orande laborande

I learned to preach at Rugby School. My first ever sermonette was at my interview. After that I cut my teeth on morning chapel with 780 restless teenagers and 50 or so equally restless staff. Add to that the parents and important visitors on Sundays, the riot of stained glass and coloured brick (Butterfield in brogues), and you will get the idea.

My time at Rugby was short-lived, and I was not at home there. But more than I realised it left its mark. And that mark is most evident when you give me a packed church to play with.

The first time it happened was at a funeral in Pollokshields. The woman who died was young and the church was full. People were deeply upset, and the atmosphere was a bit wild. When I opened my mouth to speak, out came ‘Rugby school voice’. I didn’t even know I had such a thing, but there it was: measured and precise and ever so slightly exaggerated. It’s not the same as ‘school teacher voice’, with which my congregations are altogether more familiar. No, this is preaching voice. Trust me preaching voice. Listen to me preaching voice. Don’t mess with me preaching voice.

And it comes in handy.

Tonight in Rothesay, we had 85 for evensong.

Just in case you missed that, let me say it again.

Tonight in Rothesay, we had 85 for evensong.
Isn’t ecumenism wonderful?
And I was preaching on Anglican ways.
On Evensong, in fact. Or more generally on daily prayer.

And as I preached, I realised that my Rugby roots were showing. ‘Where did that vowel come from?’ I wondered. ‘Just how loud was that closing ‘t’?’ And all the while I was preaching, there was another voice inside my head, noticing that I’d changed modes, that I was doing things differently, that I was playing to the crowd. And it was as natural as breathing.

I still find it curious that such things are possible.

Some of you will remember the days when I could not read a lesson without clutching at eagle’s wings and concentrating fully to keep the shaking in my hands, and not let it drop down to my knees.

So how did it happen, this internalization of Rugby Voice? At what point did it become so much a part of me that it comes unbidden if given half a chance? I am glad that Rugby Voice did not become a permanent feature of my preaching life. But it’s a useful tool in the box, and handy to have a chance to polish it now and again.

4 thoughts on “orande laborande”

  1. I missed it – went to start the car, flat battery – relic of the dark the day before when I switched on but not off my head lights.

    I began in a tiny Methodist chapel – smaller than St Paul’s. I could not be heard at the back, though I had been used to fill a medium sized theatre, and do competitive public speaking in my teens.

  2. Kimberly,

    You have always used the ‘Rugby Preaching Voice’ when speaking to myself.

    I do wonder why but suspect that the RPV was ‘honed’ on myself and others many years before Rugby.

  3. Hmm. That would be the ‘listen to me’, ‘don’t mess with me’ bit wouldn’t it? I dare say, Father Zebadee, that you were a more challenging audience than all those teenagers. And your sermons meant simultaneously trying to be heard (by you) over the hiss of the coffee machine, while trying not to be heard by anyone else.

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