After being told (explicitly and implicitly) for 30 years that I would never preach—or at best being told that I should be able to preach in theory, but would never actually have the opportunity—it was terrifying and affirming and exciting to suddenly be asked, “Would you like to preach next week?”
At times, I felt a bit like an imposter. I don’t know how to write or deliver a sermon. I’m not a preacher. I’d never done this before. I didn’t know what I was doing. And yet, there I was, doing it. My sermon-writing training consisted of an invaluable 10-minute conversation with a friend, where he shared his own sermon-writing process and a few tips on study resources and sermon construction. Beforehand, I told virtually no one outside my house church that I was preaching, because I was a little afraid that one of my friends would show up that morning to support me, and I’d do a bad job in front of them. And the morning of, I was afraid to tell anyone I’d never preached before, because I was afraid they’d be disappointed in me.
And yet, this community of people embraced me as their preacher for the day. One woman, Wanda, introduced me to as many people as she could, and every time, it was, “This is Karissa, our preacher.” Not, “This is Karissa, who led our service today,” or even, “She preached for us today,” but, “She’s our preacher.” It still feels weird and special to me that, for many of the people who met me that day, my primary identity was that of a preacher.
It was good to have some of my assumptions about people challenged. I generally assume that the older people are, the more conservative they are. And the more conservative they are, the more they oppose women having an equal voice and equal opportunities to serve the church. And yet, the elderly folks at a retirement center were the first people who allowed me to preach.
The lectionary is a wonderful thing! There is basically an infinite number of possible sermon texts, topics, and combinations thereof. So having that infinite number narrowed down to just four texts was a glorious thing.
My sermon focused on God as our Shepherd and on our responsibility to shepherd and care for one another. Wanda perfectly embodies the “shepherd one another” part! She is very clearly a shepherd within her community—she gathered up people to come to the church service instead of going back to bed after breakfast, she greeted everyone we passed in the hallways, she invited me to join her for lunch in the cafeteria and welcomed me into her apartment for coffee and dessert, she talked with and encouraged people as we stood around waiting for the cafeteria to open for lunch. After spending several days thinking intentionally about this shepherding theme in order to prepare a sermon about it, it was especially cool to see Wanda living out this role in such meaningful ways.
Several people have asked how preaching went, and I think it went well. There are definitely some things I wish I’d done differently or done better, but I think it was pretty good for being my first time. My prayer going into it was that something I said would be meaningful to at least one person. And a couple people came up to me later and shared some ways that something I said resonated with something in their lives.
Though the experience as a whole was a little terrifying and made me feel like an imposter, it also made me feel victorious for marginalized women everywhere. Because preaching is a role that is off-limits to so many of us, even in churches that are at least somewhat gender-inclusive. So it was meaningful to join the growing ranks of CofC women who’ve had the opportunity to preach, and to be a small part of continuing to normalize the idea of having both women and men in the pulpit.