Bearings Retrospective: Eclipse Edition

We’ve had a couple of difficult weeks here in the United States. Two weekends ago, white supremacy and domestic terrorism publicly reared their sinful heads in Virginia. (Too bad it took the specter of Tiki torch-bearing men shouting racist slogans and the murder of civil rights advocate Heather Heyer to shake so many people out of privileged complacency and denial.) Less than a week later and halfway around the world, terrorists once again used a vehicle as a weapon, as they launched an attack that killed 15 people in Barcelona, Spain. Meanwhile, tensions with North Korea are at a boiling point as the United States and South Korea begin joint military exercises. Regular as the annual training activities may be, they certainly come at a difficult time.

It’s not always easy to hold onto hope these days. But sprinkled amidst depressing, anger-inducing news stories are counter-narratives of inspiration and resilience. There’s the German city that subverts an annual neo-Nazi parade through town by donating 10 euros per meter marched to EXIT Deuthschland, an organization that helps people leave right-wing extremist groups. There are the stories of human courage that inevitably emerge in the aftermath of each and every terrorist attack. And there is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s important reminder that nature’s cosmic events can unify a divided nation. Time will tell how long the unity can last.

Looking back on the third year of Bearings: Navigating Life-as-Ministry, I see that the publication has reflected the ups-and-downs of our topsy-turvy world. What follows are the 16 most popular pieces published in Bearings between September 2016 and June 2017. The compilation is comprised of the blog posts that garnered the most website views, were seen the most often on social media, and/or provoked the greatest amount of reader engagement.

In reviewing the pieces, you’ll probably notice that they address many of the most pressing political, social, and spiritual questions of our day. And you’ll understand why Elizabeth Drescher and I feel so privileged to work with each and every Bearings contributor. Fourteen new writers lent their voices to the publication this past year. They helped Bearings once again win two DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards of Excellence from the Religion Communicators Council—one for blog as a whole, and the other for the series “Faith, Love, and Resistance: Progressive Christian Political Engagement Before and After the 2016 Election.”

On a weekly basis, Bearings contributors produce insightful pieces that are gratifying, thought-provoking, and sometimes even challenging. If you need proof, check out the entire catalog of posts. For the upcoming publication year, we’re going to change things up a bit in terms of the publication’s format—Elizabeth and I will reveal more in September—but one thing will stay the same: Our writers will continue to provide the excellent content that you’ve come to expect.

We look forward to introducing the fourth season of Bearings in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, enjoy this literary retrospective, which is rich and deep, full of shadows and light. And fear not: no special eye wear is needed. See you soon.

(For more information about each piece, mouse over its image to access summary comments.)

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Giving the Church a New Look with Old Eyes

In this post, Wendy McCormick discusses vision changes that accompany aging, highlights “old” faith communities that undertake cutting-edge ministry, and identifies beneficial things that churches can offer (but therapy can’t).
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A Different Kind of Bible Conversation

As a secular board member of Yale’s Humanist Community, Tom Krattenmaker may not identify as a Christian, but he still wrestles with the Bible. In this piece, he explores whether The Good Book is still relevant in the 21st century.
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Joy is the Secret of Resistance

Amidst February’s chill, Rebecca Schlatter Liberty—with some help from Alice Walker, Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, and Rebecca Solnit—explained how joy and resistance, which may seem incongruous, actually feed and bolster one another. Especially when it comes to justice work.
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Faithful Resistance is Persistence in Love

According to Nicole Lamarche, “Resistance is not just pushing back on what’s coming at you. Resistance is doing the unexpected by taking any situation and adding more love.” Here’s to a nuanced, counter-intuitive type of resistance that is found in the Bible and emerges in “unexpected acts of surprise and love.”
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20170331_Holi

Living Religion Beyond Belief

Elizabeth Drescher doubts many of the theological tenets of orthodox Christianity, but she still calls herself a Christian. How does she reconcile her Christian identity with her lack of belief in Christianity’s traditional principles? Let her tell you in this piece, which is for all those who are spiritual but find it difficult to embrace doctrines and creeds.
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#NeverthelessSheResisted

Women are not only persisting in the face of patriarchy, Kelly Baker points out, but also refusing to be bound by it. In realms political and religious, women are resistance warriors who will no longer be silenced—and justice-seeking churches can be their allies.
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Growing by Half

Who says that small faith communities with part-time ministers can’t be vital? Jeffrey MacDonald has visited churches that have experienced increased engagement, missions, and/or members in the absence of full-time clergy leadership. In this post, he shares some of their success stories.
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What Do We Mean When We Say, “All Are Welcome”?

When your faith community “opens itself up to the beautiful tapestry of humanity,” is it truly “prepared to receive the folks who show up?” Lawrence Richardson acknowledges that “doing life with people who are different from us ... takes courage.” And he offers hopeful insight into how it may be done.
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Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric

How are preachers who muzzle their own prophetic voices for political reasons similar to “social justice avatars,” who advocate for justice online but neglect to work for equality in non-digital realms? Jamye Wooton addresses that very question in this provocative essay.
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Lisa at the veterinarian

A Quality of Life Check for an Aging Church

Martha Spong ministers to all of God’s creatures—human and non-human alike. In this piece, she lovingly writes about taking her 20-year-old Old Lady Cat to the vet for a quality of life check ... and then reflects upon how the experience is similar to caring for an aging church. The parallels she identifies may surprise you.
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Re-Seeing Evangelical Support for Donald J. Trump

A month before the 2016 election, Danny Cortez offered insight into Evangelical support for political candidates—including Donald J. Trump—who seem to represent the antithesis of Gospel values. Danny’s re-seeing of Evangelical theological practice invites us all to consider the theological and spiritual roots of our regard for people who believe and live differently from us.
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Sharing Spiritual Stories, Even When Your Voice Shakes

In this honest, vulnerable piece, Kelly J. Baker reflects upon her complex relationship with organized religion. She recalls the spiritual narratives that have sustained her, releases those that no longer resonate, and introduces the new sacred story that she and her family are creating together.
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Bearing Each Other Up

Three days after people went to the polls, Bearings contributors reflected upon the 2016 election—and what it might mean for the church, for people of faith, and for their communities. Nine months into Donald J. Trump’s presidency, it's fascinating to re-visit their reactions.
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Following Jesus Into the Resistance in 2017

Diane Bowers penned the first Bearings post of 2017. In it, she addressed a controversial question that many people were asking after the November election: Are we obligated to give President Trump a chance?
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Facing the Future, Eyes Wide Shut

How much can I let go of and still be me? How much of my inherited tradition can I relinquish and still remain a good steward of it? At what point might my story and my practices become unrecognizable to my friends and family members? At what point might I fail to recognize myself? If you’ve ever asked those sorts of questions, Pamela Shellberg’s piece about identity and transformation is for you.
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Humble Clay Cups

Award-winning poet Ellen McGrath Smith admits that “it’s hard to be so open to the sadness and suffering of the world.” But she warns against the impulse to “mistake trembling for weakness” and instead counsels us to take a lesson from poetry itself, which is strong enough to “allow hope and despair to coexist.”
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Image credit:

Cover – Bernd Thaller, “Total Solar Eclipse 2017,” August 21, 2017. Via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0.

Alyssa Lodewick

An authorized minister in the United Church of Christ, the Rev. Alyssa Lodewick earned Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees from Boston University. Before Alyssa allowed herself to pursue a religious vocation, she spent the first part of her professional life working for a variety of nonprofit organizations and academic institutions, co-editing To Educate A Nation: Federal and National Strategies of School Reform along the way. Connect with her on Twitter @AlyssaLodewick.

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