SACKVILLE, N.B. – A Sackville minister has returned home feeling inspired and moved following a weeklong conference in Washington, D.C. that brought together hundreds of pastors from across North America looking to renew their spirits through discussions about preaching in contemporary times.
“To have an opportunity to hear that many preachers all at once, it fires you up, it inspires you,” said Rev. Lloyd Bruce, minister of the Sackville United Church.The conference, entitled the Festival of Homiletics (the art of preaching), is an annual event that got its start back in 1992 and now draws hundreds of preachers and seminary students with the
goal of engaging in conversations about preaching and worship, as well as issues related to congregations in the 21st century. It is organized by theological seminaries across the US, said Bruce, with an array of top names in the preaching world offering up sermons each day of the five-day conference.
This year’s event, which was held from May 21-25, focused on the theme ‘Politics and Preaching,’ which Bruce felt was apt as it was a good time to put the spotlight on how to navigate politics in the pulpit amidst the current culture and climate in the US.
He said often times preachers are told to not touch politics during their sermons – that pairing religion with politics is not a good idea. But Bruce believes it is during times like these when faith is needed the most. And it’s a good reminder that Jesus’ movement is a political movement
“I deeply believe our faith should inform our politics, our values . . . and right now, in the US, in the midst of a troubled presidency, it’s an important juncture in history.”
– Rev. Lloyd Bruce
Bruce said a highlight for him during the week was the ‘Reclaiming Jesus’ event, hosted by the Sojourners, an American faith-based social justice group, and centering around a series of declarations against lying, racial bigotry, white nationalism, misogyny, authoritarianism, xenophobia, and other issues that recently have dominated cultural discourse.
Following the service at the National City Church, the group of more than 2,000 people processed with candles to the White House about six blocks away for a vigil and prayer – and to deliver the Reclaiming Jesus declarations. Bruce said the silent walk was a “powerful” moment for him, standing in solidarity with those who have experienced marginalization and oppression.
“It was a deeply moving experience.”
In tribute to Eldon Hay, the late United Church minister from Sackville and longtime advocate for the LGBTQ2+ community, Bruce said he donned Eldon’s trademark rainbow cape for the walk and said he was honoured to have been able to bring such a visible symbol of his contributions to the event. He said he had approached Eldon’s wife Ann before the trip about borrowing the cape for this event and she didn’t hesitate in lending it to him.
“Eldon was such as inspiration to me . . . so this a way of standing on his shoulders and reaching out to the LGTBQ community.”
Bruce was one of about a dozen delegates from Atlantic Canada who attended the conference.
The annual Festival of Homiletics also drew in a couple of political speakers for this year’s event - Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. This was the first time that two politicians of Warren’s and Booker’s stature had appeared at the event.