Sunday, June 08, 2014

About 1,750 Christians, mostly pastors and seminary students, gathered here from May 19 to 23 for the annual Festival of Homiletics (the word refers to the art of preaching) to pray, sing and hear 18 sermons and 17 lectures on preaching. The big names included Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar; William Willimon, a Duke professor; and Barbara Brown Taylor, who teaches at Piedmont College in Georgia and is admired around the English-speaking world for her preaching on the Bible.

In between sermons, the attendees renewed relationships, made new friends and asked their favorite preachers to sign copies of their books and CDs. They also came for inspiration on how to keep preaching relevant in their churches, where congregants are not looking for the charismatic, come-to-Jesus style that stirs people in many evangelical churches.

The Rev. David Howell, who founded the festival in Williamsburg, Va., in 1993, said the audiences he described as mainline have needs and expectations that differ from those of evangelical congregations.

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