|Tom Long speaking in London 31 May 2011|
Preaching needs to get smaller! That's part of the advice from a masterclass given yesterday by the inspirational preacher, and professor of homiletics, Tom Long. He was in London to speak at a gathering organised by the College of Preachers.
By 'smaller' he means sermons should be less of a separated special speech event and more of a kind of speaking recognisable as similar to others. Once the sermon was often marked out as the climax of a Christian gathering, perhaps with lights dimmed except for the spot on the preacher! Current circumstances need a very different approach in which the sermon isn't so much a specialist kind of communicating as a way of talking that empowers others to talk. In a world where theological categories and ways of thinking come hard, sermons should help us all regain our confidence in talking the faith.
In that sense, preaching needs to be 'smaller.' A sermon needs to be counted as simply one speech act amongst a thousand, but one that encourages and aids all those others. Or as Long puts it, 'I preach like I want them to speak.' The congregation are co-workers in producing faith-talk. Preaching should be done so as to empower speech activity 'out there' beyond the confines of worship.That means preaching has to be talk that spurs talk. I think that suggest a more conversational tone and style, easy to follow structure (even if the subject matter is hard), and listen-abilty. Long's sermon that the day was a powerful exemplar of such talk. [If you're not familiar with his work you can see an example of his preaching at http://www.nationalcathedral.org/exec/cathedral/mediaPlayer?MediaID=MED-44L04-0E0D1B&EventID=CAL-44L04-0E0C1B]
Collective memory mechanism:Talking the memory keeps the memory alive. This is a capacity that needs to be practiced constantly. If it isn't, both the memory, and the vocabulary it needs to be talked about, simply dies.