This Sunday I am preaching at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church in Savannah. Now, there is little that would motivate me to give up one of my very rare Sundays off. I don’t really mind the preaching. I mean, frankly, I’ve discovered that, if you have to be in church, those 15-20 minutes pass faster in the pulpit than they do in the pew.
You’d think that after doing this almost every week for more than 40 years it would get easier, but whoever said, “Practice makes perfect” lied. If you are paying attention, “Practice makes perfectionists.” What I mean is, whether it is preaching or cooking or gardening or accounting, if you attend to your craft you want to do it better every time. It frustrates me when people say they have 10 years of experience at something but they really only have one year of experience 10 times.
I’m teaching preaching at Chicago Theological Seminary this fall in their online master of divinity program. I’m not sure preaching has ever been taught online before, and designing the class has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I love preaching, and I still believe it can make a difference. I’m not sure how you communicate that passion online, however, and I’m certainly not sure how to teach the skills needed to do it well. I’ll let you know in December if I get it figured out.
What I have discovered is that I’m learning a lot about something I’ve been doing most of my life, and that is an amazing gift. I have 30 or more books stacked on a chair beside my desk, and I’ve watched hundreds of preachers on YouTube … most of them bad.
This Sunday I will preach in a church that is a member of a denomination that kicked me out 35 years ago for being gay. Ironically, the Methodists still haven’t changed their mind about me, but this particular church is welcoming and brave. So I am honored to give up my Sunday off. They’ve never heard me preach before, which is a shame because they might be able to tell that, after all this time, I’ve gotten better … at least I hope. I hope we all do.
Rev. Michael Piazza