21stCenturySpirituality

Small Church Magic

A number of years ago I found myself sitting in an auditorium, surrounded by colleagues, listening to a speaker talk about church growth. It was not the first time I had found myself in this situation: A speaker from an urban center telling people in a judicatory that is predominantly rural and low-income what they… 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

No Peace until All the Children are Well

“And how are the children?” goes a traditional greeting of the Maasai people of East Africa that places the safety and wellbeing of children at the forefront of all other community matters. The response, “All the children are well,” confirms that the priorities of the community are in order. The Maasia greeting came to mind… Read More

An Inconvenient Incarnational Peace

Real peacemaking doesn’t start with abstract concepts for me, but with faces. I see faces of children in Salvadoran refugee camps and Mothers of the Disappeared I met in 1989. I see U.S. war veterans: Debbie, Jim and Miguel, who willingly served their country and came home emotionally, spiritually wounded. Jim was a parishioner who… Read More

Peacemaking in the Middle

I was back in “the middle” this holiday—back in Indiana, the flyover state I call home. Indiana has garnered much attention these past two years as the current Vice President hails from the state. Unfortunately, the presidential election of 2016 might have you thinking that Mike Pence is a good representation of what it means… Read More

Claiming, Cultivating & Creating Sacred Space

A GUIDE FOR REFLECTION & CONVERSATION

Editors Note: Each month, Bearings contributors offer insights on a key theme in the practice of life-as-ministry. As the final installment in the issue, The BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence Pamela Shellberg, PhD reflects on the articles in the issue and poses questions for further reflection by Bearings readers and the communities in which life-as-ministry plays out for… Read More

Make a Place for Yourself in the Darkness

It is dark. Rain falls soft and visible from beneath the streetlights. Heard faintly in the cacophony of the night is a homeless man yelling something into the air. Something indeterminate. Unsettling. Avoidingly, nervously, people walk past. Through the glass windows of a Mexican restaurant, I am waiting for him to arrive. He comes in,… Read More

Where Can I Run To?

Creating Sacred Space as a Black Woman

The 1990s R&B girl group, Xscape, has a famous song entitled “Who Can I Run To?” The song discusses the complexity of whom to rely on when one needs love. I can relate. I entered my thirties this year full of hope, only to be hit with three significant losses in a six-month time span.… Read More

How the Grinch Told Christmas

Or, Sacred Space is Where It Finds You

The end of the year is upon us. And end is where we shall start: this tale will end with poorly described travelogue of where to find your sacred space hidden in this year’s festivities, mostly through the process of elimination. Or maybe not. Actually you might want to stop reading now. I wouldn’t trust… Read More

Giving Thanks in Thankless Times

A Guide for Reflection & Conversation

Editors Note: Each month, Bearings contributors offer insights on a key theme in the practice of life-as-ministry. As the final installment in the issue, The BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence Pamela Shellberg, PhD reflects on the articles in the issue and poses questions for further reflection by Bearings readers and the communities in which life-as-ministry plays out for… Read More

Hope Is a Map

Reflecting on Practices of Cultivating Hope

Editors Note: Each month, Bearings contributors offer insights on a key theme in the practice of life-as-ministry. As the final installment in the issue, The BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence Pamela Shellberg, PhD reflects on the articles in the issue and poses questions for further reflection by Bearings readers and the communities in which life-as-ministry plays out… Read More

More Than Magic Words

Cultivating Hope with Scripture

“Resilient” is what they call those of us who have overcome tremendous obstacles in order to thrive. Psychologists study the conditions of highly adaptive people who seem to defy the odds against them and conclude that those who are resilient have positive community connections, realistic expectations, goals, relentless optimism, and they practice self-care. Those work… 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

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

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

Facing the Future, Eyes Wide Shut

Editor’s Note: Pamela Shellberg, scholar-in-residence at The BTS Center, will be a key speaker at Convocation 2017: “Course Corrections.” The event also will feature poet Scott Cairns and Michelle Walsh, a spiritual director and licensed clinical social worker. In Pam’s latest post for Bearings, she offers a preview of “Course Corrections” and outlines some of the questions that participants will explore. If… Read More