Mr Internet’s Sunday Morning Service

We approach the second Sunday of the shutdown, and last week’s online sermon was a cracker.

Polyphiloprogenitive
The sapient sutlers of the Lord
Drift across the computer screen.
In the beginning was the Word.

With insincere apologies to Eliot, but the web reaches more homes than any one vicar can ever dream to, if congregants tune in, and it can draw more of a virtual congregation to expand the reach of the original: it is polyphilogenitive. It goes against the grain of a Protestant church minister to seclude himself away and talk to a camera as their whole calling is to reach out to real people, but it may actually seem a liberation.

To speak to a camera must be daunting if you are not trained to it – how many times will your voice drain to a mumble when uncertain of the line or wearied with it, when a congregation present before you keeps your oratory present and alive.

However the congregation may be a distraction too. A minister proclaiming to the congregation may be the fount of wisdom and a sure guide to the surest words of life, but those faces staring out have a silent echo back – the facial reactions of the speaker are picked up and the preacher counter-reacts, which breaks the planned flow. It may sow doubt about the emphasis or the theme, or the planning of the sermon, and those words of life and wisdom carefully planned in every nuance and pitched at a precise tenor begin to waver and stumble to try to regain the audience. That usually happens to me, though untrained, when addressing a secular gathering.

Freed of the critical faces of the congregants, the minister may speak as he planned. He may soar into heights of oratory, may use all those analogies and Biblical references that came to him and speak as it sounded in his head when he wrote his sermon. The preacher truly inspired who speaks as the spirit drives him, is guided then by the spirit and not driven back into himself in the face of the dark look from the third pew back.

He can even stop and re-record if he gets it wrong.

From the view of the congregation, we miss the company of the Body of Christ, but we can hear cracking sermons, the way they were always meant to be, and if we miss a bit or misunderstand, we can rewind and hear it again. (Also, we will have none of those cringing “Now form small groups and discuss” moments.)

If we happen to light upon a dull reverend, which is not a problem in our parish, we can switch to another, and there is now no shortage. There are quiet vicars in city churches, or firebrand Free Presbyterians in Ulster, and the Archbishops can come into our living rooms in virtual person.

Last Sunday, I am told, more people listened to our vicar than in his usual congregation, and he often fills the church. Maybe after the lockdown has passed, this will be our way to hear the Sunday sermon, thanks to the Reverend Dr Internet.

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Author: LittleHobb

Solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short

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