This week I have been attending the Festival of Homiletics, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This annual festival brings together 1500 Protestant clergy in North America from all parts of the nation, Canada, Australia, the UK and this year a delegation from Iceland. The majority come from Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, UCC, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Reformed and Disciples churches, but we have met some Mennonites, American Catholics and Salvation Army pastors also. It really is the largest preaching conference of its kind in the country.
Sponsored by Luther Seminary every year the Festival attracts some of the best preachers in the country. This year’s theme was was “Preaching with Moral Imagination”. All week nationally known theologians and church leaders are invited to give a sermon and a lecture about church leadership or some contemporary issue that they believe the church is facing today.
This year in Minneapolis we have the use of two major pulpits in churches two blocks apart - Central Lutheran and Westminster Presbyterian. Most days there are four worship services and as many lectures offered simultaneously in both buildings , in walking distance of each other. So it is a rich set of offerings from some of the most prominent thought leaders today. This year the speakers included: James Forbes, William Willimon, William Barber, Cynthia Hale, Anna Carter Florence, Yvette Flunder, Frank Thomas, and Otis Moss III among them.
This is my third year having a table in the market place at the conference, where I have copies of my book, UnCommon Preaching: An Alternative to the Lectionary. We set up our table with copies of the book, some free articles about preaching, some bookmarks then clementines and chocolate to draw folks over. Then we get the opportunity to talk to various pastors from all denominations about how they preach and what they find effective. Last night after a lots of incredible conversations Peggy made the observation that we enjoy this conference so much more because we have a table. The book table provides an entry point for some very rich exchanges and personal connections. It also offers us a window on how other churches work, what pastors are thinking and it enriches our thinking by providing lots of ideas to bring home to Harwich Port.
As we return home today, there will be lots to contemplate and lots to feel grateful for about the way God is working in our churches.