For the last 18 months I have interviewed or have corresponded with people who are either leading a small group or are part of a small group that meets on a regular basis for community and spiritual direction. I plan to continue to do this with more groups and in more depth. My hope is that we can gain more information from a variety of groups to see what is working and what is not. Most of the information I gained from these interviews so far comes from groups who have been meeting on a regular basis for more than a year. In a couple of cases they have been meeting for over a decade. I am certain I will be revising my thoughts on some of this but I wanted to share what I have learned so far.read more
Last September, Fred Plumer, a minister in the United Church of Christ, gave the Fall SPAFER* Lectures. The topic of his lectures was “Progressive Christianity – What Is It?” While Plumer cited statistics indicating a wholesale decline in church membership throughout the Western World, the refreshing thing was that he came with no program to implement for jump-starting congregations. Instead of programs, he offered insights into a meaningful way of life based upon the teachings of Jesus.read more
We all belong. We are each one a part of the Temple of God. Paul wants the church at Corinth to recognize that they all belong to one another, and that it is foolish to divide and polarize around certain leaders. Paul argues that there is no place in the church for petty jealousies and pride.read more
For several years, and especially in the few years since I retired, Bill and I have talked about our frustration with most conventional worship services. We find the traditional language depicts a God in whom we cannot believe, and we find the whole enterprise of worship to carry too much emphasis on propitiation, guilt, and a sort of abject deferral to some being to whom we are supposed to owe praise and subservience. We have attended services in other traditions, read widely about variant understandings and experiences of God, but we’ve found little out there in books or practice that looks at worship in radically new ways.read more
In his highly readable Living the Quaker Way, Philip Gulley graciously welcomes the curious reader into the Quaker faith. His introductory chapter, “What is a Quaker?” is friendly, open, kind, unpretentious, and folksy. I read on expecting a primer on Quaker history, beliefs and practices and was not disappointed. But then I was startled by the change in tone. As he begins to work through the core values of the Quaker faith – Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality – Gulley becomes eloquently and passionately critical of modern American life, criticism that I entirely agree with.read more
The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?
The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”read more
So what do I mean by a sacred community or spiritual community, or as Peck would call it a true community? I refer here to an intentional community with an identifiable common purpose. Maybe that purpose is simple to grow spiritually as individuals. It is a community where one can transcend oneself and experience a sense of the interconnectedness of life. It is a community in which each member seeks to see and relate to the divine or the sacred in the other.read more
Inspired by the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, it is an echo of these and a call for something larger.
Come on- brothers and sisters West to East
Don’t let these corporate suit and ties disrespect the streets
Lets be more than outsiders with an angry speech
It’s time to occupy, speak your peace, let’s go!
Is the lingering importance of “Good Samaritan Jesus” for the religiously unaffiliated a yearning for a more ethically engaged, prophetic Christianity?read more
It’s important to understand that the change I believe must occur is not related to style, but substance. I’m sure most of you remember the abundance of church growth literature accessible at the height of that movement. Almost all of it related to style and methodology, which is not to say that such issues are not important, but my greater concerns relate to substance and message. So, what needs to happen?read more
“The truth of the matter is that the Christian movement, or what we now call the church, was always progressive. Jesus and his followers were change agents and that frankly, is what got them all into trouble.” ~ Fred Plumerread more
Once an idea has been embraced by the larger community, it settles into the realm of the status quo. No longer representing cutting edge thought about the particular issue it addressed, it becomes accepted as the norm.read more