Languages of Preaching

Micah Jackson (@Micah_SSW) is the Bishop John Hines Associate Professor of Preaching at Seminary of the Southwest.  Micah's interests include homiletic form, the spiritual discipline of preaching, and the postmodern relationship between the preacher and the congregation. 

The students call it “Preaching Camp.” The Episcopal Preaching Foundation calls it “The Preaching Excellence Program.” Either way, it represents one of the few opportunities for seminarians from all around the Church to gather together for a week each summer to extend and deepen their expertise in preaching. This year, five Southwest students and I are engaging the topic of "The Language of Preaching."

We've heard a lot of poetry this week. Mark Oakley, the Canon Chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral in London; Sam Lloyd, rector of Trinity, Copley Square in Boston (and this Spring's Harvey Lecturer); and Lauren Winner, priest and best-selling author, all shared their favorite poems, and the lessons that poems and the poetic lifestyle have to offer us as preachers.

But by far, my favorite moments of the week have been the preaching. Distinguished preachers from around the country (and in the case of Canon Oakley, England), graced our worship with their proclamation. But each attendee also had a chance to share his or her preaching with a group of peers and collect feedback under the direction of a working preacher.

Founded almost 30 years ago with the singular purpose of improving the level of preaching in the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation has far from completed it's work. After all, only about 20% of priests working today have been able to attend an EPF event like PEP. However, it is clear from the preaching I heard this week that interest in preaching, and the skill of Episcopal preachers, is on an upswing.

People come to church for all sorts of reasons--liturgy, music, and community among them. But preaching is one of the very best ways to communicate the sheer love of God in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for this company of preachers, experienced and up-and-coming alike.