Will Willimon reflects generally on congregational reaction to a sermon preached in 1947 that was composed in reaction to the lynching of Willie Earle in 1946.
In the context of unpacking the sermon and the situation in which it was preached, Willimon observes that the congregation of Grace Church willingly listened to the challenging subject matter and challenge contained therein, providing no explicit negative reaction.
As something of an aside, Willimon contends that preachers can be timid and oversensitive, not realising the desire of many to hear the substantive issues of real life addressed.
This is not to say that they long to hear us remove the subject of preaching away from the Bible and the good news contained therein, but that instead of generalities that comfortably rest on all, and so serve to drive a sense of identification with the group; they appreciate the raising of specific matters that provide the context for the Holy Spirit to drive individuals to God.
In my experience, we preachers tend to overestimate the possible resistance of our congregations to sermons on controversial matters and underestimate the number of people in the congregation who long to hear a sermon on a subject of importance.
Will Willimon, Who Lynched Willie Earle?, Abingdon, 2017, pg 54.