Community and Last Suppers
This is what community looks like.
Fifteen coworkers seated around a conference table, cups of water at their right hand, spooning pudding from parfait glasses.
As we move through Holy Week, we recall the Last Supper, the Passover meal …
Many congregations invite folks to come to the altar for special prayers in honor of their birthdays. Some expand the invitation to those celebrating wedding anniversaries or to honor the date of their baptism and/or confirmation.
I think it …
God, Jesus, the Bible and Change
When I was in the sixth grade or so, I read through the entire Bible chapter by chapter. I especially remember reading the Gospels and finding Matthew, Mark, and Luke difficult. In those Gospels, Jesus was a little more enigmatic, a little harder t…
The Lent-to-Lent Bible Challenge
I remember hearing about an Episcopalian in Mississippi who proudly informed his bishop that he was foregoing white chocolate for Lent. The bishop was astounded by how the man had trivialized Lent.
Unless he had an enormous dependency on whit…
Really, Prayers Of The People
It happens just often enough to remind me of the power of prayer, that moment when in the course of a Sunday liturgy someone or even a few people give voice to real, heartfelt, genuine prayer. Just the other week, in fact, the husband of a woman wh…
Hybrid Faith Formation: Two Final Lessons For Any Minister, Any Church
Our second seasonal experiment with combined in-person/online faith learning and growth has come to a close (read more about this year’s hybrid faith formation cohort in the earlier posts). Networked learning has taken off in several more congreg…
I had an Epiphany! No wait, a Theophany!
I want to begin this week's post by wishing everyone a holy Epiphany-tide. Epiphany is a church word that gets tossed around outside of the church. Often my first response when I hear someone say, “I had an epiphany,” is: “no you didn't!” I…
Christmas in Heaven?
“I wonder if they celebrate Christmas in heaven?” This is one of the many musing questions my mother used to ask.
The Bible describes non-stop celebration in heaven, but here on earth we mark the seasons and designate Holy Days. I feel sorr…
Talking with Visitors
I wish our churches were more like my local hospital.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been to the hospital three times for some routine appointments and tests. Each time, even before I arrived at the right department, I felt warmly welcomed. …
The gift came in a reused grocery bag.
“We don’t have a lot of extra money this year,” she said, smiling weakly.
I met her a couple of years ago. She works in the service industry, and I come every six weeks or so for my regular a…
The Body of Christ, Heavenly Bread
This article has been translated from Spanish. Read the Spanish language version here.
Each year the Diocese of Eastern Massachusetts organizes spiritual retreats for boys and girls of all ages. With great enthusiasm the leadership of the …
Please, no tree shaming.
I’ve been admiring all the Facebook posts of friends dedicated to honoring the sacred season of Advent. They are setting aside 15 minutes a day for silence and prayer; reading a daily devotional; lighting candles; a…
Hybrid Faith Formation: Learning As We Go
Since I last wrote about our intrepid group of hybrid faith formation innovators, we’ve gotten to see network-based learning get off the ground in several congregations as well as in our leader’s group. The cohort continues to share an energeti…
Dedicating a Parish Resource Center
One of the rewards of entering the third year of our “digital mission” in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching is getting to witness some of the fruits of our colleagues’ labors. Recently at St. Columba’s in Washington, DC, I had just su…
Women in the Bible Do Not Shuffle Across Its Pages
What do we know about Bible women? Research conclusion #1:
Bible women, especially those who speak, are surprisingly bold.
Traditionally, the view of Bible women has been they are subservient and passive—but that is like saying the earth…
Supporting Sunday School
The kick-off for our fall Christian formation program was the most successful in years. Thirty adults sat in folding chairs to discuss Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s profound question, “What is church?” Another forty children from nursery age to senio…
Can Planning Dazzle?
The concussive bursts added a heartbeat, and my eardrums thrummed for hours.
But it was so worth it, to see the sky rain fire. To watch explosions of color, whites and golds, reds and blues and greens, paint the night.
Cincinnati has an …
Hybrid Faith Formation: The Story so Far...
"What do we do with the people who say they want to learn but can’t come to a weekly Bible study, or even Sunday school?"
Over the past eighteen months, I’ve learned a lot about how new ministry models emerge: Collaboratively. In fits and s…
You've Been Challenged
Can you handle one more ALS ice-bucket challenge video? I promise. There’s a twist.
When my husband was challenged on Facebook, we talked about how to make it fun – and engage the whole congregation. This is what we came up with:
The Eye of a Tornado
I have been in the eye of a tornado.
Thirteen years ago, Cincinnati, not Ferguson, led the news. A white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teen in a dark alley. People took to the street, protesting, rioting, looting. Stores wer…
Giving in Community
If I didn’t know better, I’d admire the marks on his calf. Tattoo-like, they resemble a heliocentric solar system, small black planets circling a sun spot in the middle.
But I know this isn’t a mid-life form of self-expression but marks…
Getting Invested in Christian Formation
Even though the official end of summer isn’t until September 1, the signs of the final dog days are here. Back-to-school sales. Last trips to the beach. Baskets of tomatoes and zucchinis in the parish hall, free for the taking.
As one seaso…
When something doesn’t work, we often learn more, but the lessons are harder.
I often share here the good and successful events and ministries, especially from my own congregation. But it’s important too to tell when things don’t go as …
The Art of the House Call or...
Everything I needed to know for ministry I learned as a union organizer.
As a 22-year-old union organizer -- my first job out of college -- I discovered that my main job was to knock on strangers' doors and engage them in conversation about the…
In a circle of thirty we sat. On the floor, in the middle, were Post-It notes listing our individual core strengths.
The staff of Forward Movement came to Cincinnati from the far corners of the world. Or at least, from stretches across the U…
We All Live in the Same House
This weekend I went on a retreat with my church. About 30 of us stayed together in a large house, where we cooked, prayed, sang, and talked.
We began the weekend by talking about what we had individually brought with us to the retreat. Someone …
She put her arm around my shoulder to soften the gut punch she would deliver next.
“I’ve been praying,” she said. “And I think you should spend some time studying this scripture.”
This church leader handed me a page from 2 Cor…
Summer and Episcopalians
You’ve heard the old yarn: Episcopalians are the only ones God trusts to take the summer off.
We laugh. But underneath is the grain of truth: a lot of Episcopalians do take the summer off, from attending worship to participating in parish e…
Lego My Bible
Summertime is here, and it feels so good.
Vacations, BBQs, swimming pools. Empty pews, VBS, a break from Sunday Schools.
But just because it's summer doesn't mean we stop talking and teaching about God and our faith. We just need to be cre…
Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace
Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.
When Isabel García approached the pulpit to read the Epistle to her congregation she had not felt that nervous since the Sunday when she preached her first homily. She had preached to …
Who is Your Audience?
Last week I went to a goodbye party for a longtime Trinity employee. I also went to a community forum, an Ascension Day Eucharist, and stopped by Trinity's Brown Bag lunch program which serves meals to people in need.
Different people were in a…
The invitation was unexpected. So too were the lessons I learned during the dinner party.
We were the youngest by thirty years, and our nine-year-old son leaned over and whispered, “I’m guessing there won’t be other kids.” Right, son.…
Bring Out Da Woo
In addition to being an ENTJ, I’m apparently a woo as well.
The personality text, StrengthsFinder, indicated that one of my character (and leadership) traits is “woo.” What that means in part is that I enjoy meeting new people, asking q…
What is to Prevent Me from Being Baptized?
Nota: Este artículo está disponible en inglés y español. Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español de este artículo.
The question posed by the Ethiopian Eunuch is phrased perfectly. What is to prevent him from being baptized? He h…
Easter Monday can be a drag.
I feel like the bunny in this picture. Our daughter inadvertently left her rabbit on the couch near a window while we went to church. When we returned, she found flat rabbit instead of chocolate bunny.
We Learn More in Spacious, Intimate, and Safe Places
Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.
How can we be part of the realization of the dream of adult Latino immigrants to return to the schools, vocational schools or universities in our communities to finally be able to finish o…
Online Learning Getting Traction in Churches
As we know online learning is making some serious headway these days. 77% of U.S. corporations use online learning as a part of their continuing education and in recent years institutions of higher education have been investing in online learning a…
What Do We Want to Be?
Ten would have been considered a success.
But when twenty-six women showed up for a Saturday morning retreat sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women, the numbers alone were enough to make the group take notice.
I suspect that many ECW…
Five Loaves of Garlic Bread
Like young children are want to do, our daughter belted out the song during the Vacation Bible School program. Not old enough yet to care about the risk of embarrassment in public, she tapped her foot almost to the beat, and her blue eyes sparkled.…
JOY: An Intentional Senior Ministry
This week, the parish I serve is getting ready for another senior get-together. Called the “J.O.Y. Luncheon,” it’s an acronym that stands for Just Over Youth. St. George’s, Valley Lee has had a tradition of offering a JOY Luncheon for our s…
The brackets are due. If you haven't yet labored over which saint should win the Golden Halo, you have a few mere hours to complete your bracket. Voting begins today.
We’ve written about Lent Madness before but here’s a brief recap: Lent …
Sunday School in a Box
I’m a big fan of out-of-the-box thinking, but a new way of doing Sunday School at our church has me thankful for in-the-box preparation.
Our congregation is program-size, with an average Sunday attendance of 200. But we’re not quite at th…
Can Children Understand Worship?
The answer came to me a decade ago. I was sitting in a circle of very young Episcopalians, listening to them explore a dark patch of felt in the parable of the Good Shepherd. They were so interested in the “places of danger” on the story-tellin…
And, Instead of Or
Bill Nye the Science Guy took on creation earlier this week. Or rather, he debated with someone who believes in a literal-Bible interpretation of the creation story.
The debate, held in my hometown, has received a lot of press, being promoted…
In a world where freedom is often touted as the ultimate ideal, as Christians, we come before that same world to serve in the name of Jesus. That's right, we are servants; not terribly glamorous, is it?
To be brutally honest, servant ministry i…
How do You Define "Biblically Minded?"
Editor's note: Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, responds to the January 22, 2014 TIME Magazine article "The Most God-less Cities in America" which ranks Providence at #1. What's your response to this survey? How wo…
I’ve come to see pastoral care as much more than visits from the priest at the hospital or a stream of casseroles delivered post-discharge.
I don’t want to short-change those. Believe me, as I have spent the last two months in recovery f…
I love my family. I love the church. I love my job. I love my friends. Lately I have really been loving the Holy Spirit's capacity to surprise me in the most wonderful ways. I use the word “surprise” as that is what it is to me every time. You …
The Trees AND the Forest
The problem is common: We get so focused on the details that we miss the big picture. Sometimes it takes a stranger, an outsider to put things into perspective.
I experienced this situation over the weekend. We had a guest preacher on Sunday.…
In case you haven't heard: it's cold.
In breathless spurts, forecasters have issued warnings about the arctic weather. And the cold front has introduced new, fun phrases to bandy about: polar vortex. Frostslaughterous. And my favorite: Frigid…
One Body, Many Passions
This weekend I came across a Twitter conservation about the importance (or unimportance) of following the rubrics (you know, the italics in the Book of Common Prayer which give instructions about liturgy and liturgical life of the church). This, in t…
Getting in Shape
This is at the top of the resolution list for 98 percent of people, unless you’re Heidi Klum or five years old. But I’m not going to offer tips on how to go Paleo or striking all white bread from your diet.
Instead, I’d like to explore …
Preparing the Way
Not until I was sitting in the pew, listening to the lessons, did I realize how much I missed it.
Since the week before Thanksgiving, I’ve been mostly house-ridden, recovering from back surgery. The inside of our house—the places I can …
Advent is a different experience when it comes at the same time as a shattered disc.
In late November, I had a two-fer – my first broken bone and first time under anesthesia. I decided to go big for the first time, or rather my body did: …
Full Faith, Empty Churches
The other day, I heard an old saying for the first time – “Full faith means an empty church.” The implication of the aphorism is that a church that is preaching the fullness of the Gospel will quickly find itself without a congregation. The d…
Doing Right by the Books
An Episcopalian in my community is doing amazing work with sustainable gardening, creating an ecovillage in the heart of an urban area of Cincinnati. But that’s a story for another blog.
What caught my attention today was an article in the n…
Praying In Color Resources
Have you heard of praying in color?
It was something unfamiliar to me until a few months ago when a friend on twitter, The Rev. Lori Johnson, posted about a caim prayer she had done as a drawing. I loved the prayer, and thought it would be a gre…
The Sabbath Room....
...at the DioMo Convention.
On Saturday morning, I took all three kids (ages 1, 5, and 8) to the Diocese of Missouri Annual Convention. It was my first trip to a diocesan convention in 35 years as an Episcopalian. In the past, I had not paid mu…
Advent: Meet Them Where They Are – Even When They Keep Moving!
My predecessor was an artist and incredibly creative. She put together lovely evenings for families with young children on Palm Saturday and Advent. We made Advent wreathes and bracelets with colored beads for the days of Holy Week, we painted palm…
The Only White Kid in the Room
As a white parent committed to resisting racism, what do I want for my kids?
I want my kids to know how to be the only white person in the room.
I want them to know how to do this gracefully and without calling undue attention to themselves…
Creepy or Cool?
Apparently, Trunkk or Treat* is so yesterday.
I’ve noticed for the first time a whole new crop of Halloween-themed events at Episcopal churches.
One church held a children's event at the Old Episcopal Burying Ground. Children were ask…
Katniss has a few other tricks up her sleeve, if we’ll play.
Our youth group participated yesterday in a Hunger Games program at our cathedral. If you have a tween, then you know all about Katniss, the main character of the Hunger Games tri…
i-care, We Care
I was cruising around the Internet the other day when I stumbled on a site that inspired me.
The Anglican Diocese of Wellington, in New Zealand – way across the world from my little hometown of Fort Thomas, Ky., exhibited its care and compa…
Beyond Average Sunday Attendance (ASA)
In all the talk about church growth and new ways of doing church, there’s one statistic that’s impossible to quantify: the number of people impacted by a parish’s online ministry.
For some time now, the gold standard for measuring church …
It's All Real: Resurrection is Everywhere!
Driving home from a meeting of church professionals last week, I was pretty down. I don't know how common this knowledge is, but a fair number who serve the church are pretty down, pessimistic, or otherwise worn out. This assembly was no exception.…
Writing our Stories
You’re not surprised that I consider writing a vital spiritual practice.
It’s not the only one, of course. It doesn’t take the place of prayer and worship, of engaging the scriptures and taking part in the sacraments of the church.
Who has not experienced some kind of disaster or failure, large or small? And how many of us have admitted this in our community of faith and asked for help?
This past week I went to a class at Trinity led by the Rev. Stuart Hoke about the spir…
Engagement with the Bible is the single most important factor in the spiritual health of a congregation.
Sure, studies have shown other key ingredients: leadership, service, hospitality, community. But reading scripture emerges as a vital ele…
If your church always has high attendance at every formation program and is fully subscribed to Sunday School, don’t read further. This blog isn’t for you.
This is for the 99 percent of churches that struggle with finding ways to attract…
Are We Ready?
When the planes rammed into the Twin Towers, the senior pastor had a previous commitment. The associate could hold a special prayer service, but the senior pastor wouldn’t be there.
As the day went on and the associate opened the doors, peo…
Trading Spaces: Sunday School Edition
Do as I say (and write), not as I do.
I’m teaching Sunday School this fall for the first time at our new-ish church. Our kids are old enough to make their way to the classrooms so I hadn’t spent much time looking at the space. Yesterday …
Backpacks and Baptism
I don’t know how to say this without sounding selfish. I know we’re shopping for donation and I know that my backpack is in good shape and I don’t need a new one. But I can’t help it—that tie-dye backpack is awesome.
And thus it …
Having an argument in public is always a little embarrassing. Whether it’s disagreeing with your girlfriend about something while at dinner with friends or it’s a public disagreement within your church, you’d rather these things happen in pri…
Retreat. And Advance.
I like the multiple meanings of the word retreat. It is, of course, both noun and verb, a backing away, to withdraw.
For our church this weekend, retreat is a time for fellowship, star-gazing, worship, and good food. It is a backing away, as we…
Recently, they’ve been demolishing a building near my building, floor by floor, with a jackhammer. This has been going on for weeks now for a few hours a day. Sometimes I can tune it out; sometimes it makes me feel like I’m going crazy.
How to Write a Reflection
If you’re in church leadership, or just a regular church attendee, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to write a reflection at some point, either for the advent calendar or for the stewardship campaign. Over the years I’ve written dozen …
When the invitation came, I was skeptical. Moral instruction?
Isn’t that my job? Do I really want to enroll my kid in this type of program?
Well, yes. And yes.
Our school district has an unusual partnership with a collective of…
Mission Trip? Think Local
The past two weekends I’ve volunteered with Hour Children, an organization that works with formerly incarcerated mothers and their children. They teach job skills and provide housing and childcare and help the mothers readjust to life outside pri…
Attendance is a big deal at schools these days.
Federal and state money hinge in part on attendance rates, and a school's rating as effective or excellent heavily weights attendance.
It seems there's a high value in just showing up.
[The Power Differential]
I recently heard a colleague use the term power differential when referring to the relationship between clergy and laypersons. She wasn’t wondering if one existed, but rather simply naming its existence as fact. Using my best poker face, I tried …
Comrade or Competitor
Several years ago, we were church planters, establishing a new congregation in one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. One of the biggest obstacles: resistance from the closest Episcopal church—still 10 miles away. Their argument was th…
I think the idea is great.
Now we have to wait and see if it will take hold.
A church member came up with the idea of starting a lunch bunch group. Our church is growing, and not everyone knows each other anymore. It’s a natural growi…
When I was in middle school, my dad refused to let me join the youth group mission trip.
He was worried, I think, about my safety, a young, suburban girl thrust into a week of poverty, in a neighborhood of crime.
His heart was with me, …
Something Will Always Go Wrong
I’ve done some event planning, and while I really enjoyed it, one thing I learned is that something always goes wrong. There will be a typo in the program or you won’t have the right cord for the projector or someone will forget to bring the ta…
Making Your Own How-to Videos
What could be better than a how-to video that describes how to screencast? Maybe Graeter’s ice cream, but then that’s hard to share in social media.
I’ve talked about screencasting before. Essentially it’s a way to track your screen s…
Making Pictures Work Double-Time
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s the value of one with five or six hyperlinks?
In my opinion, it’s pretty high.
I found a cool new tool to easily transform your photos into interactive, dynamic content for the web. I had…
What are you giving up for Easter? Or, are you taking on something new instead during Eastertide?
What? Hadn’t thought about that? No plans for keeping Easter? Join the club.
I grew up in a faith tradition that didn’t spend a lot of tim…
I like Easter egg hunts and I play to win. Actually, I haven’t been allowed to participate in one for quite a number of years, which is clearly a form of age discrimination. Just imagine the number of plastic eggs I could amass competing against …
The Greatest Story Ever Told
John and I walked home after church this past Sunday. We were carrying palms, of course - a whole handful of them. Our church was very generous with the amount they handed out this year. The palms were long, slender, and bright green and we found t…
Feet, or Hands?
As we gather this evening to observe Maundy Thursday, many of us will be invited to participate in the ritual of foot-washing. For some, our feet will be washed by our parish priest. For others, we will engage in serving one another, having our fee…
Walking the Stations with my Seven Year Old Son
I’m the pastor of a medium-size congregation in Madison, Wisconsin, St. Dunstan’s Church. On Thursday evenings in Lent, we’ve been walking the Stations of the Cross at 6:00 pm, before our potluck supper and Lenten program. It's always a small…
Elixir for Church Growth
In the middle of the science fair/book fair/fine arts fair, time to visit the school night, we ran into a couple from our church.
I was surprised. Their kids are grown and in master’s programs around the country. They don’t have grandkids…
Start at the Very Beginning
Julie Andrews had it right.
In “The Sound of Music,” she begins to teach her young charges about notes and singing. When she realizes that they don’t even have a basic understanding, she backs up and encourages them.
An Outward and Visible Sign
Somewhere in our move, I lost my wedding rings.
I keep hoping they will turn up, tucked in the bottom of jewelry bag or slipped behind a drawer. But it’s been three weeks and lots of emptying boxes and still no sign.
My thumb keeps fi…
Lent with Intention
Growing up in a different denomination meant that my primary reference for Lent was something you might find in a belly button.
Easter was big. Christmas too, of course. But Lent and Advent weren’t players in that tradition’s lexicon.
Listening to the Still, Small Voice
God has been active in my life these last few days.
Perhaps it’s better to acknowledge that I’ve been more cognizant of God’s presence; I suspect God is always active, whether I’m paying attention or not.
I started last week i…
Lent Madness 2013 is Nigh!
What do you get when you combine a love of sports with a love of saints? Lent Madness, of course. A year after this unique online devotion went viral—with mentions in Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post, and many other media outlets, Lent Mad…
I recently read this article by Steve Almond in the New York Times magazine. In it, Almond stressed the importance of narration and storytelling. “On a grand scale,” he writes, “we’ve traded perspective for immediacy, depth for speed, emoti…
Which 12 Days?
Growing up it appeared to be common knowledge that the 12 days of Christmas was the period from Christmas to Epiphany. In my suburban community, almost everyone was Christian and it seemed that all of the children – at least during their elementa…
Spiritual Fire Extinguisher?
From Luke’s Gospel:
Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from…
I love John the Baptist.
I love the way he gets right up in people’s faces.
I love the way he calls out the tax collectors and the soldiers who are abusing their power and extorting illegitimate gain.
I love the truth-telling of his Adve…
From Season of Abundance to Season of Expectation
This picture shows the final product of my church’s autumn-long effort to create a glass mosaic representing our fall theme of Bountiful Abundance. Over 100 people laid tiles and we completed the piece in one long-day and a half-day follow up. Li…
Editor's Letter: December 2012
It’s Advent, the season of anticipation, preparation, and waiting. A time when Christians around the world get ready to welcome Jesus - as both the babe and the risen Christ - into not only our hearts but into our lives.
At ECF Vital Practice…
All around New York there are lights on the lampposts and covering the trunks of trees along Park Avenue. I know, many feel that it’s too early for Christmas decorations, but I love these lights. They serve almost like the Advent candles we light…
(All) Saints on Facebook
Allison popped up in my newsfeed again.
Each time is a jolt, a reminder of an irregular mole that consumed a dynamic woman. Her death on Christmas Day left a young boy motherless and a husband bereft.
For a while, I struggled with how peopl…
Creativity and Abundance
I am not the most artistic person in the world. My wife on the other hand is a gifted artist, having made her first career as a medical illustrator. We are both enrolled in a class at our church where we are making personal glass mosaics in the the…
Last Tuesday I invited readers to join me in testing out a new online tool from the American Bible Society. Called DayPack, this free tool makes it easy for churches to schedule a week’s worth of daily Biblical passages to be sent by text message…
My Essentials: iPhone & Church?
Blessed to be a Blessing
Before going to seminary, I had the privilege of working for CARE, the international relief and development organization. This is the organization that created the original CARE Package that Americans sent to Europe and Asia after World War II. My …
Our season of Bountiful Abundance for our church school began with a Creation Day where 70 children and adults each created a personal mosaic. It was an amazing undertaking and took our artist-in-residence and our children’s program director’s …
R U a Rule Keeper or Breaker?
I have friends who are quite passionate about grammar. I was reminded of this last week, when I was copyediting an essay and, in a moment of frustration, I posted something about the emdash on Facebook. I received an immediate response from a flurry …
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name… [The Book of Common Prayer, pg.334]
It never gets old, does it?
In a two-day retreat for women, the leader has invited us to listen delightedly. The focus of the retreat is story -- the ways that story can connect us, inspire new thoughts, encourage creative responses, and build relation…
The last time I went on a spiritual retreat, jam boxes blared Journey, and we traveled by Shake-n-Bake, a beloved bus aptly named for its lack of shocks and air conditioning.
Getting in touch with my soul was, in many ways, easier in the midst …
Why We Shouldn’t Avoid Politics Completely
September 17 marks the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Working as I do near New York’s financial district and across from Wall Street, it’s impossible to ignore the people that have gathered in the parks or occasionally march down t…
Making Space for Theological Reflection
Last Wednesday I participated in a discussion about Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling with other members of my church. Kierkegaard is writing about the question, “What is faith?” It’s a big question. Thanks to a knowledgeable group lea…
School Days and Rituals
Champagne and midnight kisses may start the calendar, but in our house, the year really begins with the first day of school.
This time is rife with tradition for us. We have, of course, the crisp pages of new notebooks, the stiffness of a fre…
The Church that Plays Together
I’m packing our bags.
This weekend, half of the church is heading to the diocesan conference center for retreat. Since this is our first time, we have had lots of recommendations for packing: Sturdy shoes for hiking, bathing suits for swimm…
That’s what I thought when a co-worker brought up the flowers. It was my tenth anniversary working for the diocese, and my sweet husband remembered. This anniversary isn’t mentioned in Hallmark. There’s no indication for…
Stop and Share a Meal
I spent a lot of time this past weekend eating. A few of my college friends were in town, and we spent hours sitting around Moroccan food or pasta. This is how we got to know each other years ago in college: long hours of conversation around cafete…
Baptism in Community
The Quakers have a wonderful marriage tradition that my husband and I borrowed for our wedding nearly 15 years ago.
States require the signatures of a couple of witnesses on the official marriage certificate. But in the Quaker tradition, ever…
God of faithful surprises, throughout the ages you have made known your love and power in unexpected ways and places. May we daily perceive the joy and wonder of your abiding presence and offer our lives in gratitude for our redemption. Amen[i]
Communication as Helium
Communication is ministry. General Convention said so.
In a resolution passed by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, General Convention put into the record that communications is an essential ministry.
Resolution A024 say…
Sunday School Memories...
We have begun to receive resumes for our next Director of Children and Youth Ministries. It made me think back to my own experience as a kid in Sunday School.
I was confirmed in 1967 as a seventh-grader at William Street United Methodist Churc…
Brand Speak for Dummies - Including Me
Let’s look at the jump, said my fellowship supervisor.
I glanced around, bewildered. The other fellows calmly opened their newspapers so they could read the conclusion of the story that began on page 1.
I didn’t go to a j-school – a u…
Campfire stories and Evangelism
The goo of the marshmallow hadn't begun to seep over the chocolate and graham cracker before the requests started. Tell us a story. A good one. A long one. Scary. But not too scary.
Tell us a story.
By this time, our last night of a …
The Future in Four Parts
Will the Episcopal Church thrive because of social networking sites, or will we wither away because these now serve as an effective alternative to Church? Will our congregations, schools, and camps and conference centers be a refuge to those who ha…
Don't Be Boring
St. Lydia’s, the church I attend in Brooklyn, is both experimenting and following in a long tradition. As I’ve written about here before, we combine liturgy and a meal. The practice is a very old one, but you won’t find many churches doing th…
Pulling the Plug
When she was about 8, my daughter decided to throw a party. She selected a theme, planned the menu and activities, and invited the guests. What I didn’t know at the time was that she also planned how she expected her guests to act. And then got v…
The Trinity and the Chocolate Fountain
In Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace Miroslav Volf invites us to think of God’s generosity and our response not as linear, giving and receiving, but as circulating, going around and around and spilling out all ov…
This Sunday is the Trinity Sunday, one of the seven principle feast days of the year and the only one that addresses squarely what we believe as Christians. The tradition of the Sunday following Pentecost marking the Holy Trinity began when Thomas …
Speaking in Tongues
I used to think I couldn’t speak in tongues.
Several years ago, I reported on a story about Jews and Pentecostals coming together to learn about the Passover meal of seder.
When the photographer and I arrived, we met the Jewish couple…
Do the Right Thing!
Churches often fail to observe copyright laws, or even the basics of courtesy. We have this unfortunate habit of thinking that just because it is "for the church" it is OK if I make a few copies of this or that. So, Sunday School teachers photocopy…
If you went to church camp, you may remember it fondly – friends, games, singing in chapel and swimming in a pool or lake. Or, like me, your feelings about camp may be mixed. You loved the singing in chapel, enjoyed some of the games, but the fir…
What Happens to Moses?
We had only been dating for a couple of weeks.
It was dreary, cold fall day so we decided to spend the afternoon watching TV. Our channel surfing landed on The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston-style.
We watched as the Egyptians chased …
Earth: “And God saw that it was good.”
Sunday is Earth Day. And, despite my best intentions, I haven’t prepared anything to acknowledge the day.
Every year, Earth Day sneaks up on me. Like spring in New England, I know it is coming: I get little tastes and hints of it during the d…
Imagine if every church meeting began by asking the same question: “How will what we are doing here affect or involve people living in poverty?”
In 1991 the late Roman Catholic Bishop Kenneth E. Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, issued a decr…
Telling a Story Through Liturgy
On Good Friday I went to church for an hour and a half. Being a three-hour service I skipped a good portion of it, but as the church website explained, worshippers were welcome to come and go as their schedules permitted. I have to confess I left e…
Flowering the Cross
One of the delights in being new is experiencing a church’s long-held tradition for the first time.
On Easter Sunday, a day full of tradition and pomp, I was moved by our new church’s custom of “flowering the cross.”
As the hand…
“Love One Another”
Taking off your socks in a strange place is never particularly comfortable. What if the floor isn’t clean? What if your feet smell? We’d rather sit in our pews and stick to the rituals we know. Still, on Maundy Thursday Episcopalians around the…
The Sixth [meatless] Friday of Lent
Church Smackdown? Not in this Town
What if we didn’t see other Christians as competition but as fellow collaborators in the kingdom of God?
It was our church’s turn to host the monthly meeting of the community welcome wagon.
But this isn’t a Chamber of Commerce, co…
Ritual and Creativity
The Fourth [Meatless] Friday of Lent
I have always had an interest in the faith practices of the Amish community, and find certain aspects of the culture surprising and even counter-intuitive. The degree of freedom offered to Amish children—both in decisions surrounding marriage and…
Will they know we are Christians?
The man’s displeasure is evident.
He grumbles on the walk through the doctor’s office, then rips into the technician. He had an appointment. Other people just walked in. He had to wait 20 minutes. He doesn’t appreciate the lack of servi…
Why does it take the worst to bring out the best?
Tragedy in the form of super-cell tornados ripped through southern Indiana, Kentucky, and small towns across the south. TV news and the Internet swarmed with devastating pictures of homes redu…
Ashes -- and a message in a bottle
I like shiny and new.
I’m not typically first on the bandwagon of the latest trend, but I normally get in line for ride two or three. This is especially true with communication, and I’ve spent many keystrokes for ECF Vital Practices and o…
Un-masking Mardi Gras
The festivities were well underway by the time we arrived.
Sequined dresses and glittered faces greeted us at the door. The normally more staid atmosphere of a diocesan convention was replaced with the upbeat celebration of Mardi Gras, comple…
A New Way to Start a Meeting
Apparently I’m in meetings often enough that when I told my son I had meetings the other day, he grunted.
“Meetings. Is that all adults do? Do you ever work in these meetings?”
My honest answer: Sometimes.
Meetings consume a l…
Has Forward Movement Gone Mad for Lent Madness?
For decades, Forward Movement has been most widely known for its flagship publication, Forward Day by Day. Hundreds of thousands of readers around the world find inspiration in the quarterly printed booklet. In the US, many Episcopalians learned ab…
Accountability in Community.
A month into our move the shininess has worn off, and we’re beginning to call this home – and the other place, “where we used to live.”
Now comes the hard part of making friends and building community.
Last week our church held …
Reading the Bible?
Scott Gunn’s Jan 2, 2012 Seven whole days blog post brought the Bible Challenge back into my consciousness. The concept is simple: Read the Bible in a year by following the Bible Challenge’s formula of reading the books of the Bible “in seque…
Were You Transformed?
The end of a year always puts me in a reflective mood. Like a DJ at some local radio station, I take full advantage of these days to look back and compile lists of the past year’s greatest hits and less successful ventures. It’s also when I ask m…
Talking to Kids about Faith
It was hard to choose which class to take of the three offered this fall at our Center at St. Andrew’s. Dr. Ann Redding who was defrocked by Bishop Wolff of Rhode Island for becoming a Muslim is offering, “Making Peace with Islam: An Introducti…
Dreaming, Google, and the Church
What’s your dream?
I spent the past 2 ½ days dreaming with the board of Forward Movement, an organization dedicated to reinvigorating the church. We did board things like approve the financial report and talk about policies, but we also sp…
How Do You Engage the Bible?
Congregations across the Anglican Communion are invited to take part in a communion-wide survey which asks how Episcopalians and Anglicans understand and engage with the Bible. In the Diocese of Connecticut’s September 24, 2011 weekly eNews, edi…
Old Dogs, New Tricks
I love how God flips our expectations upside down.
Sixty years separate the two couples. The first couple is in their 90s, the husband dapper in a tie and white slacks, whose likeness to Bob Barker always requires a double take. He steadies h…
The heavy conversation starts out, as is often the case, on a light note.
Mommy, why aren’t you eating your toast?
It’s the last piece, I answer. I want to see if you are still hungry before I eat it.
My 7-year-old son ponders t…
Spiritual but not Religious?
You bore me.
That’s the conclusion of a UCC pastor in her superb, pointed commentary.
I’m not normally a Facebook re-poster, but her blog was so compelling that I thought it was worth sharing. Who knew that it would ignite?
An Unexpected Gift
A crew from Calvary, Ashland, Ky., was supposed to be rolling in late last night, weary but exhilarated from a train trip to Washington, D.C., part pilgrimage to the National Cathedral, part journey on historic rail cars.
But first there was …
With the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon falling on a Sunday next month, most churches are developing some way to respond. At St. Andrew’s, Seattle, we will hold a service of Light and Remembrance on the eve…
Taking it to the Streets
Members of another urban congregation are picketing the second service of St. John’s in Columbus, Ohio.
The service is Street Church, where for the past five years, the Rev. Lee Anne Reat presides over a full Eucharist on a street corner in…
The Bible Challenge
Note: Check out Marek's Tip Sheet for creating a Bible Challenge in your own congregation.
Episcopalians take pride in reading more scripture aloud in church on Sunday than most denominations, but few Episcopalians have read the entire Bib…
Waxing nostalgic: Back to school
Bring on the routine.
In 12 days, the kids begin school for the fall, and our family settles into a regular schedule. Homework, dinner, a little TV. Piano practice, art lessons and for the first time, maybe karate.
I say maybe, because t…
For my family, vacations are usually intergenerational affairs. From an early age, I remember vacationing with an assortment of my MacKay aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents as well as day trips and picnics with cousins, aunt, uncle, grandpare…
A Children's Place
Episcopalians aren’t the only people God trusts to take the summer off.
At our church, the nursery attendant goes home from college, and the kids join the congregation for the whole service.
During the program year, the nursery is staffed…
Back to the Garden
When we picked a theme for our Vacation Bible School this summer we naturally gravitated to Green. Our parish has made ecology a major theme during my five years in charge, so it was only natural that we took our young people down that path this su…
Mambo Sawa Sawa
(All is well…..I have goodness in my heart.)
Today, I want to share the story of Grace Art Camp, a ministry offered by Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon.
For me, growing up, summer meant camp. Among my earliest memori…
Giving Church the 'Super 8' Treatment
I want to Super 8 the church experience of my youth.
J.J. Abram’s cinematic homage to Stephen Spielberg relishes in nostalgia without overdoing the saccharine. We caught the flick on date night, and it prompted many a tale over dinner about t…
Our ‘Father’ or????
Elizabeth Kaeton has a proposal for the Church for Fathers Day: “I think we should use the day to begin a movement to give up 'Father' as an honorific title for male clergy.”
Growing up in the Episcopal Church in New England in the 50s, 60s…
Sharing the Good News
Do you remember the Pentecost story? I'll admit that at the beginning of this week, I had to look it up. If it wasn’t for Facebook and the various online theological resources I subscribe to, Pentecost wouldn’t make the list of things I would t…
Closed in Observance of the Ascension of Our Lord
The stores are closed today.
On my way to a staff retreat in the verdant hills of southern Ohio, I won't be able to make my usual stop at the Amish store to purchase some amazing cheeses and fresh-baked bread.
Today is the feast of Asce…
Building Community -- at a Campground -- and Church
Campers could share a lot with parishioners when it comes to building community.
We travel frequently with our children – my son was seven weeks old when I flew to New York City for a business trip. I wasn’t ready to leave him yet, so we …
Spirituality of Fundraising
Can fundraising be good for your spiritual health? Henri Nouwen thinks so.
Many of us have come to love Henri Nouwen – his books, wisdom, life story, and especially his ability to convey the depths of spiritual life and practice in a way that…
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Some mornings we found a bucket of blackberries on our porch. On other days, parishioners would drop off a jug of maple syrup, tapped from their trees, or a few blue gill, freshly caught.
In the first country parish we served, the people live…
Guess who is running Vacation Bible School at my church this summer? Yours truly. It gives me the opportunity to get back to basics on marketing that I used to advise other churches to use when I was the Missioner for Communications Ministry at the…
Kindness of FB friends
Blanche DuBois relied on the kindness of strangers, but I am thankful for the kindness of Facebook.
Already this morning, dozens of people from across every stage of my life have taken a moment to wish happy birthday on Facebook. On the surfa…
What was THAT All About?
The rector who was my first supervisor as a young priest used to tell the story of a fellow rector who checked in to a mental hospital for Easter Week nearly every year. I, myself, share openly that when Jesus emerges from the tomb on Easter mornin…
Giving our Church to our Children for Easter
My earliest church memory is from Easter 1960: I sang in the Cherubs’ choir at both the 9:00 am and 11:00 am services at William Street Methodist Church in Delaware, Ohio. I remember distinctly the musty smell of the basement room where moms hand…
A Taste of Heaven
Easter dinner doesn’t normally make me feel holy.
Happy? Yes. Full to the brim with succulent ham, dumplings, green beans and three-layer chocolate cake? Yes, definitely.
But holy? Not so much. That normally happens during the triumph…
Don't Try This At Home
It’s probably the most successful example of reverse psychology that’s out there - “Whatever you do, please don’t try this at home.” The effect is instantaneous. Mild-mannered souls become daredevils; otherwise sane folk start working out…
Where are the Young Adults?
Maybe it was the lemon cake, but by the end of Friday’s dinner at Julian House in Chicago the constant hand wringing about young adults and the future of the Episcopal Church seemed a distant memory. Where are young adults in the Episcopal Church? …
Soul Food Pyramid
Have you had 6-8 servings of sacred story? What about the recommended monthly 2-4 servings of Christian action?
The Soul Food Pyramid outlines what is needed for a healthy, balanced spiritual diet.
Developed by the folks at St. Patrick’…
RX: A Circumcision of the Heart
The March 18 lectionary reading from the letter to the Hebrews invites us to remember that the Word of God is living and active rather than a flat script on a page. However, the image of a two-edged sword piercing and dividing does not bring an ini…
Fighting the Good Fight with Curriculum
The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race; in 1st Corinthians he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
The word curriculum comes from the Latin verb currere, which means, “to …
How are you doing in your brackets so far?
As much as I appreciate basketball (I did grow up in Kentucky after all), I’m not talking about college hoops here. I'm wondering how folks are doing with the slightly more spiritual bracket of Len…
For Lent: Downward Mobility
The first Sunday in Lent has the same gospel story every year. Told in versions by Matthew, Mark and Luke, the forty-day temptation of Christ in the wilderness begins our own forty days of wandering. Each year on this Sunday, I remember my teacher …
In God's Time
When the social worker called my sister and her brother-in-law 2 ½ years ago, she needed an emergency foster care placement for two children.
My sister and her husband had just entered into the foster-to-adopt program in the state of Kentucky.…
The Church instituted Ash Wednesday and the people responded with Mardi Gras. The church established All Saints Day and the people offered up Halloween. Easter is the church’s highest holy day but the people love Christmas even more. Who’s in c…
A Lenten Carbon Fast
With Ash Wednesday quickly approaching, I’m giving a lot of thought to what this year’s Lenten discipline will be. I’ve never been one to give up a particular food or drink; I lean towards clearing clutter out of my life to make room for grea…
Lent is fast approaching. Often, I am amazed by how quickly time passes…less than two weeks left until Ash Wednesday.
This year we decided to try something new. Episcopal Relief & Development has usually had a single author for the Lenten d…
Bringing our Bodies to Church
On a December night in 1996, a drunk driver swerved into my mother’s lane and crashed into us head on. I was 14, in the passenger’s seat, and immediately felt a white hot bolt of pain shoot through my lower back. Thanks to God and my mother’s…
The Proper Distance?
A few weeks after my husband proposed, we shared dinner with his great-aunt and uncle, who is a United Methodist minister.
They offered us various pieces of advice about marriage and life in ministry. Then the great-aunt turned to me: “Make…
A Tapestry of Ministries
It was a week of snow, ice, wind, and rain. Numerous flight cancellations and airport closures laid havoc across the country. Add to this job layoffs, pay cuts, and budget struggles. Not to mention planning for Lent and preparing a Sunday sermon. …
Episcopal Foodies Network
When I think of food and the Episcopal Church, I believe we’re much more than just wine and cheese. Within just the past few months I’ve come across:
John Hornbeck’s work with Episcopal Community Services in the Dioceses of Kansas & W…
Insights from Improv
Last Saturday I went to a birthday party for a friend. After the food, socializing, and a round of charades, a young adult taught us improv comedy games. Most of us had never done improv before, but Patrick guided us in a firm and fun-loving manner…
The Postmodern Turn
It is everywhere. The term Postmodernism is in the water these days. It is has been appropriated by a new generation of evangelical theologians who have embraced it as strongly as progressive theologians latched on to Liberation Theology 30-40 yea…
A Religion Born in a Barn
In the 1980s, the Minnesota Ad Campaign of Episcopal Church made quite a splash with a series of funny print advertisements, some of which contained pretty good zingers. A few I remember:
“Will it take six strong men to get you back into churc…
God’s Light Precedes our Light
One sunny summer day as a young boy I experienced a miracle. I was holding a small magnifying lens, examining a flower petal. Suddenly the flower leapt on fire. I was shocked! In a profoundly simple way, I witnessed the power of captured light: eno…
My congregation has had to learn to put up with the fact that I am more a Christmas than an Easter Christian.
I embrace this holy day whose message is that God so loved the world that God sent a son born of Mary in a manger, whose love embraced…
How Not to Win Friends and Impress Visitors
Visitor frenzy kicks in high gear over the next two weeks, as newcomers and rarely-seen-ers attend Christmas services.
Welcoming visitors is a ministry -- and not everyone has the gift.
Consider these true -- but don’t-try-this-at-home…
Bringing Bethlehem Alive….
Christians around the world can deepen their understandings of Jesus' birth – and the current context of Bethlehem and the Middle East – by making direct connections with Holy Land communities in Advent, Christmastide and year-round. Two quick …
Jesus and Santa
Playing Santa helps me understand Jesus a little better.
This isn't a debate about the commercialization of Christmas or whether we’ve spoiled our kids beyond all hope.And I know there’s so much more to my relationship with Christ than un…
Child's Eye View of Church
We are one of the lucky Episcopal Churches to be blessed with an abundance of children. So far this fall over 150 kids have visited our Sunday School. This means we find 100 roles for children in our Annual Christmas pageant.
The buzz around th…
St. Nicholas: Connecting the Past and the Present
St. Nicholas stopped by our church last night.
Although today is the feast day for the bishop, our church celebrated his vigil on Sunday evening with crafts, cookie decorating and lots of young kids squealing and chasing each other around the t…
Last night I addressed the Advent calendars:One to each of our daughters, one to Bill’s aunt, and the last to Bill’s father.
Sending Advent calendars is my way of sharing Advent with people I love - who, due to distance, I do not see oft…
I broke with tradition last night.
Normally the tree decorating ends in tears – mostly mine. See, I like my tree to be just so. The artificial limbs spread out in an appealing fan, the favorite ornaments occupying the prime real estate.
Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks to the Giver Good
Thanksgiving, or giving thanks, as a form of prayer, is technically the church’s principle act of worship, week after week, Sunday after Sunday, and in many places, like this Monastery, day after day. The Eucharist is itself an extended prayer of…
Open My Lips, O Lord
I complain. I hate to admit it, but I do. Not all the time – I don’t think that people who know me would see it as a primary characteristic. But I do it more than I’d like to admit, and more than is healthy for my mind and spirit.
Responding to THE Call
I had someone come into my office and share that they wanted to become a priest.
This will be the fourth time that as rector I have responded to such a conversation by pulling together a formal discernment group. They will meet over nine months …
In the second installment of his Fieldwork contribution, farmer Paul Clever reflects on The Good Earth Farm’s meager harvest: “It is easy gathering in abundant fields swollen with pride. Your hands fill bags upon bags, knowing that not only wil…
A Thanksgiving Feast - The Religious Kind
Episcopalians corner the market on Thanksgiving.
Sure, everyone across the United States celebrates Thanksgiving in some way, from cranberries and turkey dinners to lazy afternoons watching football and parades to studious planning of Black F…
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas . . .
I remember the day I was flying home from the east coast on Halloween and as I was getting off the plane I heard on the muzak the first Christmas carol of the season.
Living with a retailer (my wife runs the Cathedral Shop at St. Mark’s Cathed…
Busybodies or Workers?
I’ve been thinking a lot about “work” lately. The value of work, types of work, and how people work. St. Paul got me thinking even more last weekend with his letter to the Thessalonians. Bluntly put: if you won’t work, you shouldn’t eat. …
Back to basics
The first semester of our experiment ends tonight.
My church is a typical county-seat congregation in the foothills of Appalachia. If only Christmas Eve were our typical attendance on Sunday mornings, we’d be a packed 150. Instead, most Sun…
The Scarlet Cord: Conversations with God’s Chosen Women
(Editor’s note: today’s blog is courtesy of Lindsay Hardin Freeman, former Vestry Papers editor.)
What would have happened if Mary had said no to the angel Gabriel? What if there was no one to meet Jesus in the garden following the resurrect…
Top 10 Things Religious Leaders Say about Happiness
Checking my email on this cool rainy morning, this headline stood out: “Top 10 Things Religious Leaders Say about Happiness” published on The Huffington Post. I clicked through not quite knowing what to expect.
You Get What You Pay For
Christian Formation when it is done right costs money. The money makes the commitment to education stronger; where your treasure is there will your heart (and head) be also.
Faye laundered money. Literally.
At the small, rural church, she collected the offering at the end of the service and hid it in her clothes hamper until she could make it to the bank.
We discovered the occasions when she washed the purse wi…
Add Your Two Cents: Christian Formation Survey
From time to time, in conjunction with my ministry at Morehouse Education Resources (a division of Church Publishing Incorporated) I conduct a curriculum survey to get a pulse of what churches are using with children, youth and adults. It is helpfu…
Hollow me out
When he didn’t win the pumpkin contest, I felt the tears sting.
For most of Saturday, we worked on Cinderella’s coach, pulling the slime out of the pumpkin, carving windows, fashioning a door (that really opened!) and decorating the coach as…
GodSquad met at our house.
The church van picked up the dozen or so students from the elementary school and brought them to our backyard, the kids starving for mid-afternoon snacks and a place to run off their energy.
After several tries to settle the group, we starte…