Preaching With Power

In the late Seventies, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Willis and the late Rev. Dr. Randolf L. Jones began exploring the possibility of finding a seminary home for their work with African American Pastors and their hopes to establish a program of study that focused on, and supported, the needs of the African American Church community in Philadelphia. After meeting with a number of disappointing responses, they brought their proposal to The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and, as Dr. Jones was fond of recounting, “While others said no, Lutheran said ‘YES’!” And the rest, as they say, is history.

As with all great histories, this one continues. The Urban Theological Institute at LTSP, the home of the dream shared by Drs. Willis and Jones, has thrived here for thirty-five years. And while many have expressed to me their appreciation for the ongoing support and partnership LTSP has extended to the congregations and leaders the UTI serves, I have to say that, as with all genuine relationships, the blessings have been mutual. UTI has enriched us, stretched us, encouraged us, and helped us for many, many years and I look forward to discerning God’s preferred future for Philadelphia and God’s beloved world together.

One of the particular blessings the UTI has contributed is a week-long series of services and events focused on the history, tradition, art, and future of African American Preaching. Appropriately named “Preaching With Power,” it’s probably easiest to think of it as an ongoing celebration of great preaching in the African American tradition that inhabits and enlivens the campus of LTSP at a couple of points this week but also takes root in the area congregations that host our worship services each evening. I first became acquainted with this wonderful event a quarter-century ago when I was a student, and I rejoice to have the opportunity to drink from its deep wells once again as well as see first hand how it has flourished in the time since.

I won’t detail all the wonderful preachers and speakers, as you can find out about all of them here (and find a schedule of remaining events here). But I will say that one of the things I love most about teaching and learning at this school is that each and every day I feel grateful for the opportunity to work at an institution of the church that looks a whole lot like the world God loves so much.