пятница, 7 марта 2014 г.

When in Rome... (on preaching in Russian - what you need to do differently)

Here are some of my thoughts on cross-cultural homiletics or, put differently, what is different about preaching in Russian. I imagine a lot of the points below will be transferable to other cross-cultural situations - and maybe even to adapting to one's own culture.

1. Preaching in Russian means preaching in Russian. Remember what the people said at Pentecost? "We hear the wonders of God proclaimed in our own languages." If you absolutely have to use a translator, go over what you want to say beforehand to iron out any possible misunderstandings or mismatches. Otherwise speak - and prepare - in Russian.

2. Preaching in Russia means preaching in Russia. In other words, as much as possible adapt to the culture and life-situation in which you preach. Don't hide behind platitudes such as, "I am just preaching the Bible." Preaching, like any communication, is not just about delivering the right information, but also about it being received. Preaching, if it is not simply reading the words of Scripture, involves connecting that Word for all times to the times in which we now find ourselves. You will probably need to tweak or change your analogies and stories.

3. Cultural norms such as the appropriate register for preaching or the use of humour are not universal among cultures. As a rule Russian Christians consider a more formal register and more grave tone to be appropriate for speaking in public about serious things, especially spiritual things. What you think is 'relevant' and 'down to earth' may well come across as 'lightweight' or 'not to be taken seriously'. The same applies to how you dress and to your posture, body language and verbal delivery.

4. Russians don't really do ambiguity and obliqueness. Say what you mean directly, without going around the houses, and don't rely on people getting the point if you don't actually state it.

5. How do you start off? In practical terms the introductory story which is the mainstay of many a western sermon is usually not appropriate, as it seems a distraction. Often sermons will start by commenting on some aspect of the text (eg the event described or its importance) or by stating the issue at stake.

6. Likewise the notion of a three-point sermon requires some tweaking to work. I am on less safe ground saying this and many practise and defend this approach in Russia. In my experience, it is more culturally appropriate to draw attention to individual features in the text moving from the first to the second and so on but in a less linear fashion. "Первое, на что можно обратить внимание, это - ..." The word пункт sounds horribly foreign in Russian (at least to me). However some people seem to get away with it.

7. Illustrations and metaphors are key to communication in all cultures and Russian is of course no exception. Russians especially respond to illustrations which appeal to the 'soul' (heart), not just to the mind.

8. Practical application is also expected. This is often introduced with a rhetorical application, "А как это применять в нашей жизни?" Real-life examples can be given. At the end of the sermon the application is expressed in the form of a wish or multiple wishes: Пусть Бог нас благословит, ценить Его дар спасения, следуя Его заповедям.    

9. How do you finish? A standard way of concluding the sermon is with a doxology: "Ему слава вовеки. Аминь!"

Comments or thoughts, anyone? 

1 комментарий:

  1. A perspective on the same subject from the mid-1990s.