Embracing Brave Change as Christian Identity and Mission

For people in ministry, one of the most frustrating phrases to hear from congregants and committees is, “But we’ve never done it that way before.” There is often a lot packed into that one sentence—fear (of risk, of failure), hesitation around trusting the pastoral leader, and even grief over the loss of the familiar.  For leaders this phrase can feel like a roadblock.... Read more

Sharing is a Gift in Itself

Congregations becoming Spaces of Hospitality for People Experiencing Homelessness

Yesterday I spent several hours at church, but not for the reasons you might think. This was not for a worship service or a committee meeting. It was neither quiet nor serious. The evening I spent at church was filled with noise and children and purple frosting. It was filled with running toddlers, balloons, and at least four different spoken languages. When I... Read more

Resilience & Mercy at the Margins

Seeing Homelessness and Ministry in Silicon Valley Homeless Encampments

Median household income in San Jose, California, the so-called Capital of Silicon Valley, is $96,662 a year, with the "middle class income" range cresting at $193,324, according to the finance website, GoBankingRates. For more than 6,000 people in the epicenter of high tech affluence, however, the abundance one sees almost everywhere in the region—twin Teslas in... 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, was happy for me to make the rounds to see who offered the... Read more

Can the Church Welcome the Stranger without Challenging Mainline Christian Whiteness?

Examining Race to Build Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees

The demands on us related to immigration are overwhelming and may seem insurmountable. There seems to be no end to the mass suffering and injustice being inflicted on immigrant families—in particular children and youth—who are simply trying to survive in the midst of economic despair, violence, and other uncertainties. As people of faith rooted in the values of... 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

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 states, finding our... 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 invite us to... Read more
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4