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Toward a Womanist Homiletic

Katie Cannon, Alice Walker and Emancipatory Proclamation


Donna E. Allen

The sermon is a major theological voice in the Black church; it carries enormous influence and is traditionally and predominantly a Christian-based theoethical construct. Through the sermon, the preacher negotiates the contours of African American sacred and secular culture. The congregation is invited to examine social morals and values according to the faith claims of the sermon.
Toward a Womanist Homiletic builds on the work of Katie G. Cannon and Alice Walker to offer a womanist paradigm for analyzing the sermons of Black women and proposes the content of a womanist homiletic. This womanist homiletic is a foundational construct that includes an examination of theological language, the insights on the ‘trans-rational’ nature of preaching and the function of embodiment and performed identity in preaching. It also includes insights from a womanist critique of language in Black preaching, particularly the prevalence of derogatory language about women in the sacred rhetoric of Black preaching.


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Chapter III. An Examination of a Womanist Preacher’s Sermonizing 45


Chapter III An Examination of a Womanist Preacher’s Sermonizing The Reverend Prathia Laura Ann Hall identified herself as a woman- ist preacher, and she intentionally applied a womanist methodology in her sermonizing. In the process of naming and defining womanist preaching through the examination of sermons, it is important that the preacher have some understanding of womanist thought. Clearly, one “is not free to name others as womanist if this is not a term they claim for themselves.”1 Therefore, Rev. Prathia Hall’s exegesis of sacred rhet- oric and her womanist homiletic style provide an excellent subject for critical analysis in discovering the definitive, and speculative, impact of Black female preachers according to the development and application of Black theology. Reverend Prathia Hall Rev. Dr. Hall was an accomplished leader in the Black church and a nationally acclaimed preacher. She was a visible leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and served as a coordinator for the free- dom rides and the southwest Georgia and Selma, Alabama, Student Allen_Book.indb 45 03/12/12 3:23 PM 46 toward a womanist homiletic Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Hall was watchful and actively involved in the causes and movements for social justice and described her origins in “freedom faith” as follows: Well it sounds presumptuous to say you were born with a mission, but I have always had a deep passion for justice. I was raised by my parents in what I believe to be the central dynamic in the African-American religious...

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