1. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sermons

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sidtvicious, Feb 4, 2010.

    So, I've started a new fictional piece, and one of my characters is a pastor (or possibly another small church official like a Reverend, haven't completely decided yet). The religious element is a key element in the plot. I've considered the option of making a few sermons he uses as a plot/story device. I have already read a few books on creating sermons as well as talked to a local pastor who has given me some pointers, but I realize that WF has a wide selection of members. Any pastors/the like or simply people with religious studies experience, care to offer some advice on structure or things I should remember. I'm really just looking for what's considered the standard of such things, not necessarily specific example.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How about attending a variety of church services in your area?
     
  3. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's actually a good idea, I've done some audio research, just listening to various sermons that the Pastor I have been discussing this with has, but going out to various churches might be a better way to get variety.
     
  4. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    A good sermon is pretty much the same as a good speech, I would imagine.
    One of the most important things is incorporating information from sources seen by the religion in question as reliable. If there is a pope or prophet or whatever, maybe quote them. Or reference various scripture or other sacred texts to back up the main point of the sermon.
     
  5. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    I'm not a big church goer but the sermons that have affected me the most when I have gone are the ones that strike home. These kinds of sermons should have a simple but powerful message. A theme that grabs you or strikes a chord. The sermon should be a sort of framework for that message. The nest and then the egg. Or you could just pick your favorite verse and elaborate/expand.
     
  6. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I've never read any books on creating sermons... but I have written (and delivered) several lay-sermons. I'm a Unitarian Universalist lay leader. One of the main characters in my book is a United Church of Christ Reverend, and when I introduce the character I provide a benediction.

    What I've written may be very different from what you're looking for (Unitarian Universalism is a very unconventional religion) but if you have any specific questions or if there's any way I can help, please let me know.

    Depending on the flow of your book and your intended audience, I'd be careful in your book not to include a "preachy" sermon, or at least, to do so cautiously. You may even consider interspersing the sermon with the actions and thoughts of other characters.

    There is one scene in my book with a Sunday School class lesson which has lines of the teacher's lecture alternating with the whispered conversation between two children, one of whom is making a spitball even as the lesson is going on. I thought it worked well: I included the details of the lecture, but added an element of suspense, humor, and "kids being kids." After the spitball incident, the kid was "put on the spot" and expected to answer a question about the lecture, bringing back the point of the lecture.

    What religion your character is, how you view your character, and what message you intend to convey in your book (and in the "sermon" sections particularly) should drive the content.

    I've actually attended services of many religions of many sorts and a wide variety, by the way, including: Unitarian Universalist (obviously), Roman Catholic (my wife's religion), Presbyterian (where I was once a deacon), Reformed Church (where I grew up and was a longstanding member), Baptist, a nondenominational evangelical Christian church, Mormon (my sister's religion,) Jehovah's Witness (an ex-girlfriend's religion) and a number of others. There are major differences among all of these, not only in religion and theology but also in the structure of their services and the appearance of their churches, and you'll need to know something about your characters religion, including the structure of their service. If you have kneelers in a Presbyterian church, or you don't have kneelers in a Catholic church, or crosses in a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall (they don't even call it a church, nor do they have crosses as they believe Jesus died on a straight stake), you have an issue. My point here is, make sure you know the religion of your characters, and be wary of making mistakes in that regard, especially if your characters' religion isn't yours.

    I not only attended a United Church of Christ service to research my character, I place my character in a real church, a historic church in Philadelphia, and I attended that actual church. I did the same for a few churches that appear in my book--in fact, my book includes a real Unitarian Universalist church (also in Philadelphia) and a Presbyterian church, the latter being the one where I was once a deacon. I also include a Unitarian Universalist retreat near the Jersey Shore which I have visited. The buildings, locations and history are described accurately, but all the characters are fictional people. Be careful, especially if including real locations, that your characters are not recognizable as real people, to avoid potential liable action...I know I'm straying from the "sermons" question but it's good to keep in mind.

    (A Unitarian Universalist church, by the way, would include a chalice with a candle and a group of folks who don't uniformly agree with each other on theology, some of whom may well be atheists, deists, agnostics, while others believe in some theology including self-professed Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Wiccans, but all agree on respect for fellow humans and the search for truth. Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal, covenantal religion about the freedom of search for truth and mutual respect. I'm not preaching, just explaining.)

    Charlie
     
  7. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I was raised as a born again-assembly of god-christian church. For the most part the sermons I heard had a theme, usually highlighting a few key scriptures to support their argument. The basics of a sermon is a persuasive argument in order to instill something in the listeners.

    The sermons would start off quiet, with small emphatic points. It would build up to the point they wanted money, getting the people's juices flowing for giving, so usually it was a story about some missionaries, or some sort of thing that would pull at the heart strings of the followers to inspire more giving. Then after the tithes were collected, they would address some other issue, let's say something like a question of faith, the "why should I believe in the awsomeness of god?" kind of stuff. Maybe throwing in some of scriptures about miracles to get people thinking about what kinds of miracles they need in their lives. They go on to then guilt people into the next part with statements of "We need to pray, live the way Jesus wanted us to live, love our neighbors, give ourselves over to into the hands of god, cast away earthly things, this of the flesh, and become closer to God." This implies people would see miracles in their lives if they were doing enough, but obviously they aren't since their prayers haven't been answered.

    They usually then go on into something of a NLP type of thing by suggesting that the followers remedy this problem by committing to prayer groups, praying daily, coming to church, volunteering, or other such things.

    Sometimes they also use the build up for an alter call, so the sermon starts off quiet, slow, reserved, and then builds up to the point of hypnotic fervor. Bringing many of the followers to the stage for a touch of "Gods" hand. People fall down after having hands laid on them, rolling around, laughing, crying, sometimes speaking in gibberish, and the singing that was background music (or if one wasn't playing they start) builds in intensity and becomes louder as the congregation sings and praises from their seats.

    These types of sermons only happen once a month, so to keep people interested in coming to church. It's all about atmosphere in the born-again section of religion. They aren't toned down and reverent types of churches. The non-born-again style Protestant churches tend to view church more the way the catholics do. With quiet reverence, and humility. There is more ritual involved in it.

    That was my experience of church. I've been to many other types of churches here and there, catholic even, and that would be why I'm an atheist now.
     
  8. fandango
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    fandango Member

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    One thing I would warn is that there is a difference between a good sermon and a good written description of a sermon. They both require a different focus. A good sermon, as rory says is pretty similar to a good speech. I'd say it's more about the delivery than the actual words.

    Think carefully about what you want piece to do before you start writing a good sermon because it may not be what you want.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    full sermons won't make for good reading, in a novel, so it would be best to stick to brief excerpts, if you don't want to lose your readers to boredom and annoyance...
     
  10. TPie
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    TPie New Member

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    For good, funny, and attention-holding sermons, check out the below link...

    http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/sermons

    Click on the books of the bible on the right pane, then you can select a sermon from there. That pastor has often been criticized for his unconventional way of teaching. He's also been called the "cussing pastor". He's hilarious and informative would make a great foundation for a short story.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on the sermon and how it fits into the story. A friend of mine gave an awesome devar torah that would not bore readers.
     
  12. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you give us some details about what kind of character your preacher is? Who the person is determines a LOT about what his (or her!!) sermons will be like. For example, if your preacher is a history buff, then his sermons will probably have a lot to do with the history of the bible (or whatever religious text you're using). If he's rather reserved, he probably won't be jumping around and screaming "REPPPEEEEEENNNNNTTTT!!" the whole time. But if he is, then he just might. Are his views extremely conservative? Or are they more liberal? How long has he been a preacher? Has he been doing it so long that his sermons are dull and uninspired? Is he really passionate and energetic? Does he move his hands around a lot? Does he stand behind the podium or walk around?

    All things to consider. And I definitely agree with Cogito that you should attend different services around your community. The more "out-there" the better.
     
  13. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    I think you should attend some sermons at different churches in your community. Try different religions too. That way you will be able to answer the questions:
    What was it like?
    How was he feeling?

    You'll better be able to get into the scene and paint it for the reader. You'll be able to make it REAL so to speak.

    Think of reading fiction as a way to explore other worlds or lives that we normally can't. If you have a chance to explore an element in the story you're writing first hand (and you take it seriously) then you SHOULD.
     
  14. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thankyou all for your advice, Cog and the others who suggest service attending I've done this a bit sense the idea was presented and have already made plans for this week with 4 other churches (1 presbyterian, 1 episcopal, 1 roman catholic, and the other a non-denominational church).

    Those of you pointing out that a sermon will bore readers, I do agree, but it was never my intention to include a sermon in its entirety. This is more for the sake of authenticity.

    Charlie, expect a response to your pm, sometime this week.

    Emily, the lack of character description could definitely be an issue in answering this question. I'm also still in the process of deciding his denomination, but I can tell you that I'll be using a christian church, most likely one that is not on the overly conservative side or overly liberal.

    He will be more a humanist than religious scholar, but still take value in the word of God. Not evangelical or fire and brimstone in any way. Think moderate liberal, while not touching cross hairs. Reserved, only until one of his values is endangered. He'll have a sense of humor and slight sarcasm at times.

    Not a whole lot to go on I know, but it was just some brief points. I'm still in the process of cranking everything out.
     
  15. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    I'm curious to see what you pump out. PM it to me and I'll give you my thoughts when it's done.
     
  16. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    A lot of people aren't aware of this, you might or might not be, but I'll offer the information anyway:

    In religion, the terms liberal and conservative have a different meaning than in politics. In fact, many political conservatives are religious liberals, and vice-versa. The differences actually have to do with doctrine and belief and views of God. You can find a number of articles about this in google. Some of my favorite articles are those found in religious tolerance.org.

    In brief, although many individual Christians may sharply contrast this model and this is in no way intended to favor any particular view nor misrepresent them, but only general guidelines to some of the differences:

    Conservative Christian religions generally view the Bible as the inerrant word of God and literally true including historically and scientifically from Adam and Eve and the serpent to the Great Flood and all the rest, and they view belief in Jesus as the only way to avoid eternal hell. Some conservative Christians will go to great lengths to try to prove the 6 day creation is true and the Earth is about 6,000 years old (based on the genealogies from Adam to Jesus) and that therefore dinosaurs walked alongside men. They generally view God as a Father whose anger is to be feared. One area where the political lines start to blur is that these Christians are usually more interested than liberal Christians in the issues of abortion and homosexuality, both of which they condemn strongly.

    Liberal Christian religions generally view the Bible as a guidebook, often metaphoric but profound and beautiful, although they may see some of its history or science as hypothetically plausible, they generally don't consider it as important as being a caring person. They view the teachings of the Bible largely as metaphors and parables intended to make us better people, not as literal truths, although some literal truth may be contained therein. They focus on Biblical passages about compassion and love and rarely focus on God's wrath. Some of them don't believe in hell (a view called "universalism") or believe in a hell that almost no one goes to, and are generally more accepting of people of other religions or atheists, and often view everyone as part of God's family. They are much more likely to disbelieve in specific doctrines like the six-day Creation or even the virgin birth, although some liberal Christians may believe in some of these things. They generally view God as a loving Father. Political lines sometimes blur when discussing issues of poverty, where liberal Christians often share some of the views of liberal politicians.

    There are, naturally, many shades in the middle.

    Hope this helped.

    Charlie
     

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