Two Selected for John Hines Preaching Award


Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Tel: 703-461-1782
Email: cprather@vts.edu

Alexandria, Va. – The Rev. Jeanne Hansknecht of Diocese of Michigan, and the Rev. Luther Zeigler (VTS ‘07), Episcopal chaplain at Harvard University, have been named the 2014 recipients of Virginia Theological Seminary’s John Hines Preaching Award. The award is given annually to the outstanding sermon entry where the prophetic voice is central within the sermon.

The annual award is named in honor of the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, John Hines (VTS ’33). It celebrates the ministry of preaching and its importance in the Church by recognizing outstanding sermons that are deeply grounded in scripture and focused on the seen and unseen needs of the worshipping community, the nation, and the world. This is the first time since 2006 that more than one person was honored with the award.

"It is with real admiration, I celebrate the two winners of the John Hines Preaching Award on this day," said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “Very many congratulations to our two winners.  We are pleased to recognize their achievement.”

Hansknecht’s sermon begins by imagining John the Baptist going to the American Great Lakes and confronting Michigan politicians and CEOs who come to him to be baptized: “I am baptizing you with water preparing you for the one who is to come after me. Make no mistake; he who is to come will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is standing at the ready to clean this State and to burn.”

“It is a strange tension we find ourselves in today,” said Hansknecht. “Called to repent of our arrogance and our excesses all whilst rejoicing.  This is John’s message too,” continues Hansknecht. “His is not a contrary message, even though his language is harsh. He is simply stirring us up to recognize what the privilege often missed because we are so busy protecting the present and elevating the past to a state of idolatry.”

Zeigler’s Lenten sermon, entitled “the Prison of Sin,” insists that sin remains a theologically important category, even if its misuse over the years has “left generations of people . . . alienated from the Church.” Zeigler says that “if we attend more carefully to the biblical text, we see that sin is susceptible to another reading altogether, one that is less about the total corruption and depravity of humanity and more about a fracture or fissure in our nature that keeps us from being the people we are called to be.”

Moreover, Zeigler argues, too often we limit our attention to the personal side of sin, ignoring its social dimensions.  Yet, “deeply embedded in the Biblical text is the view that sin is a social reality.”  Drawing on his Harvard students’ ministry within the American prison system as just one example of a pernicious social sin, Zeigler invites his hearers to experience Lent not only as an occasion for self-examination, but as an opportunity "to let Christ’s light shine into the darkest of corners of our very broken social life" as well.

The 2014 John Hines Award winners, Hansknecht and  Zeigler, have both been invited to attend Virginia Theological Seminary’s convocation this October.  Text of their sermons can be found at www.vts.edu/johnhines.

Virginia Seminary invites all preachers – bishops, priests, deacons and laity of the Episcopal Church in America – to submit sermons. Sermons preached outside the United States by clergy who are canonically resident in a diocese of the Episcopal Church USA and by lay people who are parishioners in an Episcopal Church USA congregation are acceptable as well. Visit www.vts.edu for more information.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing more than 42 different dioceses and five different countries, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.