Michael Curry, hailed as one of the "current giants" among black preachers, extended his arms to the sky and thundered in a booming voice about the importance of "preach[ing] so well, cockroaches get saved" in York Chapel Tuesday afternoon.
Curry, the first black bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, spoke to Divinity School students as the distinguished speaker in the 2002 Gardner C. Taylor lecture series.
Curry's speech motivated students to "lift up [their] voices and sing" by moving beyond ordinary language and mingling life stories with those of the Bible to proclaim their new stories when preaching.
"The integrity of life laid bare with the word of God connects the old story to the new story," Curry said. "Preach until preaching becomes singing. It doesn't matter if you're off-key."
Mark Reisinger, a second-year student in the Divinity School, said the message in Curry's sermon-like speech dealt with reconciliation and how to bring people together.
"[Curry] talked about the importance of relationships in a Christian context," Reisinger said. "You take your story and the Biblical story and relate it to people."
Drawing an analogy to the exiled Israelis during the Babylonian conquest, Curry said everyone is in exile regardless of race, financial status or sexual orientation, especially after the events of Sept. 11. After the attacks, he said "all eyes were opened, we were all in exile" in the United States, and that the nation could no longer pretend it was "bigger and better" than other countries.
Andrew Parker, a second-year Divinity student, said Curry encouraged him to think about the concept of everyone being exiled and how people cannot assume that "everything is fine." He also praised the bishop for discussing many weighty issues in his speech.
"[Curry] wove so many different things together," Parker said. "In the end, he wove it into a beautiful tapestry."
Tiffney Marley, director of black church affairs, said the audience received a clear message from the bishop's speech.
"Bishop Curry has sung his song today," Marley said.
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