In this area of rural South Dakota, the maximum degree of separation is one. I wasn’t exactly sure on the details how or why the Salem Mennonite Church had invited me to speak until arrived on Sunday. Someone at my parent’s church knew someone, and there were plenty of someones at Salem who knew of my family (on my mother’s side). The details are not important. What is relevant is that I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with he Mennonites and presenting a sermon. (I try not to think of it as “preaching.”)
One thing that I have realized is that spontaneous/extemporaneous/free-spirit preaching is not my preferred style, at least not prior to my second meal of the day. If I were speaking at an evening service, then perhaps I might be a more free -ranging speaker. Because the reality-on-the-ground is that most services are in the morning, I generally feel more comfortable with a scripted sermon.
I felt good about this sermon. I tried something different, and in so doing, I may have struck gold. I was talking to my friend Susan about public speaking, and she said that she often feels very anxious about speaking, but afterwards, she feels that she wants a do-over. Kind of like, “okay, now that I feel the relief of not speaking, can I do it again without the anxiety? I’d like to just have fun with it this second time.” I’ve felt this way from time to time. So one of my primary objectives was to enjoy myself during the sermon. It made all the difference.
Usually I enjoy preparing sermons but not presenting them. Why not go into the presentation with a carefree attitude and simply have fun? In so doing, I discovered a way not only to enjoy public speaking but also to greatly improve my spoken word abilities.
The people of Salem were very encouraging and receptive to the message and gave me much substantive and heart-felt feedback, which was great to hear. I enjoyed my experience, and if you are someone out there who has never met a Mennonite, you should find one and give them a hug, because in a world of insane violence and warfare, the Mennonites have historically been of the few denominations dedicated to peace and nonviolence.