How long should a sermon be? It depends on a lot of factors and not just how much there is to say. Consideration needs to be given to the context and what is a reasonable duration for the assembled throng who will have to sit through it and hopefully learn from it. At my present church and in the present season, I’d say about two pages.
Pages? Wasn’t I talking about time? If you have a reasonably consistent pace of delivery that actually gives a pretty good estimate of how long it will take. Last week’s message was two pages set mainly at 14pt Gill Sans MT with a few headings and included a reading of 13 verses (not written out). That came to just under 15 minutes, which I think is about the right sort of time – enough to make some worthwhile points but not to get people glancing at their watches or, for the online version, tempted to switch off or pop to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
Therefore, what I will do when I am preparing a talk and have reached the point I am ready to put something down, is to type it up at that font size. In the first draft, it is almost invariably going to go over two pages and I’m not too bothered. However, if I’m almost at the end of page one and I still haven’t finished the introduction, I know I am going on too long. Likewise, if I’m at the end of page two and not near wrapping up, I know I need to refocus. Once I come to editing, I’ve got a good yardstick for judging how long it lasts and, once I’ve tidied up the long-winded expressions, I can make effective decisions on whether I need to make bigger cuts.
The other advantage of this pragmatic methodology is that, when I stand up to deliver it, I’ve got a font sized to be legible to speak from and I know I don’t need to rush, even if inspiration strikes and I want to expand a section on the fly or simply respond to how the congregation responds to what I’ve said.
I wonder what a lecture theatre sounds like today? When I was a student, the sound of the lecturer was accompanied by the scratch of pens on paper. If we wanted to reflect on what we’d heard — and to be able to do so again when exams were looming — we had to take notes. I’ve still got the bump on the second finger of my writing hand which developed through school and university. Nowadays, there is probably the clack of keyboards although I wonder if a high proportion of students record the talks or expect to be able to download the recording after the fact?
Churches too used to have a fair number of people jotting down thoughts in their notebooks. I assume they weren’t just adding things to their weekly shopping list and I certainly wasn’t. I used to take quite detailed notes and refer back to them at least later in the week. I’ve kept up the habit to some extent, although my notes tend to be looser – the points that make me think rather than than every piece of knowledge I’ve heard and the stories. I’m in a minority though. Either there was a secret of prodigious memory that I missed the memo on or most people no longer consider the Sunday service as a place where they come to plant the seeds of learning and practice.
Perhaps we shouldn’t bother with the sermon any more? Or perhaps it would be better if there was a revival of note-taking, in some shape or form, for future reference and simply as a way of crossing the ear-brain barrier and demonstrating that we are true disciples and not just temporary seat warmers.
This colourful picture is a close-up of some underpainting – now almost entirely covered up with other paint but at least I’ve got a photographic record which might well end up as a texture layer on some upcoming project.
Sometimes you sow seeds and end up with far too many plants. Once you’ve planted what you can and given away more, you finally have to throw away the rest to make room for the next batch of seeds. Not so with this beauty! Of the seeds I planted I got a low germination rate and the first couple that came up didn’t survive. I think three more came up later but only one of those made it to the point where I could pot it up and eventually plant it out.
It is flowering well now though. What I love about this plant is the way the space between the petals creates the illusion of a small, green petalled flower through the negative space that is created. I think my seed might have been a bit old so I’ll have to see if I can get fresh seeds from this one later in the season.
I wish the operators of British transport networks and ancillary services could see themselves as part of an integrated system, responsible to take passengers from start to end by doing their part of the journey well. When our visitors came up on Saturday, we had to drive to pick them up from Birmingham International railway station because otherwise they would have had a longer door to door journey and had to cope with at least two more changes and whatever last minute changes and cancellations the rail network threw up. That’s hard enough for the average person but issues with mobility and sensory impairments would have made it even more challenging.
So, a drive, but at least we had a carful so it was as efficient as a private motor vehicle can be. Then there was a wrinkle on the parking. The station has a good-sized, free short-term car park, which gets it marks above several other stations I can think of. However, there was no guidance on whether you can stay longer if the people you are meeting are delayed. We arrived just over ten minutes early and their train was going to be a little over ten minutes late so we were going to over-run the allowed twenty minutes.
In a sensible world, that would be no problem at all, particularly as there was no competition for space in the car park. However, the site was operated by NCP and, frankly, I don’t trust them to be sensible. To avoid having to fight a fine, I had to drive off and work out a way to circle around the unfamiliar territory until Jane called to say they were ready for the pickup. That’s mad! Really you want a system where you can park up to fifteen minutes before the train is due to arrive and stay for up to ten minutes after it has come in. It’s not as if you could leave your car to nip to the shops – from what I could see, the area is a bit of a desert in that respect otherwise I’d have aimed to find a quiet local street to wait in before making my first approach.
I think I might want to start looking for lower fat mince. I bought some beef mince from Lidl today which was described as 20% fat. I did consider the lower fat versions but ‘fat is flavour’ and this was also quite a lot cheaper. I reasoned it was less than the 23% of the pork and beef mince I bought last time.
I used it to cook up a decent chilli con carne but it would be on the generous side to describe it as unctuous. I think it was too fatty and I should have had the sense to drain the excess off as I cooked each batch of mince. I could always have drawn on that if I discovered I needed a bit more for the other ingredients. Perhaps I should have just left off frying those in any case as it was all going to to be slow-cooked anyway?
Perhaps I ought to do the sums and figure out how much the cheaper mince would cost after draining off most of the fat? Lidl doesn’t give prices for its full range on its website but Tesco has 5% fat at £2.59 for 500g and 20% for £1.49. That makes them, respectively, £5.18 and £2.98 per kilogram. That doesn’t sound too far off the Lidl differential – higher fat for 60% of the price. If I drained off 15% of the fat, getting the cheaper one down to 5%, I’d only have 850g of the original kilogram left. £2.98 divided by 850 gives a price of 0.35p per gram so £3.51 per kilogram.
So, maths says go with the cheap stuff and be willing to throw some away to get the best deal without being too fatty. I wonder what nutritional science says on the issue?