Small, But Not Alone

Collaborative Parishes Offer Hope and New Life for Small Churches

With few exceptions, Christian churches in America are in trouble. Membership has been trending slowly downward for decades with the most pronounced declines occurring in churches in the mainline Protestant tradition. I am not writing, however, to sound the alarm about the shrinking numbers of the faithful. I would guess that none of it is new to you. Nor am... Read more

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 need to do to grow their congregations. Good... 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 issue... 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 still suffers from nightmares... 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, late, carrying the... 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... Read more

Finding Deep Gratitude in Ordinary Time

My Sunday night yoga class is an anchor in my week. It grounds me and prepares me for the week ahead. The teacher is wise and the community that gathers is special. Recently one night a couple I hadn't met before showed up. A bit older than me, they looked to have shared many, many years together. They had that gentle way of moving together that some couples create... 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... 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... Read more