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Preachers agree that the Church is being humbled

02 October 2020

The Church Times Festival of Preaching takes place virtually

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Anna Carter Florence preaches, via video link, at the Church Times Festival of Preaching, on Tuesday

Anna Carter Florence preaches, via video link, at the Church Times Festival of Preaching, on Tuesday

PREACHING that is characterised by humility and vulnerability was a recurring theme of the Church Times Festival of Preaching, which took place virtually on Tuesday.

Nearly 1000 people signed up for the one-day festival, which consisted of a mix of short sermons, how-to sessions, music, and poetry.

In previous years, the Festival has been hosted by Christ Church, Oxford (Features, 20 September 2019), but like many other events this year, it took place online (News, 7 August), attracting people from outside the UK.

youtube/churchtimesAugustine Tanner-Ihm speaks, via video link, at the the Church Times Festival of Preaching, on Tuesday of last week

The Publishing Director of Hymns Ancient & Modern, the Revd Christine Smith, who organised the Festival, said: “Speakers don’t consult with each other about what they’re going to say, but there was remarkable assonance between them, with themes of becoming a simpler, more humble Church, more ready to be in ‘reception rather than broadcasting mode’, as Martyn Percy put it.

“At a time when prayer seemed ‘never more useless and never more necessary’, Sam Wells showed how the 70 words of the Lord’s Prayer embraced our past, present, and future, and were more than we would ever need.”

She continued: “Noting how the virus had exposed our fractures, Anna Carter Florence, Rachel Mann, and Joanna Collicutt reflected variously on preachers’ vulnerability and sense of spentness. Mark Oakley spoke about getting beyond the things ‘we were good at, that came easily, and becoming listeners, navigators and explorers’ once again.

“Through the story of Ruth, Pádraig Ó Tuama reminded us of the world that existed before the pandemic and to which we would return: a world with hard borders and fear of outsiders, yet a world that can be subverted by powerlessness.”

youtube/churchtimesThe Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy speaks, via video link, at the Church Times Festival of Preaching, on Tuesday of last week

Festival-goers also heard from Augustine Tanner-Ihm, the winner of the 2020 Theology Slam competition (News, 26 June). He recalled the sermon given by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (News, 25 May 2018). Mr Tanner-Ihm noted the sermon’s accessible focus on the theme of love, and encouraged preachers to be similarly passionate, engaging, and sensitive to culture.

Malcolm Guite closed the day with a reading of his poem “Psalm 150”. Mrs Smith said he “lifted us to a place of pure gratitude and joy . . . but he reminded it was a joy we could only fully know if we knew the depths of experience recorded in other psalms”.

For anyone who missed the live event on Tuesday, tickets can be purchased here to watch recordings of all the talks: £10 for subscribers to the Church Times, £25 for non-subscribers.

Church House Bookshop is offering ten per cent off books by this year’s speakers and other relevant titles (offer ends on 4 October).

The Church Times, in association with the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM), will be holding a webinar on Monday 19 October on how hymns and liturgy have been effected by the pandemic. 

Tickets are £10, or £5 for Church Times subscribers and RSCM members. For more information and to book tickets, go here


Listen to Martyn Percy’s talk on this week’s edition of the Church Times Podcast

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