Performance Turns in Homiletics

by Richard F. Ward

At the time this was written, Richard F. Ward, Ph. D., was Clement-Muehl Associate Professor of Communication Arts, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT 06511.

This article first appeared in Reformed Liturgy and Music 30:2 (1996)


"Performance" is a problematic term in discourse about homiletics. Usually equated with narrow applications of theatrical imagery, "performance" is often pejoratively used by homileticians to identify "inauthenticity" in preaching. Performance-centered research has permeated other disciplines of communication and offered conceptual replenishment as well as richer possibilities for dialogue among scholars. The purpose of this essay is to reconstitute the term for homiletics by grounding it in the emergent discipline of "performance studies."

He always called it a performance, teasing the word with that mocking voice of his--