Bearings: Navigating Life-as-Ministry
Heart of Ministry | February 2019

Heart of Ministry

What is the heart of ministry for today’s church, as we find it these days—thinning out noticeably, wobbling more and more regularly as it moves in the world, struggling to stay on top of what the kids are on about these days? Maybe “tough love” is a bridge too far in terms of what’s needed in the church today. Maybe what’s needed is something we might call “truth love”—love grounded in an honest assessment of the reality of our common lives and the concrete demands they make on ministries of all stripes. “Truth love,” the insights of our contributors in this issue insist, takes us to the decidedly unromantic, often ugly, maybe a little bit scary heart of ministry. But it’s still beating!

From Our Archives

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
From the Editor

What is the Heart of Ministry?

Ministering to the Beat of "Truth Love" in Today's Church

It's easy to make February about a certain kind of love—the sweet, sentimental, Valentines' Day kind, all wrapped in pretty paper and offered up with chocolates and and a saccharine greeting cards with lacy hearts and ribbons. Maybe there's a place for that. I'm as much of a fan of a bouquet of freshly cut flowers as the next person, I guess. But of course,... Read more
Featured Article

God was a Refugee

Finding the Beating Heart of Ministry in the Incarnation

Reina had walked for more than 20 days, in the rain and cold and mud. Grief-stricken after the loss of her son, she walked with one destination in mind: a country she hoped would be her safe-harbor, a new beginning, free from the fear and the violence she had known. She walked with thousands of others to find safety in numbers. She wasn’t trying to make a statement... Read more

Where does the Religion Classroom Begin?

Cultivating Religious Literacy at Home, School, Church and World

During Advent 2018, my 10-year-old—“Kiddo”—asked a series of specific questions that kicked off a 3-hour re-examination of a fundamental question at stake in the “religion as education” landscape: where does the religion classroom begin?  A quick scan of a park, Facebook, the gym, LinkedIn, or even Tinder spotlights the place of education in social interaction.... Read more
Creative Insights

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
From Our Archives

Practicing Gratitude as Healing

How do people who’ve been robbed of so much ever come to feel grateful for anything again?

  As a rare breed of news reporter with divinity school training, I sometimes feel like I own the tragic violence beat. Editors send me in just as the TV news trucks are pulling out after a horrific event. When eerie stillness looms and survivors are crying out to God or to the abyss in the wake of disaster, I wipe away my own tears and straighten my tie... Read more
From Our Archives

Joy is the Secret of Resistance

On January 21, a group of women from my congregation traveled to Augusta, Maine, for our nearest “sister march” to the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Too sick with a cold to join them for the march itself, I gathered with them anyway in our church parking lot to send them off with a prayer and blessing. I ended my spontaneous prayer with a hope that whatever... Read more