Close to 300 people from around the country delved into what will make them more inspired and creative preachers as part of the inaugural PreachFest held from 1-3 June.
Uniting Mission and Education in the Synod of NSW/ACT hosted the national event designed to encourage, resource and connect people who regularly preach in any Church across Australia.
Across three days, there were 24 speakers. People gathered online and in person at St Stephen’s Uniting Church in Sydney and Wesley Uniting Church and St Marks in Canberra. A number of regional hubs streamed sessions to an even wider audience.
Festival Director Rev Ben Gilmour said the idea for PreachFest came after twice attending The Festival of Homiletics in the US – an event that left him recharged and inspired.
“There are not that many opportunities for preachers to really target their craft and to think through with other voices how to be a better, more faithful and more inspiring preacher,” said Ben.
Preachers were tasked with preaching to other preachers – the hope was to provide examples that would encourage and inspire.
Keynote speakers included Professor Anna Carter Florence, the Peter Marshall Professor of Preaching at the Columbia Theological Seminary, and Rev Dr Sam Wells, Vicar, St Martin-in-the-Fields who both livestreamed in from the US and the UK.
Assembly National Consultant Rev Charissa Suli was one of the preachers exploring what it means to ‘Preach the Good News Into A New Norm’.
Reflecting on Mark’s account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Charissa spoke about what it means to preach in the strange and unsure time of COVID-19, “when your heart is breaking or when your community of people is grieving, troubled, or afraid.”
"Jesus spent the most of his ministry preaching about love.
Jesus demonstrated how to love God and one another via his words and deeds.
He provided food for the hungry.
He was a healer of the sick.
He invited women and children, as well as tax collectors and sinners, to sit at his table.
He fed the poor and the lost, and he shared the cup of salvation with them all.
He crossed boundaries of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, and class.
He challenged religious authority, and he scoffed at the pomposity and self-absorbed grandeur.
He called out the hypocrites.
The scribes and Pharisees were chastised for their stony hearts.
He delivered a straightforward message: love God and love one another.
And for all of that – for the criticism and the invitation and the healing and the challenge he represented to the comfortable and powerful – he knew he was going to the cross.
He knew if he stood up for all that he lived for, for all that he believed, for all that he held dear, he would be killed.
He knew that if he followed God’s will it would lead to a cross.
So, he sat there in Gethsemane, and he prayed. He prayed for another way out...
The Church must confront and walk through its own Gethsemane.
We are often afraid to step into the unknown of what it means to take action in how we create a shared future with our First Peoples or
what would it mean to acknowledge white privilege and how to be an anti-racist church or
what would it mean to move us beyond the security of status quo and take the risk of going to the periphery?
What would it mean to walk into the Gethsemane that is less a preoccupation for its own maintenance but more a concern for the kingdom of God?
Whatever it may be for you. Don't go about your Gethsemanes on tiptoe.
Watch the full sermon here:
Senior Minister Wesley Mission Rev Dr Rick Dacey was another of the preachers. He spoke about the need for celebration in our proclamation. "Not superficial fluff to boost people's spirits, but a profound shared celebration of what God is doing in us, among us, around us and through us."
It is hoped the PreachFest will continue to grow into the future, with new partnerships and potentially other host locations around Australia.
It is still possible to register to receive digital access to all the sessions from PreachFest 2021. Go to http://preachfest.org.au/