Ministry on the Edge

Exploring Margins, Boundaries, and Frontiers in 21st-century Ministry

In this month’s Bearings Magazine, we explore the margins and frontiers of 21st-century ministry. Our contributors walk into the places where ministry presses against, straddles, and transcends ecclesial, social, cultural, and personal boundaries—among others—marking paths toward new, revitalized 21st-century ministry practice. In the first of two Featured Articles, “Turning Millstones into Milestones,” Jodi Houge of St. Paul’s Humble Walk community shares insight into how practices of acknowledging life’s challenges and joys, and offering them all up to God in prayer, enriches lives in communities on the edge. In a second Featured Article, “Lamentation and the New Religious Frontier,” Tripp Hudgins maps a conversational pathway into the fraught landscape of differences and difficulties presented by the realities of sexual abuse, gendered privilege, and other vexing concerns in the church and the world today.

In our Commentary section, Tuhina Rasche explains that in a world of constant crisis, paying attention to oneself is necessary to build and sustain the body of Christ. Her “There Will Always be a Crisis,” describes the importance of intentional self-care in ministry at this particular moment of our common life. As a move in that direction, in “Leading with Love and Song,” Ana Hernandez offers Creative Insights gained through the experience of leading a group of 12 young people into a transformative circle of song at a creative arts camp.

Also in the Creative Insights section, Pittsburgh poet Ellen McGrath insists that we not forget the Tree of Life Massacre victims, whom we honored with a Special Issue earlier this week, with an introduction to poems from three Pittsburgh writers. “For a Jew there is yet the question,” writes Judith Alexander Brice, “Can I believe in Light?” Turning toward this light is a frontier we hope we all explore together. Smith also recommends poems offered by Pittsburgh writing friends Pam Goldman and Barbara Edelman, as they contend with the tragedy at Tree of Life.

As an additional bonus From Our Archives, we’re sharing a compelling article by The Rev. Heidi Shott from April 2015 that speaks, we believe, to the needs of the world today that call on the gifts of those engaged in 21st-century ministry. Her “Bridging the Sacred and the Profane: Ministries of Compassion in the World We Walk Together” is a reminder of the challenges we continually face in ministry and the many gifts we bring for the work ahead. We’ve also brought back the voice and vision of one of our most-read contributors, Kelly J. Baker, whose “Loving in Public: Why I Won’t Stop Talking about Racial Justice” reminds us that the path to peace is long, bumpy, and paved by a mix of resilience and hope.

Elizabeth Drescher

Elizabeth Drescher, PhD is the editor of Bearings and a Consulting Scholar at The BTS Center. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University and the author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones (Oxford University Press, 2016), Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse 2011), and, with Keith Anderson, Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse, 2012) and Click 2 Save: Reboot (Church Publishing, 2018). Her commentary on contemporary religion and spirituality has been published in Alternet, AmericaThe AtlanticSalon, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, Religion Dispatches, The Washington Post, and other national publications. She is a much sought after speaker for religious and academic groups engaging the changing religious landscape in the United States. You can find Elizabeth on Twitter @edrescherphd.


Cover Photo: Conor Luddy, “Barbed Wire” (November 22, 2017). Via Unsplash. Cc2.0 license.