The all-age talk is a task guaranteed to give preachers sleepless nights! Very few people feel they have a gift for it, and most lack confidence. This reflective and practical guide addresses these concerns, and aims to build a sure theological understanding, develop skills and grow confidence. Twelve chapters explore different kinds of engagement - with the senses, with one another, with oneself, with scripture, with liturgy, with the church, with God, with challenging situations, and more - to enable preachers make real connections with their listeners, whatever the age. Each chapter is followed by a practical case study illustrating key principles and providing down-to-earth, tried and tested wisdom for all kinds of contexts and occasions.
This is an astonishing book. A book with lots of ideas for all age services was always going to be a shoo-in for the publisher but the challenge was keeping the focus on preaching and what preaching entails with a diverse congregation – not just a range of ages. Ally Barrett has written a book which reflects deeply about what preaching is and how to do it. The chapters intersperse ‘Engaging’ with ‘Reflecting’. And there is cross referencing at the end of each chapter so you don’t need to read the book from front to back – you can browse through the relevant themes.
Chapter headings include: Engaging through theological reflection, Engaging through the senses, Reflecting on relationships, Children as theologians, Reflecting on the Trinity, Reflecting on the Eucharist, Engaging with church life and mission, Engaging with human experience, and Reflecting on creation.
At some points you might wonder if she is talking about liturgy or the planning of services. But this is because her vision for preaching ranges far beyond the sermon slot to how the sermon can be delivered at different points of the service. And the radical idea that emerges is that preaching is intended to give voice to the congregation – there are even ideas for helping children do theology and present mini sermons themselves. The congregation is not the target for the sermon but a willing contributor. As Ally herself explains, ‘This book… is about understanding how all age preaching is shaped by and shapes its context embodying a culture in which everyone is valued.’
This is one of the best books on preaching I have read and I would recommend it even if you don’t have an all age congregation to preach to. It will make you a better preacher.
Preach magazine review by John Griffiths, Lay Reader
AUTHOR: Ally Barrett is Chaplain of St Catharine's College, Cambridge. She was previously Director of Pastoral Studies at Westcott House (an Anglican theological college in Cambridge, UK), a parish priest, and a children's minister. She is a practical theologian with a particular interest in all age worship and preaching, baptism, weddings and 'liturgy and life' - how worship contributes to discipleship. She also writes hymns. Her blog is at www.reverendally.org