused entity. I wish there were more ‘great preachers’ in our midst. We could use them these days! I hope that some people might experience me that way, not because I want kudos, but because it would mean that I had a really meaningful, positive affect on someone’s journey – like that preacher did for me way back when, and like the Moderator experienced this week. Our new call and vision – Deep Spirituality, Bold Discipleship, Daring Justice – sounds fantastic. Now we need some ‘great preaching’ to light the fires and bring it to life. I’ll do my best.