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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My first podcast.

The sermon I preached last month to the First Parish in Concord, Mass., "What More Do You Want?," has now been distributed through the church's podcast. If you've ever wanted to hear me preach, here's your chance.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 19 April 2006 at 10:12 PM

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April 20, 2006 01:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

Why do people still like listening live to sermons? If covenanting means multidirectional communication for shared growth, then why do we remain silent, and perhaps even attentive, to go through a monodirectional communication process? (Ok, some churches do pass the mike around afterwards, but this is still pretty stiff, artificial conversation.) Shouldn't we receive sermons at home in PDF or MP3 or MPEG format beforehand, and then go to church just to meet, celebrate, and then talk or just practice silence?

Peter Bowden:

April 20, 2006 02:07 PM | Permalink for this comment

Though I think we'll be going to church to listen to the Chris Waltons of the world preach for years to come, I do think we could grow our movement by offering an alternative.

I'd like to see a site that delivers podcasts of sermons weekly along with accompanying small group discussion material.

Give people something to talk about with friends, family, colleagues, and of course their church affiated small groups.

One of our problems is getting those people to church who would never imagine a religion like Unitarian Universalism exists. Making it podcast easy to hear our message would do more to grow our movement, I think, than all the UUA media campaigns to date.

Now don't get me wrong -- I love seeing those bright blue UUA bumber stickers on random cars on the the highway. Now if a non-UU could just read the website without driving into a ditch...


April 20, 2006 03:08 PM | Permalink for this comment

Ooh, a podcast! I take back what I said about Hedge and newfangled ideas.


April 21, 2006 03:21 PM | Permalink for this comment

Gee Jaume, what a way to characterize the ancient, honored art form of preaching! "Monodirectional communication?" I don't think so. Church-goers and ministers know that a sermon is a conversation, and that conversation happens through the pastoral relationship with the congregation. Sermons are not just lengthy pronouncements: they are carefully crafted and given in the spirit of ministry, designed for that congregation at that time in the shared life of that church. We say that a minister "gives" a sermon because that's what we do: we GIVE a sermon in the spirit of love and care, having deeply considered what our people need to hear for their own spiritual strengthening, understanding and transformation. It's awfully hard to communicate that love -- and the shared, dynamic experience of the sermon within the context of worship -- over an mp3 recording. There's a reason that my Sunday School teachers, who may hear a recording of a sermon, often wistfully say, "I loved hearing it but OH, I so wish I could have been there."

A covenant is a mutual promise to walk together in ways of fellowship and love. "Multidirectional communication for spiritual growth" doesn't have to mean that everyone in the room gets a chance to speak. A sermon doesn't belong on its own floating around on the internet. It belongs in a congregational setting within the context of living, shared worship.


April 22, 2006 09:07 AM | Permalink for this comment

In my church's last Worship Committee meeting, we were discussing moving outside the conventional paradigms of communication to reach new people or to reach people more effectively, and the use of our website became the focus of attention.

We've been trying to redesign our website for about a year, with no final result yet in sight. We used to post recent sermons to our growing sermon archive on the Web, both so that people who missed a service could read the sermon, and so that outsiders and newcomers could get a better ideal of what goes on in our little community. We haven't posted new ones for a while now, though, because we're waiting for the new website that keeps being delayed.

Our minister, "Perpetua", said she didn't really like posting her written sermons in any event because (I'm paraphrasing here) the written page doesn't capture the entire gestalt of the service and the feeling of how the message is delivered. She thought podcasts might be an improvement, and mentioned that if the new website ever gets rolled out she might post here backlog of unposted sermons as well as future ones in audio format only.

The conversation more or less ended there, because why waste meeting time flapping your gums about it if the website isn't even up yet, but I think I disagree with Perpetua, and also with certain aspects of what Jaume and PeaceBang say above. As I see it, sermons are comprised of two elements: the message, and the medium. The message is the words themselves, and the medium is how they are disseminated. Yes, the message may be most viscerally delivered through the medium of live worship, but through that medium it also reaches the smallest audience. If we are a prophetic church with a message that is worth preaching, it seems to me, that message is worth preaching to the widest audience possible, and that means though as many different media as is feasible given the resources of the particular congregation. (As they do here, for example.)

Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses, and different people will receive a message best through different media. Live worship is direct and experiential but the audience is limited. Audio (or AV, which must be coming soon) recordings capture nuances of intonation and inflection, and can be distributed more widely, but are technology- and time-demanding. For all the recent advances in technology, and as much as the visceral experience and spoken nuance is lost, the written page still remains the most effective medium for reaching the widest possible audience over the longest period of time. Without the power of written dissemination, Mayhew's "Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers" would have been only one more of his peculiar Bible interpretations rather than the sermon that sparked the American Revolution; Channing's "Unitarian Christianity" would have been just another longwinded ordination oration rather than the doctrinal foundation of a new denomination; Emerson's Divinity School Address would have been just another sentimental graduation speech rather than a still-quoted manifesto of monistic nonsupernaturalism, and King's "I Have a Dream" would have been just another crowd-whipper at just another protest rally rather than a staple of high school history textbooks.

Douglas LeBlanc:

April 22, 2006 09:16 AM | Permalink for this comment

Thank you for link to this sermon, Chris. I loved hearing your voice for the first time, and this thoughtful sermon was more engaging as audio than it already was in print.


April 22, 2006 11:30 AM | Permalink for this comment

Regarding sermon archives on websites - I think it is always, always, always good to have both media, print and audio. Forcing one particular format on your visitor risks having them just click away and never delve any deeper.

I for one love to read sermons and rarely have the time to listen to a podcast. Churches who only post podcasts lose me as an audience. And this is a purely practical matter - I can't listen to a podcast at work, but I can read a printed version. If I had an office with a door, things might be different.

But it really comes down to the accessibility of our individual church websites. So many of them are so very bad, outdated, and skeletal in content. This has many causes, but the largest of them are money, time, and expertise. The UUA would be wise to offer some kind of template service for churches, which could then be customized - so it doesn't end up being "that computer guy" in the church who takes it over, who may or may not have any sense of design, and who later either takes a second job and doesn't have the time to do updates, or loses interest and abandons the project.


April 23, 2006 03:09 AM | Permalink for this comment

I teach RE and miss many sermons. This bothers me a lot. I miss being in the room with the rest of the congregation. I miss discussing the sermon over coffee. Teaching RE is great, but it reminds me of how much I enjoy sermons.

Our minister puts the text on the web a couple of weeks after the sermon. I always read the ones I have missed. Reading is much easier for me than listening would be. I've nothing against podcasts, but I hope they don't replace text.

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