From looking at my blog, it might well seem that I have a somewhat jet-setting life style. Well, what with three festivals in two months, I am beginning to wonder if that is the case! But as far as I’m concerned, you have to seize these opportunities when they arise. So, 6 or so months ago, when Nathan suggested that we go to the Festival of Preaching, I thought that sounded like an excellent idea!
We got back from this conference on Tuesday, and we had a really great time. I’m not going to list the speakers and who said what, because you can go to the website and check twitter for that. But I thought I’d offer a few thoughts about things that I’m taking home with me from 48 hours in the beautiful Christ Church Oxford, listening, with 500 others, to incredibly talented people talk about sermons.
You might well say that you can think of nothing worse. It could be that you spend enough time trying to keep awake in sermons as it is, so why on earth would anyone want to attend 9 one hour long sessions on preaching, as well as morning and evening prayer and compline?
Well, there is one very simple reason: for inspiration! Preaching is an art that needs continual work. Often, the best way to get good at something is to observe people who are really good at it!
Many of the things we heard were creative, interesting and inspired. From preaching in difficult times, to all age sermons, to what exactly is a parable?, the talks were great and the sermons in the worship were even better.
I have been reminded what a responsibility it is to preach and how important it is to prepare well. Although I am a much more confident preacher than I was a couple of years ago, I am determined not to let that confidence become complacency.
The main thing that I am taking away from the conference is this: God’s word is alive. Yes, it was written thousands of years ago, but it is God breathed and it speaks to us today. It is our job as preachers to take that word and communicate it in such a way that it breathes life into the people who are listening to us speak.
And of course, what makes a big difference at events like this, is the company. The conference itself full of friendly people who were keen to chat and get to know each other, and I was delighted to see lots of young people, especially young women, attending!
Nathan and I spent a lot of time chatting to friends, old and new, from Cranmer and further afield. It was so great to catch up and swap ideas about ministry, as well having a giggle over a couple of gins!
If you’re a preacher and you have never been to this conference, I would highly recommend it. It will challenge, inspire and encourage you.