Deep Calls to Deep, a program to nurture and strengthen preaching, is housed in VTS’s Lifelong Learning Department, and is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment. The program supports several peer groups of four to six preachers who covenant to meet monthly for a year to preach for each other, receive feedback, and support each other in the preaching vocation. The peer groups gather on the campus of VTS for a weeklong residency at the beginning and again at the end of the program. The residency offers instruction and formation in the core components of the program, as well as opportunities for refreshment, renewal, and community-building. During the program each participant meets regularly with a preaching guide. A mid-year retreat is also offered for each peer group, typically led by one of the faculty directors of the program.
The structure and themes of this program emerge from the conviction that preaching is soul-work. The title of the program, Deep Calls to Deep, emphasizes that God speaks to us as preachers in our depths, and we respond out of our depths. To be attuned to this divine speaking and human response, preachers need to cultivate a living, growing relationship with God. They also need to cultivate integration within themselves, in body, mind, and spirit, so that as whole persons they are capable of searching their own depths so as to encounter God there. The strengthening of preaching is thus not fundamentally about offering tips or techniques, but rather has to do with nourishing preachers for this challenging work. Accordingly, Deep Calls to Deep is structured around four themes: the spirituality of the preacher, the cultivation of the preaching imagination, embodiment as the integration of the whole person into the task of preaching, and building a community of preachers. The program emphasizes community in both the summer residencies and the monthly peer group meetings, because we are convinced that preaching is a communal rather than a solitary practice, and that it is through connection with a community of peers that preachers are best supported for this challenging vocation.
For more information about Deep Calls to Deep, please contact the Rev. Cayce Ramey in the Lifelong Learning department. We look forward to hearing from you!
The Rev. Ruthanna B. Hooke, Ph.D.
Program Director, Deep Calls to Deep