Lay Preachers

May 9, 2007 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

 I am writing this because I am in Lay Preacher mode. My license to preach (through Lindsay Presbytery) is up for its yearly renewal interview. I love being a Lay Preacher and when people suggest that I should advance to an ordered level, I remember that I really am happy where I am. After all, Jesus was a lay preacher too!

A Licensed Lay Preacher is a peculiar creature. We are often mistakenly introduced as Lay Ministers and even rarely have the title “Reverend” attached to our name. Because of this people assume that we perform all the functions of the ordered clergy but we are charged only with the ministry of the word which usually involves leading the service too. Actually as I understand it, our official title is now “Lay Worship Leader”. Any lay person can perform these functions and in fact some of the most effective services are conducted by random people called out of the congregation to fill-in in an emergency. Out of bounds (unless supervised by ordered clergy) is communicating the sacraments, which in the United Church of Canada are baptism and communion.

What then is the difference between a lay person and a Lay Preacher you ask?  To my mind, Lay Preachers seem to have connected with the Spirit in such a way that makes them anxious to share their fire. My greatest thrill is preparing and leading a service, feeling the Spirit as my guide. Afterwards, when people come up to me that have been truly moved, sometimes to tears, it gives me a wonderful feeling to know I have been part of God moving among us.

Lay Preachers, as a requirement of their licensing, take training to help in this communication. I have been blessed on my faith journey and in this training. After hearing the call to get involved with church, it wasn’t long before the Spirit directed a mentor to me to guide my journey.

Carol Young was my first (and favourite) mentor. She personifies the Spirit in Motion. She arranged to conduct the two year long intensive Bethel Bible Study at our church and twisted my arm to join. Twelve of us met weekly with just a few weeks off in summer and spent one year on the Old Testament and one year on the New Testament. It was rigorous but the story of the Bible came alive for me and the others in the class. As one of my classmates said, “The Bible went from black and white to colour.” My fire was lit and I was happy putting my new found knowledge to work in our congregation as a regular lay reader. I was quite satisfied. Carol wasn’t finished yet however.

When I met her on the street one day she was bubbling. She mentioned that a wonderful minister was retiring and moving to our town and she thought she could talk him into leading a Lay Preacher course and she really, really wanted me to join. I sensed that saying “No,” was not an option. This introduced me to my next mentor.

Walter Murray is indeed a wonderful minister and of some note. He is intelligent, witty, knowledgeable, very talented and well skilled. He was no match for Carol however, and the course was set. Walter changed my spiritual life.

Under Walter’s instruction, a group of fifteen souls gathered for two years on a monthly basis to learn about being a Lay Preacher. Carol concurrently conducted the weekly Bethel Course for those who hadn’t taken it. It was quite a load. Walter instructed us on preparing and delivering a sermon and we had many assignments in our home congregations to practice this. He also taught us the parts of a service and what they mean. He taught us how to construct meaningful prayers. He stressed the importance of being inclusive. He taught us to be creative in our services and sermons. He advised us to read secular poetry and prose. He exposed us to theological books to challenge our minds and our spirits. He taught us pastoral skills that we may one day be called upon to use. He prodded us to develop some kind of talent we could incorporate into our services. Walter stoked the fire of the Spirit within me. Thank you, Carol and Walter. I still feel today that the Spirit moved them to undertake these courses for my benefit. Thank you, God. The thrill of the growth I experienced during this period is with me years later. I still yearn to seek and communicate the thrill of the Spirit to others.

I leave you today advising you lay people to seek out and/or accept any opportunity to speak to your congregation. You will discover the thrill of the Spirit’s involvement in your task and the reward of the response you receive along with the pleasure of knowing you too have done a little bit of God’s work. I have indeed been blessed. My prayer for you is that you may be blessed so you may in turn, be a blessing to others.

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Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

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