Welcome to the latest edition of “Ask the Bishop”! Bishop Sean answers your questions about what he’s reading, green energy, and his 10th anniversary as bishop of DioNWPA:
A Review by Adam Trambley
Albert Cutié’s Talking God is a short, accessible book that reads like a coffee conversation on preaching with a thoughtful and experienced practitioner. Albert Cutié, known to many as “Padre Alberto”, had a daily talk show broadcast to a national and international audience, as well as a column in the Miami Herald’s Spanish language publication. Originally ordained a Roman Catholic priest, Cutié joined the Episcopal Church in 2009 and preached at the 2012 General Convention. Talking God is a based on his Doctor of Ministry thesis.
Talking God is filled with interesting tidbits and thought-provoking ideas. His first chapter looks at six preachers of the past four hundred years. He talks about the vocal quality of preaching used by John Wesley, the ways that Bishop Sheen engaged a wide American audience, and credibility and connection that Joyce Meyer’s use of her own personal experiences offers. In other chapters, he looks at topics including the ways that new technology is changing people’s listening habits and the importance of the proper use of humor in homilies. To connect with contemporary audiences, he discusses the need for enthusiasm, creativity, prayer, and sermon structure. He also shares his strong opinion on the importance of not preaching from a text and the importance of preachers focusing on the delivery, as well as the content, of their messages.
While Cutié provides much for preachers to ponder, he offers little in terms of concrete advice that would help a reader implement his ideas. His idea of having a sermon evaluated by small group of people each week is excellent, but the tool he provides is far from the best sermon-evaluation instrument available. Anyone looking for help developing the kind of effective sermon structure Cutié advocates will need to look elsewhere. (I personally recommend Paul Scott Wilson’s The Four Pages of A Sermon as a starting place.) Some of his other points, such as his experiences with technology in worship and even his opposition to full-text preaching, come from his personal experience with no data to back up his claims. What he says is worth thinking about, but others may disagree based on their own contexts.
Cutié’s book is a helpful one to those interested in thinking about the craft of preaching and how it is changing. While he provides few compelling answers, the questions Cutié raises are important ones for preachers and the future of the church.
Rev. Adam Trambley is Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Sharon, PA