Category Archives: Faith & Culture

Nurturing Children to Live Generously

This article first appeared in “Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation” magazine which is published annually by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. The full magazine (chock-full of great ideas) is available for purchase on their website.

Today’s culture can be toxic for children and other living things. If we build our values on the “put-downs” and sound bites of social media and incidences of daily violence that permeate the news, we might lose hope in what the future could hold for our children. How do we nurture a generous spirit in children when it would seem the world is about self-aggrandizement, winning, and having the most toys?

While we may think children are born as empty vessels waiting for family, teachers, and (yes) the church to fill them with love, knowledge, dreams, values, and a purpose, we know that they are already born with a capacity to know God and experience love. As caretakers of our children, it is our responsibility to nurture that which already exists, by providing an environment where their desire to be loved and part of a community is openly welcomed, acting as role models in what it means to be a generous, loving person made in the image of God.

We are born for sympathy and compassion. In a University of Oregon study[1], economist Bill Harbaugh and psychologist Ulrich Mayr found that charitable generosity activated the reward center of the brain, indicating that our brains are naturally made for kindness. Furthering this research are studies on compassionate meditation such as the one conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which illustrated that through the repeated practice of mindful generosity, we can increase empathetic responses to others.[2]

Continue reading Nurturing Children to Live Generously

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Creating Burning Bushes: Supporting Faith at Home

burning_bushThis was a presentation given at the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) 2017 annual conference held recently in Washington, D.C. 

How can congregational leadership bridge the gap that takes place between what happens on Sunday morning church and home (or school or work) the rest of the week? Even if one were to attend worship every Sunday of the year, that would account for less that 1% of waking hours – and we know the average worshipper is not in church every Sunday. Family life today is full of carpools, running around, juggling a multitude of activities (chosen and mandatory).

View the Prezi presentation online: Creating Burning Bushes: Supporting Faith at Home and on the Road and read some of the commentary that accompanied each slide below:

Many parents are searching for ways to nurture their children in the life of the Christian faith. They come with honest questions and look to the church for answers. Others, realizing their lack of biblical and theological background, turn their children over to the church and the church school – because they want it done right, by the experts. We cannot assume that parents know what to do with their children in regard to nurturing them in a life of faith. They may bring them to us to be baptized – but what happens after that? And more and more, that is nothing. We are lucky they return for times other than their child to participate in the Christmas pageant, show up in their Sunday best on Easter, or reappear when confirmation age rolls around. Continue reading Creating Burning Bushes: Supporting Faith at Home

There’s Got to be a Morning After

poseidon-adventureThere’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let’s keep on looking for the light

So begins the song that has been running through my mind since the day after the 2016 presidential election, from The Poseidon Adventure, a 1972 mother-of-all disaster movies (at the time). In a nutshell, here’s the plot: The Poseidon is the largest ocean liner ever, bigger than the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary combined. A ship full of passengers are celebrating New Year’s Eve. Just after the New Year is rung in, the Captain spots a tidal wave. A huge tidal wave. Soon, everybody else sees it, too. For almost all of the passengers and crew, it will be the last thing they ever see. The ship is capsized, turned completely upside-down, and only ten people have survived. Now those survivors must make their way from the capsized top of the ship up to the bottom before they drown as well. Continue reading There’s Got to be a Morning After

Faith and Civil Discourse

political-jesusProper 27C – Pentecost 25
Haggai 1:15b–2:9 
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

This past Wednesday evening, I, like many of you, was in front of the television for the seventh game of the World Series. Besides being a stressful, nail biter of a game, what remains with me was what happened before the game even started. The Cleveland Orchestra’s String Section performed the national anthem with the crowd singing in unison. One voice comprised of thousands. It made me feel how baseball unites, bringing opposing teams together for the good of the sport. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that sense of pride in humanity.

Not much has been uniting in America these past weeks and months. The vitriol, fact-checking for truth or lies, fear mongering, and incivility of this election season has led to a significant amount of stress in over half of the adults in this country. I know I feel it. I want Tuesday to be over with; but I’m afraid that no matter what, Wednesday will not be any better.

I will be working the polls on Tuesday in Norwalk and this past week attended training as required by the State of Connecticut. We were told that security will be stepped up more than ever; the 75-foot rule will be monitored closely; intimidation can be expected. And we can expect to have lines from 6AM to beyond 8PM. We were told to prepare for lack of civility and a very long day. I don’t remember hearing these messages in over forty years of exercising my right to vote.

What can today’s Scripture say to us? How can we remain faithful to our beliefs, witnessing to a different way of being than what we are seeing in our society today? Continue reading Faith and Civil Discourse

Empty Pews?

lonechildinpewsIt’s been awhile since I’ve written here; I’ve been busy writing and editing some great projects coming out this Fall and early 2017. Stay tuned on that front.

Meanwhile a new “program” year has begun in our churches, with families returning after a summer hiatus of skipping worship to sleep-in, vacation, or simply doing other things. And hopefully they have returned, along with all the others who have been absent the past few months as October rolls around. With the oncoming Fall and schools back in session, everyone is eager to “begin anew,” making a commitment, at least for a few months to come to church on a more regular basis.

One of the projects that I have been working on (which has taken much longer than I anticipated) is the dissemination of a Curriculum Survey that was distributed across cyberspace in June 2016. Almost 900 individuals took the survey, with 270 taking the time to also share their thoughts in the comment areas provided. And wow – there was a lot to be said.

A few stats first: 70% of the respondents were associated with an Episcopal church, 30% from other denominations; all shared the same themes, needs, and concerns. 87% have some sort of children’s ministry program (75% youth and 75% adult). That sounds amazing. However, 82% of the congregations have 50 or fewer children who regularly attend a Sunday school program. And 50% of the churches have less than 10 middle schoolers and less than 10 high schoolers participating in youth programs. 68% of the congregations who offer adult education programming reported to having less than 30 individuals who regularly participate in those offerings. Continue reading Empty Pews?