Recipients of first Swiss Sermon Award announced

The jury of the Swiss Sermon Award 2014, the first of its kind, has announced its recipients. Of the 245 sermons submitted to the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, 15 were selected for their outstanding quality. They will be published in the anthology “Ausgeprochen reformiert – Predigten” (Avowedly Reformed – Sermons), which will be out November 3.

Caroline Schröder Field

In the German-Romansh Language Category, the Swiss Sermon Award 2014 goes to Caroline Schröder Field, pastor of the Basel Munster, for her sermon „Elijah in the Desert“ on 1 Kings 19:4-13a. In the French-Italian Language Category, the Sermon Award goes to Isabelle Ott-Bächler, pastor in Neuchâtel, for her sermon “Ne pas arracher l’ivraie…” on Matthew 13:24-30. Manuela Liechti-Genge, pastor of the German-speaking parish in Porrentruy (JU) and lecturer at the University of Bern, will receive the Special Award of the Jury for her radio sermon on the Samaritan woman in John 4:4-19.

Many of the submitted sermons translate the social and political import of the biblical texts for the listeners of today in interesting ways – a feat that in the jury’s opinion was accomplished remarkably well by Isabelle Ott-Bächler, the French-speaking laureate. Her text makes a masterful connection from the Zealots of Jesus’s time to the politicians of today without going over the average listener’s head, states Line Dépraz, the president of the French-speaking jury. “This sermon is a remarkable testimony for a society that becomes more and more secularized and laicist even though a growing number of people are searching for spirituality.”

The German-speaking laureate, Caroline Schröder Field, impressed the jury with her clear narrative line, theological incisiveness and pastoral depth. “To interpret biblical texts is not to lecture about them, but to trust in their narrative meaning, to linger over their images, to make their strength and depth visible and also transparent with respect to life experience,” emphasizes Niklaus Peter, the president of the German-speaking jury. Manuela Liechti-Genge, the recipient of the special award, has succeeded in this task in her outstanding sermon on the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

The three main awards each come with CHF 1000 in prize mone; the sermons will be published in the anthology “Ausgesprochen reformiert – Predigten“ (“Avowedly Reformed – Sermons”), which will be out November 3.

The other selections for the anthology are in the German-Romansh Language Category, the sermons by

- Ruedi Bertschi, “Becoming Friends with the Pharisee” on Luke 18:9-14
- Andreas Bruderer, “Salvation and Healing” on Mark 9:17-27
- Martin Dürr, “You are a Letter from Christ” on 2 Corinthians 3:2-9
- Thomas Grossenbacher, “I Will Not Let You Go“ on Genesis 32:22-32
- Maja Peter, “Where God Conceals Himself“ on Genesis and the poem “Licht” (“Light”) by Klaus Merz
- Verena Salvisberg, “Beyond All This There Must Be Something Else” on Matthew 6:33
- Pascale Rondez, “Waking Up” on Ephesians 5:8-14
- Stefan Weller, “Don’t Put Off Your Life Until Tomorrow!” on Jeremiah 29:1-14

in the French-Italian Language Category, the sermons by

- Luc Badoux «S’étonner devant la résurrection» on Luke 24:36-48
- Marco Di Pasquale «Felix culpa. L’évangile du serpent» on Genesis 2:15-17.3:1-13
  (original in Italian)
- François Lemrich «Tamar, raconter ce qui n’est jamais raconté» on Genesis 38:
- Etienne Rochat-Amaudruz «Ego Eimi» et le credo de mes salades» on the
  passages of John and the Apocalypse

The anthology will be published in French as “Prédications – un best of protestant” by Labor et Fides, and in German as “Ausgesprochen reformiert – Predigten” by TZV Verlag. The book launch and award ceremony will take place November 3, 2014, at 5:45 pm in Bern City Hall.

Promoting the art of the sermon
The aim of the Swiss Sermon Award is not to promote competition; rather, it is intended to encourage the roughly two thousand preachers who mount the pulpit every Sunday, to honor and highlight their work, affirms Gottfried Locher, the FSPC Council President. “In and with the words of the preacher, God Himself can have His say and speak to those who listen. It follows that the sermon is an opportunity for the churches and for society, maybe today more than ever.”

This conviction is the foundation of the Swiss Sermon Award and the slim anthology containing fifteen sermons that were selected by the jury due to their exegetical solidity, rhetorical strength, theological consistency and existential meaning.

Passing on what moves us
Reading the submitted sermons – 181 of them in German, 58 in French, four in Italian and two in Romansh – was for the most part a lovely and enjoyable task, says Niklaus Peter; the hard part was to select only 10 of them as award-worthy. The love the Protestant preachers have for their profession was also obvious to the French jury, as Line Dépraz emphasizes: “The choice of words, the particular tone, the well-chosen, thought-provoking images – all of this testifies to the Reformed preachers’ passion for communication, to their irresistible desire, not to say need, to pass on to others that which grounds them, nourishes them, moves them and gives meaning to their lives.”

Further information, including short biographies of the award recipients and an introduction of the jury members, can be found at (in German).

Pre-order the book in German: link to TVZ 
or French: link to Labor et Fides