FTE Blog


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


Freedom to Flunk

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…

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By: Matthew Wesley Williams January 07, 2011


Leadership Capacities Every Young Pastor Must Learn

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.

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By: Stephen Lewis September 14, 2010


Single-Leader-Centered vs Group-Centered Leadership

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. ...

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By: Matthew Wesley Williams July 20, 2010


Cultivating Quality Leadership for a Sustainable Church

The ability as a church to gather together and serve the community in creative ways depends on leadership. It depends on an intergenerational conversation that captures the imagination of gifted young leaders among us who feel called to serve the church. For North Carolina churches and communities—for the entire church—quality leadership is the foundation for vital and sustainable Christian institutions. It’s about thriving, not just surviving.

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By: Stephen Lewis December 02, 2009


Ask a Millennial Why They Stay

If you’re in any church circle I’m sure you’ve heard a conversation about the exodus of Millennials from the church and discussed how to prevent it and reverse the damage already done. Countless books have been written and ink spilled trying to articulate the realities of why the “church” isn’t working for my generation.

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By: Rob Lee

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