Preach Magazine Issue 1 - Creativity and innovation in preaching - Page 42

42 SERIAL Preaching Problems: advice from our panel THE SCENARIO I am an Anglican vicar in a fairly formal rural church, with a regular congregation of around 60 adults. The children go out to a side room during the sermon for age-appropriate activities. Recently we have had a man with learning disabilities join us. He comes with his carer RICHARD LITTLEDALE and sits at the back. Several The first principle to underline here church members have made is that the man you describe is a a real effort to welcome him. child of God. As such he deserves the I am delighted he has joined same dignity, respect and welcome us, and I hope he will stay and as any member of the congregation, including the preacher! God has become part of the family. honoured you by entrusting him to My issue is this: while he sits your care, and it is good to read that quietly for most of the service, others are sharing the responsibility of making him feel welcome. Welcome, when I get up to preach, he begins to make loud grunting of course, is part of the problem. You want to welcome him as he is, but noises and growls that in doing so it causes difficulties in continue throughout my welcoming others as they are. sermon. I find it hard to stay I would suggest three separate focussed on what I am saying, measures, before returning to the and I can see it is distracting principle stated above. The first and disruptive for many of my move would be to talk to his carer, listeners too. Do you have any or preferably to the man and his carer together. Is there anything advice about how to handle in particular during the preaching this situation? which causes him to behave this way? Does he find the preaching difficult or distressing, for instance, – or are the noises actually a token of his enjoyment? Secondly, I would encourage him and his carer to move as near to the front of the congregation as possible. That way, although the sounds will be more obvious to you, they will be less so to the congregation. With your visitor in the front row, there are no worshippers in the rows ahead to worry about! Thirdly, I wonder whether it might be possible to acknowledge the noises in some way early on in the sermon. Maybe if you can demonstrate that you take them in your stride by saying ‘I’m glad to hear you are with me, X’, others will do the same. This needs to be done carefully, in order to avoid patronising – and cannot be repeated every week. In the end, it is quite possible that none of these measures will work. If so, the church as a whole have to ask themselves: is it better to have him there with the noises than not there without them? If the answer is ‘yes’ then the principles Paul outlines in Romans 12 about deferring to ‘the other’ surely apply. Your persistence, and his, will yield fruit. Richard Littledale Richard Littledale is the minister of Teddington Baptist Church, and has always had a lively interest in innovative communication. He has written several books on preaching as well as two children’s stories. He is a radio broadcaster and runs a busy blog at Each issue, our panel will address a tricky preaching problem. If you have something you would value their wisdom on, send it to Please indicate whether you would like to be anonymous. LWPT8173 - Preach Magazine - Issue 1 v3.indd 42 17/10/2014 12:54:07