An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Religious address in a worship service. The sermon is to “break open” the Word of God and proclaim the gospel in the context of the readings from scripture, the liturgical occasion, the congregation gathered, and the pastoral needs of the situation. The Christian story, the congregation's story, and the preacher's story can be the one story of God's love that is proclaimed in the sermon. A short sermon is often called a “homily.”

The sermon was a regular part of the eucharist in the early centuries of the church. However, preaching had become infrequent by the late middle ages. Luther's Latin rite of 1523 called for a sermon to be preached at every eucharist. Sermons were preached in the churches of the Reformation on Sundays and during the week. But the integral connection of the sermon to the liturgy was obscured in many Protestant churches. The 1549 BCP required a sermon or the reading of a homily at each eucharist on a Sunday or holy day. The 1552 BCP made no exception to the requirement of a sermon on weekdays. The sermon came to be emphasized in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglicanism. Many colonial Anglican churches in North America were built with prominent pulpits. The ministry of preaching has at times been given special emphasis by evangelicals. The importance of the sermon was not emphasized by the nineteenth century liturgical revival in Anglicanism. However, the twentieth-century liturgical movement has tended to reclaim the sermon as an integral part of the liturgical celebration.

The 1979 BCP requires a sermon after the gospel at the eucharist. At a baptism, the sermon may follow the gospel or the peace. A sermon may be preached at the Daily Offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. The sermon may follow the readings at the Daily Office, or it may be preached at the time of the hymn or anthem after the collects, or it may follow the office.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.