How long are ser­mons? Study says: 14-54 min­utes. Amen!

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By David Crary

YORK — How long should a ser­mon be?

The ma­jor branches of Chris­tian­ity in the U.S. have sharply dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions, with ser­mons at his­tor­i­cally black Protes­tant churches last­ing — on av­er­age — nearly four times as long as Ro­man Catholic ser­mons.

That’s among the find­ings of an anal­y­sis by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter — billed as the first of its kind — of 49,719 ser­mons de­liv­pauses ered in April and May that were shared on­line by 6,431 churches. Pew de­scribed its re­search as “the most ex­haus­tive at­tempt to date to cat­a­logue and an­a­lyze Amer­i­can re­li­gious ser­mons.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pew, the me­dian length of the ser­mons was 37 min­utes. Catholic ser­mons were the short­est, at a me­dian of 14 min­utes, com­pared with 25 min­utes for ser­mons in main­line Protes­tant con­gre­ga­tions and 39 min­utes in evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tant conNEW gre­ga­tions. His­tor­i­cally black Protes­tant churches had by far the long­est ser­mons, at a me­dian of 54 min­utes.

Pew said ser­mons at the black churches lasted longer than main­line Protes­tant ser­mons even though, on av­er­age, they had roughly the same num­ber of words. A pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion, Pew said, is that the preach­ers at black churches al­low more time dur­ing their ser­mons for mu­si­cal in­ter­ludes, re­sponses from wor­ship­pers in the pews and dra­matic in their or­a­tory.

In ad­di­tion to ser­mon length, the new Pew anal­y­sis delved into an ex­am­i­na­tion of words and phrases most com­monly used by preach­ers from the dif­fer­ent Chris­tian tra­di­tions.

It found that the word “hal­lelu­jah” ap­peared in ser­mons from about 22% of the his­tor­i­cally black Protes­tant churches, and those con­gre­ga­tions were eight times more likely than oth­ers to hear that word.

Ser­mons from evan­gel­i­cal churches were three times more likely than those from other tra­di­tions to in­clude the phrase “eter­nal hell.”

Pew said the ser­mons it ex­am­ined came from 2,156 evan­gel­i­cal con­gre­ga­tions, 1,367 main­line Protes­tant con­gre­ga­tions, 422 Catholic parishes and 278 his­tor­i­cally black Protes­tant con­gre­ga­tions, while other con­gre­ga­tions could not be re­li­ably clas­si­fied. The re­search did not an­a­lyze ser­mons de­liv­ered in syn­a­gogues, mosques or other nonChris­tian con­gre­ga­tions.

CUR­TIS COMPTON/AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL-CON­STI­TU­TION 2013

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