Jessica James at the National Festival of Young Preachers <br/>(photo by Tyler Bissmeyer).Up-and-coming rock bands have music festivals. Aspiring actors have theater festivals. And now, young people with a call to preach have the National Festival of Young Preachers. For the third year in a row, Candler School of Theology students took part in this ecumenical event sponsored by the Academy of Preachers, which saw 125 sermons delivered in three days by preachers from more than 30 denominations.

“The festival is a unique venue for Candler students to practice the craft of preaching among peers in a supportive environment,” said Richard Landers, associate director of admissions and recruitment at Candler School of Theology, who was present at the January event. “In the sessions and the hallways, young preachers interacted and reacted to each other and got feedback from mentors and evaluators. There was also a level of prayer and worship that you’d find at a spiritual retreat.”

Students Jessica James and Charmaine Webster and alum Dominique Robinson 10T delivered sermons as part of the festival, held this year in Louisville, Ky. Webster and Robinson also participated last year, and their sermons are included in “Waking to the Holy,” a book collecting sermons from the 2011 conference; student Jake Joseph is also featured in the book. Robinson was also one of 19 young preachers from around the country who served on the Leadership Team that helped plan the festival.

Young people who participated in the event were given a 16-minute time slot to address the theme “The Sermon on the Mount.” Each sermon was videotaped so participants could see themselves in action, and though the festival is noncompetitive, participants were provided with evaluations of their work by experienced preachers and professors and graduate students from the field of homiletics. The young preachers also took part in several plenary sessions and a Preachapalooza banquet.

It was an inspiring event for these burgeoning preachers. “The most valuable experience for me was sitting in worship services, looking around and realizing that everyone present had a purpose, a call, and age, gender, race, and denominational background did not stand as a limitation,” said James. “In that space in Kentucky, everyone was at home. Everyone belonged.”

“I brought that feeling back with me to Candler. Now I realize that even at Candler my call has no limitation, and I am at home to serve God and learn of God without reservation,” she said.

The 2013 National Festival of Young Preachers will be held in Atlanta next year, giving more Candler students the opportunity to experience what James did. For more information about the Academy of Preachers and the National Festival of Young Preachers, please visit

Listen to Jessica James’ sermon:

Listen to Charmaine Webster’s sermon:

Listen to Dominique Robinson’s sermon: