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 out the holiday hymns. On the other,... Read more

Finding New Life by Sailing into the Void

As the sailboat continued to rise about the white capped waves, I gripped the side and leaned back as far as I dared trying to drive the boat down flat on the water. My feet slipped on wet floorboards and someone yelled, his voice constricted into a high-pitched squeak, “We’re going over!” I recognized that voice: It was mine. Wide-eyed and heart pounding,... 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

Finding Friends of God on the Streets of Seattle

And Listening to the Dreams They Offer the World

She said it with a cool indifference, and like she meant it: “If I stayed in Salt Lake City, I would have killed myself.” She said she had options. She had an underwear drawer full of “benzos.” She could cook a lethal overdose of heroin. The drugs weren’t really for lethal possibilities. They were medications, she said—psychic shields to absorb the pain pillaging... 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

Giving Up for Lent … Or Maybe Not

The sight of my marked forehead on Ash Wednesday brings the inevitable question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” I have a stock answer: Lobster Newburg and healthy thoughts. Truth is, I genuinely struggle each year, knowing that whatever I choose to give up will be short-lived and followed by a guilt chaser. Yes, I am aware that Lent is not just a period... Read more

Queering Iconography

Celebrating the Wonder of Radical Imagination

It’s no secret that the bulk of religious iconography from across spiritual traditions highlights the faces of men, oftentimes whitewashed to erase the varied hues of skin that our saints embodied. Overlooked, strategically erased, and missing are the bold faces of women, queers, people of color, and the holy ones whose identities intersect these differences.... Read more

Where Can I Run To?

Creating Sacred Space as a Black Woman

The 1990s R&B girl group, Xscape, has a famous song entitled “Who Can I Run To?” The song discusses the complexity of whom to rely on when one needs love. I can relate. I entered my thirties this year full of hope, only to be hit with three significant losses in a six-month time span. I lost the love of my life, then my job, and then my father passed. It... Read more

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

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
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