I volunteer as a lay preacher on trial for the Redding in Silchester Methodist circuit. I of course started out as a lay preacher note and only recently moved to the heady heights of on trial.
So the first and most obvious question is what is a lay preacher? A lay preacher is a non-ordained member of the congregation, who is allowed to take services. A lay preacher must be accepted by the local preachers meeting and they must preach at least three times a quarter.
What does on trial mean? The term note and on trial are stages a lay preacher must go through in order become a lay preacher proper. So unlike a full lay preacher, my services are reported on and also I have coursework to complete. This coursework is contained within the four folders that make up the Methodist faith and worship course which takes 2 to 3 years to complete.
So what does leading a service mean? Well essentially it means choosing the hymns and the readings for a particular service. The standard practice for the selection of readings is to select them from the appointed lectionary. The lectionary is a calendar of appointed readings.
The readings and the hymns make up the main body of what we call the “order of service”, in the OS there is normally: prayers of adoration prayers are confession and forgiveness prayers of intercession and of course the Lord’s prayer.
We must also prepare the two other preaching elements; there are the all age address and the sermon: the all age address is normally a more relaxed interaction with the congregation before the children dismissed. And the sermon is the 8 to 15 minute long talk given by the lay preacher.
So how does one write and all age address? All I only wish I knew, I have a very expensive book which gives me impossibly complicated suggestions. Those who know me know I’m not comfortable around children and yet they are the focus of all age address. So what can I do but rely on the Holy Spirit. I try against my nature to interact with the congregation and think of easy to organize things that they can volunteer to do. Above all I would have a single sentence which I try to get across.
So how does one write a sermon? Are well dear reader, here the Lord has blessed me. As you may know I am dyslexic and to the use of written notes hold no attraction to me, so I make as I go along. This is by no means the easy option, it requires meditation on the readings, it requires faith in the Holy Spirit to guide me, and it requires belief in myself and God’s and his purpose in calling me to preach. As I write this I have no reason to doubt any of these, for the Lord has been good to me and is rewarded my faithfulness to his calling, with generally okay sermons.
Is all the work worth it? Yes a million times yes. I may feel like a right plum and the shake the hands of everyone as they leave but I would not stop preaching for the world. It is given me more time to spend with God, it allowed me to devote more of myself to God and it has allowed me to share the glory of God with others. Yes it is with its faults and its trials but Not Think in this life which is easy is worthwhile and when one labours with the Lord one does not labour in vain.