Thirty-eight deacons of Province I committed to a working weekend March 3-5 to focus on their preaching skills.
Hosted by the Episcopal Preaching Foundation and developed in collaboration with Province I archdeacons, the conference continued the Foundation’s intensive practicums geared specifically for current and future deacons.
Led by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Smith, dean of faculty for the Preaching Foundation, the weekend’s program featured plenary talks by thought leaders and theologians, including the Rev. Kimberly Jackson, Georgia state senator and pastor of Church of the Common Ground ministering to Downtown Atlanta’s unhoused and Prof. Ryan Bonfiglio of Candler School of Theology at Emory University, whose thesis, “The Bible and Poverty.” delivered a resounding challenge to action. A central feature of the program was preaching to peer feedback in small, facilitated preaching groups, exercising participants’ preaching skills by serving as preacher and then critic for one another.
“The four excellent presenters, though not deacons themselves, revealed their diaconal hearts and enabled all participants to grow in their ability to preach in a diaconal voice,” said the Rev. Chris Beukman, archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
Throughout the weekend, strong emphasis was given to preaching from the unique viewpoint of the diaconate, reflecting the order’s vows “to interpret to the Church the needs, hopes, and concerns of the world,” and as preachers, to facilitate access between the two, so that the world sees and understands the Church better and the Church sees and understands the world better.
“After more than 30 years of guiding seminarians and clergy toward the goal of excellence in preaching, the Preaching Foundation is delighted to provide resources and support for these dedicated deacons,” said Preaching Foundation Executive Director Peter Wild. “We know that excellent preaching strengthens congregations, and diaconal preaching calls us all to act on our faith. We are honored to play a role in deepening the impact of this important diaconal ministry.”
Preaching Foundation Founder and Chairman A. Gary Shilling, PhD., noted that “deacons are increasingly important in the church, and we are delighted to help them proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The Episcopal Preaching Foundation’s deacons’ preaching series has included weekend conferences for Provinces II, VII, VIII, and in October 2022 a pan-North American preaching conference for Spanish-speaking deacons of the Episcopal Church.
Founded in 1987, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation supports the development of excellent preachers in the Episcopal Church, recognizing the foundational role of preaching to energize and build church membership and attendance. The Foundation delivers tailored conferences and curricula for seminarians, parish clergy, deacons, and lay preachers, most recently with a one-year curriculum for prospective lay preachers, delivered in partnership with diocesan leadership, co-sponsored by Trinity Church, Wall Street. Even more recently, EPF embarked on a program to better connect preachers and their congregations, supported by the Lilly Endowment.