PEP II Preaching Conference

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.

Parade of Creches video

For Christmas season, we collected photos of our parishioners’ Christmas creches and sent one or two out each day in emails. I put them together in a video so they would all be in one place. I recorded the soundtrack in my office.

Parade of Creches

Advent Calendar Day 26

Do you think Joseph held the baby? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a painting showing Joseph with the baby Jesus. He’s usually standing in the background looking lost. So I thought I’d draw him looking at the baby, wondering about this newborn child and how he was going to change his life.

Advent Calendar Day 25

Sometimes we idealize the manger scene with an angelic Mary, a stoic Joseph, and warm, approving shepherds and wise men. But I wonder how Joseph and Mary felt after the shepherds and wise men had gone. Maybe they were completely worn out, like they’re portrayed in a painting by artist Gari Melchers that I sketched in charcoal.

Advent Calendar Day 24

On Christmas Eve, we hear the beautiful story of Christmas, which begins with the journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph. The popular image of this journey shows Joseph leading a donkey carrying Mary on its back.

But I like this image of Mary and Joseph by Fritz von Uhde, painted in 1890. It shows the young couple in Dutch clothing of von Uhde’s era, leaning on each other in their distress. They look poor, slightly ragged, and the weather looks foreboding. Mary holds on to Joseph who holds her protectively. You can see a carpenter’s saw on Joseph’s back.

I wonder, how do you visualize the journey to Bethlehem?

Advent Calendar Day 21

The Virgin Mary is a model for all Christians because of her willingness to open herself to the Holy Spirit. “Let it be,” she said. Because of her humility and obedience, she said “yes” to God’s call, and her soul was exalted, as we hear in the beautiful words of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary.

Advent Calendar Day 20

This Sunday we hear the wonderful story of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was going to have a baby who would be holy. Mary has been a subject of fascination and wonder for centuries. This is a copy of a portion of a painting of Mary by John Williams Waterhouse, 1914.

Advent Calendar Day 19

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear a holy child, what did Mary look like? Countless artists have attempted to portray this mystery. This sketch is a copy of part of a famous painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898.

The Blessed Virgin Mary inspires us as she ponders the ways of God and responds, “Let it be to me according to your word.”