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Is it a Sermon?
God’s action in the world is proclaimed in numerous ways: in music, visual art, literature, testimony, and performance. When might such forms of expression constitute preaching? What are the boundaries of the sermon genre? How might preachers and other proclaimers learn from one another? The aim of this course is to explore the limits of the sermon genre and use the insights gained to enhance the preaching task. Together, we will trouble the neat lines that separate preaching from witnessing to the faith in other ways. We will regularly examine the relationship between proclamation and identity, at times relying heavily on African American traditions of proclamation and resistance. Ultimately the course seeks to foster vibrant preaching and intellectual curiosity.
Students should have completed either introduction to Old Testament or introduction to New Testament.
This course requires careful attention to readings, examination of specified artistic pieces, engagement in class discussions, and completion of the following assignments:
Prepare a meditation inspired by an element from the natural world. You might, for example, reflect on the ant, the eagle, or a hillside shrub. Your meditation should use this element from the natural world to make a glorifying claim about God and inspire your listeners to pray. The meditation should last approximately 5-7 minutes and have the class as the intended audience. As a model for this assignment, consider the audio recording of Howard Thurman’s meditation, “The Jack Pine,” available on Canvas. Sign up to share your meditation as a means of opening or closing class on a week when you do not preach or present an alternative sermon.
Offer a short testimony in which you narrate a faith experience from your own life. When composing your testimony, use first person singular pronouns and plan to speak for approximately 5 minutes. While you may use brief notes to prompt your memory, do not lean heavily on them. Plan to speak from the heart.
C. Thematic Sermon
Prepare a 15-minute thematic sermon using one of the themes listed on Canvas.
D. Alternative Sermon
Compose a message using one of the alternative methods of proclamation explored in this course. Share your message with the class and plan for a maximum time limit of 15 minutes.
E. Discussion Stimuli
Bring in discussion stimulus based on the assigned readings or artwork for the week. Your stimulus might take the form of an image, a short audio segment (under 2 minutes), a brief poem, a compelling question, or a news article that relates to the reading assigned for that week. Occasionally, suggested stimuli are set forth in the syllabus.
Weights for the various assignments are as follows:
A. Meditation (20%)
B. Testimony (20%)
C. Thematic Sermon (20%)
D. Alternative Sermon (20%)
E. Completion of discussion stimuli, sermon self-evaluations, and contribution to learning atmosphere (20%)
Feedback for the course takes a variety of forms and includes group discussions following sermons and presentations, narrative feedback from the professor, and letter grades. Students are also welcome to meet with the professor during office hours to talk about their progress in the course. In any event, feedback is offered steadily throughout the semester to minimize surprises at the conclusion of the course.