Bearings: Navigating Life-as-Ministry
December 2019 | The Best of Bearings

As we shared last month, the December issue of Bearings is our last. With this issue, we celebrate, we give thanks, we bid farewell, and we embrace the spiritual practice of letting go. Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, shares an introductory piece—“The Best of Bearings”— in which he reflects on this moment. An original Featured Article by Ben Yosua-Davis, entitled “Death, Ashes, and Resurrection,” invites readers to reflect on the lessons of success and failure, death and resurrection, endings and new beginnings. The rest of the issue pulls just a few of “The Best of Bearings” from our Archives: a 2014 piece by Kelly J. Baker, called “The Return of the Holiday Prodigal: It’s Complicated…” which offers insight into people who leave the church; an important 2016 piece by Jamye Wooten, called “Who Has The Right to Be Violent?,” which challenges readers to reflect on systemic and structural violence and white supremacy; a 2016 reflection called “Yes, Jesus Loves Us. Now What?” by Mihee Kim-Kort which delves into the issues of racism and sexism in the church; Joan S. Latchaw’s moving response to the 2018 violence at Tree of Life Synagogue, “May Their Memory Be a Blessing”; and finally, a piece from earlier this year, “Can Churches Build When the Walls Seem to Be Falling Down?” in which Heber Brown shares his own leadership experience of inviting a congregation to reimagine and reprioritize. Although this is our final issue of Bearings, we’re looking ahead to new ventures, and we hope you, our readers, will stay engaged. With gratitude for all that has been, and with confidence in the God of endings and new beginnings, we look to the future with hope.

Featured Article

The Best of Bearings

We celebrate. We bid farewell. We look ahead.

“It’s December, and nobody asked if I was ready,” writes poet Sarah Kay. December arrives every year with a bit of urgency, doesn’t it? The last remnants of turkey are still in the refrigerator, and all of a sudden, almost without warning, ready or not, we find ourselves turning the calendar to the very last page, and we’re forced to confront the truth that... Read more
Featured Article

Death, Ashes, and Resurrection

Every resurrection requires death. This is written into the rhythms of creation. Spring is preceded by winter. New forest growth is preceded by forest fires. Sunrise is always preceded by sunset. Rebirth comes after walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Easter Sunday comes after Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Nothing escapes this reality. I learned... Read more
From Our Archives

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
From Our Archives

Who Has The Right to Be Violent?

In July I was invited to speak about the #BaltimoreUprising at the Duke Summer Institute for Reconciliation. My presentation focused on “Why We Cry, How We Cry and Who Can Cry?” in response to state violence. “Why We Cry” dealt with the systemic and structural violence in Baltimore City—the years of neglect, disinvestment and underdevelopment. “How We Cry (The... Read more
From Our Archives

Yes, Jesus Loves Us. Now What?

“Jesus Loves Me” was one of the first songs we taught the twins when they started to put sounds together to form some semblance of words: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong— they are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so. But I remember... Read more
From Our Archives

May Their Memory Be a Blessing

A Prayer of Hope after the Tree of Life Massacre

It was a damp and windy February day in 1991 when I walked those few solemn blocks. With trepidation I swung open the heavy door and for the first time entered a beautiful but cavernous space. As I slowly made my way down the aisle, about twelve men, some quite elderly, approached me with great chesed, loving-kindness. I immediately burst into tears, and before... Read more
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