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Preaching at The Wedding

Fashion designers (and their supporting media), of course, want the focus of The Wedding to be on the dress. But, those watching The Wedding went from the dress to the preacher… and (I don’t think it is simply because I’m a priest) there continues to be a high focus on THAT sermon. And the preacher. It was the most-tweeted about moment of the wedding.

The media (as usual when it comes to churchy things?) couldn’t quite get a handle on who the preacher was – “African American Reverend” was quite a common description. And so most people who talk to me have no real idea that Michael Curry is the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, and the Primate, essentially holding the same position in USA as Archbishop Justin Welby holds in England – and overseeing a similarly sized church.

Some commented on the length: too long. The service was an hour – the sermon was 13 minutes. I don’t think that is disproportionate. I think for Michael Curry – it would have been one of his shorter sermons.

Many commented on the style. I too often attend services where a sermon is read from a text word for word in a rather dreary style. It’s time for preachers to learn from Michael Curry. Get a drama teacher. You cannot overexaggerate too much – the same goes for readers from the Bible. This was Michael Curry at his most restrained – he didn’t even leave the lectern! And to those who thought the Royals were shocked, embarrassed, or whatever – the Royals would have known what they were in for… Discussing style over content, to me feels like we are back at the level of the wedding dress over the relationship.

Many commented he was repetitive. It was a sermon – not a chapter in a book. Again, many may have become used to sermons basically being tiresomely like reading a chapter from a book six feet above contradiction. Also: he included the Song of Songs 1 John, Martin Luther King, Jesus, a Spiritual, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Here was the Presiding Bishop, well known internationally for his inclusive approach to marriage, speaking about the heart of the Gospel, the heart of God being Love – to a congregation of over 2 Billion people.

Let’s just conclude this post with Teilhard de Chardin – a Jesuit famous for working to integrate Christian theology with Science – especially evolution; someone who was forbidden from publishing in his own lifetime. For those who had ears to hear: the Presiding Bishop was inclusive in his expression of marriage, and proclaiming the connection between thinking Christianity and Science. And – it surely cannot be lost on people who know anything about England and the Reformation: here was the Presiding Bishop quoting a Jesuit in one of the most public occasions of the Church of England and in the presence of the Church’s Supreme Governor!

Full text of the sermon.

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12 Responses to Preaching at The Wedding

  1. It was a magnificent sermon and an excellent use of a rare opportunity to preach to an extremely wide TV and social media audience.

    Well done Bishop Michael, your sermon should be closely studied by all who have responsibility for preaching.

    Many Blessings

  2. I agree that preaching has to be engaging but it is not a performance art. The drama is in the message and not in the shouting and waving of arms. The essential is that we are able to be understood and we must always remember that God is found in the still, small voice. That style works for +Michael and helps to get his message across and that’s brilliant but it probably wouldn’t work for Pope Francis, for example, and for many other excellent preachers I know. Please don’t try to make us all into TV evangelists. Here in the CofE we might have to tut at you!

    • Thanks, Stewart. I haven’t heard anyone suggesting that Pope Francis should preach more in the style of Michael Curry! And if you’ve read my book, Celebrating Eucharist, you’ll know I’m the last person who would suggest clone-type leadership. But, what I have seen a lot of, and heard a lot of, could be described as the wish that Michael Curry should preach more in the style of Pope Francis! Blessings.

    • I think more importantly, the point is that God can be found in the still small voice, not exclusively.

      Truthfully, I found it to be typical +Michael, but a bit squished into the framework that he was given. I, personally, don’t find that Bishop Curry is that great a preacher. I think that folks try to pin that on him because of who he is, but for me he doesn’t live up to it. I have heard some exceptional preachers in my life and he doesn’t number among them. Unfortunately, I can’t identify with the theology of many of them as they are from the literalist camp.

      I would truly be interested to see an actual homiletics professor or three wade in. No one that I have seen in the many articles on the internet laud or criticize this sermon has had those qualifications.

      Most of the folks that I’ve noticed condemn the sermon are from the fundigelical or the schismatic Anglican wannabe camps. There is even one detractor at Religion News Service who, based on his theology, has taken the opportunity, every chance that she gets, to declare that he works for Satan.

  3. Oh, I also saw the sermon written about, not because of it’s theology, but its technology. A tech site wrote about the fact that he used what looks like an iPad Pro. And then took the occasion to point out some iOS software that one can use to deliver speeches, presentations and sermons. One app that uses audio technology to pace the text prompting by the speed of the delivery.

    Because this audience wasn’t religious, they took great exception to the author referring to +Curry, a Black man, as a Primate and accused him of racism!

  4. I missed it as I was at the Cathedral attending the licensing of some fellow Lay Ministers that I had trained with. They came to my licensing last year, and mutual support and networking was more important to me than the wedding, which my spouse taped and I subsequently watched

    I found all the fashion stuff commentary a bit boring, but the sermon electrified me. Even after all the commentary in the media.

    A copy of it is now printed and resides in our Lady Chapel for others to read, if they choose to do so.

    If we want to build God’s Kingdom now, more of the same or similar from our own Bishops and Priests and Licensed Ministers might not go amiss.

  5. I find Stewart’s remarks a wee bit sad. In Bishop Micahel’s sermon, I caught a glimpse of the Blessed Francis of Assisi, who is credited with a dramatic presentation of the Gospel in his sermons – often gesturing, dancing and even breaking into song.

    And what about the Apostles on the original day of Pentecost? People in the crowd, recognising their excitement, thought they were drunk! As you have said, Bosco, nothing like a bit of genuine enthusiasm for preaching the Gospel. There are many other opportunities for silence in Church.

    A woderful sermon from +Michael Curry. No doubt about the source of HIS faith. Faith is often more caught than taught.

  6. It *was* a long sermon for a wedding in the UK, where typically there would not be a sermon, maybe a short message, but I am sure the Royal Family would have been well aware in advance of the topic, length and preaching style. It was refreshing in this circumstance.

    ‘Get a drama teacher’.
    Maybe in other places, but there is enough acting already in US churches to my mind. Recently I wondered why a particular very eloquent preacher ( with a drama degree incidentally ) left me cold when everyone else seemed enamoured. Insincerity- I was not convinced the person meant a word of it!

    Not so with Bishop Curry though- I am sure he meant every word and believes deeply in love as the foundation for Christianity. He’s leading a protest later today against the ‘normalization of lying’ and ‘theological heresy’ from our US officials.

    • Fair point, Tracy, about a drama teacher. I meant to help in the sense that I help ushers to show people where to go rather than, with totally good intentions, stand and look like they are blocking the way; in the sense that people reading think that reading at a microphone with no change in pitch, pace, or volume – and they think the microphone will turn it into comprehensible proclamation; etc. Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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