A Saturday Night Church Service

Over the long weekend I attended church on Saturday night with my aunt and uncle on our way to a basketball game.  I had not attended a church service in a very long time, and this was not my aunt and uncles primary church so this was also a fresh experience for them.  We attended St. Patrick’s Parish in Whitewater, WI.  I have not practiced my faith in a very long time, my parents raised me catholic, I was baptized and went through my first communion but did not continue on from there and my parents have left my religion choice up to myself.  So Saturdays experience was very new to me and I was oblivious to the content being given during the mass.  But, I listened closely and tried to critique the priest’s public speaking skills.

The mass lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes and the priest’s reading was based on a story of a father and son (I added the link to the reading since they regularly post them on their website).  The priest was passionate about the reading, you could tell, because he raised the volume of his voice while reading and spoke confidently about the topic.  He was a very good story-teller and used very expressive words when talking.  I was able to picture parts of the reading he was talking about even though I had no clue what the story was about.

I also enjoyed the way the priest connected with his audience by bringing up the Packers.  This was before they unfortunately lost, so the comments were up beat and you could tell that he was a Packer fan at heart.   He used many facial expressions and kept an uplifting smile on his face throughout most of mass so he made me feel happy to be attending his service, even though I was obviously a new face to the church.

Overall, my experience at this church was a positive one.  Did I know what the service was about? No.  But did I enjoy listening to this man speak? Yes.  And I think that is one of the main reasons people attend church services, to listen to a passionate person speak about what they love and want to educate other people about.  I know that this is not the situation at every church service, not every priest is as passionate about their service so I was very glad I lucked out with listening to such a good priest.

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Inspiration at Its Best

On Monday, January 16th, 2012, I attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Celebration presented by Justiceworks in Stevens Point, WI. At first, I did not know what to expect. I guess I expected the usual presentation of a person who made a difference trying to inspire us to be better people. But what I saw was so much more than that.

The Monteverdi Master Chorale started the program by singing the National Anthem. Then with everyone still standing they performed a song called “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is the Negro National Anthem. After this very moving song they presented Patti Cahill with the John Klismet Justiceworks Award. Patti has been an active member in PRISM, a jail ministry organization, and Justiceworks, a non-profit community justice organization, in Stevens Point since 2004. Because of her efforts Stevens Point is one of only two places in Wisconsin that provide drug and alcohol free residential living for both men and women. To my surprise I  discovered that my neighbor Arlene Mucha received this award in 2007. This made me realize that more people are making a difference than I know.

The main event of the evening was a performance by Professor Patrick Simms. Patrick is the Director of the Theatre for Cultural and Social Awareness and Associate Professor of Acting in the Department of Theatre and Drama at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When Patrick arrived onstage he was emanating confidence. He began talking about a man named James Cameron who was a civil rights leader. James Cameron, as a young man, was the only person in American history to survive lynching. I have never heard of James Cameron before this and he survived a hanging. This baffled me but when Mr. Simms said he was twenty-two before he heard of James this made me feel better about my arrogance.

And so the show began. Patrick Sims was to perform for us and excerpt from his drama 10 Perfect: A Lynching Survivor’s Story. Patrick put on the most interesting one-man performance I have ever seen. He spoke so clearly. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been and how much he practiced. He played many characters and all with a different voice; even a female character which was quite comical. There were so many emotions that he displayed making you feel these emotions as well. This made me feel very in sync with the story. Without gestures and his movements nothing would have been as affective as it was. He made it a very successful performance while conveying a very important message.  There was a big audience and I know I would have been scared to death. If he was nervous, he did not display it at all.

Communication skills are applied to everyday life. I never realized this before. All of the skills I have learned from my Comm 101 class, Prof. Patrick Simms displayed amazingly. I saw a unexpectingly profound performance from Patrick that I would see again and again.

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Missing God’s Call

I attended church mass Sunday morning, January 15th. I went to a catholic church named Our Lady of Lourdes. I went with my friend Kristina and her mom, Ellen. The church is quite large and nicely decorated. We sat in a pew and waited for the pastor to talk.

His name is Pastor Tim Schillcox, and he is a decent speaker. When he was giving mass he seemed to drag it out longer than other pastors do. I can tell that he likes to share God’s word and that he enjoys telling stories. He told a story about his great great grandfather which grabbed my attention because I wanted to know how it related to us today.

Another point of his mass was that we could tune him out whenever we wanted and think that we are missing God’s call, but if we fell asleep during church we would still hear God’s call to us in our dreams. As he talked about this, I could tell he was really excited. When he was excited and talked, and stands on his tip toes which is sort of funny. It was a little distracting as a listener but I still understood his point.

Overall it was a good church mass and he had great voice inflections and it wasn’t monotone at all which helped keep me interested. He did use hand gestures but not too many or too big to be distracting. He has had may years of experience of talking in front of many people and it shows that he is quite comfortable.

I can think of his enthusiasm in anything he says and apply it to my speech presentations. No matter what you’re talking about you should always put emotion into it to keep your audience interested. If the speaker is interested in it, then the audience will be more likely to listen. Also the biggest thing I need improvement on being comfortable while talking which he is great at. I took a lot away from his mass because I know what to look for now in a speaker and he did a really good job at speaking.

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Math Class

The other day, I chose to go sit in a classroom to critique a teacher on his public speaking skills.  I decided to sit in a middle school classroom because students are a little more active and involved, I like to call it “squirrely”, than a high school or college class.  I chose a math classroom partly because that was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and partly because I wanted a class that would have some interaction and a class I could stay awake in….unlike history or english.  The class was surprised to see me, but as soon as the teacher started talking, they became pretty engrossed in what he was saying.  It helped that he started the class with a joke.  He had a nice way of  keeping things personal and talking to the students as though they were equals and not just his students.  This made me like him instantly.  Mutual respect.  Throughout the class, the teacher got the students involved by having them ask questions, answer questions, and by having them solve problems on the board.  The teacher had a good tone of voice and seemed quite interested in what he was teaching which made the students a little more enthusiastic at learning the material.  He also was very intelligent when it came to the topics he was talking about and was even able to answer one of the students quizzical questions.  Overall, I was very impressed by the teacher at how he kept the students attention by interaction and being an overall fun teacher throughout a boring math class.

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A Critical Look at a Priest’s Sermon

On Sunday, January 15, 2012 I attended St. Paul’s Parish in Combined Locks, Wisconsin.  This was my third time attending this Catholic church in the past year.  Coming from a Lutheran background, there are many similarities between the two churches, but enough for me to distinguish the differences and feel a little out of place.  As I sat down I looked around and noticed that the age gap between the audience was newborn to 90.  The priest had to accommodate his speech so that all listeners would be able to relate.  In order to do this he invited the children of the audience to the front of the congregation to give them a more simple version of the lesson he would give to the rest of the congregation a little later on.  It was a great way to get the younger kids’ attention.

When he gave the sermon he discussed what our place in the world was, whether we were to stay single and independent, get married, become nuns or priests, whatever the reason may be, he encouraged his audience to find God and figure out why we are here on earth.  During the sermon he varies his voice well, but does not make very good eye contact.  He relied heavily on his speech that he had written out and he didn’t use any hand gestures.  I am used to my pastor talking and sounding very excited about his sermon, rarely looking at his notes, and moving around in front of the alter in a swift way.  This priest never moved from behind his podium, which made him see nervous and inexperienced in delivering an attention grabbing sermon.  One thing that he did a wonderful job on was including pauses which gave the congregation time to reflect on what he was saying.

Overall, my experience at this church was great.  It was interesting comparing prayers and communion rituals to that of my own religion.  I learned many different hand gestures and movements that the congregation gives simultaneously as a response to the priest.

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On Sunday morning I attended mass in Neillsville, Wi where I am from. I have not been to mass for a while and got to see the new priest give a mass for the first time. His name was Rev. Varkey V Joseph 

The priest is not from America he was very hard to understand. You really had to listen and kind of piece things together too make them make sense. His sermon was talking about how God and Jesus should be thought of as two different people not one. That is why they call him the son of god. During this sermon he did a very good job of telling a story from the bible. Then he related it to everyday life story that you could put into a more real image. Also, he added a joke in there to make everybody laugh a little bit. He was very good at using gestures and pauses.

One bad thing I noticed was he did not really change his tone to much. He stayed the same voice for just about the whole sermon, which makes it easier to not pay attention to him. Which as a Priest that is not what he wants to do. Overall I thought he did very well at presenting throughout the whole mass.

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Working Towards A Common Goal

I chose to attend a mass while in Green Bay, WI in order have an opportunity to critique the presentation skills of a community member with lots of experience in public speaking. On this particular day the priest’s sermon was about the importance of retraining from sin, no matter how much pleasure we think the act will bring us. Before the mass officially started, there was a baptism; welcoming new member into the Christian community. The Father effectively incorporated this event into his speech, saying that as a community of Christian brothers and sisters, it was our duty to go forth and help each other avoid sin as well.
The priest did a phenomenal job of using a large vocal variety, rate and pauses in order to communicate the importance of today’s mass to the congregation. I found that, without even being aware of it, I was swept up in his speech about restraining from sin and helping my neighbors to do likewise.
I did find that he used too many large gestures with his arms. But, this could have been simply because in this setting, he felt it was appropriate to do so. Considering that a large portion of a mass is based on retelling a “story” from the Bible, it would make sense that storytelling allows for different kinetics than general public speaking.
Now that I have a better understanding of all of the work that goes into the preparation of a speech, I was surprised to see that the priest could stand before such a large audience and give his speech without using any note cards or visual aids to help him. I never really thought about this before. The priest must have practiced what he intended to say so well as to commit it all to memory.
It was interesting to see when members of the congregation went up to the podium to read from the different passages from the books, there was a noticeable difference between their public speaking abilities and the Father’s. Obviously, the priest has more practice speaking in public, but it really demonstrated how practice and using the different techniques we learned in class (as I am sure the priest must have taken public speaking classes as well) can really make a difference.
*I did not take any photos inside the church while mass was in session because I felt that it would be impolite to take a picture of the baptism of the baby and did not want to disrupt the people around me.

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