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
For people in ministry, one of the most frustrating phrases to hear from congregants and committees is, “But we’ve never done it that way before.” There is often a lot packed into that one sentence—fear (of risk, of failure), hesitation around trusting the pastoral leader, and even grief over the loss of the familiar. For leaders this phrase can feel like a roadblock.... Read more
I don’t know why I stay.
I was sixteen the first time I was warned my sexuality was incompatible with my salvation. I was eighteen when I watched Bishop Gene Robinson consecrated as the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, his alb ill-fitting over the bulletproof vest necessary because of how credible the death threats against him had become.
I... Read more
I decided to return to my old church for a visit. Readers of Bearings will recall that it’s been a while since I’ve crossed the threshold of the church that nurtured me through graduate school and the various ups and downs of life at that time.
I’d been mulling a holiday return. I wanted to see how much changed in the intermittent years, and I wanted to know... Read more
The articles in this month’s Bearings magazine, “Small Is the New Big,” illuminate questions raised by the realities of small church ministry. In them we read eyewitness accounts of the spiritual energy in churches described as “small”—small that is, when the metric applied is a numerical count of members or weekly worship attendance. The articles invite us to... Read more
It is dark. Rain falls soft and visible from beneath the streetlights. Heard faintly in the cacophony of the night is a homeless man yelling something into the air. Something indeterminate. Unsettling. Avoidingly, nervously, people walk past.
Through the glass windows of a Mexican restaurant, I am waiting for him to arrive.
He comes in, late, carrying the... Read more