Dr. Mary Hess is a professor of Educational Leadership at Luther Seminary, a Roman Catholic Theologian, and a premier scholar at the intersection of digital media and faith formation. She has a special passion for the liberative power of storytelling.

I had the privilege to interview Mary for the podcast. Our conversation went in many wonderful directions. The two big ideas that I will take away from this and chew on more for the research are these:

Context Collapse

We live in a world where more and more people have less and less cultural context within which to construct meaningful conversation. We may sit in the same pew, but our individual contexts are so different that we hear the sermon, see the images, and interpret the meaning in radically different ways.

Further, studies have shown that the average church attender no longer knows the Biblical story well enough for that to create context within the congregation. 

How do we communicate and preach in this context collapse? Good use of visuals and storytelling help to create context that empowers the congregation to make meaning together.

Learn more about this in the work of Michael Wesch. Watch his TED Talk.


Mary operates within the theoretical framework of constructivist epistemology. Simply put, we make meaning together in community. This meaning-making process requires both a shared context and the ability to hold tensions in a respectful space in order to process through the discussion and produce a constructive alternative perspective.

This theoretical framework is helpful for the Visual Preacher to keep in mind when choosing images and constructing a Visual Sermon.

Mary offers excellent advice on how to use physical space and narrative space to create a visually rich context for dialogical and communal meaning-making.

Please explore Mary’s excellent repository of resources at her website.

Resources Mary Recommended

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