21stCenturyMinistry

Putting a Comma at the End of a Bearings Year of Calling Out the Beautiful, the Bodacious, and the B*llsh*t

Gertrude and Lloyd were members of a church I served for 25 years. They were both in their 80s, and though they made it to Sunday worship once in a while, they were part of that catch-all category of “shut-ins” who received pastoral visits from time to time. During one of those afternoon visits, Gertrude… Read More

Searching for Sanctuary after #Orlando

Like many Americans, I still am reeling from last Sunday’s shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. I am haunted by the death and destruction that separated 2 AM’s celebratory last call from 5 AM’s bloody wakeup call. Three hours. 180 minutes. Forty-nine individuals murdered, and more than 50 wounded. Most of the men and women terrorized… Read More

Jesus, The Jerk

Making Sense of the Times Jesus Wasn't Very Christlike

Jesus could be a real jerk sometimes. I’m not referring here to the times he got angry (John 2:13-17), cynical (Matthew 21:18-22), or sarcastic (Mark 12:18-27) with people. I’m talking about the times Jesus was just plain mean to them. Case in point: the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. You remember the story. After months… Read More

Re-Mediating Religion by Turning Up the Social Media Volume on Social Justice

Earlier this year, one of our award-winning Bearings contributors, Kelly Baker, wrote a piece about the challenges, for white people in particular, of thinking through and talking about racism. Especially with other white people, including goodhearted, well-intentioned, ideologically liberal white people. Often, we just don’t want to hear about it. We get it. Racism is… Read More

Confession Reboot

Why Sharing Our Failure with Others Still Matters

“I failed,” Jon Snow said to Ser Davos in a recent “Game of Thrones” episode. And Jon had. In fact, because of his leadership decisions, Jon was murdered by his friends. But Melisandre, a priestess of the Lord of Light, brought Jon back from the dead. Why? No one knows. Melisandre only has guesses. Ser… Read More

Swimming into the Deep End

Parenting, Pastoring, and Common Discernment

As I write, I am just returning to pastoral ministry after parental leave. As I bonded with my newborn daughter—my second child—I spent time reflecting on how my vocation as a parent is reshaping my ideals and practices for ministry. Since I was ordained in my late 20s and didn’t become a parent until almost… Read More

The Ministry of Stories

Creating Space to Notice and Know

During the four hot, humid months between my junior and senior years of college, I waited tables at Beethoven’s Inn, a hole-in-the-wall deli that served sandwiches named after classical music composers. The realm of the “Handel, Bach, and Scarlatti” was a land of firsts for me. There, I ate gazpacho for the first time. I… Read More

Talking About Racism

While driving my seven-year-old to a doctor’s appointment for what was likely an ear infection, I noticed that the car was unusually quiet. Rain pattered on the windshield, and the wipers provided their usual rhythmic swishing sound. But my oldest kid is a talker—her waking hours are filled with questions, comments, knock-knock jokes, and observations—and… Read More

Women in Ministry

Is Social Media the Great Equalizer?

I write this on the last day of Women’s History Month. Over on my Twitter account, I spent the month highlighting—via the hashtag #BlackChurchHERStory—African American women religious leaders alive today who have been trailblazers in ministry and in the academy. These pioneers range from the likes of Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, who in 1974 became… Read More

Re-Imagining Communion

Radical Listening and Making the Body Whole

I remember the words so clearly: “I know what it’s like to have my body broken, I know what it’s like to have my blood spilt. I won’t celebrate anyone else’s broken body or spilt blood, and I don’t want anyone doing that on my behalf.” Sitting in the pew next to me, my friend… Read More

“Feeling Into” an Empathetic Ecclesiology

I didn’t have the opportunity to attend The BTS Center’s Convocation last month, but I was pleased to know that Troy Bronsink would be sharing insights about how to apply design thinking in 21st-century ministries. Where I live, write, and teach in the Silicon Valley, “design thinking” is on everyone’s lips—even if they don’t quite know… Read More

A Community of Makers

The Changing Face of Clergy Collegiality

I must confess that I have been a less-than-dutiful clergy colleague. In Lutheran polity, congregations are organized in small geographic clusters called conferences, and their clergy gather for monthly meetings for mutual support and, oftentimes, text studies. Good times, right? Although it has been over three years since I took my new call, I still… Read More

A Christmas Story for a Political Season

It’s December, and we have entered the season of narrative. Around the globe, adorable children in Sunday School classrooms are presenting nativity pageants in hundreds of different languages. They don headgear cut from bedsheets and cardboard-and-aluminum angels’ wings. Nervous but excited, they anxiously watch for their pageant directors’ cues . . . and then, when… Read More