No list of distinguished contemporary Canadian preachers would be complete without the name of The Reverend Dr. Andrew J. Stirling. His excellence in preaching, as well as his academic contributions to the field of homiletics, have been recognized with several honorary designations, including his appointment as a Lifetime Fellow of ADC.
Serving as the Senior Minister of the historic Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto, Ontario for more than two decades, Dr. Stirling has earned the reputation as a preacher who consistently challenges, teaches, and inspires others with his Gospel-centred sermons. One of those people is The Reverend Dr. Connie Phillipson.
An Anglican priest, Connie had the opportunity to hear Dr. Stirling preach while a graduate student in Toronto. Remembering that first evening sermon at St. Paul’s Bloor Street Church, she said, “It was a phenomenal sermon. I felt compelled to introduce myself to him and to learn how he prepared. That interaction began a friendship that we’ve kept up all these years,” Connie says. “He became an important mentor in my life.”
Connie’s love of preaching led her to examine the practice in a deeper way. “I wanted to find a school that offers a high quality, ecumenical program. Knowing that both Dr. Stirling and Dr. Peter Holmes of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church had earned their Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degrees at ADC, with a focus on preaching, influenced my decision to go to Nova Scotia to study.” Connie was placed under the supervision of The Reverend Dr. Stuart Blythe, the John Gladstone Professor of Preaching and Worship and Director of the DMin program at ADC. “I quickly grew to have a deep appreciation and respect for Stuart,” Connie says. “Not only is he a gifted preacher and teacher, but he was also a patient and gracious supervisor.”
Connie’s thesis focussed on the use of rhetoric in preaching the resurrection and in particular, an analytic study of Andrew Stirling’s Easter sermons between 2010 and 2019. “Good rhetoric is not political speech or coercive language,” Connie explains. “Rather, when it is done well, it is a persuasive way of communication. Andrew is a gifted speaker who uses the rhetoric of ethos, pathos, and logos extremely well and naturally — so naturally, that he didn’t always realize that he was doing it.” Through her work, Connie hopes to help preachers better understand the value and techniques of good rhetoric in preaching. At the 2022 Commissioning celebration, ADC recognized Connie’s outstanding contribution to the study of preaching with the MacRae Prize for best Doctor of Ministry thesis.
Although preaching has changed over the years — the rigid three-point sermon structure giving way to more free flowing narratives, shorter sermons, and the explosion of preaching in online environments — Connie notes that one thing remains the same. “Preaching is always going to be relevant, because of ‘WHOM’ we preach. We preach Jesus. And Jesus is always Good News!”
“Preaching is always going to be relevant, because of ‘WHOM’ we preach. We preach Jesus. And Jesus is always Good News!”
In 2023, Connie established The Reverend Dr. Andrew Stirling Endowment for Homiletics Education. Named in honour of her good friend and mentor, and with deep appreciation for Dr. Stuart Blythe and the ADC community, the endowment supports further homiletical training. “I wanted to do something thing to show my gratitude to both Dr. Stirling and Dr. Blythe,” Connie said of the gift. “My hope is that this fund will continue to raise the importance of the practice of preaching, and help preachers further develop and hone their craft.”
Read Rev. Dr. Connie Phillipson’s 2022 Doctoral Thesis
“The legitimate value and use of rhetoric in preaching the resurrection:
an analytic study of the Easter Sermons (2010-2019) of the Reverend Dr. Andrew Stirling”
“Learning to preach well is a life-long task,” says Dr. Stuart Blythe. “This endowment allows us to offer more provisions to help people enhance their preaching practice. This benefits them but, more importantly, their listeners. As such, and to that end, we look forward to using this endowment in innovative and flexible ways.”
“Please join me in giving to this endowment…As Christians, we have a responsibility to support efforts that uphold the centrality of the Bible in our world today. Preaching persuasively is one of the ways that we can tangibly do this.”
Connie sees the generous gift which has established the endowment as a starting point, and she invites others to consider contributing. “Please join me in giving to this endowment. It’s a wonderful way to honour Dr. Stirling and support students as they learn to preach biblical sermons with courage and confidence.” Connie adds, “As Christians, we have a responsibility to support efforts that uphold the centrality of the Bible in our world today. Preaching persuasively is one of the ways that we can tangibly do this.”