Bearings

Navigating Life-as-Ministry

Close to the Gardens of Broken Shadows

Hope on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time close to the gardens of broken shadows we do what the prisoners do and what the jobless do we cultivate hope. from “Under Siege” by Mahmoud Darwish In God’s garden of broken shadows, facing night and cannons of time, we are… Read More

Protest Journal

I Repent and Atone With My Feet and Hands

Editorial Note: Throughout September, Bearings magazine will explore the theme of “Cultivating Hope.” This month’s contributors are all people of faith who inhabit different geographic, cultural, and social spaces. They thus offer richly diverse perspectives on the following questions: How are you cultivating hope in today’s current political and cultural climate? What obstacles to hope are you experiencing and… Read More

Map is Not Territory

Navigating Ministry-as-Life in the New Bearings Season

When we began Bearings three years ago—all the way back in the world of September 2014—we had some modest aspirations. In his introductory post, Bob Grove-Markwood contextualized the blog by drawing on his navigational experience as a Marine and a transplanted Mainer. He explained that Bearings aims to help those in ministry—in what often feels… Read More

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… Read More

Searching for the End of the Internet

You may remember a commercial that DirecTV ran back in 2002, touting its then state-of-the-art DSL internet service. The ad featured a guy sitting in front of his huge desktop computer. He supposedly was able to surf online so fast that a message popped up on his screen: “You have reached the end of the… Read More

What Not to Read This Summer

Summer is, tradition has it, a time for lazy lingering over little more than the lilt of the breeze on the water on a long, languid, sunny day. Sure, we might bring a book or two along to the beach or a mountain hideaway, but even literary fare is lighter through days of sunshine, humidity,… Read More

Growing by Half

How Part-Time Pastoral Leadership Can Revitalize the Church

One year ago, I began studying a rare but important species that many church officials wrongly believe doesn’t exist: the mainline Protestant congregation that finds vitality after doing away with the full-time pastorate. To be sure, it wasn’t always the easiest species to find. Many congregations with shrinking attendance and budgets continue to struggle after… Read More

Binge Watching Scripture

My daughter is being confirmed this year. Now I understand why parents always say that they don’t know where the time goes. It feels like it was just yesterday that she was baptized. Now she is claiming all those baptismal promises we made on her behalf as her own. At our church, the confirmation program… Read More

Crowdfunding Christian Ministry

It’s hardly breaking news that many congregations struggle with financial stewardship. Perhaps there was a time when Christians gave to the church without a second’s thought. In days of yore, giving was considered a duty and solemn obligation, and members reliably filled out pledge cards, doing their part to keep church coffers full. That’s not… Read More

What Do We Mean When We Say, “All Are Welcome”?

I’ve driven by that church—you know, the one with the giant banner that says, “All Are Welcome.” I often ask myself, “If I walked through the doors, would I be embraced?” I’m an educated, queer, Black, Progressive, Transgender Christian. Would I, with all that I bring, be welcomed in that space?” When we claim that… Read More

Through Rose Window-Colored Glasses

The View of Church History From Here

My friend and fellow historian John Fea once said that history has no heroes. Lately I’ve been reflecting on this provocative idea with the help of a fictional woman named Hero. I encountered Hero (full name: Hero Jarvis) in a Regency-era mystery, When Falcons Fall, by C. S. Harris. Hero and her husband, Sebastian St.… Read More

Embodying Sanctuary

Skin. To learn to be comfortable in one’s skin. To teach our kids—in our families, our youth groups, our churches—to be comfortable in their skin. To teach ourselves how to be comfortable with each others’ skin. Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing? It took me a while to be comfortable in my skin. I have… Read More

Collaborative Ministry is How We “Love One Another”

They would soon be facing a life-threatening winter. Overwhelming violence in Syria had forced residents from their homes with minimal belongings. Several thousand Syrian refugees were now relocated in a U.N.-sanctioned camp at Jordan. Without the warm clothing they left behind, they might not survive the harsh conditions coming their way. This was in August… Read More

Iconic Truth

Seeing Resurrection Through Tears

With the year-in-year-out cycle of holidays—sacred and secular alike—it’s easy to think of Easter, and the resurgence of life that it celebrates, as a foregone conclusion. I remember going out to play one Good Friday afternoon when I was about 10; we kids were gathering junk in the woods to build some kind of fort. At the… Read More

Living Religion Beyond Belief

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at a local chapter of Sunday Assembly, a gathering started by British comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones that was briefly known as “the atheist church” and that, ironically, draws on the “seeker sensitive” church planting methods of conservative megachurch pastor Rick Warren. A few months into… Read More

Giving Up for Lent … Or Maybe Not

The sight of my marked forehead on Ash Wednesday brings the inevitable question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” I have a stock answer: Lobster Newburg and healthy thoughts. Truth is, I genuinely struggle each year, knowing that whatever I choose to give up will be short-lived and followed by a guilt chaser. Yes,… Read More