Last week, January 11-15, I attended an online preaching conference put on by The Episcopal Preaching Foundation. I signed up for this course in 2019, anticipating that I would fly to a conference center in Maryland for a week in June 2020. That was postponed, of course, and the conference was held on Zoom last week.
What did I learn from this conference?
Probably the most surprising thing I learned was that I was the only white male my age among the attendees. The clergy who attended were almost all female, people of color, or gay. It makes me feel like I’m a little out of synch with the evolving Episcopal Church. Maybe it’s time for me to get out of the way and let the new generation of clergy take over.
There were two presenters who were excellent, both of them professors of preaching at major seminaries. Wes Allen talked about how difficult it is to preach when there are overlapping crises in our country, and he gave some practical pointers. Judy Fentress-Williams spoke about the using lament as found in the Psalms and using the experience of Exile in the Bible as a way to speak about our current situation in America.
I was in a preaching group with three other attendees and a mentor. We had four preaching group sessions, so each of us was able to give a sermon on the Zoom session and receive feedback. Not only did I receive useful feedback, but listening to the other preachers helped me expand my awareness of different ways to preach.
I’ve done a lot of reading about preaching over the past few years, and I didn’t learn a lot of new things at the conference, but the variety of preachers and the chance to talk about preaching with other preachers made this a worthwhile conference.