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In Praise of Doubt

If our beliefs prevent our search
For new and different creeds;
Let us beware of narrow views
Where dogma often breeds;
With new, exciting facts we learn
Much love can come about;
Yes! Those who grow in their beliefs
Can sing in praise of doubt.

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The Tie that Binds

The questions before us in this e-bulletin are two: How important are beliefs in an evolving faith? and, Does community need to agree on belief? More generally, the issues pertain to the tie that binds community and the experience that underlies that tie.

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Way of the Cross

Rev. Sam Alexander is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael, CA. He is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., and Union Seminary in Virginia, M.Div. Sam has served congregations in Maryland and in the San Francisco Bay area and is currently Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. He serves as an Adjunct Instructor in Homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary. What they call, “his provocative sermons” have inspired, disturbed, and delighted his congregations.

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How Important are our Beliefs?

It’s interesting to see what Jesus thought about beliefs. Jesus, in his parable of the Good Samaritan, makes it clear that the righteous one is not the Pharisee or the lawyer, who are learned and who know about the law, correct belief, or so on. The righteous one is the one who cares for his neighbor, who reaches out to the stranger in need.

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I Corinthians 13 – A Paraphrase

For love is long-suffering and abounds in kindness. It is not arrogant or boastful. Love does not behave rudely. Neither self-serving nor quick to take offence, love never thinks the worst.

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Along the Way

The Right Moral Way has not changed over time and remains psychologically sound. In a “Psychology Today” article entitled ‘The (Only) Seven Spiritual Principles We Need to Succeed’, Karl Albrecht reveals traditional key values for moral living that are still crucial in contemporary times.

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Belief that Brings Life

To believe, or give assent to, a fixed set of beliefs, such as, “I believe in God the father almighty….,” or the inerrency of the Bible is to cut off the possibility of growth. If you have all the answers you are not open to new thoughts or questions. Communicating with a fundamentalist is very difficult, and we are all fundamentalist in a variety of ways. But Leonard Cohen reminds us that “there is a crack in everything, that’s where the light comes in.”

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Easter Essay: Believe the Story or Trust the Promise?

Easter calls attention to the traditional, fundamental “beliefs” associated with the Christian religion – if only for a day. The secular world pays little attention to the nuances of Christian “faith” in a post-Christian world. Easter is a liturgical season that lasts for seven weeks. In Christian tradition, the time between the resurrection of Jesus and his “ascension” into the sky (Pentecost) replaces the time between the Jewish Feast of the Passover and the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Not only do most Christians concentrate on the resurrection story – often literally. Editorial writers for supposedly sophisticated secular media seem to feel obligated to attempt to find meaning in the traditional religious legend of a dead man walking out of his tomb. But “faith” does not mean “belief.” “Faith” means “trust.” “Faith” further means “confidence.”

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Beyond Belief: Spiritual Practice as the Focus of Christian Community

Dogma and doctrine should not get in the way of practicing Love, who is God. Doctrines can be interesting: they help us understand the origins and background of our religion. But repeating creeds is not the price of admission into Christianity. Instead of caring whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth, let’s look in the story for inspiration to turn from the way of death to the way of life. Let’s care about our neighbors without jobs or health insurance, face the resentment in our hearts that needs to be released, become activist citizens, and learn to bring our careers in alignment with our highest values. Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, work-places, living rooms, and cafés to support each other in doing things that matter, and let go of old doctrines that don’t.

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The Problem I Have With Easter

All of the great mystics and spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha were clear……authentic spiritual growth is not something that can be given to us. No one else can do the work for us. We have to discover, and then embrace, the courage required to take the inner journey; to shine the light of our consciousness into the shadows of our egoic mind. This is not a journey for the feint of heart.

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Church Music Search 2015

This annual and international church music contest calls authors and composers to create congregational hymns, choral anthems and orchestral music that engage and exclaim liberal Christian theology and associated themes. Download the PDF of this flyer here

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All are welcome

The sign outside the church said “all are welcome.” Perhaps they meant to say all who look like us are welcome, all who think like us are welcome, all who believe like us are welcome, all who …

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Topics: Fiction and Poetry and Sacred Community. 8 Points: Point 3: Inclusive Community. Ages: Adult. Resource Types: Poetry.

Finding a Sense of Place

In 2008, Willamette University purchased 305 acres of forest and farmland in the Eola Hills of Oregon. Zena Forest and Farm, as it is known, became the subject of an interdisciplinary course taught at Willamette University, in which students collaboratively wrote a comprehensive history of Zena, focusing on relationships between people and the land. The result is this book: both a story of a remarkable place and an example of place-based, student-driven pedagogy.

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Progressive Christianity Forum – An Update on a Community Building Experiment

Last month I wrote at some length about a series of gatherings my husband and I are hosting called Progressive Christianity Forums. We launched the first one on February 18, and our second session was last night, March 18. So far, we are extremely pleased with this experiment.

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Practicing Community

Some of the articles in last month’s exploration of sacred community lamented the difficulty in creating a community where one is supported and valued for who one is, where one can be vulnerable and real. Some had encountered such communities, usually when a group faced real issues together over a period of time. Usually the creation of such a community seemed just to happen. It was not planned. It raises the question of what, if anything, spiritual communities and groups can do to break down barriers between individuals and provide a place where participants can create a closer connection.

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Call to Worship for a Sacred Community

Welcome! One thing is for certain. We are all welcome. This is the Jesus way. He called people to him; he asked people to come to him; he welcomed them; he got cranky with his disciples when they tried to prevent anyone, anyone at all coming to him. He ate with outcasts, those despised; he befriended tax collectors, those regarded as thieves; he encouraged children, usually ignored in adult community, to sit on his knees; he had meals with the elite and the riffraff; he conversed publicly with women although that was taboo; unlike the religious leaders of his day, he sought the company of all kinds and types of people, to affirm them, to challenge them, to call them to an abundant way of life. So we are all welcome. This is the Jesus way.

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Thesis for a New Reformation

The traditional Christian church with its traditional message and image is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It happened in Europe a long time ago, and is happening now in the US. More and more people who try to do good identify themselves as secular humanists rather than Christians. More and more Christians identify themselves as progressives for whom the traditional gospel story is meaningless. It really is time to rethink and reform how we understand both church and world.

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