Preaching During a Pandemic

The Rhetoric of the Black Preaching Tradition, Volume II

by Andre E. Johnson (Volume editor) Kimberly P. Johnson (Volume editor) Wallis C. Baxter III (Volume editor)
©2023 Textbook X, 106 Pages


Preaching During a Pandemic: The Rhetoric of the Black Preaching Tradition is a two-volume collection of sermons from those who preach within the Black preaching tradition during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By publishing these sermons, the editors address questions such as what were those who preached in the Black preaching tradition sharing with their congregants? How were they incorporating and infusing COVID-19 in their sermons? What shape did the prophetic and priestly sermon take when preaching during a pandemic? Were specific models or types of sermons—womanist, prophetic/liberation, narrative, contemplative, celebrative, expository, thematic, induction, deductive—more frequently employed during a crisis? 

Across the two volumes, the editors collate 29 sermons and provide detailed introductions to each book examining the context and themes of the texts in an illuminating and accessible manner. It will make fascinating reading for students and scholars of Communication and Religious Studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Black Pulpit Speaks
  • The Work of Christmas: Matthew 2:13–18 (NIV) (Nadine Burton)
  • Making an Entrance: Matthew 21:1–12 (NIV) (Darryl Warren Aaron)
  • Signs of the Times: Matthew 27:36–37 (NLT) (Tikeisha Harris)
  • Trusting When Jesus Sleeps: Mark 4:35–41 (NRSV) (Daryl M. Washington)
  • The Bottom of the Mountain: Luke: 9:28–33 (NIV) (DiArron M.)
  • I Can’t Breathe: Luke 23:44–46 (NIV) (Tori C. Butler)
  • Healing for the Soul: Luke 17:11–19 (NRSV) (Lisa Maxine Goods)
  • Stay Woke!: Luke 21:8–9 (NIV) (Kimberly P. Johnson)
  • Faith When the Worst Happens: John 11:17–22 (NIV) (Clarence E. Wright)
  • The Hope in the Ascension: Acts 1:1–11 (NRSV) (Kyle Stevenson)
  • Living with the Unknown: Acts 1:1–11 (NIV) (Lauren Harris)
  • God’s Promises are “Yes” and “Amen”: 2 Corinthians 1:3–6, 20 (NIV) (Luc El-Art Severe, J.D.)
  • Crisis Contemplation: Philippians 2:1–13 (NRSV) (E. Trey Clark)
  • Guess Who?: Revelations 5:1–5 (NRSV) (Nicole Barnes)
  • I AM (Ayo M. Morton)
  • Contributors
  • Series Index

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In addition to thanking our families, friends, colleagues, and supporters, we would like to thank Niall Kennedy, Joshua Charles, and the good people at Peter Lang Press for their work in bringing this project to fruition. We would also like to thank Michael Gipson, who started this project with us, and for the Communication, Culture, Race, and Religion book series. We also would like to thank the contributors for their submissions and patience as we put this book together during a pandemic. We also thank the Black Church for still finding ways out of no way to serve and minister to the people of God.




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Introduction: The Black Pulpit Speaks

In this second volume, we have curated some of the most extraordinary African American sermons (and spoken word) delivered during the first six months of quarantine based on New Testament scriptures that specifically address the COVID-19 Global Pandemic and/or America’s civil unrest Pandemic. Currently, the only collection of sermons (by different preachers) that addresses either a global pandemic or a specific American crisis is Martha Simmons’ and Frank A. Thomas’ edited volume, 9.11.01: African American Leaders Respond to an American Tragedy. Their book addresses the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on American soil where close to 3000 people lost their lives from the attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the plane crash of United Airline Flight 93.1 Simmons and Thomas categorize nineteen sermons under four sections: (1) Preach In Times Like These, (2) Prophesy In Times Like These, (3) Persevere In Times Like These, and (4) Proclaim In Times Like These, all to give a message of hope that reminds us that we are overcomers. Simmons argues, “time and again, when evil has spoken, the African American pulpit has also spoken. In all of its diverse forms and diverse faiths, it has spoken. With unyielding belief in the divine who neither slumber nor sleeps, it has spoken. ←1 | 2→With an unwavering belief that right will not always yield to might, it has spoken.”2 Thomas claims,

Evil has many faces; terrorism might be one and patriotism can be another. Evil can lurk not only in the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, but also in President Bush and the U.S. Congress. Evil can show up in any country, at any time, strike in any party or government … Evil can center in individual people, such as Hitler, and in entire social institutions, such as courts, police, banks, schools, and churches, as in the case of the American sanctioning of the slave trade, apartheid, Jim Crow, and the genocide of Rwanda.3

To address the evil and systemic racism that Blacks have endured since slavery, we wanted our contributors to have the freedom to address the civil unrest that we experienced during the first six months of the shutdown (March–August). In 2020, police killed a total of 18 unarmed Black people. Out of that number, police killed 11 between March and August (Robert D’Lon Harris, Dion Johnson, Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, Maurice S. Gordon, Shaun Lee Fuhr, Fred Brown, Mycael Johnson, Donnie Sanders, Breonna Taylor, Barry Gedeus, and George Floyd), six were killed between September and December (Andre Maurice Hill, Marcellis Stinnette, Jonathan Price, Kurt Andras Reinhold, Anthony Jones, and Mickel Erich Lewis), and two were killed in January (Jaquyn O’Neill Light and William Howard Green).4 Police killed Green while handcuffed in a police car.5 He died in police custody after he was already apprehended, which means he was no longer a threat, and there was no justified reason for an officer to reach for a gun.

By the time the nation imposed a Safer at Home mandate in March 2020, we had just witnessed the February 23, 2020, vigilante killing of Ahmaud Arbery, which immediately reminded us of the February 26, 2012, killing of Trayvon Martin, and the August 28, 1955, killing of Emmett Till because they were modern-day lynchings. The African American community was outraged over this lynching, and the time it took for the three white male vigilantes to be arrested. Then, just as soon as the quarantine began, we were hit with the killing of Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020. It was the unimaginable realization that a black ←2 | 3→woman could be asleep in her bed and wind up as the fatal victim of a botched police raid. Taylor’s horrific death sparked nationwide protests (and during the summer international protests) over the way law enforcement police Black bodies. People chanted #SayHerName, to highlight specifically the violence done against African American women by police officers6 Nearly two months later, when Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the world witnessed Chauvin torture George Floyd by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9-minutes and 29-seconds while he was already faced down on the ground in handcuffs. The world was outraged, and this egregious act against George Floyd ignited global protests for police reform and racial justice. Many of these protests lifted the names of unarmed individuals previously killed by police.

Naturally, between the COVID-19 pandemic and the heightened civil unrest, we knew that African American preaching would speak truth to power even in America’s current condition. But we did not know what those messages would be, what text preachers would choose, how they would rhetorically shine a bright light on our current condition, or even who would respond to our call for sermons. Additionally, we wondered if we would collect clear examples of womanist preaching and discover the use of womanist rhetorical strategies in the sermons by (male) womanist allies. Would preachers employ the rhetorical strategies of radical subjectivity, traditional communalism, redemptive self-love, or critical engagement? These are the phrases that Stacey Floyd-Thomas uses to describe the tenets of Alice Walker’s four-part womanist definition.7 In ←3 | 4→The Womanist Preacher: Proclaiming Womanist Rhetoric from the pulpit, Kimberly P. Johnson claims:


X, 106
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (February)
Preaching pandemic rhetoric Black preaching homiletics Black Church Religious rhetoric communication race Preaching During a Pandemic The Rhetoric of the Black Preaching Tradition Andre E. Johnson Kimberly P. Johnson Wallis C. Baxter III
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2023. X, 106 pp.

Biographical notes

Andre E. Johnson (Volume editor) Kimberly P. Johnson (Volume editor) Wallis C. Baxter III (Volume editor)

Andre E. Johnson is Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. He teaches classes in African American public address; rhetoric, race, and religion; media studies; interracial communication; homiletics; and hip hop studies. He is the author of No Future in This Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (2020). Dr. Johnson is also Senior Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries in Memphis, Tennessee. Kimberly P. Johnson is Associate Professor in the Communication Studies concentration area at Tennessee State University. She brings to the Department of Communication her areas of specialization: political, religious, and African American rhetoric; rhetorical criticism; cultural criticism; and womanism. Dr. Johnson has presented her research at professional communication associations such as the National Communication Association, Rhetoric Society of America, Southern States Communication Association, and the Tennessee Communication Association. She is the author of The Womanist Preacher: Proclaiming Womanist Rhetoric from the Pulpit (2017). Wallis C. Baxter III is the pastor of Second Baptist Church SW in District Heights, Maryland. He is a 2009 graduate of Duke Divinity School with an M.Div. degree and a 2017 graduate of Howard University with a Ph.D. in African American literature. Dr. Baxter’s research interests include the shape of prophetic ministry from Reconstruction to today, 19th-century African American literature and liberation, ethics in Black and White America, and Black identity and gentrification within capitalistic America. He is the author of You Must Be Born Again: Phillis Wheatley as Prophetic Poet (2022).


Title: Preaching During a Pandemic
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118 pages