In Kindergarten I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: “A princess.” Since then my answer has changed a few times. In middle school I wanted to be an attorney after watching too much Drop Dead Diva. I spent most of my high school years and early college years always answering, “Teacher, preferably kindergarten.” It took me years to finally admit to myself and others that I wanted to serve in ministry. When I decided I wanted to serve in ministry I envisioned Eydie Jones and Hannah Stuart, both women who guided me as a child and youth. I knew I wanted to do what they did, though I never thought preaching would be part of my career path.
I preached my first sermon at The First Baptist Church of Jasper, Georgia, on December 30, 2018, the same church where my grandfather, Rev. Charles O. Walker, preached sermons for thirty-seven years. I guess you could say ministry is becoming a family tradition. FBC Jasper has always been my home church, but in October 2018 it also became my work when I accepted the call to be the Director of Children’s Ministries.
Preparing for my sermon was not what I had expected. My scripture was Luke 2:41-52 and I read dozens of different sermons based on that scripture. I highlighted and circled commentary, but I could not seem to put pen to paper. Along with the business of Christmas, I was beginning to feel worried about my sermon. My worry only escalated with two visits to Urgent Care in one week and a breathing treatment days before my sermon. But with antibiotics and inhaler nearby, I finally put together a collection of stories – stories that told how I was lost, how Mary lost Jesus, and how we all lose him. Stories that were created and taught at FBC Jasper.
While I never planned to preach a sermon, nor did I plan to be extremely ill the week of my first sermon, it was everything I had hoped it would be. Though not every slide worked in the contemporary service and sweet children ran for the pulpit in the traditional service, that morning was as close to perfect as we can get. The children at the church were involved in the service. My favorite songs were played and I was surrounded by my family of faith for my first sermon.
To anyone preparing for their first sermon, here is my advice: Breathe. Pray. Read the scripture over and over again. Find a coffee shop like Carrington Coffee and let God speak through you.
Anna Walker is Director of Children’s Ministries at First Baptist Church, Jasper, Georgia.