Since January 2017, four members of the Martin Luther Church congregation are being trained as lay preachers:
Katja Brittain, Friedrich Brunzema, Tanya Zielke and Iris Schweiger.
Iris kindly consented to be the first interviewee for this news feature:
1) How long have you been coming to the MLC?
Iris: Since 2001
2) What do you like best about the MLC?
Iris: The people, the sense of community, and learning new things
3) What prompted you to become a lay preacher and how long did it take to make up your mind?
Iris: As a member of the board, I had to hold a few services in the past as a sub for regular pastors. I always felt very uncomfortable. It is something completely different whether one is leading a church service from the pastor’s point of view than participating as a member of the congregation. As soon as the invitation for the training program came from the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), I signed up.
4) What was the biggest challenge (what was most difficult to cope with) during the training seminar?
Iris: The time factor. There is a lot of material to read and to make your own. Moreover, everything always seems so simple when the pastor holds the service – but, the actual amount of time it takes to prepare – is not apparent.
5) Ten years ago, could you have imagined yourself today standing in front of a congregation as a lay preacher?
Iris: No, absolutely not.
6) What was the hardest part of your first sermon?
Iris: To limit myself to a single subject. There’s so much to be gleaned from every Bible passage. I could have held a two-hour lecture on Peter’s letters alone.
7) What abilities do you value most in your three colleagues.
Iris: Each of them brings with them a different life experience, which enriches me very much. We learn (from), laugh (with), support and strengthen each other.
8) What is your favourite Bible verse and why?
Iris: Currently, I am enjoying the entire 139th Psalm. No matter where I am, God is always there. And at the end the plea:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (NRSV)
9) What is your greatest wish for the MLC community in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation?
Iris: To open hearts and doors so that the changes that Toronto 2017 brings will not become an insurmountable hurdle, but challenge us to recognize: Why did God put us in this place? God, what are we to do?
10) To what extent does the MLK congregation support your efforts?
Iris: 1st, Pastor Ceconi is our mentor. We work together once or twice a month for three hours each. This is extremely helpful.
2nd, the congregation gives us the breathing space to learn. We participate in worship with prayers, scripture readings and now also with sermons. Concrete feedback is very important to us. Our goal is to enrich the congregation.
As Martin Luther once said (1523) :
…a Christian assembly or congregation has the right and power to judge all teaching and to call, appoint, and dismiss teachers, established and proven by Scripture…
To read about Friedrich Brunzema, in part two of the series (MLC interview: (2) Lay Preacher Friedrich Brunzema) click here.
To read about Katja Brittain, in part three of the series (MLC interview: (3) Lay Preacher Katja Brittain) click here.