Preaching Justice Fellowship
Compelling preaching thrives when the sermon takes place in the middle of an ongoing conversation in diverse and networked communities of faith committed to the work of justice. And yet, many preachers report that sermon writing often devolves into a solitary exercise that isolates the preacher amid the exigencies of ministry. At the heart of our program, we affirm the sermon as a critical act of proclamation, borne out of the individual preacher’s call, gifting, and labor. At the same time, far from a singular moment of one-way communication, our program design recognizes the potential of myriad dialogical processes before, during, and after the preached word. Put simply, compelling preaching is proclamation and conversation. When multiple perspectives converge in sermon crafting, and as the preacher participates in an ongoing discussion about matters treated in the sermon, preaching becomes multiple acts of listening and speaking, envisioning and building a new world. Effective sermons are the fruit of profoundly careful listening, and compelling preaching is the culmination of preachers paying scrupulous attention to the world of their hearers.
The Preaching Justice Fellowship, a year-long cohort experience, embeds preachers in a community of laypersons already deep into the work of spiritual deconstruction and reconstruction in the Faith and Justice Network. The network is an online learning community whose members have exhibited profound commitment to reading texts and participating in conversations that reflect rigorous scholarship, cross disciplinary boundaries, and honor intersectional lines of human difference. While the Faith and Justice Network is a community in which individuals engage for self-study, a smaller subset of persons participate in the Faith and Justice Fellowship, a year-long cohort experience that works through the core curriculum. The curriculum has a consistent thematic flow year to year (spiritual theology in the fall and public theology in the spring), with new content every year.
Participants in the Preaching Justice Fellowship will also work through the content of the Faith and Justice Network, but they will do so through a particular set of lenses that traces the path of faith orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. We introduce five key shifts that point beyond the deconstruction journey to foster dialogue that can lead to more compelling preaching:
- From Triumphalism to Lament
- From Morality to Dignity
- From Certainty to Mystery
- From Superiority to Mutuality
- From Rhetoric to Embodiment
While ~30 individual preachers participate in the Preaching Justice Fellowship for just one year, they will also be invited to be part of the Faith and Justice Network, which has a lower cost and lesser workload, for as many years as they are able to participate. They will also invite up to six members of their community to provide another context for ongoing learning and conversation. This design means that in the course of five years, 150 preachers will participate in the focused work of the Preaching Justice Fellowship and up to 900 members from their congregations will make up our larger community of learning.