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Developing Rituals With Meaning and Life

Over the last few years I have spoken and written extensively about my concerns with churches that continue to use ancient rituals, hymns and icons that reflect an understanding of a Fourth Century Christianity while the church leadership claims to be part of a progressive or at least “emerging” church. I am referring here specifically to the story that Jesus was the only begotten son of God, came to earth with one purpose, to suffer a horrible death as God’s sacrifice for the sins of the world. More than one critic of religion over the last century has argued that religions control participants with rituals that few ever give rational thought to.

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What is Progressive Christianity?

Today we examine “Progressive” Christianity. In particular, what is “Progressive Christianity”? Including what that term is most widely understood to mean today, how that label is evolving, and how we can still build a community around it. As well as what it might imply to situate one’s self amongst “Progressive Christians” in today’s growing post-modern context. We will also be exploring whether there can be any “hope” in progressive ideas about Christianity. As well as why it can be nice to have progressive communities around to help facilitate conversation with others of similar mind, background, and experience.

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Songs in Sacred Community- Be There for Others

A sacred community, if it is to be an authentic representation of the life and teachings of Jesus for today, needs to express its concerned opposition in both words, worship and actions, to injustice, violence and corruption – just as Jesus did. There is truth in the statement that “Jesus confronts more than he comforts.” When sacred communities look to the needs of its members in preference to the needs of non- members something is not quite right. The church is one of those organisations which exists for people who do not belong to it. As Jesus was a man for others, so the church is to be there for others.

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Are Rituals Relevant In Progressive Christian Communities?

Do rituals still have relevance and value within progressive Christian communities?

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Jim Burklo’s Book of Common Prayer- Liturgical Elements

We are here to praise and enjoy God with body and soul, mind and heart, with song and word, with hands and feet.
We are here to give because of the abundance God has given us, to share with each other, and to receive, because God has created us to depend on each other.
We are here to celebrate the differences that otherwise might divide us: differences of age, of body, of culture, of opinion, of ability, of religious conviction.
We are here to put things in perspective: to celebrate what matters, to laugh about things we take too seriously, to cry about things that truly touch our hearts.
So may it be this morning: Amen!

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Ritual in Sacred Community: Reclaiming Eucharist

The central focus for Christian liturgy is the ritual Eucharist. Traditionally Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) has reenacted the last meal Jesus ate with his followers before the blood sacrifice of his execution at the hands of the Romans, but with the dogmatic interpretation that Jesus died to save sinners from hell in the next life. Twenty-first century progressive Christians are concerned more with living a life of justice-compassion here and now (as Jesus taught) than reconciling with a god that demands blood sacrifice in exchange for a carefree afterlife. What is required is to act with justice-compassion in radical abandonment of self-interest. Suppose that instead of terrorizing ourselves with the Advent of violent judgment, we were to celebrate the Advent of the Christ consciousness; instead of a Eucharist mourning the personal holocaust of Jesus’s death, a Eucharist of Ordination, in which we recommit ourselves to the great work of distributive justice-compassion? We have the power, at any moment, to transform the way we live our lives. We can choose not to participate in the retributive system of imperial war and systemic injustice. We can step into the kind of ongoing parallel universe of God’s justice-compassion at any moment. We can change our consciousness, change the paradigm in which we live, whenever we have the will to do so. Jesus is not coming again. We are; and when the rare opportunity presents itself, we can break the alabaster jar in remembrance of her.

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Ritual in Progressive Christianity

When we look at Christianity in particular, there are three issues to address: the role of the sacraments of baptism and communion in the future, new ritual created by and for small progressive groups, and thirdly, ritual that would be inviting to all people, regardless of religion.

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The Power of Ritual

In the short interval between hearing the words and partaking of the symbolic body of Christ, I was enveloped in one of those rare moments of total oneness with all that is. The word “body” became present to me in a way I had not previously experienced. A feeling of connectedness with all mortal life swept over me. And beyond that an awareness of my aliveness being one with the aliveness of the earth and universe.

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Ritual as Part of Life

Let us hold gently to those rituals which have had meaning for us, but examine them diligently to be sure they are inclusive of others. Let us find richness in rituals which honour the Earth, our home; which revere the non-human community; and which draw together the human species in strength and compassion.

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Corporate Worship

My understanding of the flow of worship is that it is a four act drama beginning with a “gathering” and ending with a “send-out”. The four acts of worship between the gathering and send-out are: 1) CONFESSION; 2) PRAISE; 3) DEDICATION; and 4) COMMITMENT.

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Beyond Ritual – a Life of Prayer and Action

Bonhoeffer believed that in the future a religionless Christianity—stripped of its religious garments—would be limited to two things: prayer and action.3 He believed that through these two acts Christians would learn to see the world from a new perspective, with the eyes of those at the bottom of society—the people that Matthew called “the least of these.” For Bonhoeffer, prayer—especially intercessory prayer—becomes important because it creates a powerful sense of empathy and solidarity with the people one brings before God. This, in turn, motivates one to engage in “righteous” action—the seeking of justice in human society.

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Leadership Learnings from “Down Under” (Part 1)

In the mid 1980’s I was invited to be the ministerial leadership for the Uniting Church of Australia in Frankston, Victoria. This congregation taught me a great deal about the church as community.

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A Joyful Path Children’s Curriculum Year Two- Intro Video

In A Joyful Path, Year Two, we focus on some of the main tenets of Progressive Christianity and Spirituality, giving our children the foundation they need to walk the path of Jesus in today’s world. It has stories and affirmations written to help children clarify their own personal beliefs while staying open to the wisdom of other traditions.

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Holy Week – An Exploration of the Meaning of Kenosis

A sample of Sea Raven’s work, a free PDF download of the Bible Study found in Appendix Two of The Year of Luke, is available: “Holy Week: An Exploration of the Meaning of Kenosis.”

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God Incarnate In Us (John 20:19-23)

Jesus wants his disciples to know that their betrayal, their breach of covenant loyalty, did not dissolve the covenant, did not result in their rejection. They are loved and accepted. This is where we all have to start or, perhaps, come back to – that we are accepted in spite of all our failures and betrayals, that we are accepted even though we do not deserve to be accepted. But to claim acceptance for ourselves means that we have to claim acceptance for everyone else. God’s gift of peace is not just for our group, it’s for the cosmos, and we who have heard that word and accepted it, are called by God to spread that word

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