Second-year seminarian Fr. Gabreil Alemayehu was recently ordained in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. In January 2014, he participated in the Festival of Young Preachers in Indianapolis, IN, along with his mentor The Rev. Dr. Sergius Halvorsen, professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric. (View Fr. Gabreil's Festival homily on YouTube. )
It was my great surprise to meet another person wearing a cassock after delivering my sermon at the 2011 Academy of Preachers' Festival of Young Preachers. It was at this Festival that I was introduced to Fr. Sergius Halvorsen. Who knew that he would be my mentor when I went to preach at the 2014 Festival of Young Preachers, which was hosted by the Academy of Preachers in January 2–4, 2014 in Indianapolis, IN? During that festival, over 110 Christian preachers of different traditions meditated on the questions of the soul. Amongst these preachers, Brian Cheney, Andrew Boyd (SVOTS '12), Fr. Lucas Rice (SVOTS '11), and I represented the Orthodox tradition.
With the guidance of Fr. Sergius, I preached from Exodus 4:1, the text where God asks Moses, "What is that in your hand?" In my sermon, I explored how we must recognize what God has bestowed upon us and offer it back to God. After recognizing what he had in his hand, Moses offered up his staff and through it was able to fulfill the task given to him by God. Later, what Moses held in his hand was used to raise up the serpent that healed the cursed children of Israel. Like Moses, We should also use what we have in our hands to raise up the real cure of our souls, Jesus Christ. Events like the Festival of Young Preachers are what encourage young people to offer up to God whatever they have in their hands.
During one morning session at the festival, we heard Dr. Frank Thomas, a professor at Christian Theological Seminary, preach a sermon titled, "A Basin, Water Pitcher, and a Towel" in which he reminded young preachers to embody the humility of Christ who grabbed a basin, water pitcher, and towel as a servant to wash the feet of His disciples. Another night, we heard Fr. Lucas Rice, an alumnus of St. Vladimir's, who preached about the power of Christ to transform the weaknesses in our lives.
Not only did the Festival allow us young preachers to preach and to listen to other preachers, it also allowed us to develop our preaching skills by attending different workshops organized throughout the event. One of these workshops, titled "Sacramental Preaching," was led by our own Fr. Sergius Halvorsen, who, using an icon, illustrated the effectiveness of using images in preaching and presented some rhetorical devices useful in effective preaching.
It was a wonderful experience to learn about the tradition of others, especially the different forms of preaching that exist among Christians of different traditions. At the festival no two presenters were alike. The event illustrated the significance of preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and the beauty found in the different traditions. I am glad I had the chance to participate!