Fringe Box



Guildford Teenager Wins New ‘Preach-off’ Competition

Published on: 11 Dec, 2017
Updated on: 13 Dec, 2017

Emily Burch, a member of All Saints’ Church in Onslow Village, scooped first prize in a new competition that encourages young people to try their hand at preaching.

Young Preacher of Year winner Emily Burch, a member of All Saints’ Church in Onslow Village.

She will now have the opportunity to preach for real at evensong in Guildford Cathedral.

Runner-up finalists in the Young Preacher of the Year competition were Hugo Millard, 16, from St Luke’s Church, Grayshott and Gwyneth Sotuminu, 17, from Gordon’s School in West End, who were commended by judges.

The ‘preach-off’ competition, hosted by the Diocese of Guildford, is among the first of its kind in the UK, and was open to candidates between the ages of 14 to 18 with some connection to the diocese.

The Bishop of Dorking, Jo Wells (right) with runners up, (pictured from left) Gwyneth Sotuminu and Hugo Millard, and competition winner Emily Burch.

In the first round, a strong field of candidates submitted short videos of themselves preaching, from which the panel selected the three finalists to go head-to-head in a ‘preach-off’ in Guildford Cathedral on Advent Sunday (December 3).

Emily, who is aged 14, preached on Isaiah 9:2-7. She said: “I’m happy, surprised and grateful to have won, and it was so nice to hear the other candidates’ sermons too. They were very inspiring.

“I’m really looking forward to preaching again at the cathedral in January.”

The judges marked each sermon on structure, content and delivery, as well as the quality of reflection on the text and its relevance to life today.

Chairing the panel of judges, the Bishop of Dorking, Jo Wells, said: “We had three fantastic finalists, and this was a very hard decision, so I want to pay a huge tribute to them all – they can be greatly encouraged. I learned so much myself while listening.

“It is vital to hear the voice of young people speaking God’s word in our Church. As we seek to increase the number of people entering ordained ministry, this has been a wonderful way for these young people to discover gifts and gain experience.

“I expect it to attract even more people willing to take the risk in future years, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s competition!”

The diocese asks: “Could you be next year’s Young Preacher of the Year?” For more information, and details of entering next year’s competition, visit

For information on a short course on the art of preaching for 16- to 25-year-olds, click here.

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