As I embark on June's Church of England newspaper piece here is May's, archived by kind permission of the Editor who would make my joy all the more complete by actually paying me for any of this work.
I'll try harder to get the hyperlinks to work first time this month.
Hard pressed preachers often need to know where to get inspiration in a hurry. Whilst I can promise that only on one occasion have I downloaded and delivered a sermon as I found it on the internet (I did confess to the congregation), here are some places to visit where stimulation is available for free.
Grove Books are, in their own publicity material, rarely the last word on a matter but often the first. Preparing some material on issues raised by The Da Vinci Code I found two helpful booklets. A subscription to the Grove biblical series will also get you the latest Biblical Studies Bulletin free with news, reviews, surveys of useful commentaries, computer tidbits (a Christian version of a titbit?) and off-beat humour relating to the field. All the back copies are archived on-line for anyone to browse.
Want to know what a liberal take on any given situation might be? Drop into Thinking Anglicans (no, it’s not an oxymoron) for comment, news and links. Get yourself some balance by visiting Anglican Mainstream too. Then make up your own mind.
For daily help and inspiration you may well find a useful thought by visiting the Church Army project Word-on-the-Web. Again there is an excellent archive because that’s one of the things the internet is good at.
Who doesn’t need help understanding the Bible? One place which is worth a regular dip is Biblical Studies. It provides detailed bibliographies on each book of the Bible, as well as on hermeneutics, archaeology, criticism, language, etc. - in short almost everything connected with the Bible and its study.
Preaching on the Gospels? Jesus’ world comes to life for me at Follow the Rabbi which has great insights into the Hebrew world and the geography of Israel for starters. Or try the web-site of Beginningwithmoses. You’ll recognise some of the usual (and therefore male) suspects from the Proclamation Trust but don’t let that put you off. Treasure will be found there. The College of Preachers offers a similar service from a slightly less conservative standpoint.
There are many sites with archives of sermons and outlines. I haven’t found one that is consistently good (there are lots of poor ones) but Preachtheword, the Evangelical Movement of Wales (you can listen or read these first two), PreachingToday, sermonsplus and especially SermonCentral have all born fruit from time to time. The latter has a massive catalogue and users can leave a comment as to whether or not they found each sermon helpful.
If you want to read what the big chief is saying then tackle the archive of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermons. The previous Archbishop has a similar archive and it is linked from there.
Maybe you have the material but you need a joke or illustration to lighten things. Try SermonIllustrations has an archive of stories, quotes and jokes almost all of which you will have heard before. Elboune is also an illustration database and archive. It is attached to an interesting Southern Baptist blog called Locusts and Wild Honey, which distracted me for a while noting the practical work a church is doing rebuilding people’s homes post-Katrina. Respect.
Many people like to preach the occasional sermon using the issues of the day to provide a theme. Damaris is a wonderful organisation which helps explore contemporary culture and media. You’ll find interesting thoughts on topical issues at Tell-me-more but these are more of a starter than a main course.
If you want to tell the preacher what you thought of them why not encourage formal feedback. The Oxford Ministry Course has a sermon evaluation form which can be printed off.
Last month’s column is again archived at Mustard Seed Shavings. Go there if you want to revisit it, leave a comment or recommend sites for me to include in future. Traffic is slow so far. Are CEN readers still offline?
Steve Tilley (wasting time surfing, to save you the trouble).