21stCenturyMinistry

Bearing Each Other Up

Reflections Upon the 2016 Election

EDITORS’ NOTE: Adam Copeland was our scheduled contributor for this week, but as we moved late into the night of the presidential election, it was clear that the outcome many of us had hoped for, and perhaps even expected, was not to happen. We began to wonder whether it might be too much to ask… Read More

What the Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Other “Invasive Species” Can Teach the Church

Some years ago, while living in San Francisco, I encountered the parrots of Telegraph Hill. I was walking through a park on the Embarcadero, the city’s western waterfront, when I heard a racket overhead. Looking up, I could see bright flashes of color moving in the branches and occasionally taking flight among the eucalyptus trees… Read More

Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric

Jesus and Justice in Practice

It’s not news to say that this has been a crazy, rancorous election season—perhaps the most ugly in modern history, many pundits claim. Maybe. But when I reflect back on earlier election cycles, there seems to have been plenty of media-infused hostility that we tend to mute in our nostalgic remembrance. The 2008 election of… Read More

Re-Seeing Evangelical Support for Donald J. Trump

Not long ago, Wayne Grudem, a prominent evangelical theologian, voiced support for Donald Trump. His main reason was because the next president would appoint the succeeding Supreme Court Justices. After I read his statement, I tweeted this:           As more and more evangelicals have rallied around Donald Trump, I have found… Read More

Growing Up as a Church When Our Young Adults Leave

Toward the end of Coffee Hour on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend—a light day, as they go—I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was our usually unflappable church Music Director, looking, well, flapped. “Got a minute?” he said in the “up tone” that in church staff speak means, “Houston, we have a problem.”… Read More

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