All Clear

‘Read the Room’: Conference to Address Importance of Context in Preaching

Bandy Conference
February 1, 2023

Candler School of Theology will host the Bandy Preaching Conference this spring, a three-day event designed to help pastors and congregants better understand contemporary sociopolitical issues and provide strategies to address them through proclamation.

Register here.

“Read the Room: Context Matters,” will take place in person at Candler March 28-30,

(from left) Gilkes, Long, Wesley

(from left) Gilkes, Long, Wesley

featuring the Whiteside Lecture by Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, an ordained Baptist minister who serves as John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of African American Studies and Sociology and director of the African American Studies Program at Colby College. The conference also includes two worship services and sermon talk backs—Q&As with the preacher about the sermon content—as well as student sermon sessions and a panel featuring Candler faculty.

Along with Gilkes’ Whiteside Lecture keynote, the conference will include worship services with sermons by Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler, and Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bandy Professor of Preaching Teresa L. Fry Brown, the conference organizer, says “Read the Room” will examine the importance of and tools for becoming more adept at contextualized preaching.

“One of the essential yet often overlooked elements of effective preaching is awareness of and engagement with the listeners,” Fry Brown says. “Relevant sermons engage the context rather than exhibit a preacher’s presupposed idea of the sermon’s purpose and effect. Preachers who compose and deliver sermonic content with an understanding of communal theologies, ethics, social involvement, political leanings, denominational polity, gender, sex, age, education, economic status, history, and faith development become holistically conversant.”

In addition to expert speakers in the plenary sessions, Candler students will offer 10-minute sermons during breakout sessions to demonstrate what inclusive and compelling preaching looks like in different contexts. Students participating will include representatives from different programs and groups at Candler, including Black Church Studies, the Korean Student Association, Methodist Studies and Sacred Worth, among others. After the breakouts, attendees will reconvene for a panel discussion by members of Candler’s preaching faculty, including Fry Brown, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Divinity Ted A. Smith, Visiting Instructor of Preaching R. Nicholas Peterson, Dean’s Professor of Systematic Theology Kwok Pui Lan, and Associate Dean of Worship and Spiritual Formation and Associate Professor in the Practice of Worship Khalia Williams.

The conference is made possible through Candler’s Bandy Chair in Preaching. The Bandy Chair was created in 1986 with a gift from Mr. B. Jackson Bandy, and is considered by many to be the premier chair in homiletics in the country. This year’s conference is being held in honor of Bandy, who died in 2020.

The full conference schedule is below:

Tuesday, March 28 

11:05 a.m.: Opening Worship

Preacher: Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler

12:00 p.m.: Sermon talk back with Long; boxed lunches provided

2:30–4:00 p.m.: Whiteside Lecture

Speaker: Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of African-American Studies and Sociology and director of the African American Studies Program at Colby College

Wednesday, March 29

11:00 a.m.: Celebration of Preaching: “How Shall They Preach?”

Participants will attend one of a variety of breakout sessions featuring Candler student preachers from affinity groups illustrating different contexts

11:45 a.m.: Candler faculty panel discussion; boxed lunches provided

Thursday, March 30

11:05 a.m.: Closing Worship

Preacher: Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia

12:00 p.m.: Sermon talk back with Wesley; boxed lunches provided

Conference registration is $50 general admission; $25 for Emory alumni and faculty; and $10 for Emory staff and all students. Click here to learn more and to register.