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Holy Attention: Preaching in today's church [9781786221650]

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With the growing, renewed attention to the art of preaching, this timely collection from the influential Littlemore Group of theologians explores the role of this vital ministry in today's Church. Experienced contributors from a wide range of backgrounds - catholic, evangelical and liberal - weave together theology, anecdote and reflection on practice as they share their passion for preaching. Each one is noted for their attentiveness to the poetry of the spoken word in preaching, and the practical challenges and pitfalls of this central activity of public worship. Chapters include: * The Joy and Terror of Preaching * The Power of Language * Localizing the Gospel * Attentiveness to the Word * The Sermon as Sacrament * Genres of Preaching Contributors include Rachel Mann, Paula Gooder, Donna Lazenby, Sr Judith SLG, Edmund Newey, Anderson Jeremiah and Joel Love.


In many respects, this is a book of two halves.

Editors Frances Ward and Richard Sudworth have gathered together a selection of essays exploring various aspects of preaching and interwoven actual sermons for the seasons of the church year, from Advent to All Saints. It is a book whose audience will be very similar to the readers of this magazine – the preacher.

Holy Attention begins with a critique of the loss of attention skills prevalent in today’s digital world: ‘When it comes to the Web, we think we’re spiders, but really we’re flies,’ the editors observe. They go on to argue that ‘The sermon offers something different from the clickbait that commodifies the attention and seduces human intention.’

Consequently, Ward and Sudworth seek to ‘offer rich reflections on the joy of responding to the vocation to preach.’ They point out it is not a ‘how to’ book but inevitably (and valuably) the essays offer a range of helpful techniques, tips and insights to aid gaining and maintaining the attention of those who are there to hear.

With a dozen different contributors including an excellent Afterword by Paula Gooder, this book of two halves provides rich seams to mine.

For this reviewer, while the sermons are pure gold, some of the essays are somewhat treacly. Yes, there is valuable content in those longer latter aspects but regrettably they didn’t hold my attention. As for the sermons, I will certainly be revisiting those (indeed, blatantly using them I expect!) as the year turns from season to season.

Preach magazine book review by Richard Frost

AUTHOR: Frances Ward was formerly Dean of St Edmundsbury. Richard Sudworth is National Inter-Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England.

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Frances Ward
Canterbury Press Norwich