26 July 2010

A Counter Intuitive Profession

It has been a great year thus far, a stressful year (every hair cut witnesses gray hairs), and a fast year. I am at least 10lbs heavier than when I arrived (like the Mike Myer's SNL character Middle-Aged-Man, 'I'm Workin' On It!') And I have at least enough material for three novels - yes, from just one year.

We have adjusted to Central Standard Time, vistas with no hills, valleys or granite outcroppings, french bread made by German bakers, chicory coffee, seafood, beignets (I can even spell that right on the first try), drive thru daiquiri shops, no open container laws, beer and wine at little league games, street cars, house rattling thunder storms, lighting that stays in the air long enough for you to snap a picture, lizards, spontaneous gatherings of friends, parades, marching clubs and dinner parties, Pimm's cups, people saying alright when i say hello to them, lack of New England apples, okra, jambalaya, gumbo - in all varieties, boudain - where have you been all my life?, people not planning, roast beef poboys, to name just a few.

But the hardest adjustment has been the reading the people at church while delivering a sermon. One would think people are people and how people interact with a sermon in Lincoln, RI or Athens, WV or St. Albans, WV or Scott Depot, WV or Rochester, NY would be universally, somewhat, the same. But they aint.

Everytime I think oh brother I really blew that the sermon. Or man hopefully they'll give me a mulligan. Or I hope the adage you're only as good as your last sermon is not true. This has happened a couple of times here recently but afterwards I find that what I was feeling was completely wrong. I have pondered this for some time: is the culture really that different? do they just not get me? do they not know what to do with me? is my style that different? Then this evening I came to the probably conclusion: I'm just not used to a church actually listening. This is not to say that every other place I preached in didn't listen or pay attention. Sure there were folk who would rake me over the coals or offer the best words of encouragement, or simply made me feel amazing with their compliments. But there is a level of difference when vast majority of folk actually listening.

On the one hand it would be great if they didn't listen that much (more room for half-hearted sermons, indeed). But on the other hand I am thrilled and intimidated that they listen. It makes the writing process much more enjoyable. What other art form has this kind of weekly feedback and interaction? What kind of artist has the confidence knowing that if he or she pours their heart, soul and mind into a piece of art a group of people will take their creation seriously? The job may be counter intuitive, but it is a fascinating job.

One year down, and many more to go...

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