John Griffiths, LWPT Trustee, writes about his experience of the Festival of Preaching which took place at Christ Church, Oxford in September 2017...
This is the first such event organised by the Church Times. The organisers threw everything they could muster to make the event a success. And what a feast it was. Based around Christchurch college in Oxford with the dean of the college as host, services took place in the cathedral church, the main sessions were set in St Aldates over the road, delegates stayed at the college, ate in the Great Hall to which Hogwarts bears more than a passing resemblance! And they sourced the best preachers they could find, a cast list they will find it hard to top for subsequent events. There were plenty of talks about preaching. But plenty of sermons as well. One session even had a triptych of sermons by Nadia Bolz Weber, Padraig O Tuama and Doug Gay following Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene.
The talks covered the whole waterfront of sermons from preparation, tackling awkward texts, delivery, story and the use of language. With so many virtuoso expositors and dare I say it performers it is difficult to pick out favourites - the whole event was outstanding. But the highlight was the passion of all the speakers for scripture and expounding it. One particular surprise was Martin Piercy giving a socio-political reading of the gospel miracles. Describing how Jesus made the ruler of the synagogue wait while he prioritised the woman with the issue of blood who Jairus had excluded from the synagogue, Dr Piercy asked what Jesus would say to those who told others in the church that they would have to wait? Another delegate commented, I was brought up on a council estate, the only girl from there to go to grammar school. I’ve been in the church my whole life and this is the first time I ever heard a preacher mention menstruation and what Jesus has to say about it.
If you are a preacher you’ll hope they find a way to raise the bar even higher next year. And you’ll make sure to book your place early. This festival is one not to be missed.
SAVE THE DATE: The Festival of Preaching will be back 8-10 September 2019. More info here.