MOST BLACK people in the UK with an African Caribbean background, no matter their age, will have experienced the spiritual dynamism, artistry and eloquence of a sermon delivered by an African Caribbean preacher.
Rev Dr Carol Tomlin, the Senior Pastor of the Restoration Fellowship Ministries and visiting fellow at Leeds University has provided insight into the world of preachers via her recently published book, Preach It: Understanding African Caribbean Preaching.
This academic undertaking explores the preaching style of the Windrush Generation, how it has influenced subsequent generations of black preachers here in the UK and where it’s at now.
Dr Tomlin has long held an interest and love of preaching while growing up in her Christian family in Leeds.
She recalled: “My fascination started as a child. I noticed when I was at primary school I found the lessons boring but when I went to church I was mesmerised by the preachers and was able to sit still for an hour.
“Just my mother’s language, and my relatives’, and the ways in which they would use language fascinated and intrigued me, and I would copy that.”
She became a Christian in her teens and accepted the call to ministry 12 years ago.
In the interim she pursued a career as an academic, and has worked in educational establishments in the United States.
Preach It: Understanding African Caribbean Preaching not only gives people insight into a style of sermonising that has spiritually sustained black Britons over the years but also highlights the aspects of African Caribbean preaching that makes it so special.
Dr Tomlin shared: “What’s unique about African Caribbean preaching is that it’s an art form – the way in which language is used and the genius of preaching lies in its ability to use different types of language artistically simultaneously using linguistic devices like call and response, repetition and improvisation.”
The book has been wellreceived by fellow academics. It was launched in Jamaica at United Theological College of the West Indies and Jamaica Theological Seminary, and Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham. Dr Tomlin also introduced to American audiences at a conference in Florida. She is set to host a book launch in London next month.
Understanding African Caribbean Preaching is not the only research Dr Tomlin has carried out on preaching. In the late 1980s she looked at the first generation of preachers. This book continues that work.
One thing Dr Tomlin has noted is that the subject matter preachers preach about has changed with time. Preachers of the Windrush Generation focused on eschatological issues, while preachers of today talk about how people can live in the here and now.
Dr Tomlin has high ambitions for her book: “I’m hoping the book will reach a wide audience – preachers across the Christian tradition. And for those in the tradition to appreciate the genius of it as an art form.”
Not a woman to rest on her laurels, Dr Tomlin is set to cowrite a book alongside fellow academic Victoria Showunmi that will be called Managing Everyday Racism.
Preach It: Understanding African Caribbean Preaching is out now and available on Amazon