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'Thoughts for the Day'

I was commissioned as a 'Lay Worship Leader' in the Winchester Diocese in April 2005.

Our training consisted of seven evenings in successive weeks, after which we were commissioned by the bishop. It was impressed on us that we were on no account to bless, absolve or preach to the congregation (functions which were all reserved for the priesthood). Not blessing and not absolving were easy enough - we could adapt prayers so that we were praying on behalf of the congregation, usually with the congregation, for God to absolve and bless us all.

But not preaching does require a degree of contortion: after all, we were still required to fill the sermon slot. Our tutors assured us, in a Jesuitical sort of way, that we were not to worry: by definition if we were doing it, it could not be preaching.

But I felt uneasy. A N Other, known to the whole community as the butcher, baker or candlestick maker from Monday to Saturday, is liable to be resented if he or she gets up into the pulpit on a Sunday and launches into the finer points of Christian doctrine or telling the congregation what a bunch of miserable sinners they are. Some areas are not a matter of training so much as common sense.

There are as many answers to this dilemma as there are lay worship leaders. Much depends on the type of service: the 'right' answer for Matins or Evensong may not be the right answer for an informal family service. And much will also depend on one's personal style.

As my present role is taking a service from the Book of Common Prayer, and as I am a writer in my day job, what works for me is a 'thought for the day', mining the internet and my own books of poetry and quotations to produce what is in effect a sermon, in that it is a sort of spoken essay, but using 'other men's flowers' as the major part of the text and asking two other people to help me read it.

They are listed not in the order I 'thought' them, but in the order of the church year as this seemed more likely to be helpful to others. I like to think that I have improved over time - learning on the job - but I have included some of the earlier wince-making examples to demonstrate that there is hope for everyone...

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