21stCenturySpirituality

Back to the Future of Religion

Does Demographic Research Create the Religious "Reality" It Describes?

If you somehow managed to Marty McFly yourself back to the High Middle Ages—the epoch of Christendom influence in the pre-Reformation West—you’d likely catch a glimpse of the future of faith even as you regarded the sights, sounds, and (alas) smells of its glorious past. And if you happened to be a researcher from the… Read More

Addicted to Certainty

It was the third and final night of our church’s annual revival and, despite the guest evangelist’s renowned theatrics, the prospect of disappointment loomed over the event like a dark cloud. The previous two nights had produced only a single convert—the seven-year-old son of one of our deacons, who’d walked the aisle, tears staining his… Read More

The Bible in One Hand, Beer in the Other

How to Make Oktoberfest Holy

Autumn is the best season. I love it all: gorgeous leaves, crisp temperatures, flannel fresh from the closet, and, if you’re into that sort of thing, pumpkin spice lattes. There’s so much to love this time of year, but my absolute favorite marker of the season is Oktoberfest beer. A few weeks ago, when I… Read More

Affiliating in the Age of Unaffiliation: How Digital Social Networking is Changing How We Gather

“I haven’t really given it much thought, but I’m really not looking for community when I go to church,” a colleague said when we talked at a consultation earlier this year sponsored by the New Media Project. We’d been thinking about the ways in which new digital media practices—not the technologies themselves, but the ways… Read More

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

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

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