In seminary, I was encouraged to preach without notes, and that method of preaching was held as a standard for effective preaching. In fact, my preaching professor (none other than Ellsworth Kalas, for you Methodist folk), required us to preach all our sermons without notes. So, I did it. But in my opinion, I sucked at it. I just couldn't get comfortable enough with my sermon to preach it with the confidence and authority needed.
When I entered parish ministry, I began preaching with a manuscript, but over time was able to preach with an outline, as long as my introduction and conclusion were either written out or had very detailed notes. Of course, once I left SJ and wasn't preaching every Sunday, I fell out of practice and the few times I did preach, I preached with a manuscript.
I've mentioned how highly I think of Mac's preaching. For a long long time, I thought he preached without any notes, except for the occasional quote or the like. And it seems that he is able to do that fairly frequently in our 11am service (the second one). However, the first Sunday I served as a liturgist at 8:15, I saw him bring some pages to the pulpit when it was time for him to preach. While I wouldn't say that he was READING them constantly, he would refer to them from time to time. Later on, he admitted that he preaches with a manuscript.
I mentioned in an earlier post how much I loved Samuel Wells' preaching at our Annual Conference. Well, HE used a manuscript, although his preaching style is vastly different from Mac's (whose preaching style I love, but it's hard to describe). So, there you go. Two preachers who I greatly admire, who both prepare and preach from manuscripts. I'm sure there are more.
Over the past few months, I have tried to begin preaching without notes or with just an outline, but I find it really difficult. I've discovered that I'm far more effective when I use a manuscript, especially if I have enough time to read through it and practice it multiple times before actually preaching. Part of it may be that I'm still gaining confidence in my preaching ability, but another part of me wonders if it's just a matter of preference.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've decided to allow myself the freedom to preach from a manuscript, without having an inferiority complex about it.