inner stillness: when everything is all the same to you, and you live for the day, and you are not dreaming and waiting

john r. harrison

my other websites
The United Methodist Churches of Sheldon, Bronaugh, and Moundville

The Southwest District of the Missouri West Conference of The United Methodist Church

The Rotary Club of Nevada, Missouri

The Beloit, Kansas, High School Class of 1960

The Academy for Spiritual formation #17

books I've been reading
Communion, Community, Commonweal: Readings for Spiritual Leadership, by John S. Mogabgab

The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath

The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley

Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century: Faith Stories of the Protestant Reformers

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Dallas Willard

movies I'd like to see
American Splendor


Lost in Translation

The Station Agent

Winged Migration

sermons in process
Ruth 1:1-18--"Why Go with Me?"

Mark 12:38-44--"Abundance and Poverty"

1 Samuel 1:4-20--"The Desperation of Hannah"

John 18:33-37--"An Interrogation"

Malachi 3:1-4--"Messages and Messengers"

lectures on tape in my car
Introduction to Renaissance Literature

Dante's Life and Times

Dante's Literary Antecedents

Erasmus, In Praise of Folly

Introduction to Shakespeare


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Sunday, March 3

I set records this morning: for the worst attendance of the past year, and I did it in all three churches individually and combined. Before this week we were averaging 100 per Sunday in all three churches. This morning we managed 44. Moundville managed 28, which is 56 percent of their average of 50. Bronaugh had 18, which is about 64 percent of their average of 28. And Sheldon decided to not hold services, so they had zero percent of their 21. Of course, Sheldon has more steps to climb, and there was no one to clear those steps. Isn’t it amazing what a few inches of snow will do! Of course, there were temperatures in the single digits, and there was ice on the roads, but still... The largest factor here was the age of the parishioners. Sheldon’s congregation is the oldest. And I noted that those most notably absent in the other two churches were the oldest members.

I know that it--the size of the congregation--shouldn’t make any difference in my conduct of the services, but I think it does. I think I find it difficult to maintain my enthusiasm in my preaching when the number who are listening are few and far between. Although over the years, I think I’ve learned to put up with the way folks are seated in the sanctuary for a worship service, but I find myself getting a bit irritated with the manner in which this plays itself out in the sparsely-populated service. That is, when folks are usually seated toward the back of the sanctuary, with the back three pews being the most heavily populated, their distance from me is magnified when their numbers are reduced. In the Bronaugh sanctuary, which seems to be twice as wide as it is deep, folks always seem to be seated as far off to the side as they can get. This Sunday was no different, even thought the attendance was tiny.

The text for this morning was Romans 5:1-11, and I titled the sermon “Justified by Faith.” Actually, I did the whole sermon on the first five verses, which is more than enough material for one sermon. I especially like the last part of that passage: “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” I had lots of personal experience to apply to that, but I could probably also have added the conditions of this morning. Does the suffering of preaching to congregations the size of Sunday School classes produce endurance? Did most of those who stayed home do so in order that they may not need to suffer snow and ice and cold temperatures? Well, if I am to believe the scripture, this will produce endurance in me. But I think I already have plenty of that. Over the past fifteen years I’ve preached a couple thousand times to congregations pretty much this size. I think my overall average has been about 25. I hope this has built some character.

posted by John Harrison at 6:37 PM

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