Sunday, 30 October 2016

How long is enough?

This morning we were treated to a very long sermon.

How long is long enough, and how long is too long is a much discussed question in our church 'family'.

The sermon in question was good initially,  it started off very well indeed. but as most of us regard 15 minutes as ideal, 20 minutes acceptable if it is very good.  This one then went on to 25 and then to 30 minutes.

The main point had been made well (and early), it was then repeated at least three times during the following minutes, culminating in a series of meanderings off the original theme and by the  time it drew to a merciful close had half the congregation dozing and the other half tapping their feet.
I am already bracing myself for the barrage  of complaints, moans and groans which will inevitably (and justifiably) come my way tomorrow morning.

Since I am 'in situ' so to speak, it is assumed that I have a private line to the ears of the clergy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why is it that some, not all, clergy have no 'off' switch?


  1. I presume this is an interregnum and you have to have visiting clergy. It is a fact that some clergy have no idea of time. They do not seem to know how to make a point, illustrate it once and then get off the stage! Sermons are in fact the reason I would not willingly go to church were it not my job. Luckily at the prep school where I teach (and play for Sunday services which last in total 35 minutes) the sermons are aimed at 8-13 year olds and these are quite deep enough for most adults I find!! Anyhow, surely most sermons are preaching to the converted?

  2. No Colin, we have had our current incumbent for two years and have had problems with the length of his sermons also.
    Sadly,while he is improving slowly, the same cannot be said for the curate who was responsible for this morning's effort.
    Since I am in the choir I really have no choice but to arrive at around 9.15 in order to be ready robed for the 9.30 run-through. The service starts at ten and on a good day will finish around 11.20 ish.
    Today was not a good day.

  3. Oh Glory! A matter for the PCC I feel. Surely the numbers in the congregation are falling. Near me there is a church where, when the bellringers descend from the ringing chamber and see that a certain person is taking the service, they decide not to stay.

  4. Hmmmm. I fear it may not be long :-)

  5. Ray I have a golden rule......what I can't say in ten minutes is not worth saying!
    I have a colleague who goes on for much longer...I have tried to introduce the notion of "brevity of speech" but it's fallen on deaf ears!
    Maybe your new incumbent could have a word....? Or two!

  6. Since he is only just about recovering from the same disease I fear his advice would not be of much use (even supposing he agreed with us).
    Nevertheless, someone will have a word - even if in the end it turns out to be me. I have nothing to lose:-)

  7. You are absolutely right about some sermons being too long. Humour helps, of course, but for most of us 10 to 14 minutes is ideal.

    1. I appreciate a good sermon but feel that eloquence should be combined with brevity.
      Once the point has been made it should be possible to round it off in a manner which leaves the listeners content, but with something to think about.
      Not all clergy have this gift but that is all the more reason to scale down the length.
      I agree that just about 15 minutes is a good time to aim for.

  8. I used to preach for 15 minutes or so. Now it's 5 - 10 minutes, depending. Occasionally I'll go to about 12. I always time them ahead of time by practicing out loud with a stopwatch. I tend to use a manuscript. What I have noticed is that those who do without any kind of script are the longest. It takes work to hone the point and some seem not to have the time to do both writing AND editing. I get that, but I feel that preaching is so important that we need to give our best, and that means taking the time to write and more time to edit and practice. I hope someone will have a word with your curate and your incumbent, too. Our parishioners deserve our best and most professional efforts.

    1. I really like the sound of your sermons Penny I wish our current orators would do likewise.
      Someone I feel sure will get the message across to them.