PREACHING AUSTRALIA: religion, public conversation and the sermon St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Canberra 19–20 September 2013

This conference explores and evaluates the role of public religious conversation in shaping Australian national life, through the study of preaching and sermons. Although the pulpit has been the most widely used platform for public speech throughout much of Australian history, preaching has received remarkably little attention from historians, while sermons are rarely cited as historical sources. This conference examines the historical contexts, content, methods and reception of preaching in order to shed new light on Australian culture and society.  

Plenary speakers:   

Professor Hilary Carey & Professor Alan Atkinson (University of Sydney) will deliver plenary talks that will set the agenda for future research in this field.   Professor Hilary Carey will also be giving the after-dinner address at the dinner on Thursday evening 19 September.

The pulpit has been the most widely used platform for public conversation throughout much of Australian history. Surprisingly, then, preaching has received little attention from historians while sermons are rarely cited in history books. To address this historical blind spot, some of Australia’s fine

st historians will gather at St Mark’s National Theological Centre on 19-20 September 2013 to assess the impact of preaching and sermons in shaping national life.  

The impressive line up of speakers includes Associate Professor Stuart Piggin (Macquarie University), Associate Professor David Hilliard (Flinders University), and the Reverend Dr John Harris (St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Charles Sturt University).

This two-day conference will examine the contexts, content and methods of preaching to shed new light on Australian popular culture and public conversation. The organisers hope this inaugural conference will bring preaching and sermons into the mainstream of historical writing. Papers will deal with many aspects of Australian preaching or sermons, considered in their historical context. Some questions that papers will consider include:

  • How have preachers described and conceptualised Australia during distinct periods in the colonies’/nation’s history?
  • What can the study of sermons and preaching reveal about aspects of Australia’s past, including: its religious and spiritual life, public and intellectual life, political discourse, national identity, civil society, publishing industries and rhetoric?
  • How has Australian preaching differed from preaching in other contexts and what has defined the ‘Australian’ sermon?
  • What sources? and methodologies can help us analyse public reception of sermons in Australia? In effect, how might historians determine their influence and agency?

This conference, open to all members of the public, is a wonderful opportunity to hear some of Australia’s finest historians and theologians as they seek to further St Mark’s vision of engaging the people of God with issues of importance to Australian society.

Everyone is welcome to attend the conference and the dinner. As there are limited places, registration is essential. Group bookings, such as parish or chaplaincy groups, are also welcome. Costs have been kept to a minimum and include refreshments and Friday lunch.

Conference costs:

Whole Conference  $75.00
Whole Conference Concession $50.00
Thursday Only                        (1:30pm - 5:00pm) $25.00
Friday Only                              (9:00am - 5:00pm) $50.00
Dinner Thursday Night         (7:00pm - 10:30pm) $50.00

(Payment can be made by cheque, credit card or direct debit)

To register for the conference and/or the dinner, please visit St Mark’s National Theological Centre at:

Phone: (02) 6272 6252.

The conference will be hosted by St Mark’s National Theological Centre (a partner in the School of Theology at Charles Start University) and co-sponsored by the Alfred Deakin Research Institute at Deakin University.