Tag Archives: Christianity

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

Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 1

Over the next several days and posts, I will share a presentation given at the 3rd Annual “Spring Training for God’s Mission” Day 2015 for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 21, 2015. 

THe-broken-Church-X2Part One:
How Did We Get Here?

The world around us is changing – is our church changing for the context in which we now find ourselves? However, we must remember that the gospel message has not changed at all – but how we share it and the methods we use to engage others in following The Way needs to meet people where they are – children, youth, and adults.  In order to understand where we need to go, we need to understand why we do what we do today and where we have come from.

A little history . . . since the time of Christ there have been times of transition that influenced and were influenced by theology and educational praxis (how we learn and practice) of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: (1) Apostolic Age – first four centuries – disciples went forth into communities to share the gospel in a world that did not know Christ; (2) Christendom – 4th→10th/11th centuries – Christianity became part of the “state”; (3) Middle Ages in which the Church, as an institution, held a monopoly on the gospel that left lay people “in the dark” → leading to the Reformation, a transitional time of being drawn back to the roots of Christianity for the people; (4) Modernity [the Age of Reason when answers were sought to all questions] – 17th→20th century; and Post-Modernity = Today. And we are in yet another transitional time. Read more: Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence. Continue reading Christian Formation in a Changing Church: Part 1

Wilderness Tips for Episcopalians

Church Window BrokenYes, I’ve been on the road again. And the topic comes up again and again – what’s the best curriculum? What’s the latest trend in Christian formation? What does the future of education look like in our churches? Besides giving workshops that also tap into these themes (there’s no way to avoid it), I’m in the midst of writing an article for the Spring issue of Episcopal Teacher magazine (published by Virginia Theological Seminary). So when the keynote address at the Winter Convocation (like a Diocesan Convention) in the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio was given by President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings, I immediately checked it out .

Wilderness Tips for Episcopalians.

She describes much of what I am seeing – the recent statistics and studies, the recent blog posts and keynotes given by other church leaders, But so many churches seem to be in denial. It’s time to listen and time to act. What worked 50, 25 or even 5 years ago cannot be repeated in the same way in 2013.

What new visions do you have? How are we truly transforming others in the way of Christ?

The Holy Innocents: Newtown, Washington and the Way Forward

'The Massacre of the Innocents', Giotto, 1304-1306, fresco, Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy
‘The Massacre of the Innocents’, Giotto, 1304-1306, fresco, Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy

I have been silent for the past week here. I have not been sure what to write. But I have been compiling resources and sharing them on Building Faith the blog I curate that posts a new article everyday on topics related to Christian formation.

Today’s news release from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations felt like the right one to share here. Spread the word. As the Dean of Washington National Cathedral stated in his sermon this past Sunday, (my sound byte of it) “The cross lobby can be more powerful than any gun lobby.”

One of the more striking contrasts on the Christian calendar is the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, three days after the celebration of Christmas. In remembering the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth, the Church jolts us from Christmas joy into a contemplation of the ways in which violence and human brokenness, in spite of Christmas, still enslave the human race.  Today, just as two thousand years ago, the most jolting violence of all is that committed against innocent children.

This year, that jolt came earlier, and much more tangibly, than it normally does.  The murder of 26 innocent victims, many of them children, in a schoolhouse in Connecticut in the waning days of Advent ripped through the joy of Christmas for millions.  As our hearts and minds struggle to comprehend the tragedy of young lives cut short, Holy Innocents Day this year offers an opportunity for grace, hope, and inspiration for the days ahead.   It offers an opportunity “to awaken us” as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her message immediate after the shootings, “to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day” and challenge us “to work toward a different future.”

What might the creation of a different future look like?   Here are two suggestions:

First, we must realize that the brokenness that created the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School is much more deeply inscribed in our culture than we often realize. There is no simple solution; no single law that, if passed, will ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. Our culture simultaneously glorifies, and trivializes, violence while stigmatizing mental illness and discouraging diagnosis and treatment.  Our culture too-often allows millions of children to grow up in situations of risk and allows firearms to be available widely. Changing the cycle of violence will involve substantial creativity and commitment in our communities, the deployment of all the assets of our congregations, and a commitment to examining our own behaviors. Can you commit to being a part of this? Can your congregation commit?

Second, we must hold our nation’s leaders accountable for creating public policies that address this cycle of violence. The Episcopal Church has, for many years, called for policies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals (and to make certain assault weapons impossible to own), as well as to promote better availability of mental-health care and other measures designed to address the causes and effects of violence in our communities. Most have not become law because of a culture in Washington that has allowed these policies to become politicized or driven by partisan rhetoric.  In these difficult days after the Sandy Hook shooting, there are some encouraging signs that this gridlock in Washington is abating.  We’ve seen this before in the wake of tragedy, however. Ultimate change will require building an immense advocacy network, creating a comprehensive strategy to address the problem from many angles, and bringing together people of many different viewpoints. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is working to create such a comprehensive advocacy strategy, as well as a nationwide network of advocates. Can you commit to being part of this effort? Can your congregation commit?

Read the remaining portion of this article from the Episcopal News Service The Holy Innocents: Newtown, Washington and the Way Forward.



A Resurrection Community


Sunrise in Modesto - New beginnings for a diocese


This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of participating in the annual convention for the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. This is one of those Episcopal dioceses who have remained Episcopal despite being abandoned by their bishop and many churches (who also “took” diocesan properties when they “left”). I first met these good people, the “faithful remnant” at their newly re-formed diocesan convention in 2008. What a difference two years makes!

In 2008, the diocese gathered for a “Homecoming” Convention at one of the remaining church buildings in Hanford, CA. It was a celebration of all those who had been marginalized in the past who could now come home to the faith and traditions they loved in The Episcopal Church. Food was plentiful in the largest pot-luck supper I had ever attended. Participants were hungry for resources and connections, having been starved in the past under their former leaders. There was a sense of joy, alongside bewilderment, as they began to learn what it means to be a welcoming church, inclusive to all in the fertile San Joaquin valley of California. That was then. This is now.

In 2010, the diocese gathered for workshops, General Convention discussions, exhibits, and worship. And meals (we ate very well with hospitality abounding and table fellowship). We met at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Modesto, CA, a church (building) that has recently been returned to the diocese via a California Supreme Court’s ruling. And it now houses a vibrant diocesan center under the warm pastoral presence of The Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb.

One of the ‘mottos’ of the diocese is that they are a resurrection community. This was truly exemplified at this year’s convention. Participants traveled from all over the diocese to attend; an expansive geography including mountains, desert, city and farming communities. Participants were still eager to make new connections and hear of new resources, but there was a context from which their questions (and answers) came from. They were no longer in the dark or wandering in the wilderness. Female clergy were noticeably present, as were deacons and members of the LGBT community – something that would not have occurred under the former regime (who are now part of the Anglican Province of Uganda).

They recognize their mission of serving Christ in the world – a mission of love for all people that was truly exhibited as they gathered as a diocesan family:

  • We are a resurrection community dedicated to living out our Baptisimal Covenant by:
  • Worshipping at the common table where all are fed, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
  • Intentionally welcoming, incorporating, and affirming all God’s people.
  • Honoring, developing, and celebrating the unique ministry of all the baptized.
  • Being the heart, hands, and feet of Christ in the world.

Convention concluded (before the last workshop and another meal) with Eucharist. The church was full as everyone’s voices were lifted in song. Clergy vested and processed . . . so many more than 2 years ago. The Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Straub, Executive Officer and Secretary of General Convention preached on the readings for the day. Citing the Old Testament reading from Exodus, Canon Straub noted that the people of San Joaquin were no longer slaves in Egypt, but chose the hardship of wandering in the wilderness, following God’s pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, not knowing where they were being led. But following God led to new life as it continues to do so.

Leaving behind comfort to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ has brought this diocese to a new resurrection.