Writing and Delivering 2 UU Sermons
Written by
Karen A Szklany
September 2018
Written by
Karen A Szklany
September 2018

It All Started With a Class

From October 2016 through June 2017, I attended a class given by our UU minister, titled "Preaching for Parishioners."  There was a practical guide to sermon writing used as our "textbook," which also guided us in planning other aspects of the service in which we intended to deliver the sermon (readings, hymns, etc).  My goal for taking this class was the experience it gave me speaking to groups of people, in preparation for facilitating group labyrinth walks.  I wanted to grow in my storytelling and public speaking skills, especially with regard to my level of confidence.


I kept a journal for the class, in which I wrote reflections and notes based on the books and articles I read as research for my sermon.  Since my approach to my undergraduate public speaking class was way too serious, I was pleased with a fresh chance to give my sermon topic and content much more levity.  My daughter and I had recently finished reading JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series, so I chose to build my sermon around the theme of choosing a Fellowship to surround ourselves with when beginning an adventure of creating significant changes in our lives.

LOTR sermon web of ideas

Weaving the Thread of Ideas

Once I settled on my theme, I wove together aspects of the Tolkein stories that were important to my message.  Each time our class met, we offered each other encouragement, as well as helpful feedback about how to strengthen our sermons. With each revision, I wove in quotes and ideas from other sources that supported my message. Those sources included the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by Dr. Thomas Moore, The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All (edited compilation), and personal stories of my own.

The Service

 Once the sermon was considered complete and all I needed to do was practice (with lots of lovely coaching from friends and neighbors), I chose readings and hymns for the service that complemented the message of my sermon.  In addition to the hymns, our summer piano accompanist also played instrumental Prelude, Offertory, and Postlude music.  He was open to special requests from everyone who asked, so I asked him to play some Tolkein-related songs.  All aspects of the service went well:  it was well-attended,  it was recorded by one of my classmates, and I walked away from the experience with renewed confidence in myself.  Here is a copy of the Order of Service:

Invited Back!

This summer (2018), our minister invited all graduates from her "Preaching for Parishioners" classes to deliver another sermon this summer.  I accepted the opportunity to write and deliver a second sermon. Though the time I had for research, writing, and rehearsal was condensed, I had confidence I could write and deliver another successful sermon.  This year my theme was "Regeneration," inspired by the Dr. Who series.  I bought myself a copy of Dr. Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside (edited compilation) and read issues of Parabola magazine (including a special "Labyrinth" issue from 1992), in addition to watching countless episodes across a bunch of seasons, particularly the ones that involved the Doctor regenerating into a new incarnation.  Here's my idea web around Regeneration from my journal:

Regeneration web of ideas

Something Different

For my service around Regeneration this year, my confidence was strong enough to try something different for the Meditation segment before the sermon.  After the sung meditation chant, I led the congregation in a short labyrinth walk on a paper path they held in their laps, using a short quote and a meditation prompt from a collection I purchased in the spring.  While the congregation walked their paths, I played the African metal-tongued moyo drum, which has a meditative chimey sound.  The feedback I received around the service and the sermon was positive.  I was mostly on my own with regard to the revisions I needed to make, so I was happy when it became evident that I had made the right ones.  Here is the order of service:

Regeneration OOS

Play it Again, Sam

 If given another opportunity, I believe I'd do it again with some specific inspiration and a theme in mind.  Perhaps I'd someday also give a TEDx talk.  I watched plenty of those in preparation for this year's sermon, in addition to all of the Dr. Who episodes and the reading.

Promotion on Social Media

One of the aspects of preparing my sermon that drew people in was promotion on social media. I posted event invitations to both of my sermons, linking to our UU church as a co-host. The platforms I used included: Facebook, LinkedIn, Alignable (connected to LinkedIn), Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.  That aspect of preparing for my sermons/services was good practice, too.  I do the same when I lead a group labyrinth walk.  I never know when a new person out in the wide universe will have a special interest in my subject, so it's always an exciting adventure when I do meet new people who appreciate ideas close to my heart.  My heart is warmed by fresh alliances with open-minded and caring people.

Let's be friends

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