That'll Preach: Decentering the Pulpit Through the Non-Pulpit Homiletical Practice of Black Women
Yarborough, Chelsea Brooke
The preaching of Black women has long been ignored. This is due, in part, to a persistent narrowing of the definition of preaching to include only preaching sanctioned by ecclesiastical institutions and taking place in church pulpits. This dissertation expands the definition of the genre of preaching to include the non-pulpit homiletical practices of Black women. Analyzing the rhetoric of Sojourner Truth, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Fannie Lou Hamer as preaching, this dissertation recovers a preaching history and homiletical wisdom that should not be ignored. When Black women are centered, preaching does not begin at the pulpit. These women claimed their unique preaching voices and interpreted biblical texts, their own lives, and the lives of others in creative and prophetic ways in spaces beyond the norm. Making use of a homiletical hermeneutic of particularity, intersectionality, and exigency, this dissertation focuses on each woman’s historical and biographical particularity, exploring the ways they experienced their lives as part of a situation in which preaching became unavoidable and necessary. Making use of Lloyd Bitzer’s ideas of “the rhetorical situation” and “rhetorical exigency,” this dissertation considers each woman’s preaching through the lens of homiletical “exigency.” Both their lives and their rhetoric are analyzed in order to discover what we learn about Black women preachers, the life of the preacher and the craft of preaching.