For last month's musings, I somehow managed to sift through the ridiculous number of articles and posts I saved over a four month period, intending to winnow them down to my top five... "the best of the best." I eventually settled on my top six. Fortunately, this month was much easier to sort through, thanks to my newfound determination to keep up.
So, without any further ado, here's some of the things that had me pondering last month!
If you have time to read only one of this month's articles, it needs to be this one. Dr. Robert Trawick writes a compelling article for the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Unbound, a justice-minded journal for which my friend and seminary classmate Rev. Ginna Bairby serves as editor. In a time when many throughout the church - and perhaps especially for mainline denominations like the PC(USA) - are fearful of division and disagreement, Trawick uses lessons learned from famed pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick to push us on an uncomfortable (but necessary) history lesson.
One important point that Fosdick makes at the outset of his piece is that conflict, even dramatically divisive conflict, is not an aberration in the life of the church. It is the life of the church, whether we like it or not. There have been very few moments in the history of the church when division has not been the norm. In part, this division is a manifestation of our sinfulness, our pride in our own doctrines and ideologies. But it is also the necessary work of the body of Christ as it struggles to make sense of new times and new situations. If we are to be the Church ‘always being reformed’, we are going to have to disagree with each other, to get things wrong, to risk losing members and losing friends over hurt feelings and accusations of apostasy. Painful as it can be, this is what spiritual growth looks like. It is when we are at our most comfortable that we are in the most danger. [click to read full article]
You'd be forgiven if you see this post and have forgotten that the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College occurred just one short month ago. Actually, no, you wouldn't be forgiven. None of us would be. We've only forgotten because the culture of violence and death has reached a level where these stories are simply forgotten the moment the last news truck pulls away from the scene. At some point, we as people of faith will have to come to terms with the fact that saying and doing nothing in response to gun violence is, in effect, doing something. In this article, Mark Lockard, editor of Ministry Matters, suggests that we must live into the theology of life to which we are called, rather than settle for a simplistic theology of death.
We are a people who gather regularly to affirm that our hope is in life, in redemption, in renewal. When we support (and rest assured, it is support, even if it’s just our idleness that props up the status quo) death by violence as a narrative of our shared lives together, we are living antithetically to a gospel that says human life is sacred. We don’t get to skip the sacredness by passing off the responsibility of these acts of violence to the state, or to antiquated bureaucratic systems, or even to “bad guys with guns.” [click to read full article]
Church leaders nationwide have heard (and probably uttered) the famous complaints: Confirmation in the mainline church has become a "graduation" of sorts: adolescents whose participation in the worship and faith formation of a congregation has been sporadic increase their attendance for Confirmation (probably because of attendance requirements), they confirm their faith, become full members of the congregation... and never darken the doors of the church again. There is some truth to this, of course, but the response of many pastors and educators has been to set the bar lower for Confirmation, shrinking the schedule and eliminating assignments in an attempt to make the process more palatable for a modern age. Against this backdrop comes new research indicating that robust Confirmation activities have a dramatic impact on the faith formation and vitality of the congregation as a whole.
An important discovery from our Confirmation Project site visits is that when congregations take youth discipleship seriously, the adults who lead and mentor become more fully engaged in their own discipleship. Congregations become dynamic systems of intergenerational learning and ministry, helping people of all ages grow in their relationship with God, their relationship with neighbor, and their ability to articulate their Christian conviction. Confirmation practiced with care is so much more than “getting kids done,” or formalizing adult membership. [click to read full article]
October brought a groundbreaking documentary series, courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Network, exploring the beliefs and faith practices from a variety of the world's largest religious traditions. The Belief documentary, which aired daily over a seven-day period, offered an inspirational take on faith through the perspective of a variety of "regular people" living their "regular lives." As an added bonus, the documentary was expertly filmed in some of the most beautiful places in the world. I learned about this series from attending the Neighbor Conference at Montreat Conference Center; some of the keynote speakers served as advisors for the production team.
To learn more about the Belief documentary, [click here]
I'm a husband, father, news junkie, theatre lover, enneagram enthusiast, bi advocate, amateur foodie, wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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