Teaching preaching where cultures cross : historical, theological, cultural and pastoral reflections on the pedagogy of homiletics, with some particular references to the Catholic Church in Anglophone Africa.
Christian preaching is much like the liturgy of the Church in that we have been practising its arts it for some two thousand years and yet the impression is often given that we only began yesterday. Like the conversion to which preaching is a vital call, preaching needs to be re-learned in every generation. Furthermore, as the Church's missionary outreach stretches to the ends of the earth, preaching is done in an ever increasing number of tongues and cultures and must adapt to these new contexts. This is not a new situation: it was ever thus. From the moment the Word was spoken in its ultimate form in flesh in a particular time and place, it has enfleshed itself in the tongues, accents, mentalities and customs of people in all times and places. This central theological fact is underlined, highlighted and celebrated in the Pentecost event, in which it was impossible for the Word of God to be confined to a single mode of expression, but rather it had to overflow prodigally into every language and culture represented at that crucial happening. In a sense the history of preaching is the history of the Church and therefore can be used as a measure with which to judge the faithfulness of the Church to Christ in any particular period of history. Revivals in the life of the Church are led by and associated with revivals in preaching. Decline is associated with poverty in the pulpit. Hence we can learn the central lessons of our history by returning to the Church's history under this particular aspect of the state of its preaching. Today there appears to be a modern revival of preaching taking place in some of the countries of the developed world, most notably in the United States which must have the greatest concentration of educated and theologically educated laypeople in the universal Church. Catholic schools and universities have been the primary instrument of evangelisation in this part of the Church and now their alumni appear to be demanding of their pastors a preaching commensurate with their professional and theological education. This phenomenon would lead one to have great hopes for the Church in a time which many would judge to be one characterised by severe and multiple crises. Might it happen that, if the Church continues to encourage such a revival, this era will be judged by history as having been a time of significant growth in piety, practice and a deepened knowledge of God powerfully contributed to by an effective breaking of the Word? In the developing world, and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, history will certainly look back to this time as one of phenomenal numerical growth. It would be tragic if its backward regard also detected a failure to participate, in its own appropriately inculturated way, in such a revival of preaching. For what could be more important in a young and growing ecclesial community than that its preaching should mirror and promote its dynamism, enthusiasm, power and growth? Such an aim raises many considerations in many areas ranging from pedagogy and spiritual formation to the more prosaic ones of the availability of human and material resources. These and a number of related issues are broached in the following pages. Taking the traditional and rather Catholic phenomenological approach to the subject is divided into two parts - Preaching in General and Preaching in Africa - and an attempt is made to follow the see, judge and act process as we progressively narrow down the focus, finally coming to the very practical business of the teaching of homiletics, with all its imperfections and challenges, in 'English-speaking' Africa. In the final analysis, however, the standard of preaching will be determined by the attitude to it of pastors and their congregations, especially the leaders. It will rise or fall according to how seriously the Church, and not just the leadership, takes it. This work is one attempt to encourage the Church to rise to the challenge of making our preaching a high if not the highest pastoral priority in the universal and the African Church.