Category Archives: Faith & Culture

Sowing a Nonviolent Country

SJN LogoOn Saturday, September 26, 2015 hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky. Sponsored by the Sowers of Justice Network, a coalition of churches and individuals working for social justice through nonviolent action, this day (and organization) is a model that many of our communities can learn from.

The purpose of the conference was to invite nonviolence as a way of life, to and with those most affected by gun violence, and to mobilize citizens of the community to action. The provided the information about the scale and scope of gun violence so individuals and organizations can better identify actions steps that any and all of us can take for the future. They connect networks to improve relationships, resolve, and readiness to ACT.

Continue reading Sowing a Nonviolent Country

Voices and Shoes

hollywoodheelsI love looking at people’s feet – in particular, their shoes. I suppose this has me looking down more than looking up, which is problematic in itself. I probably miss some interesting faces and exchanges as an observer of people. I’ve discovered that airport sitting as well as hotel lobbies and train platforms offer a variety of perspectives. I believe shoes tell a lot about who we are, who we yearn to be, or how we try to fit in and relay a persona.

The past few days I’ve been in Minneapolis attending Why Christian?, a conference organized by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans. It was a conference featuring some of the most promising voices of women in the Church in the United States. Some of the names were familiar to me, others I had never heard of. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the women on the marquis were at the leading edge of what the Church could and should be all about. The publicity leading up to this event hinted at what a watershed moment this might be. The venue had to be changed when 1,000 people registered months ago, causing the planners to have to turn away folks. While not a conference “about” and “for” women, the majority of people who filled the pews, aisles, and balcony to SRO were women.

Which brings me back to shoes. I stayed at the Hyatt, about half a mile from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral where the event was held. It would seem that while Why Christian? was going on, another conference featuring women (as speakers and participants) was happening at the Hyatt. Waiting in line at Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. found me in a queue of strappy stilettos, well-manicured fingers, and coiffed hair. But it was the shoes that captured my gaze – clicking across the slate lobby floor, gracefully climbing the steps to the conference room areas, waiting for a double-espresso latte or tall macchiato. Long legs and short legs, each moved with confidence, having learned that balancing act, or at least exhibiting the power of control in walking tall perched on 6″ heels. I was wearing my black Aerosole flats. Continue reading Voices and Shoes

Evil and the Human Heart

11947543_10153637925899367_6423622083761918630_n A sermon preached on August 30, 2015 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut

The Fourteen Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17 B
James 1:17-27 and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

It is from the human heart
 that evil intentions come. Mark 7:21

It’s not easy to talk about and acknowledge the evil that is in our world. But we see it manifested in many forms all around us.

This summer I have been reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. And exactly one week ago today, John and I were in Johannesburg retracing many of the steps Mandela took along with others in their struggle for freedom.

Knowing I was going to be preaching right after returning home from South Africa, I read today’s Gospel a few weeks ago to allow me to ruminate on it while away. The juxtaposition of Jesus chastising the Pharisees about their adamancy of following the Law while being immersed in how the laws of a country – in this case South Africa – wouldn’t leave me alone. Until recently, laws in South African centered around a formalized, systematic segregation of blacks, colored, Indians, and whites called apartheid. There were hundreds of laws about where one could live, what kind of education one could receive, who one could marry, where you could travel, what kind of job you could have, and on and on. Racism was an accepted governmental policy.

The history of how these laws came to be and where the roots of racism began started many generations ago. They were based on an interpretation of scripture paired with greed and fear by groups that began with Dutch and English colonialism. Their fear grew out of the belief that one race was superior to another as part of God’s creation. It became their tradition and way of life, and became ingrained in generations to come. Continue reading Evil and the Human Heart

Discussing Violence in Church

Last week I attended the annual Christian Formation Conference held at Kanuga, a conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina outside Hendersonville (near Asheville). The conference theme was Hope in the Midst of Crisis: From Tragedy to Healing through Forgiveness. Plenary sessions and workshops largely focused on how we address the issues of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing in a world that is often beset by tragedy on a national as well as personal level. From the events of 9/11 (World Trade Center) to 12/14 (Sandy Hook) to our cities today, stories were shared and processes for healing were shared.

I was invited to give a workshop based on a book that I compiled and edited, Reclaiming Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace Coverthe Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence (Morehouse, 2015) based on a conference of the same name held in Oklahoma City in April 2014. In preparing my workshop I hoped to broaden the conversation to discuss how many forms of violence (such as gun violence, inter-partner/domestic violence, bullying, and video-game addiction) are issues that need to be addressed and acted upon as imperative to our baptismal promises of “respecting the dignity of all human beings” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to turn the other cheek as well as speak out against injustice in our world.

While I was caught up short the two days before my presentation over lunch with some Christian educators who shared their opinions with me (as gun owners with licenses to carry concealed weapons), I knew I had to tell the truth (from my perspective) and focus the conversation on why and how we should be having such conversations in our churches. It is why I put the book together. And my angst following this lunch conversation showed me how much our church needs to engage in this conversation. It is not about being opposed to hunting, target shooting, and banning of all guns. It is about creating a world in which we can create safe places and promote the gospel of peace. Continue reading Discussing Violence in Church

Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series of posts stemming from a presentation I did at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. Read Part 1: How Did We Get Here? and Part 2: Today’s Context and Part 3: A New Ecosystem

Networked TeacherPart Four: Nurturing Networks

In our new ecosystem, we have available numerous tools to connect with one another beyond our church buildings. As we help equip our members (and others in our communities) to learn more about the Gospel, develop spiritual practices, and  nurture their children’s faith development at home we can provide numerous entry points of engagement. We are all networked – through our smart phones, computers, and other digital devices. We can research any topic we have an interest in, and many research about God, Jesus, and religion. But are their Google™ results compatible with our faith tradition and practices? There are a variety of ways we can help connect and collaborate in our learning and formation – but we need to find (or create) the content we want to share. Scott Thuma wrote an article on Building Faith in March 2012 entitled, Virtually Religious: Technology and Congregations that gives an insight on why we need to be moving in this direction.

Hybrid networks are one of the ways churches are beginning to experiment and try new models of faith formation. Connect with people where they are at times that are convenient to them – for we know that Sunday morning is not the best time for everyone anymore. Randall Curtis, Ministry Developer for Youth and Young Adults in the Episcopal Church in Arkansas shares how the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Seminary is helping congregations do just this: Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 4