I had the opportunity to meet and learn from the poet and social activist Andrea Gibson this last week, as a result of the hard work of some of the students at the Little Blue House at TU, where I work. They brought them* in to perform and give a writing workshop. It was an amazing two days.
If you haven’t seen Andrea perform spoken work poetry, look them up on Youtube. It’s amazing. But I want to just ruminate on the workshop, and some thoughts I had as a result.
Andrea, at the beginning of the workshop, asked who called themselves a writer and I raised my hand. Being a pastor (or a pastor-in-training, in my case) is in large part being a writer. For me, the blogging I do here is so important to my development as a spiritual leader, and I don’t intend to ever stop writing in a public forum like this. It hones my arguments and makes me think things through, as well as sharpens my writing skills.
Doing sermons is also, in a large part, writing. Taking the time to sit and craft a message, and do it in a way that is accessible and interesting and coherent; that is what sermon writing is all about. I take pride in my sermons, and I want each one to make sense, to tie together beginning and end, to be something people want to hear and read again.
And, the way I like to preach, it also becomes something of a performance. I’m not a stand-behind-the-lectern kind of person; I like to walk and gesture and interact with the congregation. I generally have my notes on a small music stand in front of me. I want to bring that element of performance into giving a sermon, because I want my sermons to be more than just an academic lecture. I know that I have a tendency to get technical and long-winded at times, and so by making it engaging by my presence and cadence, I can pique interest and hopefully fill someone’s senses in a way that they feel enlightened and reenergized by what I am saying.
Seeing Andrea perform, and also recently Evan Koons and Rob Bell, it confirms for me that speaking in front of people is something I want to do for the rest of my life. It feels right, you know? And just the opportunity to not only teach and convince, but also to perform in a way that touches people, there is such value in that.
And finally, for me, I want to continue on into my doctorate and write and teach and speak one day, and so being a writer is, in reality, the career path I have chosen.
Writing has forced me to be more introspective and vulnerable, to make sure what I believe and think is rational and coherent and accessible. And I’ve come to realize that when I say I want to be a pastor, that I want to give sermons and teach and lead, that I am in essence saying I want to be a writer.
I’m not really going anywhere with this, other than just to get some thoughts down in writing for future contemplation, and for public feedback. Thoughts?
*Andrea is genderqueer, and does not use gendered pronouns, preferring to be addressed as “they” or “them.”