Listening to and learning from the "small voice" of African preachers: a practical theological examination of African preaching in Kenya
Siwo-Okundi, Elizabeth J. A.
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The few studies on African preaching tend to focus on various aspects of sermons, with minimal attention to preachers and their formation. This study, by contrast, centers on the “small voice”—the unnoticed, unnamed, silenced, marginalized, neglected, and rejected perspectives—of diverse preachers who self-identify as African Christian preachers. The dissertation employs this hermeneutical lens to focus on the experiences and practices of African Christian preachers and to draw out the theological implications of their homiletical activities. The study uses a three-part framework of African perspectives (voices); the African context and culture; and care and critique. Using a “small voice”-informed mixed-methods research to address the limitations of previous studies and with the western region of Kenya as a point of focus (due to the diversity of Christianity within it), this research addresses the questions, “How and why do African Christian preachers become preachers (formation, reflection, and preaching roles); and how do they define and describe their preaching (description)?” Through oral interviews with 17 preachers, 150 extensive survey questionnaires, participant observation, and literature reviews, this study yields thick descriptions of African preaching in context. The results of the research highlight the person and life of the preacher and offer a rare glimpse into the perspectives of women and young preachers. The study reveals that the majority of African preachers feel “called” to preaching. Also, they live, preach, and are educated within their own communities; and they remain within the religious tradition in which they were raised. The preachers speak multiple languages with varying degrees of fluency. They preach in diverse settings, though women preachers are hindered due to domestic duties and youth are limited due to their age. The findings of the study illuminate the dedication of African preachers to preaching, despite lack of financial compensation. They attain the highest level of education that they can afford and are open to continued training/mentoring. The study suggests that the education/mentoring of African preachers must be culturally and linguistically relevant. The findings anticipate that similar perspectives may exist throughout similarly situated contexts within other parts of Africa.