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Making preaching more democratic is hot topic at festival

Making preaching more democratic is hot topic at festival

Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times writes about last month’s Festival of Homiletics, where some of the most-respected preachers from the mainline churches gather to discuss and demonstrate their art and craft.

One hot topic was making preaching “more democratic.”

“You have seen this metaphor for 20 years, in homiletics, that the sermon is a ‘conversation,’ not just a clergy monologue,” Dr. [Lauren] Winner [an Episcopal priest and professor at Duke Divinity School] said. “But what does this mean? Does it mean have a Wednesday afternoon Bible study, so that your Sunday sermon can engage the congregation’s concerns about the passage? Or it might mean emailing out a passage beforehand, and saying, ‘What do you want to know about it?’ ”

Some preachers — though not her, Dr. Winner made clear — take interactivity further.

“There are preachers who stand there with their iPhone on the pulpit, and their audience texts and tweets questions and comments, and they riff on them,” Dr. Winner said.

What would it mean to make preaching “more democratic.” How would that be done? Is it a good idea?


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Paul Woodrum

At one of my cures, we developed our own curriculum for children through adults built around the lessons for the following Sunday. This way everybody not only had a hand in the sermon but was prepped to hear it.

Andrew Poland

I have some issue with this. I’ll try to outline it in a numbered format.

1. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. Most parishioners haven’t been to seminary or studied theology. I disagree with the trend of deconstructing the Church in the sense that if we remove the idea of a priest being a person of authority, then how can we expect people to go to church? How can we trust the sacraments performed if the institution they are part of lacks confidence?

2. The whole idea of: “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” seems applicable when it comes to technological integration in the liturgy. Are we so entitled that we can’t leave our phones and electronics at home or in the car?

3. This is comprehensively counterintuitive. From undermining the authority of clergy, to distracting parishioners, it is at its most debilitating in that it removes what prayer and worship have been about for 5,000 years. Namely, that we are not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. We as a species are critically flawed and we go before God Almighty to plead our case and beg for pardon and help. I have always felt like what we do when we go to church is an intensely important and solemn thing. Childish toys and games of “20 Questions” with the priest during the sermon are not appropriate. That’s a totally different attitude towards the proceedings.

4. That’s not to say that asking your priest questions, or the priest asking their parishioners questions that may or may not be used later in a sermon is inappropriate. A sermon is in part meant to take the scripture in one hand, and the human condition in the other, and reconcile the two. I simply feel that adding electronics or declaring the pulpit a democracy is taking it too far.

5. I did like the idea about the Wed. night bible study helping shape topics on Sunday. I feel that’s being in touch in a good way. I guess I’m just a fan of face to face interaction.

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