Despite being a mere unordained seminary student, I ended up with a Thursday-Sunday schedule this past weekend not unlike that of a number of the fully-ordained and pastorally employed. Not fully so, mind you. But closer than I expected.
Thursday: a service in chapel on campus, working with a team of four (including myself) but ending up with the "meditation," which task I complicated by attempting to deliver it from memory.
Friday: not a sermon or any speaking task, but singing Samuel Barber's "The Crucifixion" for a Good Friday service.
Saturday: no actual services but a drive up north to...
Sunday: preach two services at Culpeper Presbyterian Church.
A few observations and clarifications:
I was not required to "go from memory" on Thursday. But, having taken a class back in January in which this was one of the larger points of emphasis, the idea snuck into my head subconsciously, leading to many moments when I wished I had not taken that class. Nonetheless it happened. I make no claims for any effectiveness on the part of that "meditation" (or sermonette or devotion or mini-sermon or whatever you call it, something under five minutes). The service as a whole (incorporating both communion and washing, hands rather than feet) ended up being quite effective, so I will go with the notion that at worst I preached Hippocratically (I did no harm).
Friday was also something I did to myself. Though I give off airs of not being a sentimental type, I cannot deny that coming to the end of seminary feels like coming to the end of a lot of things other than seminary. Samuel Barber was never a composer I spent much time with in my research (other than late in my academic career, when I got obsessed with his choral cantata Prayers of Kierkegaard; partly influenced by that I'm taking a directed study on Kierkegaard in May to finish my studies here). Nonetheless I've enjoyed the vast majority of his music that I've heard. A course on Celtic Christianity back in January 2012 brought his Hermit Songs back to mind (since the texts he set for that derived from the same Celtic traditions we studied in that class), particularly "The Crucifixion," which I always regretted not getting to sing (and my voice professors were probably right to refrain from it, I will admit). Somewhere in the two years since that course my interest hardened into a determination to sing "The Crucifixion" publicly at some point, preferably for a Good Friday service. Fortunately the chief musician at the church I've attended this year was willing, and it happened. I'll even say it went pretty well, which I'm not usually willing to say about my singing. And I'll admit to no small amount of personal satisfaction at being able to put it together enough to sing without embarrassment. As much as I'd like to keep that kind of thing as a viable outlet for my musical impulses, I have my doubts. But at least that happened.
Saturday, nominally the day off, was marked by sleeping late, finishing the sermon for Sunday, and visiting a local botanical garden with friends for some much-needed relaxation. Then the drive north to Culpeper (yes, not a double "p"), which was nice except for getting caught behind campers and horse trailers on occasion, an overnight stay with a very gracious couple in the church, and two Easter Sunday services worth of preaching. (The pastor of that church was painfully unable to postpone back surgery, and the classmate they called who could preach Palm Sunday but not Easter Sunday was kind enough to think of me for the latter.) As always, I'd have liked one more day to work on the sermon (maybe two days in this case), but in the end it seemed to go out to good effect, as far as I could tell from reaction and feedback (limited, obviously). The church proved very gracious and generous hosts, and I now have both a supply preaching engagement and an Easter sermon under my belt.
Then I got home Sunday afternoon and an intended fifteen-minute sit-down turned into a two-hour nap.
Now it' s back to more routine seminary tasks this week; last bits of work for my internship, one more chapel in which to participate, a reception to attend, and a paper looming out there to be written, all with my wife away this week. It's not that big a deal, I'm aware; a "real pastor" has a lot more to do in such a week. Still I find it somewhat useful to know I have accomplished at least that brief imitation of a Holy Week once in my life, and won't be totally at sea when it comes time to lead one "for real" (hopefully in 2015, obviously).
And yes, I am also aware that I am the rare seminary student who got to preach on Easter Sunday. ;-)