Dr John Robert Hall (born 13 March 1949) is the Dean (somewhat equivalent to a senior pastor in an evangelical church) of the majestic Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, or what is popularly known as Westminster Abbey – the ancient church which serves the British royalty for centuries.
It was the luscious venue for the recent royal wedding, by the way, of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The Very Rt Rev. Dr John Hall represents quite accurately what it means to be a Church of England (anglican) preacher, the epitome of what some would call a dignified and intelligent churchman and others the symbol of all things “cowardly” and “pussified”.
I rather like him though. Unlike many of my contemporaries who would rather listen to US-type sentimentality and cheap emotionalism over the pulpit with the likes of John Bevere, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Joseph Prince, Kong Hee and what-have-you in the world of televangelistic extravagance (even someone as trite as the British charismatic Nicky Gumbel can be boring stuff to them); my tastes are much more down-to-earth.
My favourite preachers from the US would include renowned wordsmiths like the late Rev. Peter Gomes of Harvard Memorial Church, whose short (twenty minutes at a maximum) but very literary homilies were a sensual delight to my ears, and Rev. Alan Jones, the former Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, who loved to pepper his similarly literary homilies with poetry.
And with no surprise, my all-time favourite would be the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. His homilies and lectures are loaded with substance and intelligent rhetoric as well as a living example of what good spoken English sounds like.
Dr Hall is no different. Although his homilies are far too brief for my liking (seven to ten minutes) as is typical with high Church of England sermons, his appeal for me lies in his mellifluous baritone voice, steady and quiet delivery, and good neutral Received Pronunciation.
If young people these days do not appreciate beautiful and elegant rhetoric, so what? What do they know? Must we lower our standards to speak like hooligans and ruffians so as to “relate” to them? Must we cuss and swear on the pulpit to attract crowds of equally insolent evangelicals?
Alas…evangelical christianity in Singapore is going the way of the loud-mouthed, hand-waving yankee.