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Episcopal priest encourages students to listen to conscience

Sept. 19, 1996

Jenny Bourn/The LariatThe Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, rector of Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Clarkesville, Ga., addresses students at Chapel-Forum.

By Michelle Van Rysselberge

Lariat Reporter

Students should listen to the voice deep within themselves, an Episcopal priest told students Wednesday in Chapel-Forum.

The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal rector from Grace-Calvary Church in Clarkesville, Ga., was the first noted preacher to come to the University as part of 'The Most Effective Preachers in the English-speaking World' series.

In her speech, Taylor focused on students' college years, which she said bridge adolescence to adulthood. Taylor asked students to think of themselves as 'living, breathing works of art' that have been surrounded by scaffold. During childhood and adolescence, family, friends, teachers and ministers have used hammers to leave their marks on the art inside.

As students enter their freshmen year of college, the scaffold falls and the influential people put down their hammers and stand back to watch the work of art emerge. At that time, Taylor said students must answer life's most important questions, such as what they think and believe, how they differentiate between right and wrong and who they really are.

Taylor said that students hear voices inside themselves of people who have influenced them over the years. Some voices serve as personal angels that come out when one least expects it.

However, other voices are not as angelically helpful , and it is these voices of critics that are the most common, she said. These voices tell people they are setting their sights too high and have too much to handle.

Taylor told students to learn to talk back to that critical voice, filtering through all of the voices inside their head and listening to the one mysterious voice deep within.

'This voice knows all there is to know about me yet never puts me down,' Taylor said. 'Sometimes it asks hard questions, but it helps me find the answers. Some call it wisdom, second sense or intuition. I call it God.'

For those who desire to tune in, she said she suggests making time each day to spend with God and to fellowship with others who tune in as well.

Taylor said tuning in to God affects people in unique ways. There could be no end to the peculiar ideas a student might get, but these ideas would only be peculiar if the student thought life should be safe and predictable, she said, for life with God is anything but safe and predictable.

'I'm very thankful for the wonderful beginning we had today,' Cunningham said. 'I am grateful for the message of Barbara Brown Taylor and am thankful for the positive response of the students.'

After Chapel-Forum, Taylor said that she was extremely anxious yet excited about coming to speak because being invited is such an honor. She said she was excited about seeing the campus because some of her friends attended the University.

Being the first speaker could be a scary experience, but Taylor said she had a different outlook on her spot in line.

'It is easier to be first because people won't compare you to the other speakers,' Taylor said. 'Besides, ladies first.'

Before coming to the University to speak, Taylor said she asked college students in her congregation about their problems, school experiences and what they would like to hear a

speaker discuss. The students' comments, her college experiences and the Holy Spirit's guidance led her to choose to talk about hearing God's voice, she said.

'If I could have one hope for these students, it would be that they would find a way to hear God's voice,' Taylor said. 'For that is the only hope we have for being all that we are created to be.'

One goal of the University administration is to affirm the primacy of preaching. For this, they have devised the program and are hosting it in cooperation with the George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Over the course of the year, 12 preachers have been invited to the University to participate in conferences, deliver sermons to University and Truett Seminary students and the Waco community and receive the new Spurgeon -Truett Award for Outstanding Preaching.

Over the past three years, University administration and faculty have focused on creating a plan to define the qualities of effective preaching. Dr. Larry Lyon, director of the Center for Community Research Development, conducted an international survey of 351 Christian seminaries of a variety of denominations and religious periodicals in the English-speaking world.

From the survey a list was formulated that defined the qualities of effective preaching and the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.

As a female Episcopal minister, Taylor is an exception to the normal preacher stereotype. Traditionally most preachers have been males, and the Episcopal worship service is not as centered around preaching as much as evangelicals are, Lyon said.

'She is mesmerizing,' Lyon said. 'Her communication skills are some of the best I've seen.'

Taylor has served in a variety of aspects of ministry. According to a brief run in Wednesday's edition of The Lariat, Taylor was assistant and associate rector at All Saints' Church in Atlanta, clinical chaplain at Georgia Baptist Medical Center and held administrative positions with Yale Divinity School and Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

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