People who slip into pews this Lent can expect better preaching
in many churches. Christian preaching is being taken more seriously
"There's a big resurgence in preaching, after almost the death
of the pulpit in the 1970s and '80s," said the Rev. Dr. Bryan
Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary in Creve Coeur.
Then, many Protestant seminarians were not required to study
preaching to large groups. Instead, the emphasis was on helping
ministers relate to individuals.
Today, few seminarians graduate without at least one
undergraduate course in preaching, he said. Chapell's book,
"Christ-centered Preaching" - Preaching Magazine's book of the year
- is just one of several books on the subject selling well. Two
national magazines, scores of seminars and post-graduate courses
A preaching seminar at the Seventh-day Adventist national
leadership meeting here in January drew four times as many
ministers as other seminars.
St. Louis is becoming a national center for preaching
education. Eighteen ministers - Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans
and Presbyterians - are studying for doctorates of ministry in
preachingn at Aquinas Institute, the Dominican graduate school in
Grand Center. i Princeton University is the only other American
institution enrolling doctoral students in preaching. This summer
75 preachers from across the country will attend Aquinas' two-week
preaching institute, a program that takes three summers to finish.
To encourage good preaching, Aquinas recently asked Catholics
here to nominate candidates for its first annual Great Preachers'
Award. Five hundred people responded, nominating 47 men and three
women. The Rev. James Cormack, pastor of St. Vincent DePaul Church
in LaSalle Park, won after a 10-person panel watched videotapes of
six finalists' sermons. He will get the award April 28 at a dinner
at the Hyatt-Regency Hotel.
Setting Hearts Aflame
Preaching styles vary. One of the award nominees choreographed
every move. Another strolled the main aisle, leaning into pews to
go eye-to-eye with listeners. Others were effective with scant
movement beyond eye contact.
All great Christian sermons have three essential elements, says
Sister Joan Delaplane. She is past president of the American
Academy of Homiletics and runs Aquinas' preaching programs. She
says preachers "set hearts aflame" by:
- Deepening faith.
- Strengthening love for Scripture.
- Moving people to action.
Scripture is the starting point for most sermons. Mainline
Protestants and Catholics base sermons on specific lines of
Scripture assigned for that day in their denomination's book of
scriptural readings, called lectionaries. Some evangelical
denominations choose a book of the Bible, unrelated to the
liturgical season, then explore it for consecutive Sundays.
"The first lesson I teach . . . is to make just one point,"
said the Rev. Daniel Harris, who teaches preaching at
Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury. h
When preaching at St. Wenceslaus Church near Benton Park,
Harris often tries to reinforce what it means for residents to be
stabilizing influences in a difficult neighborhood. …