Magazine article The Christian Century

Getting Mail

Magazine article The Christian Century

Getting Mail

Article excerpt

IT'S A TRUISM in my trade that one negative comment about the sermon can pretty much ruin your Sunday. We preachers position ourselves at a sanctuary door or in front of the chancel to greet the members of our congregation after worship, many if not most of whom tell us that they liked or enjoyed or appreciated our sermon. The rest smile and say, "Good morning."

We all know the responses are mostly superficial, that "nice sermon" is the ecclesiastical equivalent of "have a nice day," pleasant to hear but not reflective of any reality. Most of us are aware that it can be cloying, perhaps addictive to stand there waiting--needing, asking--to be affirmed. And we all know that one genuine negative comment can take your breath away and spoil the rest of the day.

A somewhat similar experience--one I did not anticipate when I joined the CHRISTIAN CENTURY--is encountering the stack of letters on my desk each week addressed "To the Editor." I read every one of them. The criteria we use in deciding which will be published include: does the letter respond to a recent article in a lucid and compelling way, and does it carry further the conversation or argument regarding the original topic? …

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