Preaching and the pandemic

Online worship is a new experience for most clergy and people. Preaching plays a vital role in the immediacy of this medium. Good internet communication can improve the effectiveness of this ministry, writes Shane Crombie.

Catholic liturgy is more or less a fixed entity. While there is some room for manoeuvre, the words and actions are prescribed. There is one obvious exception to this, the one part of the liturgy that is the presider’s own creation, and that is the homily. As an act of worship, it is a living encounter with the Word of God in the context of the believing community, and indeed others who may be present. As an integral part of the liturgy, preaching bridges the word and action of a sacrament, separate from neither of them.

Preaching is a challenging ministry; the mental and spiritual resources of the preacher are often tested to the limits. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, preaching has arguably become even more difficult. The public health mandates have created an alternative space for public worship, a new space that pastors and people have had to make their new liturgical habitat – the world of the ‘online’. For many, the use of webcam and livestream became the only avenue of faith practice. In an online context, the homily has proved itself to be of vital importance. During the strictest lockdown, Mass and religious services by this medium were a real and living connection with the outside world. In the lonely days of isolation, the voice of the preacher was a welcome noise, not only as oratory, but as the sound of companion and friend.

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