BUIES CREEK - Because they’re all in the spotlight around the same time on Sunday mornings, pastors don’t get many chances to watch and learn from the sermons of their colleagues.
Monday’s Elevating Preaching conference sponsored by Campbell University Divinity School and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of N.C. aimed to change that … if for a day.
More than 170 area pastors and Divinity School students attended the conference, the first to be hosted by a university in North Carolina, beginning a rotation between the state’s four Baptists divinity programs (Gardner-Webb is scheduled to host in 2012). Three out-of-state pastors with three unique styles presided over three morning sermons Monday morning and joined in-state ministers in the afternoon to host separate personal interest groups for those in attendance.
According to organizer Dr. J. Daniel Day, an associate professor of Preaching and Worship at Campbell, the goal was to bring in preachers with different backgrounds and different approaches and engage in a dialogue with their colleagues and students who’ll soon enter the profession.
“The people we brought in each have a very distinct style of preaching … one we hoped would provide a model for others,” said Day, who presided over the opening session. “None of them have churches in North Carolina, so this was a new experience for everyone.”
Those three distinct styles came from Dr. Charles E. Poole of Jackson, Miss.; Dr. Carolyn Ann Knight of Atlanta; and Dr. William D. Shiell of Knoxville, Tenn. Shiell’s sermon, “What if no one came?”, was followed by his workshop titled “Preaching Naked,” which went over the hows and whys of preaching without a manuscript (or even a pulpit).
“Everyone preaches from some form of memory, whether it’s recall, paraphrasing, rote or extemporaneough thoughts; and the audience remembers things from the text during a performance,” Shiell said. “My goal is to help (the pastors and students in attendance) find ways to use more of their memories.”
Campbell Divinity School student Eva Ruth said she got a lot out of Monday’s conference, saying the three sermons were distinct, but in no way did they contrast when it came to the overall message.
“I enjoyed the way they spoke to us as students and encouraged us to stretch what we were learning in new ways,” said Ruth, who’s looking to become a chaplain following graduation. “It thought the break-out sections were excellent … it just gave us the opportunity to see other perspectives on preaching.”
A Presbyterian herself, Ruth said the conference expanded her view of the ministry.
“I was captivated by the different voices we heard and the way they encouraged us to find our own voice.”
Day said he was pleased with what he called a “maiden venture,” calling it a success.
“Because I had a role in putting it together, I can say it certainly met all of my hopes and really exceeded my expectations,” Day said. “All three of our preachers were very fine in representing well their preaching style and giving us credible models of what it’s like to preach that way.”
Learn more about the three guest speakers at Monday’s Elevating Preaching Conference at Campbell University
Dr. Charles “Chuck” Poole: Dr. Poole is a native of Macon, Ga., a graduate of Mercer University and a recipient of the Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He currently serves the Northminster Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss.
Poole has published six books of sermons and devotional essays. He has also been a frequent guest speaker and lecturer in churches and campuses across the Southeast (this was his second visit to Campbell).
Dr. Carolyn Ann Knight: Dr. Knight hails from Denver, and she earned her B.A. from Bishop College in Dallas. New York City’s legendary Union Theological Seminary awarded her the Master of Divinity and the Master of Sacred Theology degrees. She was inducted into the prestigious College of Preachers by Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1996, and was named one of “America’s 15 Greatest African American Women Preachers” by Ebony Magazine in 1997.
Dr. William D. Shiell: A native of Pensacola, Fla., Dr. Shiell received a B.A. in religion from Samford University in 1994 and the M.Div. from George W. Truett Seminary in 1997 (he was named Outstanding Student of Truett’s first graduating class). He recieved his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Baylor University in 2003. He was named Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. in 2004. His doctoral dissertation was published by E.J. Brill in 2004, and a second book was published in 2008 by Smyth & Helwys.
STORY: Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications
PHOTO: Courtesy of Amanda Matthews