Learning to Preach with Dr. Bernadette Glover
December 1, 2012
Imagine conversing with the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at the oldest Seminary in North America. With NBTS’ Dr. Bernadette Glover, you may be surprised to experience more than a few pauses, or a moment of silence. Perhaps you will even catch yourself thinking.
It’s a practice of hers, now keenly purposeful. “A sense of synergy is very powerful for me,” she explains. “If you and I are talking, at the seminary, in my home parish, or at the Good Year Tire store, there’s something mutual we each have to share with one another. I try to remember to be mindful and ask, OK, God, what do you have in mind?”
Good Year Tires? “Yes, on Route 22,” she replies. Dr. Glover lives a stone’s throw from her birthplace in Scotch Plains, NJ. “Just this summer, I brought my mother’s car in. And the manager who takes care of us, he shares with me, special things.” A photo of the prized car he could finally purchase. A prayer request. “In that moment my purpose isn’t about inviting him to church,” she explains. “I’m just listening.”
At Cathedral International in Perth Amboy, where she recently served as executive pastor, Dr. Glover participated in the preaching rotation for more than 20 years. For her, preaching is an outward expression of a very private interior. “It’s an expression that God desires to be in communion with us, desires relationship with us,” she explains. When that relationship forms, out of that comes not only intimacy and meaning. One begins to sense his or her identity, which comes into focus. “Then it’s all about our participation in God’s world. God looks to us to take on responsibility.” For Dr. Glover, putting words to this internal relationship in preaching, teaching, and simply being in community, is a way to extend our internal freedom and peace into outward works of justice and reconciliation to heal the world.
Yes, but, Dr. Glover, how do you teach THAT? “What kind of fruit are you?” she asks in return. Excuse me? “That’s our first exercise. Students pick a fruit or an animal for themselves and then I invite them to talk about three ways that that orange or lion experiences God.” It’s unavoidable-everyone feels ridiculous. Besides the classic textbooks that teach a method and analyze how to write a great sermon, Dr. Glover invites students to listen to each other, and build a sense of community; a safe, trusted place where they learn to hear each others’ voices. “Iron sharpening iron-that’s what I like to set up in my classes,” she explains.
And, what of her dreams? Will she set up occasions for “iron sharpening iron” in the Seminary at large, as it undergoes many changes? Here Dr. Glover talks of another NJ native, Thomas Edison, who when his lab burned down was asked, How will you cope with what you have lost? “All my mistakes are gone,” he replied. Dr. Glover, a third-generation minister, with a doctorate from United Theological Seminary, and who serves on the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey’s Professional Ministry Committee, focuses on her mother’s signature bread pudding. “In a critical juncture, it’s important to quiet anxiety and make room for creativity,” she says. “Just as my mother transformed leftover scraps of bread. Sometimes when we feel we’re crumbling inside, I remember, there’s always bread pudding. That is my mind’s approach and my faith.”