Monday, November 18, 2013

Speaking in Church

    One of my responsibilities as a Bishop's counselor is to conduct our weekly Sacrament Meeting every third month. Part of that responsibility includes asking people to speak.  Some people are a little  nervous about speaking in church, but most are pretty willing in spite of their fears. I've served in the Bishopric for several years this time around and I've only had a few people who absolutely refused the invitation to speak in church. The way our rotation is set up I have the months of January, April, July, and October.  Between General Conference on the first Sunday of October, Fast and Testimony Meeting the following Sunday, and the Primary Program the last Sunday, there was only one week in October for which I had to recruit speakers. There is a pre-determined theme for most meetings so when I ask someone to speak I am asking them to speak on a particular gospel topic.

      I apologize to any blog followers I have who are not Mormons as the preceding paragraph is full of  unfamiliar terms. I guess I should provide a brief explanation and glossary.  Mormon readers can feel free to skip to the next paragraph. First of all, we have no paid ministers in our church. Everybody who is an active member has the opportunity to provide voluntary service in some capacity.  The Bishop is the man who serves as the equivalent of a Pastor in Protestant churches. The Bishop is assisted by two counselors, of which I am one.  Sacrament Meeting is our main Sunday Service in which we take part in the Sacrament, referred to as Communion in most Protestant churches. The Primary is the children's organization within the LDS Church.  General Conference takes place twice a year.  On those two weekends, instead of our normal church meetings, we watch and listen to speakers broadcast from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. Fast and Testimony Meeting is one of our weekly Sacrament Meetings for which there are no pre-arranged speakers. Anyone who feels inspired by the Spirit can walk up to the podium and address the congregation. Now, with the relevant terms explained, I will proceed with the narrative.

     The one Sunday this past month for which I had to recruit speakers was October 20th. The theme for that particular week was Music in the Church. I have strong feelings about the importance of music. Though I am not a talented singer, I love to sing the hymns. I have enjoyed participating in the ward choir wherever we have lived.  It is also one of my specific assignments within the Bishopric. Consequently, I felt I should "call my own number" and put myself on the program as the concluding speaker.  The last speaker is sometimes referred to as the accordion, since they have to either expand or curtail their remarks to fit the available time remaining.  I prepared my talk in segments so I could easily shorten it if necessary. One of the more important segments in my mind was a brief recruiting pitch for participation in the Ward Choir. I prepared a lot more talk than I expected I would need.

     As it happened, the other adult speakers were also very enthusiastic about the topic. They addressed it well and covered many points I had included in my talk.  They also both spoke longer than planned.  I was not particularly disappointed that the time expired with my talk still in my pocket.  However, the Bishop decided I would not be pre-empted, but merely deferred to the following Sunday. I was assigned to fill any time remaining from the annual Primary Sacrament Program.

     The Primary Sacrament Program happens once a year and provides the Primary children (ages three to eleven) the opportunity to both sing and speak in our Sacrament Meeting.  It is one of my favorite meetings as we literally hear wisdom from the "mouths of babes". I love to listen to the children sing. The program never seems to happen exactly as planned and it always includes some unintended humor.  As it turned out, the Primary children did not use all of their available time and I did finally give a portion of my talk.

     In a nutshell, my talk consisted of expressing gratitude for our wonderful hymns and the way they can help me feel the spirit.  I love how a hymn can bring back memories and feelings.  Forty years ago I served a mission for the Church in Northern Italy. At that time we only had about 50 LDS hymns translated into Italian so it was a pretty small hymnal. Those hymns in particular now have very special meaning to me.  I was also able to put in a plug for the ward choir.  Attendance at choir is up, but I'm not sure I deserve any credit for that. We usually have better participation in the fall when we are working on the Christmas program.  That is another reason I love singing in the choir. I get to start singing Christmas music several months earlier.

     I personally don't mind speaking in church.  Most of my serious public speaking miscues have happened when I was conducting the meeting, rather than on the program as a speaker.  My most horrendous mistake happened when I was doing the sustainings in a Sacrament Meeting earlier in the year.  Adding to my previous explanation of Mormon terminology, we try to give every member the opportunity to serve in some capacity. They don't really volunteer but rather are asked to serve. A part of that process includes the principle of common consent. We present the name of each individual newly called to serve in our Sacrament Meeting so that the ward members have the opportunity to either sustain that calling or to actually oppose it. Votes to oppose a call are very rare.  So I'm presenting Pat Fawcett to be sustained in some capacity and instead of saying Pat Fawcett, I blurted out an involuntary spoonerism, "Fat Pawcett". It was far and away my most embarrassing moment in public speaking. Fortunately for me, Pat has a great sense of humor.  She suggested that a home made cherry pie would make it all better. I was very grateful to get off the hook that easily.


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