Friday, March 13, 2015
Remembering Fred Craddock
Craddock served as a small church minister, a seminary professor of New Testament and later Homiletics at two seminaries. He was recognized by many polls and surveys of fellow clergy as an extraordinary preacher and accomplished teacher of preachers. A worship service or ministry event featuring Craddock was sure to draw a crowd across denominational lines and especially with his beloved denomination, the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ (DOC). To read his obituary, click http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/atlanta/obituary.aspx?pid=174348713.
His 1971 book "As One Without Authority" is considered among the top 20th century works on Christian preaching, and in many minds, one of the most influential books shaping mainline Protestant preaching today. Taking an inductive approach, Craddock introduced preachers to the power of story and narrative, away from the familiar tropes of "three points and a poem" (aka "expository preaching"). Often, in my days with Cokesbury, a table with Fred Craddock's books would be shared alongside titles by Frederick Buechner, Barbara Brown Taylor, Tom Long, Eugene Lowry, Richard Ward, David J. Schlafer and Mike Graves.
On the latter author Mike Graves, I studied homiletics at Central Seminary with Dr. Mike Graves, whose journey was shaped significantly by Craddock as an influence and later mentor and friend. Dr. Graves shares a wonderful reflection about Craddock's life and ministry via his blog: https://drmikegraves.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/one-last-craddock-story/
For pastors, I recommend Craddock's books As One without Authority, Overhearing the Gospel, Preaching and Craddock on the Craft of Preaching (all published with Chalice Press). His book Preaching (Abingdon Press) was recently republished for its 25th anniversary edition. For all readers, I encourage you to read Craddock Stories (a collection drawn from Craddock's sermons co-edited by Graves and Ward with Chalice Press), Sermons from Cherry Log, and The Collected Sermons of Fred B. Craddock (both published by Westminster/John Knox Press).
After his retirement, Craddock and his wife moved to a rural area of Georgia, and he was asked to preach for a group of Disciples living in the area. This led to Craddock and the congregants forming the Cherry Log Christian Church. Also, Craddock developed a center working with poverty issues and helping improve the educational horizons of people, especially those who felt a call to preach but financial barriers may have precluded them otherwise having access to a classroom.
Craddock grew up in the South, steeped deeply in the folk traditions of his upbringing. Surely melding the preacher with the storyteller would come easily, once he realized the deep connections and possibilities of narrative for sharing the Gospel. He knew the challenges of living in poverty and shared of his own life and means freely, especially through his latter years in retirement through the Craddock Center. On the week of his passing, the Christian Century published by happy providence a cover story about Craddock and his work. To read "The People's Preaching Class" article, click: http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2015-02/people-s-preaching-class. An article specifically about The Craddock Center is also available: http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2015-02/craddock-center.