Luke Powery interviews James Forbes

Bridging Pulpit and Practice

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Preachers from past and present reflect on the “nuts and bolts” of how sermons work, how preachers dig deep, and how sermons change over time. Conversation starters for today’s homiletic classrooms are provided. 


Preaching in a Time of Crisis

William Willimon, God Said, "Light!"
(September 16, 2001)

In an interview from June 2018, Bishop William Willimon reflects on the sermon he preached the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, then dean of Duke Chapel. The Sunday after 9/11, Duke Chapel was filled with fear and grief. What does a preacher say on such a day?


Preaching Relationality

James Forbes, Let's Forgive Our Fathers 
(June 19, 1977)

On Duke University’s Founder’s Day and Father’s Day on 1977, Rev. Dr. James Forbes preached on forgiveness for the founders of an exclusionist Duke and for others difficult to forgive. In an interview from 2018, Forbes reflects on this sermon as well as the experience of preaching at an institution where he was denied admission twenty years prior because of his race.


Preaching God in the Despised

Carter Heyward, The Enigmatic God
(November 20, 1977)

In this 2020 interview, pioneering preacher Carter Heyward explores how the women's movement shaped her understanding of God in the sermon she preached at Duke Chapel in 1977. Heyward was part of the Philadelphia Eleven, a group of women ordained in the Church of the Advocate in 1974, which paved the way for the Episcopal Church to approve the ordination of women two years later.

Preaching God's Sovereignty

Cynthia Hale, And We Know That 
(July 14, 1996)

In 1996, Cynthia Hale preached at Duke Chapel about perseverance in Christian faith from the often quoted Romans 8:28, "And we know that ..." Twenty-five years later, she reflects on her message of Christian freedom in a world still rife with oppression. Hale also talks about what it meant for her to bring her "whole self" as an African American woman to the Duke Chapel pulpit.

Preaching Apocalyptic History

William C. Turner, Delightful Duty
(October 7, 2001)

Nearly a month after the attacks of September 11th, the Rev. Dr. William C. Turner preached a Founder's Day sermon in Duke University Chapel. He reflected on how the apocalyptic urgency of God's call impacts the long, often difficult histories of institutions and nations, shaping the choices of the heart. Twenty years later, he reflects on the apocalyptic urgency of our present moment and the "prophetic calculus" of God.

Preaching in the Face of Climate Change

Carlyle Marney, A Christian Life-Style 
(September 11, 1977)

On September 11, 1977, at Duke Chapel, the Rev. Dr. Carlyle Marney preached a sermon that framed the environmental challenges of the energy crisis as challenges of theological commitment. Over forty years later, the Rev. Dr. Charles Campbell brings that sermon into conversation with the contemporary crisis of climate change.