Bearings

Navigating Life-as-Ministry

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

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

This is the Way We’ve Always Done Things …

This is the way we’ve always done things. Now, there’s a phrase that brings about a sense of impending doom in my heart, especially when it comes to the practices of communities of faith. In part, our love of familiar practices comes from finding comfort in the apparent stability of structures. Yet as a Jesus-follower,… Read More

Into the Mystery of Collective Ministry

My favorite definition of “minister” comes from the verb, not the noun. Emphasis is placed on the action, not the subject: “To minister” means to assist where help is needed. This is completely different from the notion that I was raised with as a child in a Roman Catholic household headed by two parents who… Read More

#NeverthelessSheResisted

Creating Space for Women's Thriving in the Church and the World

Three weeks ago, Senate Republicans silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren for criticizing attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions. Warren had attempted to read civil rights activist Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship. Scott’s concerns over whether Sessions would support the civil rights of all citizens seemed particularly pressing. But Senate… Read More

Holy Curiosity and the Gospel’s True Facts about “Fake News”

I first encountered the calculated promulgation of “fake news”—or “propaganda,” to borrow an older term—as a governing strategy during a year of studying theology in the former East Germany. The Eastern Bloc nation tightly controlled the information available to the public with equal parts censorship and propaganda. Newspapers featured glowing headlines about the superiority of… Read More

Tending Trauma as Transformative Communion

The best sushi I ever tasted was handed to me fresh from the Sea of Galilee. I was the last customer at the restaurant when a fisherman brought it in. A Palestinian Christian waiter, the Jewish fisherman who caught the fish, and his Palestinian Muslim friend invited me—an Irish, Italian-American Catholic—to share this meal at… Read More

Called to Dinner, Together

Growing up, I didn’t realize that my proximity to extended family would, 40 years later, turn out to be an anachronism. With my much older sister and three of my father’s six siblings living within a few hundred yards of our family farm, I came and went as I pleased. My mother, an unenthusiastic cook,… Read More