The Art and Craft of Preaching

The Art and Craft of Preaching workshop took place at the Synod Offices, 1410 Nanton Avenue, September 28, 29 and 30. This workshop was offered by the diocese of New Westminster, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation and the Vancouver School of Theology.  It was led by Bishop Skelton, the Reverend Nathan Kirkpatrick, and Ms. Christine Parton-Burkett. Eric Hinds a representative of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation (EPF) was also at the conference to be a presence and to share information about the EPF. EPF's communications material contain this quote from Scripture: "How sweet are your words to y tast, sweeter than honey to my mouth" - Psalm 119:103

The workshop was open to all and featured a nominal registration fee of $95 in order to attract folks from outside the diocese who wanted to participate but might find a market value registration fee prohibitive when added on to travel costs. However, of the approximately 50 registered,  the large majority were clergy from the diocese of New Westminster but there were folks from around BC including a number of lay participants.

The unofficially official diocesan caterers, Bette Geddes and Associates were responsible for serving three meals (dinner, Thursday, lunch Friday and lunch Saturday) and as usual their savoury and sweet collations punctuated the learning and fellowship.

Working in plenary sessions and small groups, Rev. Kirkpatrick and Ms. Parton-Burkett brought preachers together as a company of artists to consider how they might become better proclaimers of the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus Christ. The attitude of the leaders was a positive one, all three assuming that everyone can grow in their preaching ability whether just at the beginning of their ministries and preaching lives or with decades of experience.

Part of the workshop learning process was collaborative. The concept embraced at the workshop was that there is immense wisdom in the company of preachers which allows for everyone present to learn from one another.

During and following the workshop, the comments from registrants regarding their experience were very positive. Those who participated gained valuable knowledge on practical concepts like body language, hand position, tone and timbre of voice, work and planning habits as well as how to develop sermon content that will best embrace the message of the Scriptures. One of the deacons in attendance mentioned that the diversity in the group was very helpful for those who aren't "regular preachers", meaning those that have not experienced the reponsibility of preparing a sermon to preach once a week as part of their ministry.

Worship played a role over the three days with the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer laying the foundation for the learning and development of skills that were to come.

The expertise of the leaders was apparent in all the sessions. Bishop Melissa Skelton has made preaching a major priority in her pastoral leadership her entire career. Nathan and Christine have taught preaching workshops throughout North America for churches of all denominations from sizes large to small for more than a decade.

In some of photographs that accompany this article we see an exercise in progress where the participants were asked to move through the “days of the week” (the space at the front of the Conference Room) signifying the day that they would like to have their Sunday sermons started and finished in contrast to what day they actually prepare and finish their sermons. There is quite a large group in the “Saturday” area.

Coordinating the conference on behalf of the diocese was the Reverend Jessica Schaap, and on behalf of VST, the Reverend Dr. Jayson Byassee.

IMAGES

  • Participants move across the front of the Conference Room toward the “day of the week” when they prepare their sermons
  • Visiting instructors, Christine Parton-Burkett and Nathan Kirkpatrick share a chuckle or two as the participants move across the room to “Saturday”
  • The plenary taking part in the Habits of Preparation exercise.
  • Christine presents to the plenary with visual aids
  • Small group discussions underway in the Conference Room. Photo - Bishop Melissa Skelton
  • Reverend Nathan Kirkpatrick and Eric Hinds of EPF. Photo - Bishop Melissa Skelton
  • A small group gathered in the north side meeting room of the Synod Offices participates in a visioning exercise using visuals. Photo - Bishop Melissa Skelton