Magazine article The Catholic World

Interactive Preaching: Homilies by and for Generation X

Magazine article The Catholic World

Interactive Preaching: Homilies by and for Generation X

Article excerpt

I have never had much fondness for "X." In my earliest preschool memory, the task of learning the alphabet reached maximum difficulty with the letter "X." It was always represented by xylophone, or worse yet, X-ray. Xylophone was notoriously deceptive (it sounded like "Z," for goodness sakes--tough when one is learning phonics); X-ray conjured up visits to my Uncle Bob, chief radiologist at the local hospital. We were not close to "that side of the family," and saw Uncle Bob only on the distressingly painful occasions of broken arms or ankles.

Then there was ninth grade algebra during which discovering the elusive value of "X" came to represent the epitome of problem solving. From that day to this, in my still agile, but rapidly aging brain, "X" is a stand-in for the unknown.

Little wonder, then, that I never questioned the "Generation X" label affixed to the eighteen to thirty year old population. Those of us who try to be honestly self-reflective have to admit that deep within we distinguish only two types of people--us and them. I am forty-eight, one of the earliest "Boomers," and exploring now the challenging terrain of mid-life. Nevertheless, my husband and I married late and our children are still in elementary school. At family reunions, we gather on either side of Generation X. The seasons of our lives are complementary, like summer and winter in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. We are the same and yet unfamiliar.

As Generation X, the eighteen to twentysomethings are strangers; as individuals, they are fascinatingly complex. Known by name, each niece and nephew adds a chapter to the family story. Questions are asked, challenges are issued, tales are embellished in the retelling. Their friends and spouses take a place at the table. The family grows. How can the transformation be described? "They 'R' Us."


What is the relationship of all these musings to the task at hand, namely, describing the ministry of "Preaching to Generation X"? I am going to suggest that unless and until we drop our generational labels, and several others as well, in the nearest collection basket, preaching will be largely ineffective. No one has ever preached to a generation.

Every listener is an individual who has been called by name to join the community of faith. All of us who come together for worship are first, believers, and then pray-ers, and only then ministers of Word and Sacrament to one another. What distinguishes worship from other settings is precisely that within it we are WE--no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, nor (apologies to Galatians 3:28) "Boomer" or "X." Together, we listen to God's Word. When the community in which I have come to my belief and in which I gather with others for prayer invites me to break open God's Word, I remain within that community.

Insofar as "Preaching to Generation X" is a corollary to the "over-against," we/they, active/passive, agent/recipient model of ministry in the church, we would be well advised to describe a dynamically different reality. I am going to call this :Interactive Preaching." Also known as "homiletic," this style of preaching has deep roots in the liturgical theology of the Second Vatican Council.

The purpose of homiletic preaching is to enable worshippers to encounter God within the Liturgy of the Word in much the same way as we encounter God within the eucharistic action of giving thanks and praise, receiving communion, and being sent forth in mission. While older members of the community may have been nourished by other forms of preaching, I would like to suggest that homiletic is best suited to engage the hearts and minds of contemporary believers, perhaps especially those baptized within the last thirty years, i.e., Generation X.


What distinguishes homiletic from other forms of preaching? How is it more interactive? …

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