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Preaching as Pilgrimage: A report of the conference in September 2022

07 February 2023

<strong>Preaching as Pilgrimage: A report of the conference in September 2022</strong>

Preachers from across the UK journeyed to York for a time to listen, share and reflect together on what it means to be both a preacher and a pilgrim in the Christian faith.

Archbishop Stephen Cottrell gave the keynote speech in which he mused on the benefits of moving whilst preparing sermons. Drawing from the writings of Rebecca Solnit and also Kosuke Koyama’s book Three Mile an Hour God, the Archbishop suggested that love had a speed: three miles per hour, which is the average speed that humans walked. Reiterating the need to slow down as a spiritual discipline he reflected on the power of the pause and of leaving space within the liturgy, including before and after the sermon.

Dr Carol Tomlin spoke in great depth on the African Caribbean experience of homiletics especially in the context of leaving Jamaica to live in Great Britain. Dr Tomlin referred to a popular phrase within Jamaican Christian communities: stop playing church — in other words, be sincere.

Vicky Johnson’s workshop on The Humble Voice pondered the distinction between humility and personality, encouraging preachers to be themselves whilst at the same time losing themselves, remembering that it is always from love that the preacher speaks. We were asked to consider that the times people remember a preacher (if not the sermon) was when the preacher spoke with integrity.

We journeyed with the Women of the Bible under the experienced guidance of Liz Shercliff and Kate Bruce and paid particular attention to the Old Testament prophet, Huldah. The workshop was an enlivening discussion about preaching Jesus (as a person) as well as preaching Christ (the Divine Word). We were encouraged to face head on the difficult moments in scripture and to resist trying to rescue or remedy the situation.

We considered the lectionary as an opportunity for pilgrimage in Jennifer Brown’s workshop on Journeying with Jesus. Working in small groups we looked at examples of how we might preach at key moments in the life of Jesus, from birth to death, to resurrection and beyond. It was a welcome opportunity to share ideas and experiences in-person with other preachers.

I arrived feeling that I’d hit a cul-de-sac in my own preaching pilgrimage. I left feeling enthused to prepare the next sermon.

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