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Hallo again to all.

Judging by the sheer quantity of volumes published in the 18th and 19th centuries, reading sermons (or at least collecting volumes of sermons) was a popular activity. No doubt the sombre tone of Sundays made sermon-reading one of the few acceptable activities. Having a captive audience would indeed boost sales. But evidence suggests beyond doubt that the publication of sermons by the great and the good was anticipated with pleasure.

Does anyone read sermons any more? Certainly a few volumes by well-known preachers appear from time to time, but do 'ordinary Anglicans' read them? Or are they more often perused by those who preach on a weekly basis; that is, those in holy orders? In the 1970s we frequently dropped a few pence in a box for a printed copy of a recent sermon by the rector of the church we then attended. But from the numbers of copies that remained week after week, we sermon-readers weren't a large group.

If there aren't many readers, could that be partially owing to the fact that many sermons may not be worth reading? We wrote recently about the diminishing attention paid to the spoken voice in the pulpit. But a compelling voice and engaging 'pulpit manner' are mere fashion accessories, as it were, if the content of a sermon is thin. The quality of homiletical training no doubt varies throughout the Communion, but many who have written to us through the years wished they had had far more training than they received. Still, week after week, all round the globe, sermons are given -- and some of them are brilliant, compelling, provoking, poetic, and well worth reading. So we're initiating a new section of Anglicans Online to recognise and link to the best Anglican sermons we can find. We're delighted that the Revd Dr Raewynne Whiteley, a gifted preacher, scholar of homiletics, author, and parish priest, will be editor of this new section. We'll launch the section in the next few weeks.

If sermons are no longer best sellers, books on church history or clerical biographies aren't being showcased at Amazon or featured in glossy bookshop displays. Church history and biography seem (unjustly!) to provoke yawns. We can be caught up in the story of the church down the ages; moved by the men, women, movements, triumphs and tragedies especially of our own Ecclesia Anglicana. Finding out-of-print histories and biographies was a time-consuming and tedious business. Happily, the number of primary sources on the Web has grown markedly and marvellously. Project Canterbury has had much to do with that, and we're pleased to welcome Richard Mammana, its founder and coordinator, to the AO staff. Richard has worked with us many months behind the scenes, assisting with New This Week and scouring the Web for links to add to AO. In addition to this work, he's agreed to oversee our Church History and Basics sections.

Our Anglican world has been much rocked and roiled these last years. At AO, we balance the headlines of today's news with reminders of church battles of yesterday in our Church History section. In the same way, we like to think that for every blustering press release churned out, somewhere in the world a thoughtful, moving, and Christ-filled sermon is being preached. We know which will matter more in the long run.

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 12 September 2004

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