This continues the Good Readin’ series that I began a few weeks ago. I did not anticipate that it would take me this long to get to posting about this book, but sometimes life happens!
Preaching as Testimony is written by Anna Carter Florence, who is Associate Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary. I found this book to be beautifully written and it contained some pleasant surprises in a book on preaching. The primary surprise was my favorite part about the book, Carter Florence divides the book up into three sections: stories of testimony, theories of testimony, and practicing testimony.
The first section, for me, was the highlight of the book. She relates the stories of three women who preached before the practice of women preaching was widely accepted. I tremendously enjoyed the way that Anna Carter Florence was able to relate the stories of Anne Marbury Hutchinson, Sarah Osborn, and Jarena Lee to the tradition of preaching and giving testimony.
The second section was also very interesting and helpful. In the second part of the book, “Waking Up the Secrets: Theories of Testimony,” she discusses “True Speech in the Mother Tongue: Paul Ricoeur and Walter Brueggemann” in one chapter, and “Making Trouble and Making Good News: Mary McClintock Fulkerson and Rebecca Chopp” in the other chapter. These chapters helped me to think about what is happening when we give testimony and it stretched my approach to preaching in helpful ways.
The third section, “Waking Up the Preacher: Practicing Testimony,” was probably the one that I connected with the least, though it was still definitely worth reading. Readers who are looking for practical advice on how to be a “better preacher” may be tempted to skip to this section, because this is the place where Carter Florence is the most obviously offering concrete suggestions. However, to skip to this part would be, in my view, to actually miss the most helpful insights of the book, which center around the importance of reclaiming testimony as a central part of the act of preaching. Readers who are looking for “the five keys to preaching a better sermon” will be frustrated by this book, because the very nature of testimony prevents a universal catch all approach to preaching.
This book will help preachers who are trying to find their own voices in their preaching, and are trying to figure out how to claim the ways that God has moved in their lives as they preach the Word of God.