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News from the Hill June 15, 2009 | back to index

Andover Newton and MMBB sponsor “The Future of Great Preaching” website

Rev. Heidi Neumark

“I think when I started out,” recalls Rev. Heidi Neumark on the recently launched website, “The Future of Great Preaching,” “I felt I had to say every thing in every sermon. Over time, I realized, oh, there’s going to be another week and another week. Maybe I’d better save something…

“[My congregation in the South Bronx] was responsive and people would give me a lot of feedback. So I could sense what was really speaking to people and what was not. That helped shape me as a preacher.”

Neumark is one of eight preachers, all recognized as outstanding, featured in “The Future of Great Preaching.” Sponsored by Andover Newton and the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB), the site is designed to explain what goes into making an effective sermon.

On the website are sermons, videotaped live at Andover Newton’s Wilson Chapel, discussion, questions, and commentary. Each sermon is introduced by William Turpie M.Div. ’82, pastor of the New North Church in Hingham, MA, and the original host of the Odyssey Channel’s “Great Preachers” television series. Rev. Turpie and Rev. Martin Copenhaver, senior pastor of the Wellesley, MA, Congregational Church and Andover Newton trustee, lead the discussions in an online seminar with each preacher.

In the seminars, the participants respond to practical and theoretical questions such as how to compose and edit a sermon, the use of humor or gesture in preaching, overcoming shyness, and the relationship between authenticity and greatness in preaching.

Besides Neumark, other notable preachers featured on the site are Liz Meyer Boulton, Kyle Childress, Martin Copenhaver, Lillian Daniel, Gary Simpson, Gary Smith, and Wil Willimon. They represent Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, and United Methodist denominations and serve in churches from Massachusetts, New York City and Brooklyn, Illinois, and Texas and include seven active ministers and a United Methodist Bishop. 

“The Future of Great Preaching” was developed as part of Andover Newton’s 200th anniversary celebrations and was one of several events held during the bicentennial that examined topics critical to the formation of church leadership. The series was funded by a donor-directed grant from the Boston Foundation and made available on line through a partnership between Andover Newton and the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB) in New York.

Andover Newton has long had an emphasis on preparing students for the practice of ministry. In recent years, it has begun to develop new ways of using modern media, like video and the internet, to extend that tradition into the 21st century. “The Future of Great Preaching” website and on-campus media facilities, including Andover Newton’s Massachusetts Bible Society Media Center, opened in 2009, are parts of that initiative.

Photo: Rev. Heidi Neumark