Preaching and the art of framing

A lesson from Chiswick House

Earlier this week I spent a very pleasant afternoon walking round the grounds of Chiswick House in West London. This elegant home, built by the Earl of Burlington in 1789, sits in the middle of magnificent, elegant gardens. Full of classical allusions and elegant vistas, the gardens were the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, and provided inspiration for other gardens as far apart as Blenheim Palace and Central Park. For the Earl and his designers they were not so much a landscape as the vision of a landscape.  Those who now manage the gardens have encapsulated this brilliantly with the use of picture frames (see below) at strategic points around the gardens. By use of that simple device, each visitor gets a sense of how the original designers envisaged the landscape. The frame adds nothing to the landscape except focus – and by doing so enhances our understanding and enjoyment of it.


It strikes me that what they have done is not so very different from what I shall do later today.  As I take people on a journey back to the dawn of the Abrahamic faiths (Genesis 12 v. 1 – 9) I shall try to construct a frame for them around the text so that they can look at it more intently and appreciate its true value. Whether what they see will be as beautiful as the vistas I saw in Chiswick  is another matter.

Does anyone else find this a helpful picture of the preacher’s art?

4 thoughts on “Preaching and the art of framing

  1. Yes, I find that a helpful idea. Seeing a frame selecting part of your photo reminds me of the difficulty I always have in sermon preparation of honing the focus and eliminating the beautiful thoughts that fall outside the key point. Before I read this post but had seen the title, my thoughts immediately went to a term used in counselling/therapy/mediation etc of ‘re-framing’. This is the technique of stating a problem/situation in a different way from how someone had previously seen it. This doesn’t change the material, but changes the viewpoint and may help change the situation. I think much of what we do as preachers is a ‘re-framing’ of the text e.g. telling the story in a modern context.

  2. I love to take pictures. My natural second step is to frame the first step (the subject). Thanks for connecting two of my passions: preaching and picture taking! I’ve probably casually brought them together, but will more intentionally frame them together. You’ve given me a fresh perspective. Thanks!