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.Read More »
By: Michael Hryniuk May 11, 2011
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…Read More »
By: Michael Hryniuk May 09, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Rev. David Lewicki May 02, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Tamie Harkins April 19, 2011
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…Read More »
By: elizabeth-drescher-ph.d Elizabeth April 15, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Tamie Harkins April 08, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Courtney Cowart April 04, 2011
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?Read More »
By: Alie Jones March 30, 2011
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…Read More »
By: Dori Baker March 22, 2011
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.”Read More »
By: Kathy Lee March 18, 2011
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…Read More »
By: Kim Hearn March 14, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Nicole Lamarche March 09, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Rev. Mark Williamson March 01, 2011
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…Read More »
By: Jolleen Wagner February 16, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Multiple Authors February 11, 2011
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.Read More »
By: Sabrina Falls January 21, 2011
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?Read More »
By: Andrew T. Barnhill January 14, 2011
I started in the preaching ministry at the age of 15. Fifteen is a strange age. At least it was for me. I was just old enough to have my own ideas about this and that. And I was just young enough to be very certain about my ideas. But I was also just “green” enough to believe that what I had to say might be useful to God in a preaching moment. I preached my first sermon on a chilly spring day in April 1992 in Chicago, IL. This was the pulpit in which a master preacher got up each Sunday to “break the bread of life.” However on this Sunday, this people and this preacher let the young people “run the service.” And they let me preach the morning message….
That church was a grace-filled space in which I had the freedom to flunk. With that freedom I was provided the space to identify, explore, and reflect on my sense of call to ministry…Read More »
By: Matthew Wesley Williams January 07, 2011
For the last few years, I have been working with young pastors on leadership formation issues through Project Rising Sun, a pastoral leadership academy. Based on my work with these leaders, I have distilled seven key leadership capacities young pastors need to develop in order to thrive in ministry.Read More »
By: Stephen Lewis September 14, 2010
Consider these two statements on leadership:
“Strong people don’t need strong leaders.”
“Leadership never ascends from the pew to the pulpit. It always descends from the pulpit to the pew.”
The first quote is a famous line from Ms. Ella Baker, whose masterful work in organizing and leadership development helped to launch and stabilize the early work of many of the most significant civil rights organizations of the 20th century: NAACP, SCLC, SNCC and MFDP. The second quote is a lesser known line from a better known figure: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ...Read More »
By: Matthew Wesley Williams July 20, 2010