17 May 2007

Mixing Metaphors

While in the pulpit last week I had a feeling of awareness that I could not for the life of me figure out. There I was alone, with everyone looking at me. No one behind me. Where else had I experienced that feeling. Then it came to me: catching.

Somewhere along the way when I was ten years old the coaches thought I should be a catcher (read "husky" {what a terrible word} and slow). So I got my gear on and began to learn how to catch. I was a sub par catcher for the rest of my life. Although later on I was muscular and over 200lbs I had no arm. I could bench press 275lbs but couldnt throw runner out at 2nd base. Nevertheless, I liked catching. I had free reign to call the pitches, moved players according to where I thought the hitter would place the ball, even sometimes made a play at the plate.

As a catcher you see the game from a different perspective no one else can. You squat, angle is different; you face the field, everyone else faces the plate; and you have equipment on no one else does.

The Times article on Jorge Posada got me thinking even more about the similarities of preaching and catching.

In the pulpit you see the congregation as no one else does, usually the preacher is elevated and usually only the preacher faces the congregation; in the pulpit you place your words where you hope they will find expectant ears; and more than likely you are the only one wearing equipment that no one else has on.

I hope I am a better preacher than catcher. I never worked on my craft as a catcher. I never went down to the field and threw a 100 balls to 2nd; I never watcher films of Tony Pena; I never asked for help. As a preacher though I realize that if I am going to do this for another (lets see I am 32, hope to retire when I am 60, 60 minus 32 is - 10 from 2 is 8 drop the 6 to 5 then five from three is 2) 28 years I had better work on my craft.

That brings me to The Actor Speaks: Voice and the Performer by Patsy Rodenburg. I have a tendency for my voice to drop off at the end of sentences when I preach. My first line of improvement was to have a script in front of me for every sermon. Reason: I tend to read stronger when I have a script in front of me, which makes me more relaxed which eases tension which allows my breath to flow stronger and project my voice in a beefier fashion. Just a script, however, aint enough. I need to also work on my voice.

A few years ago while driving somewhere I was listening to Fresh Air. Terry was interviewing Patsy Rodenburg, a voice coach in England. I was amazed at her work and thought, aha here is a book for me. So I went out and purchased it. But like all bibliophiles I seldom read the books I purchase. Yesterday, however, I picked it up and am starting to read it again. Take a look at this:

Through physical work and special exercises the actor (read preacher) aims:
  • to release all useless tension which trap the breath and the voice;
  • to locate the real source of energy in order to support the voice and the word;
  • to find the vital 'centre' or the balance of the body which we can define as a state of readiness and a place of maximum physical and voice freedom;
  • to enter into a heightened physical state that will carry and support a heightened dramatic text;
  • to transform or characterize the body but stay free enough to use the voice;
  • to acquire status or ownership of the body and the space. We know long before someone speaks whether we will listen to him or her. We know as soon as an actor (preacher) walks onto the stage (into the pulpit) where she or he will engage us. (p. 14-15)
I like that approach to preaching.

I once heard that Jonathan Edwards used to preach with the text in front of his face, but his words were so powerful people "heard" them. I used to think that as long as my words were good then it didnt matter how I preached. But think about the possibility of a strong voice and a strong words; something to say allied with a way to say it. The best memory I have of this is Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 DNC. Something to say and a way to say it.

In regards to a way to say it... Reading Like a Writer (now in paperback) by Francine Prose (that has to be a made up name a writer whose last name is prose, come on.) More on the construction of good sentences later.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Patsy is like a goddess when it comes to voice. Since she deals primarily with Classical Text she should be a natural choice for preachers. Have fun with her books. They are fun, inspiring, and just down right good. And there are more. Sometimes she comes to the states to give workshops. If you have that oppostunity snatch it up because she is even more amazing and helpful in person. Personally I think her approach should be added to Seminary preaching curiculum. But I am a little biased.