We thought the biggest risk was going to be that morning when we took our band and some ashes to the streets of Downtown Columbia to share this sacred ritual with strangers and friends alike. While it was certainly a risk, it turned out to work really well. Not only did we have a blast, but we met some great people who were yearning for ashes and prayer.
That night however, we took some more risks that made us, your co-pastors, quite nervous. Amos and I preached our first sermon together as co-pastors. A co-sermon.
Earlier this year when Amos and I divvied up the weeks for preaching, we decided that we would preach Ash Wednesday together. Why not, right? We didn't over think the idea at the time, we just wrote it down. Fast forward then to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. We had carved out some time on our calendars to prepare for the sermon. We had a lot of fun at first, exploring the scripture passage together, asking our questions and deepening our study with two minds instead of just one. The musicians were jamming in the room next door and it wasn't hard to feel the Holy Spirit moving. Our words started flowing. We established a theme and a format. The process was moving along smoothly and we were excited about taking the risk.
Then Ash Wednesday came. The first part of our day was full of laughter and music and meeting strangers with ashes and prayer. It was better than we imagined it would be. We were energized. And then we settled down to focus on our co-sermon again. Time to put on the final touches. Only, when we read it out loud, we realized that it wasn't good. Our jokes fell flat, our transitions were rocky and worst of all, we didn't feel comfortable in our own skin.
The truth was that we had written a sermon that required us to act instead of preach. And it didn't take long to figure out that we're not good actors. At all.
What we learned:
- Preaching involves you, the congregation. We need to make eye contact to share the message placed on our hearts. We can't put on an act that you observe we need you to be a part of it, too.
- Preaching together is difficult. When you preach alone, you feel like you are in control. While sharing that "pulpit" we became acutely aware of ourlack of control. We couldn't control the other person or where our conversation was going. It's like playing telephone: your message may take on a life of it's own as it gets passed back and forth through different minds and mouths.
- Preaching is a tall order granted to us, with lots of trust, by God and by you. Walking through this process of sharing the sermon made both of us stop and consider what is at stake if we can't pull it off. Your receiving of the gospel word. Your faith. We may not have control of your reception of our words, but we do practice lots of caution and care while constructing our words because we know they matter. We know speaking on behalf of God holds real power in your life, as well as ours.
- Finally, we learned that taking one risk usually leads to many more. Between the first and second services on Ash Wednesday, we changed our sermon presentation quite a bit. The first one was a casual conversation where we were seated on stools facing each other. The second sermon felt more like performance art. We interacted more with the audience and with the symbols of ashes and fire around us.
What we know:
- We won't be co-preaching any time soon. We can't say that it will never happen again, but we want some more time to process what we learned and how we might grow as individual preachers and as a team in the future.
- We are committed to taking more risks for the sake of the gospel. Taking these risks on Wednesday forced us both to learn and grow. It made us pay more attention to our writing and preaching processes and hold each other accountable to the trust both you and God give us each Sunday during worship.
- This co-pastor model is unique and it is such a gift to us. We are grateful for the opportunity to grow, learn, preach and process together. Thank you for supporting us.
Amos and Dawn