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

Making the Spiritual Path by Walking It

Pilgrimage 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

Don’t Fence Us In!

And Other Lessons Learned from the Real Lives of College Students

Do this. Don’t do that. Spend your time this way. Pray this way. Believe this. Reject that. This is the kind of rigidity that young people like me cannot stand when it comes to religion. We just don’t get it. Indeed, although many would probably not say so outright, my hunch is that there is an underlying assumption among the increasing population of nonreligious... 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

Not a Dirty Word

Administration as a Spiritual Practice

I only signed up for the class because my seminary required it. Church Administration sounded boring. I associated “administration”" with business. It seemed unlikely that I would go to work for a large church, and even if I did, the jobs I would apply for as a new seminary graduate would be associate positions. "Administration" carried the flavor of middle... 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

Five Days in a ‘Thin Place’

A Pilgrimage before Coping

As someone who has volunteered in hospice for ten years and has written on the spirituality of dying and death, I am often asked about grief and coping with loss. I used to balk and say, “I do dying and death; not grief. I know nothing about coping with loss.” While I still do not presume to claim that I have clinical expertise or professional pastoral experience... Read more
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