The pastor of First Baptist Church on Monument Avenue, likens his weeklong sermon preparation and reflection to making a stew. "You've got it in the pot on the back of the stove; you've got to simmer it and really let all of that cook and the flavors mix together over time," says Rev. James "Jim" Somerville.
To connect with his congregation, he considers to whom he is preaching and what life is like for them. "I'm not a topical preacher," he says. "It's not like I look at the newspaper and say, ‘Hmm, here's a lot of concern here on health care. I'm going to preach on that.' I preach using the lectionary," a three-year plan for preaching through most of the Bible. On a scale of 1 to 10, Somerville's storytelling abilities are 15, says church member Raylene Harton. "He has such good stories and the way he can identify with people in the pew, he just keeps you engaged during the sermon. When it is over you go, ‘No, we want some more!'" — Robin Farmer
To read about more inspiring religious leaders, see Richmond magazine's February 2014 Sourcebook.