Immigrant Voices at the Pulpit

Preaching on Immigration

How do preachers faithfully preach about the experiences of those who had to leave their homes in hopes of a better life elsewhere? The students in the 2020-2021 Bass Connections project "When I Was a Stranger" raised those questions as they found few sermons about immigration from the Duke Chapel archive preached by immigrants themselves. One student, Crystal Chiu, wondered if preachers could invite more immigrant voices to the pulpit -- either by engaging in dialogue or having them preach in their own unique ways. This pair of videos explores both those possibilities. 

Reimagining the Sermon: Stories of Immigration

In this presentation, Crystal Chiu reflects on her question of how to authentically preach on immigration during her work with the Duke Chapel archives. She analyzes a historical sermon from the Duke Chapel archive about immigration alongside select lines of poetry written by immigrants.

Immigrant Voices at the Pulpit: Poetry Reading at Duke Chapel

Crystal Chiu performs a reading of Iranian-born poet Sholeh Wolpé’s “Dear America” from the Duke Chapel pulpit. 

"Dear America" will be published in the collection Abacus of Loss— a memoir in verse by Sholeh Wolpé, forthcoming from the University of Arkansas Press in March 2022.

Discussion Questions
  1. What do you think Chiu means when she describes the pulpit as an “othering space (0:44)”? In light of her description, how does Chui's performance of Wolpe's poem impact your experience of Duke Chapel?  How did her reading make you feel?  
  2. Not only does Chiu suggest inviting preachers historically excluded from the pulpit, she also challenges the form of a traditional sermon itself (2:0011:53). What possibilities might non-traditional forms of preaching, such as poetry, open up for communities not often invited to the pulpit?
  3. How might you expand the breadth and impact of immigrant voices in your preaching?  Are there alternative forms or practices that would allow for richer connection and more attentive listening?