General Rabbinic spirituality

A New Year, New Challenges

I’m getting ready for the new year, and with it, a new experience. Tomorrow I head off to Spokane to speak at the Unitarian Universalist Church. And by speak, I mean give a sermon (two actually, or rather, one sermon, given twice–at the 9:30 service and then again at 11). So, there are two elements here:

  1. Giving a sermon.
  2. Speaking at a church.

Individually, these are two things I do with some regularity. I speak at churches from time to time on a variety of subjects, from marriage equality to various aspects of Judaism. And I give sermons in a variety of Jewish contexts. But somehow, giving a sermon at a church service feels different.

Part of the difference comes from a statistic I encountered at some point during rabbinical school: ministers spend an average of 8 hours a week preparing sermons. Now, I’ll be honest: when you tell rabbis this statistic, they look at you like you’re crazy. Maybe you’ve misplaced a decimal? Most of us spend a couple of hours a week preparing our sermons, but Jewish congregations just don’t put enough emphasis on the sermon to justify that kind of time expenditure.

In any case, this feels like something new to me. And with a new year coming round tonight, it feels like a propitious way to begin 2011.

Oh, and, of course, may the new year be a wonderful year for all of us.

2 replies on “A New Year, New Challenges”

Depends on the church, of course. Protestant churches put a lot more emphasis on the sermon than, say, Catholics or Eastern Orthodox. The Evangelical churches put the most emphasis on the sermon (some say too much emphasis). Not sure about Universalist – I guess they’d fall into the Protestant camp.

oh, and to add just a bit… one of the best “sermons” I ever heard was at that Greek Orthodox Church on Glisan during their Greek Festival. One of the laymen gave a talk about the meaning of all the icons on the walls – it was like a tour-de-force through the whole bible in pictures. Something unexpected to me, but interesting as I grew up Protestant (we didn’t have Icons). I put “sermon” in quotes above because it wasn’t part of their normal church service and it was delivered by a layman not a priest, but it certainly was comprehensive.

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