FTE Blog

Colonizer or Co-learner?

“Are you traveling to colonize or are you traveling to be a co-learner?”

This was the query posed by Dr. Margaret Aymer to FTE fellows at the closing panel discussion at the 2011 Leaders in the Academy Conference. After all, in the pursuit for excellence in scholarship in our fields of theological education, we are on a quest. This quest encompasses, as Dr. Emilie M. Townes proclaimed in celebration of the great legacy of Dr. Sharon Watson Fluker, great oeuvres along the way.

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By: Tamara E. Lewis June 07, 2011

Unbolting the Door: Musings of a Former Volunteer

What does freedom look like? I am a wind lover. As a child I loved running barefooted in the wind and climbing a certain tree with my best friend where we could feel the wind more intensely. We would compete to see who could climb the highest and then we would stay awhile longer, waiting for the wind to sway the branches back and forth. I don’t have quite as much freedom to do these things anymore but I continue to value the wind and as I have come to see her as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, I learn to feel her presence in other areas of life.

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By: Anna Ruth Hershberger May 24, 2011

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

REM’s musical lyric: “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine” describes the way I feel today. Today, millions of people seriously doubt that the world will end tomorrow, as predicted by Harold Camping. Camping’s Family Radio’s website “proves” through some dizzying mathematics that Jesus will come to usher in the eschaton (the end of time).

Here are three reasons I gave why the world will (most likely) not end on May 21, 2011:

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By: Rev. Alan R. Rudnick May 20, 2011

Digital Mind and Divine Calling (Part 2 of 2)

The problem of distraction in the spiritual life has always been a challenge. The gospel account of Jesus in the home of Martha and Mary has often been a reminder to Christians of the call to let go of the worry and distraction we see exemplified in Martha and to choose the “better part” of attention on God that we find in her younger sister Mary. In the early desert tradition of Christian spirituality, the ancient monastics spoke of the need for Sabbath, solitude, silence, stillness and unceasing prayer in an effort to create enough space amidst inner distraction and dissipation to hear God’s call to relationship. Lest we think this was an impossibly remote ideal for young persons, the later medieval ideal of the school and university was based on the experience of “schola” (Latin for “leisure”) in order for deeper order reflection and contemplation to take place.

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By: Michael Hryniuk May 11, 2011

Digital Mind and Divine Calling (Part 1 of 2)

One day, I stepped off the plane in Minneapolis airport to catch another flight and found myself sitting in a departure lounge waiting for the next boarding call. A gentleman near me suddenly started talking to someone I couldn’t see. He was holding a conversation with no one. I looked but he wasn’t even holding one of those new, nifty palm-sized mobile phones. Who was he talking to then? I looked around embarrassed and thought that the poor man must be delirious after a red-eye flight from San Francisco and just needed to lie down somewhere and collect himself. The conversation continued. I began to stare and finally noticed a strange blue light flashing on what appeared to be a hearing aid in his ear but the device had a long cord I’d never seen before. I had just been introduced to Bluetooth technology.

At that moment, I began to feel a strange shock and dread coming over me. There was something weird going on…

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By: Michael Hryniuk May 09, 2011

Bin Laden’s Death

I have been praying for Osama bin Laden for ten years. I was not surprised by news of his death. As I asked myself why, I suspect it is because, in my eyes, bin Laden died long ago. He died to goodness; he died to mercy; he died to shalom. He died to the things that God cares most about. He was alive until this week—but he died to life a long time ago.

I have wondered over the years what God tried to do to get him back. I wonder about the confounding ability of human beings to resist the love of God. I wonder about these things for Osama bin Laden and I wonder about same things with respect to my own life. Today, as I have many days before, I pray for my enemy—I pray him into the hands of the God of justice and of mercy.

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By: Rev. David Lewicki May 02, 2011

Making the Church More Accessible to Folks Under 35

The folks at FTE have asked me if I’ll write a follow-up to my 20 Steps to a Renewed Church (posted on April 8th). At first, I didn’t think I had anything more to say than I’d already said. Plus, the mere mention of Church Issues makes me want to fill my backpack with trail mix and furs and head into the Alaskan wilderness indefinitely. But then… what I got to ponder was how easy it is to spout off a Manifesto For How To Live, and how hard it is to actually live. So, here’s my follow-up to the original post.

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By: Tamie Harkins April 19, 2011

Bored to Tears: An Act of Contrition for Young Adult Believers

It wasn’t what my student said that so startled me, but rather the tone of his answer to my question about why “church” hadn’t come up in a discussion of where we “feel most spiritual.” As though he were supplying the obvious and uncomplicated result of a simple math equation or the name of an element from the periodic table, Scott, a student in my undergraduate Ignatian Spirituality course, answered matter-of-factly, “Church is boring, but spirituality isn’t.”

Of course, I’d heard versions of this before (indeed, if you Google “church is boring,” some 20+ million results appear, much of it, well, very, very boring…). But this time was different…

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By: elizabeth-drescher-ph.d Elizabeth April 15, 2011

20 Steps to a Renewed Church

Tonight I went to a meeting at the local Episcopal church; it was a dinner and get-together with the new Bishop of Alaska. Apparently, Alaska hasn’t had an Episcopal bishop for a while, so this is exciting news that there is now a bishop. The dear little Episcopal church here, which is called St. James the Fisherman (how cool is that name?!), is tiny and doesn’t have a priest and is run by well-intentioned older women. Which is the story of so many rural Episcopal churches.

I left thinking, “ah, the church.” Not “ah” like a sigh of relief, but more just a sigh. I feel like buried in the center of the church (and I mean the church as a whole—all the Christians worldwide) is this amazing, redemptive, beautiful thing.

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By: Tamie Harkins April 08, 2011

Stumbling Into the Digital Reformation

Our “Theo-Epicurean” social experiment began with a few simple acts. My brother Simon created a Facebook group page. We took a picture of the homemade chicken pot pie we had just made, used it for the masthead, and uploaded all our food related photos from our cell phones. Voila! The Episcopal Foodie Network was born. Within days over 500 foodies of faith had joined and were posting like mad.

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By: Courtney Cowart April 04, 2011

Come Saturday Morning

As an adult, I wonder how to live in a way that acknowledges the world outside my own backyard, working hard for my keep, and extending freedom to other children. While I continue to explore my vocation, I want to continue exploring the world like I did as a child. I question how I will play during my free time as an adult. And what a concept that is. Free time: time to be free, to jump off the diving board, to pick up a frog in the park to be your pet, to play dress up or not. What are my options and how will I imagine new ones?

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By: Alie Jones March 30, 2011

Finding God and Health In The Experience of Storytelling

A University of Massachusetts Medical School study recently found that storytelling may have positive effects on patients with high blood pressure. For at least one group of low-income African Americans followed in the study, listening to personal narratives helped maintain lower blood pressure as effectively as more medication. The study found that participants who watched videos of stories drawn from their own community and told in patients’ natural voices fared better than those who watched generic, how-to videos about stress reduction.

Does that surprise us? All the world’s religious traditions hold…

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By: Dori Baker March 22, 2011

Ashes to Ashes

My Lenten discipline is far from original. In fact, I stole the idea after hearing it from someone last November. BUT I will venture forth and commit for the next 40 days to… writing a letter to the people in my life for whom I am thankful for and have been meaning to keep in touch with, but for many, many lame excuses have let the pages of the daily Far Side calendar get torn and tossed in the trash before I’ve had a chance to say, “Hello, again.”

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By: Kathy Lee March 18, 2011

Turn, Turn, Turn

One of my favorite Biblical passages is the well known and oft quoted passage from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is aseason…” As a young girl growing up in the seventies I used to turn the volume on the radio to full blast whenever the Byrds musical rendition of this classic passage would come over the airwaves. Drivingalong the roads in rural Sheboygan County, I would roll down the window of my parent’s car and sing the lyrics with the passion of aperformer on stage. I sang I recall feeling empowered by the fact that life is not a series of disconnected, discrete events, but that there was order in the chaos. I did not have the language or the faith at the time to name that order as God; but I knew with certainty that I was part of a bigger story—a continuous story. And that knowledge gave me confidence and offered me comfort.

A lot of miles and many roads have been traveled since my carefree teenage years but the words from Ecclesiastes (whether in Scripture or song) still evoke within me the same feeling of confidence and comfort. I also know with certainty that the story I am a part of is God’s…

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By: Kim Hearn March 14, 2011

Here Comes a Happy Minister

Apparently like most clergy, I joyfully report that I love my job. Clergy, according to studies done by Matt Bloom at the University of Notre Dame, report being happier than the average American. Bloom divides happiness into two categories: the first being, what he calls hedonic and the second he labels eudaimonic. Hedonic happiness is easily attainable- simply grab a few friends, a good bottle of Cabernet and you are well on your way to hedonic heights. Eudaimonic, however, is a bit more complicated and requires the depth and breadth of joy found only in contentment that isn’t fleeting. According to Bloom, clergy can more easily report that we are happy in the deep sense, yet we often can’t say that we are happy in the laugh-your-butt-off-lovin’-life kind of sense. And when you talk to our spouses, those faithful people who put up with night meeting upon night meeting, few raises and lots of frustration, they report that we clergy are even less happy than we say we are.

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By: Nicole Lamarche March 09, 2011

Love and Imperfection

Early yesterday morning, on the Sunday when Jesus tells us not to worry, I was gang-rushed with problems more or less upon walking in the door. A father and his teenaged son who were on shift to sell “stock” in the summer mission trip didn’t know what to say in their announcement and couldn’t locate the precious box of stock certificates. A woman in charge of the Adult Forum wondered where a wooden podium had wandered off to. Another was selling books for Lent small groups but didn’t know the price. I could overhear Jim, who opens up the building, venting nearby to another member about how he still didn’t have anyone to fulfill his duty in his absence—I avoided him. When I made it to the narthex, an elderly woman informed me that the button on the handicapped entrance door was too stubborn for someone with arthritis to press.

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By: Rev. Mark Williamson March 01, 2011

Volunteers Update from Nashville

The middle of the service year is a time for service programs to take time and evaluate what could done better or in new ways to support our volunteers. Volunteers have entered programs to serve those entrusted to their care and enter into relationship with them – whether they are children, adults, families or communities. Serving those in need, volunteers face the daily realities of being worn down. Consistently giving of oneself leads to a need for physical and spiritual renewal. For a number of years, Volunteers Exploring Vocations (VEV) and its member programs have been working together to provide that renewal for our volunteers. On January 30th and February 1st…

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By: Jolleen Wagner February 16, 2011

Reflections on the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference

Having the opportunity to attend the 2011 Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference was a transformative and liberating experience. Within created sacred space, we dialogued and engaged with highly informative, woefully skilled, and intellectually astute pastors, ministry workers, and lay persons whose Christian convictions were to uphold the banner of love, mercy, and justice. The issues of liberation and justice were central to the conference theme. Weight was given to imagine the ways in which this liberation and justice can be experienced in the lives of humans today whose bodily realities vehemently speak towards their need for justice, love, mercy, and liberation.

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By: Multiple Authors February 11, 2011

A Musical Ministry

When I first came to awareness that I needed to go to seminary, I felt God’s calling to engage in some form of mission or ministry for God but had no idea what specific vocation God had in mind for me. Meanwhile, I was already engaged in a ministry that did not require seminary training: I played the harp.

For me, playing the harp was a ministry and not a “job”—although I was paid for it at times—but I did not consider it my profession. In those years I struggled with doing it as a paid job because I was concerned it might become secularized or businesslike. Also, I felt compelled to serve in something more clearly defined as mission or a church-related vocation, whatever that might be. And I knew that, to be equipped to follow that call, I would need a seminary education.

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By: Sabrina Falls January 21, 2011

There is No Rest

This sermon was delivered on Jan 9th at the the second National Festival of Young Preachers. Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Let us take a moment to look at what Hebrew Scripture teaches about Sabbath. In Exodus, the longest of the 10 commandments says that we should do all our work in six days but on the seventh we should not do any work, nor should we allow anyone else to work—not our children, not those who serve us, not the resident aliens, not even our livestock and animals. (Exodus 20: 8-11) Everybody gets a day off.

Our scriptures understand it. Our story tells it. But do we imbibe it? Do we speak the language of Sabbath?

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By: Andrew T.  Barnhill January 14, 2011

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