US seminary hires actors to run preaching boot camp

A United States seminary has hired to professional actors to help seminarians be better prepared for future preaching.

Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary hired the actors to put seminarians through a three week acting and public speaking workshop.

The exercise has been nicknamed “Preaching Boot Camp”, reported the Detroit Free Press.

Actors Arthur Beer and Mary Bremner-Beer have run the workshop at the seminary for the last few years.

The seminarians are taught how to project, how to control tempo, and how to master timing in order to deliver a Biblical truth or a laugh line.

The married couple’s boot camp is a change-up from the typical seminary classes in Catholic theology and doctrine.

Boot camp classes begin with vocal exercises and seminarians also do breathing exercises.

One example of the latter is seminarians holding a lit candle in front of their mouths, while trying to exhale slowly enough to make the flame dance, rather than blowing it out.

To tap into the emotions, the seminarians are asked to write and deliver speeches about their mothers.

Then they have to deliver those speeches to their mothers.

When one of the seminarians said his mother started crying, Mrs Bremer-Beer, a college acting teacher, took it as a good sign: “Doesn’t it make you feel good when they cry?” she asked.

Other exercises include memorising monologues about characters from plays and delivering these.

It is an admitted challenge for priests to break through to congregations, so the preparation is considered worthwhile.

“Priests today have to compete with a digital media culture where sound-bites, tweets and social media updates are the currency of communication. It’s a real challenge for preachers to break through,” said John Gehring, Catholic programme director at the Washington, DC-based advocacy group Faith in Public Life.


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