Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Doug Pagitt (4)

I imagine that most readers want to know what happened on Sunday! How on earth did the "Progressional Implicatory Dialog" work out?

Three congregations joined together to fill the sanctuary, with music led by the contemporary service leaders (- so some songs were new to the traditional crowd!) After gathering with praise, an extended time allowed people excitedly to greet each other. My wife and I happily joined in. Both pastors spoke in the first part of the service and helped set the scene. But I could sense apprehension. After a time of confession, more singing and offering prayers of the people, we reached the moment for the "sermon."

Winsomely Doug introduced himself - imagining us asking questions about him like - will he yell at us and when this will end? He walked right up the center aisle in the middle of the congregation. He explained we were going to share a "sermon pot-luck." That the 70 who had met the previous day were helping him preach, with five people especially ready to join in, but that anyone would be able to share. I was interested about what Scripture text he would use. In the bulletin Acts 2:42-47 and 1 Pet. 2:4-10 were the set readings - would he use just these verses (because of time limitations!)?

NO. He divided the church into two, and asked people on one side to read through the whole of Acts 2, and on the other side - 1 Pet:2. So much happened! Each of us will remember different moments. One stand-out memory is when Doug explained he first heard the Acts 2 story in 1983. He asked (in sequence) how many first heard it in the 80's, 70's, 60's 50's, 40's, 30's....hands kept going up. Then he asked about the 90's and the 2000's. A baby caught his attention - 2010! he said. And then, a man stood up and said he had only been a Christian a short time and heard it very recently. "I'm a baby Christian" he said. "Just look at the continuing hearing of this story" Doug exclaimed. "And it's being told today!"

Each time a set of verses from Acts 2 came on the screen a different person would read. It was open to's a long chapter and many voices were heard (including my wife's!) After each section Doug invited insights about those few verses. Some similar points were raised from the previous day. One of the five was invited to stand and shared his comment. He wondered at Peter - such an ordinary man in contrast to the clever people thronging Jerusalem, yet empowered by the Holy Spirit to claim that Joel's OT prophecy was now being fulfilled. One after another identified key points as the chapter unfolded - the abnormal nature of the Pentecost event, the birthing of a new community by the Holy Spirit , and the qualities of new life together were all emphasized.

After 30 plus minutes on Acts 2, Doug suggested that maybe time was up and we should close without considering 1 Peter 2. Objections were made and so, for another half hour, the same process followed through this chapter. The other four speakers all shared. I was amazed at the number of people who had not been present on Saturday who participated throughout.

The hour plus passed rapidly, with Doug continuing to draw connections between the two chapters, and gently shepherding responses.

I am sure everyone had views about what happened! Let me share some of my surprises

1. The amount of sheer Scripture text we read out together, and then worked through. Personally, I felt to have dealt with one chapter would have been enough....yet there seemed real desire to work through the whole two chapters.
2. The degree of participation - yes some were more used to sharing out loud, but there was desire from so many. As someone said later: "You couldn't doze off...something was happening all the time. I have never been so involved in a sermon!"
3. The skilful leadership - Doug allowed every single person who volunteered to speak, without any sense of hurry. He guided the flow, interjecting from time-to-time, reinforcing points made. And at the end he kept asking: "Does anyone else want to share?"

Afterwards over lunch we shared overall responses - positive lessons and questions that we had. I joined with Doug in trying to answer questions raised. Among the positive lessons I heard many echoed my own surprises. A list included -
It was an opportunity to weave Scripture into my life
The Word was made alive and real
Different voices gave different view-points
Freedom to talk and bring questions
Wider personal experience (rather than just the pastor)
Trust in the Spirit
Like Pentecost we heard many voices.

But were there also some worries and concerns? I'm still reflecting! I'll post some more shortly.

1 comment:

carla said...


It's wonderful to read you reflections on this process. I am part of Solomon's Porch and because we do this every week, we forget how odd a process it really is. But it's been such a beautiful way to read and think about the Bible. We read huge chunks of Scripture every week and talk about it and reflect on it and are troubled or inspired or challenged by it. It's rare to leave a gathering without feeling like the Holy Spirit has been present and heavily involved in our conversation.
And for what it's worth, my 13-year-old says she loves church because of our sermons.