Navigating the Crux of 21st Century Ministry Wilderness

Aram Mitchell, executive director of Renewal in the Wilderness, and Pam Shellberg, the BTS Center’s scholar-in-residence, have been collaborating on a program* for progressive faith communities facing significant changes in embodying their missions. The Crux* takes its name from hiking terminology for “the most difficult section of a hiking route or where the greatest... Read more

Plato, Basketball, and Your Life Work

Lessons I Have Learned, and Other Clichés

Mark Collins launches our regular Creative Insights section with a video on his, um, adventures making furniture from repurposed basketball court boards. His “Plato, Basketball, and Your Life Work” explores vision, revision, and purpose as, well, often something of a poke in the eye. Literally. “Varnish,” Collins tells us, as he considers how we build lives that... Read more

Making the Spiritual Path by Walking It

Notes from the Pacific Northwest Trail

Pilgrimage, walkabout, spiritual journey ... whatever the name, extended periods of mobility play a large role in many spiritual traditions. They are forms of engaged spirituality in which the boundaries between the active and contemplative life of the soul blur, each nurturing the other. With modern technology and the unprecedented access to information it... Read more

Learning From Hearts Broken Open

Lessons from 25 Years of Ministry on the Growing Edge

My nephew was a bright, ascending star. His academic acumen was extraordinary. His athletic ability was astounding. Musically, he was captivating with a repertoire and skill that could have landed him just about anywhere. And on July 14, 2018, he took his own life. Journalist Roxanne Roberts was right when she wrote of her father’s death more than 30 years... Read more

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 start a new progressive church for this place and this time. There was enthusiasm... 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 to deal successfully with something difficult.” Their... Read more

Coping Through Creativity

Holy Women Icons of Grief

As ordained clergy, I’ve officiated a lot of funerals. For fourteen years, I shaped burnt ash across congregant’s foreheads on Ash Wednesday and reminded them that we all come from dust. To dust we shall return. Yet these words and rituals rang hollow when my brother died over a year ago from a drug overdose. As I officiated my little brother’s funeral, I held... Read more

Life Happens

5 Ways to Continually Cultivate a Spirit of Resilience

In my new book, I know What Heaven Looks Like, the word “resilience” isn’t mentioned once; however, it’s a story about my life, and my life has surely been one of resilience. As someone who has overcome traumatic life circumstances including childhood abuse, poverty and homelessness, I’d like to share with you 5 ways to continually cultivate a spirit of resilience... Read more

Reflection and Discussion Guide for Bearings, “Becoming Church”

The articles in the recent “Becoming Church” issue of Bearings have a different character than many of the articles we've published on the topic of the change in the 21st century church. We might say that, up until now, many articles have been descriptive; that is, they have described what the changing church “looks like” – who is attending (or not), what spiritual... Read more

Becoming a Cosmopolitan Faith (Again)

Practicing Christianity beyond Belief

This week the Pew Forum reported that belief in God—the transcendent, supernatural being who intervenes in human history and forms often deeply personal relationships with humans, according to the scriptures revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims—remains strong among Americans, with some 80% answering “yes” when asked whether they believe in God. But what... Read more