Behold what you are, become what you receive: Preaching as Catechesis

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Black, Robert William, Jr.
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School of Theology Thesis 2020 , Religious literacy test , Bible studies class , Religious formation class
Both scholarly studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the average American churchgoer would not perform well on a religious literacy test. The historical reasons for this decline in religious knowledge are numerous, but the real question is not how we arrived at this point, but rather where do we go from here? Compounding the issue is that a good number of those in the pews are not attending Bible studies or formation classes, nor are they reading works about faith or theology. Furthermore, as those who did not grow up in a religious household join a worshipping congregation, they have little foundation upon which to build. The result of all of these conditions is that the sermon becomes the primary, and in many cases, the only, vehicle for the catechetical task of bringing people into a lively faith. But how ought the preacher approach this task? In previous generations, sermons given by preachers such as Cyril of Jerusalem and Isaac Williams had clear catechetical foci. In modern times, preachers like Rowan Williams and Samuel Wells have tended to weave catechesis into sermons that are not expressly doctrinal lectures. The sermons of these preachers provide insight into how the catechetical task might be approached today. As a test-case for such catechetical preaching, a sermon series about the importance and place of the Eucharist in our liturgical lives is considered. The goal being not merely religious knowledge, but the turning of lives towards God and a recognition of God’s abundant grace.