Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet

Miller, Robert Moats

Oxford University, 1985

pp. 369 - 370

Fosdick wrote out his sermons in the early years, memorizing them and then bringing almost nothing with him into the pulpit. Then for a while he worked from an outline. Eventually he began to take a full manuscript with him again. He explains this last choice: “I have found that one can have the full manuscript in front of him and can read it as though he were not reading, but talking, with just as much freedom, colloquial directness, and person-to-person impact as though no manuscript were on the pulpit. Just as one can write for listeners, so one can also read for listeners, combining the advantage of a manuscript’s careful preparation with the freedom of face-to-face address.’” Fosdick adds this: “I do not see how anyone can keep strength of thought and variety and facility of language and illustration if he does not discipline himself to the severe task of writing everything he says. . . .Writing forces careful consideration of phrasing, makes the preacher weigh his words, compels him to reread what he has written and criticize it without mercy, constrains him to clear up obscurities in thought and language, begets discontent with repetitious mannerisms, and allows the preacher, before he mounts a pulpit, to listen, as it were, to his own sermon as a whole, and judge whether it would hit the nail on the head if he were an auditor.”