Bill makes a confession and celebrates an accomplishment, both relating to wells of creativity.
Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg. I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church and this is Doogie, my assistant minister, and here we are at the historic Sears cabin right next to the Kenilworth Club for no other reason than that it’s just beautiful, and with two feet of snow on the ground, we can sort of live in to the experience of our pioneer ancestors.
I want to do two things with you today. I want to make a confession, and to celebrate an accomplishment.
The confession I want to make to you today is one of my biggest fears as a Christian preacher. My fear is that some Sunday, I will dip the bucket of my imagination into the shallow, finite well of my creativity and discover that there’s nothing there. My well has gone dry.
The main preacher in a Christian congregation will preach about 40 sermons a year, which if you collected those 40 sermons into a book, it would be about 50,000 words. It would be the size of a modest novel; Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, for instance, is about 50,000 words. Now, that’s not an onerous obligation. That’s very doable. James Patterson, the detective writer, has written 147 novels in 40 years, or at least three books a year.
So one book a year is not onerous or unfair, but it is substantial, and that’s my fear: that some Sunday, I’ll have gone to my shallow, finite well once too often and find that there’s nothing there.
James Forbes is a great American preacher and also a great American teacher of preachers. Dr. Forbes taught homiletics for years at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights. For years, Dr. Forbes coaxed his preaching students to reach up to the highest levels of preaching excellence. But after years of teaching preaching at Union, Riverside Church across the street from Union at 121st Street and Riverside Drive, convinced Dr. Forbes to stop teaching preaching and actually do it every Sunday at Riverside Church. And Dr. Forbes did indeed do that beautifully and faithfully for many years.
But many years ago at a conference, I heard Dr. Forbes make a beautiful confession. Dr. Forbes said to a bunch of us working preachers, he said “I have to confess to you preachers that when I was teaching preaching, I never realized that Sunday came along every seven days.” So that confession meant a lot to us blue-collar working preachers.
That’s the confession I wanted to make to you: that I have a very finite, shallow well of creativity.
And here’s the accomplishment I want to celebrate: did you know that my colleague Katie Lancaster has posted a reflection or a blog or a meditation on our website for all of us 203 days since this pandemic started almost a year ago. 203 days. Most of those meditations she writes are about 300 words, so this is already a modest-sized book, and last year in the fall, Katie gave us 100 days of prayer, and then during the Advent and Christmas season she gave us these meditations about the holiday, and lately since the New Year she’s been giving us “a blessing to walk around in,” which is a beautiful meditation of 300 words every day. Katie’s imagination appears to be inexhaustible. That’s the celebration of accomplishment that I want to make and I want to celebrate Katie’s infinite, bottomless imagination.
While I was doing a little research for this little talk, I Googled this question. In the search box I said “how many words are there in the average novel.” And Google sent me to the most wonderful website which will tell you exactly how many words there are in all the great books you and I read, all the great novels of the Western canon. Do you know how many words there are in the Harry Potter series of novels? Over a million. So, J.K. Rowling and Katie Lancaster, two virtuosi.
Thanks for tuning in. God bless you.