Can Churches Build when the Walls Seem to Be Falling Down?

Creating New Imagination to Restore the Heart of Today's Church

This past January, the church I pastor, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, had its own “come to Jesus” moment during our Annual Church Meeting.  I had done my due diligence all year — studying the latest data regarding church growth trends and reading articles that examined societal shifts impacting congregations across the country.  Not much... Read more

Growing by Half

How Part-Time Pastoral Leadership Can Revitalize the Church

One year ago, I began studying a rare but important species that many church officials wrongly believe doesn’t exist: the mainline Protestant congregation that finds vitality after doing away with the full-time pastorate. To be sure, it wasn’t always the easiest species to find. Many congregations with shrinking attendance and budgets continue to struggle after... Read more

What Do We Mean When We Say, “All Are Welcome”?

I’ve driven by that church—you know, the one with the giant banner that says, “All Are Welcome.” I often ask myself, “If I walked through the doors, would I be embraced?” I’m an educated, queer, Black, Progressive, Transgender Christian. Would I, with all that I bring, be welcomed in that space?" When we claim that “all are welcome,” it comes from a genuine... Read more

This is the Way We’ve Always Done Things …

This is the way we’ve always done things. Now, there’s a phrase that brings about a sense of impending doom in my heart, especially when it comes to the practices of communities of faith. In part, our love of familiar practices comes from finding comfort in the apparent stability of structures. Yet as a Jesus-follower, I sometimes wonder if finding comfort... Read more

#NeverthelessSheResisted

Creating Space for Women's Thriving in the Church and the World

Three weeks ago, Senate Republicans silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren for criticizing attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions. Warren had attempted to read civil rights activist Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship. Scott’s concerns over whether Sessions would support the civil rights of all citizens seemed... Read more

A Quality of Life Check for an Aging Church

Six months ago we took our Old Lady Cat to the vet for what they call a “quality of life check.” She had recently turned 20 and had been deaf for several years. She also had begun to show signs of kidney failure, specifically excessive thirst. Her hunt for water had escalated from seeking out my glass to demanding water from the sink with increasing frequency.... Read more

Disappearing Our Pastors

“So,” I said, “what I reckon it all comes down to is, how can I preach if I don’t have any answers?” “Yes, Mr. Crow,” he said, “How can you?” … “I don’t believe I can,” I said, and I felt my skin turn cold, for I had not even thought that until then. He said, “No, I don’t believe you can.” And we sat there and looked at each other again while he waited for me... Read more

Re-Mediating Religion by Turning Up the Social Media Volume on Social Justice

Earlier this year, one of our award-winning Bearings contributors, Kelly Baker, wrote a piece about the challenges, for white people in particular, of thinking through and talking about racism. Especially with other white people, including goodhearted, well-intentioned, ideologically liberal white people. Often, we just don’t want to hear about it. We get it.... Read more

Seeing Through Brokenness

Beauty and Love in the Church's Kaleidoscopic Change

As my father might say, it was déjà vu all over again: Driving to Andover Newton Theological Seminary (ANTS) for the last class of the course I taught this semester, closing out my year as a visiting professor there. Rather than some “school’s out for summer” kind of delirium, the drive carried a good bit of melancholy. It was more than vaguely reminiscent of one... Read more

Women in Ministry

Is Social Media the Great Equalizer?

I write this on the last day of Women’s History Month. Over on my Twitter account, I spent the month highlighting—via the hashtag #BlackChurchHERStory—African American women religious leaders alive today who have been trailblazers in ministry and in the academy. These pioneers range from the likes of Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, who in 1974 became the first African American... Read more
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