October 22, 2009
The two-minute drill is not just a strategy for winning close football games.
It is being applied to preaching at St. Nersess Seminary this year. As part of a special series of intensive workshops on the art of effective preaching, the seminarians are giving daily spiritual messages at the conclusion of Morning and Evening services in the Seminary chapel.
The catch: The sermons must not exceed two minutes.
The Two-Minute Drill
Rev. Nicholas Porter speaks to St. Nersess seminarians on the art of effective preaching.The idea behind the innovative assignment is to train the Seminary's future priests to deliver a meaty and meaningful message with a minimum of words and time. "Effective preachers need to learn to be economical with their words, to give a relevant and pointed Christian message that makes an impact on their congregations, without excess verbiage," said Rev. Fr. Nicholas Porter, an Episcopal priest and nationally-renowned preacher who is teaching the series of workshops at St. Nersess." He added, "Of course, a good Sunday sermon should probably run closer to 10 or 12 minutes. But the two-minute sermon teaches the seminarians to develop a single point and to deliver it in an effective and articulate manner."
Haig Dadourian Chair in Preaching
The preaching workshops are being underwritten by the Haig Dadourian Preaching Fund at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. The late Mr. Dadourian, who served for many years as Diocesan Council Chair of the Eastern Diocesan, was an ardent believer in the importance of effective preaching for the health and well-being of the faithful of the Armenian Church. Upon his death in 2006, his family established a fund whose ultimate goal is to endow a full-time teaching position in Preaching at St. Nersess Seminary.
Fourth-year seminarian Benjamin Rith-Najarian preaches
early one recent morning in the Seminary chapel.
Rev. Nicholas Porter speaks to St. Nersess seminarians
on the art of effective preaching.
Teacher of Armenian Seminarians in Jerusalem
"Fr. Nicholas is ideally suited to coach our seminarians in the preparation and practice of effective preaching," said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, the Seminary Dean. "He is recognized nationally as an outstanding preacher. Just as important, he understands deeply the function of the sermon and its role within the Armenian Divine Liturgy, having served within the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem for several years," Fr. Findikyan added.
The Healing Touch of Jesus
At around 8am on a recent morning, second-year seminarian Dikran Stan Sheridan, a native of Racine, Wisconsin, walked to the center of the intimate Seminary chapel. After invoking the Holy Trinity, he said, arrestingly, "Allow Jesus to touch you and to heal you," before retelling the story of the blind man, whose vision Jesus restored only after touching his eyes twice [Mark 8:22-26]. "Sometimes, when we face troubles we resist the healing touch of Jesus," the 23-year old said, gesturing. "We turn in and close ourselves off from Jesus. In those times we need, instead, to open ourselves up to the Lord; to allow him to heal us, which is what God desperately wants," he said, concluding his heartfelt message in just under two minutes.
Themes for the seminarians' daily sermons are taken from the Gospel of Mark, the most concise of the four Gospels, which the seminarians are reading piecemeal daily.
A Good Preacher is Like a Spy
"You're wasting your time if you don't know the people you're speaking to," Rev. Porter tells his students. "A good preacher is like a spy--the most important thing you can do in the week before your sermon is to look deeply into the lives of your people and listen to them," he said, adding, "You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak."
Badrasdapan - Ready to Speak
There's one more catch: The seminarians are only given a few hours of advance warning that they will be preaching. "A priest needs to develop the ability to give a pithy but significant message to his people on short notice," Fr. Nicholas says. "Some of your most enduring and effective sermons will not be given on Sunday morning during the Liturgy, but impromptu at the coffee hour or during a Women's Guild meeting," he said.
For more information on the Haig Dadourian Preaching Fund at St. Nersess Seminary contact Fr. Daniel Findikyan at email@example.com.