J-Term Preaching Intensive Propels GTS Students Toward the Pulpit

Episcopal Preaching Foundation
Posted Jan 30, 2023

GTS Seminarians and faculty leaving Chapel.

In the final week of January, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation in partnership with New York’s General Theological Seminary laid the foundation for excellent preaching for the first cohort of students in the seminary’s new hybrid M.Div. program. The intensive one-week deep dive, Introduction to Preaching, introduced students to a wide range of preaching perspectives and styles at the very beginning of their seminary careers.

Episcopal Preaching Foundation’s Chairman Dr. A. Gary Shilling summarized: “The Preaching Foundation’s J-Term program is an opportunity for seminarians to experience a deeper Homiletics bench than most Episcopal seminaries are currently equipped to offer. Coupled with the single-minded focus on this one discipline for an entire week, the J-Term program is a powerful complement to the existing homiletics curriculum at a time when good preaching has been identified as one of the leading drivers of church attendance and congregational vitality.”

The J-Term Preaching Intensive is designed to supplement the standard homiletics curriculum delivered by seminary faculty by bringing in a five-person visiting faculty to deliver a supplemental credit-based course. The class featured:

  • Conference Chair, the Rev. Susan Ironside, a GTS alumna and Rector of Grace Church, Madison, NJ, who presented Preaching the Pastoral Rites
  • The Rev. Dr. Stephen Smith, recently retired from nearly 40 years leading vibrant parishes, and Dean of the EPF Preaching Excellence Program for Seminarians, taught Exegesis 101
  • Christine Parton Burkett, a professor of speech and preaching coach at Duke Divinity School, coached the group in the nuances of public speaking and presentation from a preacher’s perspective
  • The Rev. Thelma “Nikki” Mathis, Rector of St. Gregory the Great, Athens, GA, spoke on The Hard Work of Presentation and Prophetic Preaching
  • The Rev. Michael A. Bird, Vicar of Trinity Church Wall Street, on Preaching as Pastoral Care

Preaching to peer feedback in small preaching groups, always at the heart of the Preaching Foundation’s programs, anchored the week’s curriculum, alternating with plenary talks by the visiting faculty. Each day’s noon eucharist provided an opportunity for students to experience a sermon by their faculty instructors.

“It was a joy to spend the work together in daily prayer and worship, study, and common life,” notes The Very Rev. Michael W. DeLashmutt, PhD (Senior Vice President of General Theological Seminary and Dean of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd),   “The energy on the Close was electric.  Faculty and students alike can’t wait until we’re back together in May!”

This year’s cohort of hybrid M.Div. students was drawn from as far afield as Alaska and Hawaii, including many mid-career professionals with family and career accomplishments to their credit, all exhibiting a strong commitment to this call to ministry. As a result of working with this cohort for the week, the unanimous conclusion of the faculty was that the next generation of our Church will be in good hands.

About General Seminary’s Hybrid MDiv program: Launched in 2022, the Hybrid MDiv program at General Theological Seminary directly brings the resources, history, and gifts of the Episcopal Church’s founding Seminary, to students in their home ministry contexts.  Designed with the needs of a changing church in mind, the program encourages students to learn alongside their current family-, work-, and ministry-commitments.  Through a combination of retreat-like week-long intensives courses (taught on the oasis-like Seminary Close in New York City), synchronous and asynchronous online courses, and a competency-based framework for Contextual ministry education, the Hybrid MDiv program at The General Theological Seminary bridges on-campus and in-context learning in a way which uniquely prepares leaders to serve a changing Church in a changing World.  To learn more, to go: www.gts.edu.

About the Preaching Foundation: Founded in 1987 the mission of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation is to inspire, form, and equip preachers to propel people on journeys of faith through dynamic preaching in the Episcopal Church, recognizing the foundational role of preaching to energize and build church membership and attendance. The Preaching Foundation delivers tailored curricula and conferences for seminarians, parish clergy, deacons, and lay preachers. The organization’s three-year self-study homiletics curriculum supports the formation of future clergy in the 32 dioceses of the Iona Collaborative. For the latest news visit www.preachingfoundation.org.