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Prof. Thomas Continues to Build African American Preaching Legacy Series

Prof. Frank Thomas interviewing Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

Since joining the faculty in 2013, Prof. Frank A. Thomas has enriched the CTS community in countless ways. Alongside his scholarship, preaching, and teaching, Prof. Thomas, the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics and Director of the PhD program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric, has worked to bring a number of notable preachers to campus over the years. More recently, he has been recording interviews with many of these guests, which have become incredibly popular resources for homiletical insight and a growing archive of important voices in the African American preaching tradition.

These interviews began in 2015, when Prof. Thomas brought Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., now Pastor Emeritus at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, to CTS. Rev. Dr. Wright has long been one of the most prolific and publicly recognizable preachers in the United States, and Prof. Thomas had invited him to deliver a lecture to the CTS community on “Seven Decades of African American Preaching.” While preparing for Rev. Dr. Wright’s time on campus, Prof. Thomas said, “It dawned on me. You can’t have Jeremiah Wright come to campus and not have a camera on him.” On something of a last minute decision, Prof. Thomas recorded a one-on-one interview with Rev. Dr. Wright after his lecture to dig further into his homiletical experiences, his approach to preaching, and the African American preaching tradition more broadly.

Little did Prof. Thomas know at the time, this interview would soon be watched by thousands of people. Because of the overwhelming response it received, Prof. Thomas decided to record a similar interview with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., when he came to campus the following year. Encouraged by the response it too received, Prof. Thomas began interviewing preachers from around the country. He said that, “Initially, the thought was that so much of the genius of African American preaching goes to the grave. Somebody needs to be [recording interviews with] these people.” Although he originally focused on preachers with long careers in the pulpit, at the suggestion of some of his students, he soon began interviewing younger preachers as well.

These interviews comprise what is now the African American Preaching Legacy Series. The growing list of preachers interviewed includes Rev. Dr. Charles Edward Booth, Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, and Rev. Dr. Claudette Anderson Copeland. For the series, Prof. Thomas’s vision is straight-forward: “I want to spread the genius of African American preaching,” he explained, “and to make it freely accessible.”

In all, these unique interviews have been viewed several hundred thousand times and have been used in preaching classes around the nation. Each of them addresses a different preacher’s experience, methods, mentors, and insights regarding their craft. Prof. Thomas said that the interviews have driven home the lasting lesson that “there’s no one preaching style that fits everybody. Every preacher has to find their own flow.”

Prof. Thomas expressed gratitude for the opportunity to conduct these interviews. “These are people who have pastors’ hearts, who excel at preaching, and who use their preaching gifts to reach people,” he said. “At the heart of it, these people love God, love the church, love their communities, and love people. And that’s what I hope comes through in them.”

Looking ahead, Prof. Thomas is planning to conduct as many interviews as time and resources allow. He said that he is praying for a grant to expand the project even further.

The video series emerged and grew organically from the work of Prof. Thomas and the PhD program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric. Prof. Thomas explained, “the PhD program is a movement. It’s an academic program, but it’s a movement. When a program is a movement, it generates these sorts of things.”

Check out all of Prof. Thomas’s interviews on his YouTube page and CTS’s YouTube page.
Learn more about CTS’s PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric.



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