Bearings

Navigating Life-as-Ministry

Not Quite Home

I decided to return to my old church for a visit. Readers of BEARINGS will recall that it’s been a while since I’ve crossed the threshold of the church that nurtured me through graduate school and the various ups and downs of life at that time. I’d been mulling a holiday return. I wanted to… Read More

Heaven is Here: Reflections From a Snow Globe

Editor’s note: On January 26 – 27, The BTS Center hosted Convocation 2015: “Gifts of the Dark Wood.” Over the course of two days, the event’s participants and keynote speakers—Dr. Eric Elnes and Dr. Marcia McFee—explored how encounters with failure, uncertainty, and temptation possess the power to bring individuals closer to God. In the following… Read More

Rewriting the 21st-Century Ministry Playbook

This time of year my thoughts turn from theology to football as the NFL and college football playoffs pack the January television airwaves. It has been particularly the case this year as my favorite team, the New England Patriots, makes yet another deep playoff run. Viewers and sports commentators alike have noticed that there is… Read More

Selma’s Prophetic Call to Ministry Leaders

The movie “Selma” opened across the nation last week, anticipating Monday’s Martin Luther King holiday. Featuring David Oyelowo as The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, a star-studded cast enacts the wrenching circumstances and political wrangling that resulted in the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery,… Read More

Exploring the Dark Wood

Editor’s Note: This piece contains an excerpt from the literary work titled Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes (© 2015 Eric Elnes, Publisher: Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. All Rights Reserved. To be published in September 2015.) We are privileged to share this preview and thank Abingdon Press for granting permission to publish.  Years ago, I made… Read More

Descent and Altitude: Eyeing Hope in the Gaze of God

Editor’s Note: Pam Shellberg first offered a version of this reflection during an Advent service at Redeemer Lutheran Church. We are privileged to share it with you. I have done a fair bit of air travel in the last month or so. A work-related trip, a professional conference, and spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my… Read More

The Return of the Holiday Prodigal: It’s Complicated…

This time of year marks the return of the “C&E” crowd to churches—the folks who appear at Christmas and Easter. I imagine that lots of clergy and regular congregants have mixed feelings about these seasonal prodigals. On the one hand, it’s pretty magical to have a packed house at holiday services with extra voices ringing… Read More

Praying the Neighborhood

In May I began walking a daily four-mile loop around our village, Damariscotta Mills, a lovely spot tucked between a lake and a tidal river on Maine’s midcoast. I hoped, by starting some sort—any sort—of regimen, I might begin to prepare for a long hike my husband and I hope to make in 2015. I… Read More

Advent’s Invitation to Incarnational Imagination

“The poet knows that the human experience of the sacred is awash in the particularity of things, the sensuous surface and ambient array of details that make possible any sense of dwelling in the presence of mystery.” – Belden Lane It’s Christmas morning, 1981, and I’m seven years old. I wake up early and fly… Read More

Church for the Like-Minded Only? Won’t Get My Vote.

Several times this fall, my local university has announced which of the university’s colors fans should wear to the Saturday football game. Remarkably, the word gets out and nearly an entire stadium dons the same color clothing. One week it’s yellow. Later, green. Most recently, white. I’ve noticed a similar trend elsewhere. First, there were… Read More

Who Do You Say that You Are? The Stories of Spiritual Selves in the Postmodern, Postchristian World

There’s discouraging news again this month in my Episcopal denomination. No, not feuding seminary faculty and administrators—though that is truly awful—but another report of declining membership. Earlier this year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) reported similar membership losses. You can find the same sort of data on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the United… Read More

The Paradox of Congregations Becoming: Discerning 21st Century Ministries

Engaging the challenges and opportunities of 21st century ministry means navigating the paradox of continuity and change. You can see this paradox in phrases like “ancient-future church,” the Kingdom “now and not yet,” and so on. While this paradox is part of Christian faith for anyone, for 21st century church leaders it is essential to… Read More

Scriptural Scordatura—Playing the Bible a Little Off Key

Scordatura refers to tuning patterns for the open strings of violins and cellos that differ from the normally accepted tuning pattern of the notes G, D, A, and E. In Italian the word means “mistuned” or “out of tune,” and the connotation is carried into English where these alternative tunings are sometimes described as “abnormal.”… Read More

Mapping the 21st Century Ministry Landscape

As a kid, I loved making maps. When I was around eight years old, I would ride around our neighborhood for hours on my bike, cruising the sidewalks, streets, alleyways, and dirt trails that connected and intersected the townhomes in our development. When I came home I would record the pathways I discovered on a… Read More