Ministers no longer need wrack their brains for a Sunday sermon, thanks to a Baltimore reverend's computer bulletin board for clergy who are at a loss for what to preach.
Each week, up to 125 Christian clergy and laypeople in the United States and Canada use Sermonshop to share ideas about sermon topics, said the Rev. John Sharp, the service's founder and editor."Imagine you're a minister in some far-off rural area and you want to get to a theological library to research an idea," said Sharp, pastor of Govans Presbyterian Church in suburban Baltimore.
"It's just not a physically easy thing to do if you're in the boonies," he said. "Through Sermonshop, you can send out an SOS and get feedback from ministers of 15 denominations in two large countries."
Users of the service must subscribe to a Connecticut-based computer network called Networking World Information Industries, which operates Sermonshop with Bizlink software. They pay about $7 an hour to use the service and must sign on for a minimum of $9 each month, said Sharp.
The Revs. Curtis and Kathleen Ackley, a husband-and-wife pastoring team at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Corning, N.Y., said they have used Sermonshop nearly every week since it was established in 1984.
"It's a very helpful tool," Curtis Ackley said. "We get ideas from it, and we give ideas back. We also like it because all the people from the U.S. and Canada give the service a strong cultural range."