21stCenturyMission

Achieving Failure

Lessons Learned from a Progressive Church Start-Up

With a big smile, a bit of money raised, and enough naiveté to blind me, I showed up to the office of the Conference of the Northern California Nevada United Church of Christ. It was the fall of 2010, and I had left a beautiful village church in New England to follow the call to… Read More

Getting Our Bearings: Ministries of Coping

A Guide for Reflection & Conversation

If you look up the words “cope” or “coping” in a dictionary, you’ll find entries like these: “to struggle or deal with, especially on fairly even terms of with some degree of success,” “to face and deal with problems or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner,” or “to have the capacity… Read More

Generating Church through Sound

Showing up, Listening Deeply, and Practicing Together

I teach community singing and chanting as a spiritual practice. I travel around the country meeting and singing with people in different denominations, teaching and learning new songs and insights, and moving on to the next community. Through more than 30 years, the singing together has become as much a metaphor for noticing our internal… Read More

Small Is the New Big

A Guide for Reflection & Conversation

The articles in this month’s Bearings magazine, “Small Is the New Big,” illuminate questions raised by the realities of small church ministry. In them we read eyewitness accounts of the spiritual energy in churches described as “small”—small that is, when the metric applied is a numerical count of members or weekly worship attendance. The articles… Read More

Making Peace with Peacemaking

Nick Nagy, “Peacemaking in the Middle” Over the winter break, our editorial assistant, Nick Nagy, took a close look at people of his home state, Indiana, and by association the rest of the Midwest, who, especially since the 2016 election, have been characterized as “hopelessly isolationist and dismally Trumpian.” Nick’s lead-off article in our January… Read More

Re-Mediation in the D-I-Y Church

Lately I’ve been thinking about a passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus reminds Peter that our youthful vigor and self-determination will always fade. “Very truly, I tell you” Jesus says, “when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old,… Read More

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

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

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

Faithful Resistance is Persistence in Love

In a season where the leadership of the United States claims to be constructing “An Entirely New Political Movement,” many have echoed what activist and filmmaker Michael Moore said after November’s election: “We are going to resist … This is going to be a massive resistance.” And in fact it has been. The Women’s March… Read More

Joy is the Secret of Resistance

On January 21, a group of women from my congregation traveled to Augusta, Maine, for our nearest “sister march” to the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Too sick with a cold to join them for the march itself, I gathered with them anyway in our church parking lot to send them off with a prayer… 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

Giving the Church a New Look with Old Eyes

“Technically, it’s called presbyopia,” said the ophthalmologist. “Starts about age 40, so you’re pretty much on target. Most people just get readers.” “Presbyopia, eh?” “Yeah. It means –” “I know … old eyes.” As a lifelong Presbyterian, this is the only other word I’ve heard with the Greek root presby, which means “old.” Technically, Presbyterian… Read More

Hope is a Thing with Muscles

Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” included a sketch in which Emma Stone played an exhausted, postpartum Virgin Mary who’s annoyed with Joseph for inviting visitor after visitor—shepherds, magi, a llama (not of the Dalai sort … )—into the stable where she’s just given birth to Jesus. The bit plays up Mary’s fatigue, her frustration with… Read More