The Role of the Preacher
The Preacher’s ministry is straightforward - to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ by witnessing to the Word of God as revealed in scripture. Such a straightforward ministry is, of course, anything but simple. At University Hill congregation we take delight in preaching that helps us to wrestle with scripture in a loving, daring journey of discovering what it is to be disciples of Jesus. We ask our preacher to speak the truth as best she/he can about what God is up to in a given text and about what this God is saying to us - as a congregation - here and now.
We invite those who preach within University Hill Congregation to enter into a shared journey with the text for Sunday. We do not imagine that our preacher hides away with the text - though we do intend that the preacher meditates long and hard with the text. We desire to read the text communally. With the use of our email mailing list and through gatherings and groups in the congregation we invite conversation about what God may be saying to us through this text. The preacher hosts the text and the congregation, listening for the living Word of God. This Word may be delightful or terrifying, it may be what we have come to expect or it may be an unwelcome surprise. We seek to practice safe sanctuary for the preacher who comes to witness to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of the gospel that he/she hears as God’s Word for this church at this time, in this place. On any given Sunday the congregation as jury may - or may not - hear the preached word as the truth of God’s Word. We will survive sermons that miss the mark of the truth. What we long for are sermons that dare to speak truthfully about the Word of God that lives between and within the lines of scripture. We trust that, over the long term, this practice of sitting with and under Holy Scripture while waiting for a living Word from God will aid in cultivating a community of the Holy Spirit.
When the Congregational Minister is not the Preacher we invite congregants - clergy and lay - to undertake this ministry on behalf of the gathered community. Recognizing that this requires a significant gift of time in preparation we are grateful to those in the congregation who are able to undertake the ministry of preaching without a stipend. We do understand that this is not the case for everyone. Our Worship Ministry Chair and members of the Worship Ministry encourage those who are asked to undertake the ministry of preaching to be honest and open about their need of a stipend. It is our desire to have these conversations respectfully and openly, for the health of the entire community. When the congregation invites preachers from outside its number a stipend is normally provided. The current stipend for preaching is set at $175.
It is our practice to follow the cycle of scripture readings that are set out for the ecumenical church in the common lectionary. These readings can be found in the Salt of the Earth Christian Seasons Calendar. Normally the preacher will preach a sermon that seeks to locate the congregation’s life within one of the four texts of the day. The sermon is an extended meditation on what life lived as citizens of the Kingdom of God looks like when seen through the lens of this particular text. While this is our practice, it is not a requirement. Those who undertake the ministry of preaching may wish to preach on a different text. We invite preachers who wish to select alternate texts to do so in conversation with our Worship Ministry team and Congregational Minister.