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Merrimack Valley

March 31, 2013

A time to shine

Preachers deliver sermons to packed houses on Easter Sunday

When the doors open at St. James Church in Haverhill for Easter services today, the Rev. Robert Murray expects a full house.

Usually there is a swell in attendance — from about 950 on a regular Sunday to about 2,500 on Easter, he says

Traditionally, Easter is one holy day of the year when Christians who may not normally attend services during the year, make an effort to show up. It is also when ministers have an opportunity to put some spit and polish into their sermonizing.

“Ours is a faith that goes on all year long and you are always welcome and Easter is the perfect time to start over,” Murray said.

LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian agency surveyed 1,060 adults about attending Easter services and found that 58 percent of Protestants, 57 percent of Catholics and 45 percent of non-denominational Christians plan to attend Easter services today.

Similarly, a Knights of Columbus-Marist poll of 2,000 Americans showed 58 percent will celebrate Easter this morning. When it came to the survey’s 515 Catholics, 70 percent said they were attending, though for those Catholics who identified themselves as practicing, 92 percent said they were going.

The Rev. Scott Gibson professor of preaching, director of the Haddon Center for Preaching and director of the master of theology program in preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, said preparation is key to writing a good sermon.

He said the first step is to choose a Bible text on which to base the sermon, come up with a theme, write an outline, followed by a manuscript. Gibson said students at Gordon-Conwell are taught to preach without notes.

“It’s not that they’re shooting from the hip. If they have studied the text well and the dominant idea is developed, then you have a message to communicate,” he said.

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