Hewitt, Martin (2012) Preaching from the platform: popular religious lecturing and the challenge of churching the masses. In: Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon, 1689-1901. Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology . Oxford University Press, London, UK, pp. 79-96. ISBN 978-0-19-958359-1

This essay explores the determining characteristics of the nineteenth century sermon by examining its most significant liminality: the religious address or lecture. It offers a general history of the religious lecture through the nineteenth century, with emphases on particular moments, such as the Sunday lectures controversies of the later 1850s, revivalism in the 1870s and the settlement and mission hall movements of the 1880s and 1890s which proved decisive in its evolution. The careers of a number of prominent popular religious lecturers – George Dawson, Hugh Stowell Brown, Thomas Cooper, Arthur Mursell, William Morley Punshon, Peter Mackenzie, Charles Leach, Guy Mark Pearse – are utilised along with material which attempts to offer a sense of the breadth of the century’s religious lecturing culture, to explore a number of questions. What particular possibilities was the religious lecture seen to offer as against the sermon, and what do these tell us about attitudes to the sermon itself. Who were the religious lecturers? How did they take advantage of these greater freedoms? Were there any uniting features – of context, form, content, delivery or response – which would enable us to describe common or widely shared characteristics of the religious lecture? In what ways and to what extent did religious lecturing succeed where the traditional forms of organised religion had not? Did they reach the unchurched masses or merely sustain the enthusiasms of the ‘converted’?

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