Charging a Confirmation Sermon with ‘Suspense’: Three Rhetorical Opening Strategies

Bård Eirik Hallesby Norheim

(Publisert i Journal of Youth and Theology, 21.09.22)

The feeling of boredom during a speech is not a new phenomenon, but in a late modern information society this challenge is intensified. This article explores what sort of rhetorical opening strategy which may ‘charge’ a sermon with an appropriate suspense to help the congregation to remain attentive throughout the sermon. The article analyses a selective, digital sample of video recorded confirmation sermons from Church of Norway confirmation services in 2020. Drawing on theories on suspense, attention, and boredom, the article uses classical rhetorical theory on the different styles of speech to suggest three possible rhetorical opening strategies for a preacher who wants to ‘charge’ a (confirmation) sermon with a relevant suspense, that of the teacher, the poet, and the prophet.