Preaching on the Bayou

Jan 30, 2023

By Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership

Preaching on the Bayou participants

About ten years ago, the Gulf Coast Synod received a gift of $25,000 from a couple – a husband and wife – who are members of one of our congregations. They wished to remain anonymous but talked to the bishop confidentially about how the synod might encourage and appreciate good sermons. The result of their generosity is a preaching endowment, the proceeds from which we set aside to offer annual (or thereabouts) preaching events with the intent to grow in the practice of preaching and in our study of the Word.

In the past, this event has had the title “Preach at the Beach,” and we have held it at Zion Retreat Center in Galveston. The intended audience is preachers, but rostered ministers and lay leaders are welcome to attend. We worship together, hear from a scholar and/or teacher, and share a meal. Our more recent speakers have been David Lose (2018) and Anna Carter Florence (2019).

In conversation with synod staff and conference deans, we began to imagine how to bring back this event after the pandemic. At the same time, we had been considering whether it was the right time to move Synod Assembly to Louisiana; however, with a staff transition in the synod office and running into glitches with venues (already booked), we decided to plan for a New Orleans Synod Assembly in the near future. As our planning for the preaching event began in earnest, we realized we did not have to set aside our ideas about hosting an event in Louisiana, and “Preaching On the Bayou” came to be!

Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis

On January 24, 2023, at St Paul Lutheran in Baton Rouge about 35 rostered ministers and lay leaders gathered for our first post-pandemic preaching event. Our guest speaker, Karoline Lewis, walked us through the five (RCL) gospel lessons for Lent and gave us ideas for a mid-week Lenten sermon series, Wednesdays at the Well, based on John 4. The hope was that those who came and wanted it could return home with some practical plans for preaching the upcoming season. (A special shout-out to Pastor Robin McCullough-Bade, a retired ELCA pastor and member of St Paul, Baton Rouge, who worked with me in making plans for the event, was a tireless host, and made excellent suggestions for hotel stays, restaurants, and site-seeing opportunities for those of us who are not local.) Dr. Lewis’ insights were profound; she incorporated teaching from her book, Belonging: 5 Keys to Unlock Your Potential as a Disciple. Interestingly, this work assumes a lay audience and is “scholarly but accessible.”

On either side of the event, January 23 and 25, participants were invited to explore Baton Rouge, come early, or stay late, and enjoy the gifts of the city. We always hope not just to offer learning but to encourage respite and retreat.

Stay tuned for the next preaching event in January 2024. We have been to the beach and the bayou. God only knows where we’ll be next!