More sermons

Have put another couple of sermons up on the Cathedral’s new website, including the one I did on the radio last year, the day after the terror attack at the airport. (“A kingfisher! Right in the heart of the city!”)

I was always rather pleased with the kingfisher sermon. In the end it was such a relief to preach it as it had been rewritten over and over again on the Saturday, as the news of the airport incident changed. The text and original comments are here.

To listen in, take a look at the preaching page once again.


  1. Listened to one of the sermons (the wife for Isaac one) and it struck me that the one thing all proper episcopal preachers that I’ve heard have in common is an attractive voice. Is this taught at theological college, or are prospective ordinands vetted, Simon Cowell on X Factor style?

  2. You are too kind Ryan. And the idea that people at theological college should be taught anything to do with preaching is delightfully charming.

  3. just read the kingfisher sermon,you really do have a beautiful way with words and imagery.I believe God is with us every day.I was walking with my dog in Kelvingrove park the other night and in the pond standing quite still and majestic was a large heron.He looked magnificent but nobody else seemed to notice they just walked on by.God is definitely in my local park,Victoria.There is a sort of semi wild section of large yellow Peace roses there and their scent is truly heaven “scent”I love to sit theredrinking it in and have quiet thoughts with God.This web page you have is truly unique and it is wonderful to come across someone in the church who so obviously has a living ,loving relationship with God

  4. David |daveed| says

    And the idea that people at theological college should be taught anything to do with preaching is delightfully charming.

    May I beg to differ, at least for this side of the pond.

    Both of the seminaries which I attended in the USA, had a department with professors dedicated to teaching homiletics & worship. At Perkins School of Theology, SMU, we took two required semesters, which included writing weekly sermons to be delivered in class for critique by both professors and classmates. Each semester we also had three sermons which were videotaped at staggered points in the class for us to be able to witness and have record of our own improvements.

    I was even asked to preach one of my three in my native Spanish and was critiqued by the hispanic community, staff & students at Perkins.

    Preaching and Worship are pretty standard fare at seminaries in the USA & Canada.

  5. My apologies, David. I’d forgotten that we had gone global.

    I would say that I learned a lot about liturgy and worship during my training, much of it from other students. I don’t think there was much more than 15 minutes devoted to homiletics in all my training.

    I think that the theory was that this would be done whilst on placements in congregations. Although one can learn a lot in such placements, I think that preaching is something that everyone can always learn to do a bit better and that the church should not be shy of trying to teach.

  6. I’m always curious as to whether preachers write out a full script of a sermon, actor giving a reading style, or if there is an element of improvisation. A 60 minute sermon,at average speaking speed, works out at 6,000 words which is surely a lot to write out in full each week.And what happens if there are pastoral crises that prevent completing the writing of a sermon? Do you guys have a folder of back-up material for such occasions? Are you allowed to plagiarise or is that a big a vice as it is in academia?

  7. Thanks Ryan. Those are good questions.

    First of all, no-one in their right mind preaches for 60 minutes in the UK, do they? I think you will find on listening to mine that you get about 12 minutes. I think that if you are a regular preacher and you can’t say what you want to say in St Mary’s in 15 minutes you’ve probably started to preach next week’s sermon a week early. My recent one about dating strategies was just over 10, and there was a lot packed in!

    The readings that we use come round in a three year cycle so quite often one may have as a starting point what was said three years ago or six years ago. Using a common lectionary also means that a lot of people are preaching on the same thing at the same time and there are a lot of websites with emergency resources and other people’s ideas.

    I’d say that most preachers use other people’s ideas. Often it is nice to acknowledge them. Since putting all mine online, I’d say that I use other people’s material much less. I do sometimes use things that I’ve used before and in other contexts. If it was worth saying once, it might be worth saying again. Again, however, putting it online makes that kind of thing more risky now. They might have heard the jokes before.

    In a good week, I will have been thinking about the lectionary readings all through the week even through the pastoral events that come along. They feed into it somehow.

    Lots of my influences come from people I encountered when I was reading Divinity at St Andrew’s University. At the time I learned a lot from a prominent feminist theologian and have since learnt the importance of the Liberation Theologians that people were trying to get me to appreciate. At the time, it bored me silly. Now it is the stuff of life.

    They key is to develop a range of ways of reading the Bible. A repertoire of styles.

  8. David |daveed| says

    Ryan, there are many styles, and we all have to find which of them is a best fit for us personally. I know a few who preach from the barest of notes on a 3 x 5 card. Others who read verbatim from a type written manuscript. I think the majority of us type a manuscript and refer to it, however, certainly not slavishly, leaving room to expand or alter “as the Spirit moves.”

    The axiom I was taught by both John Holbert and Marjorie Procter-Smith was that if you preach more than 15 minutes, you do not know what you are talking about.

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