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Study/Discussion Groups on Religion & Theology

Hi everyone! We are looking for dedicated volunteers to lead and participate in local study/discussion groups on religion, history and theology. You can find local groups and learn more about starting your own by following this link …

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Host a Jesus Seminar on the Road!

Calling all community groups and churches! We are looking for Spring 2015 hosts for Westar’s regional programs, called Jesus Seminars on the Road (JSOR). JSORs bring religion scholars into conversation with interested non-specialists across North America. Led …

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Art Form Methodology

My first experience of the art form methodology was as a participant in the Parish Leadership Colloquy. It was a course designed for clergy by the Ecumenical Institute of Chicago. We gathered for lunch on the second day of the four day event. At the end of each meal the leadership always led us in a conversation. The focus for this conversation was a print of a famous painting by Pablo Picasso—Guernica.

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Bishop Spong on Coming to Self Awareness- Video

Join Ian Lawton, founder of Soulseeds.com, for transformative conversations with renowned spiritual leaders from many traditions as we explore awareness. Beyond all the things that divide us, both from ourselves and each other, awareness brings up back to our essential oneness. Through this conference, you will come to a deeper understanding of your own wholeness and your connection to all else. Together, we can increase the peace, both within and in the world. In this session, Ian interviews Bishop John Shelby Spong on “Coming to Self Awareness.” They cover topics from God, prayer, Jesus’ message, the church, and consciousness.

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Teen Text – Teen Curriculum, grades 9-12 (Electronic)

The lectionary-based TEENTEXT GRADES 9-12 resource helps older youth connect the text on the page with events in their daily lives. These resources guide students into the text, and through a series of open-ended, text-related questions, they begin to see the Bible as a vital, dynamic relevant resource–one that can inform them throughout their lives. These resources enable any interested and committed adult to facilitate the discussions, since the leaders aren’t expected to have THE answer, or to be Biblical scholars or theologians. They simply need to be good listeners and open to their own spiritual growth. This process also allows the students to share leadership.

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Teen Text – Teen Curriculum, grades 6-8 (Electronic)

TeenText is different! Instead of providing youth with answers that “come from the Bible,” these resources meet the students where they are – grappling eagerly and passionately with growing up, becoming who they are. In this educational setting the student is the curriculum, not the written study guide.

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Bible Workbench, Adult Curriculum (Hard Copy)

BibleWorkbench is a lectionary based life-centered biblical resource designed for small group youth and adult education in church and home, for individual study or as an aid to preachers. One of the texts from the Revised Common Lectionary is chosen each Sunday. The exploration begins with encountering the story found in the biblical text. The focus then shifts to how this story is happening in the world around us. Finally the questions turn toward how the story is an event in the lives of the people in the group. The journey through the text seeks life-giving questions that wait to be lived.

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Monthly eBulletin- Prayer within Sacred Community

When Jesus prayed, he found a sense of sacred oneness, when Buddha meditated, he became awake to deeper levels of awareness. No one truly knows the effectiveness of prayer, but one thing is for sure- when we take the time to be still, to slow down, to go inward, we almost always discover something about ourselves and the potential awareness that we are not alone.

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Prayer in Sacred Community

Last month, when we focused on worship and prayer, we had a lot of debate about how we do this with non-traditional concepts of God, especially in church settings. Folks talked fairly easily about private prayer, usually meditative or contemplative, non-formulaic, very personal. They pray, and they find in varying degrees that their times of prayer feed their spirits, enrich their lives, and help shape their decisions and behavior.

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My Struggle with Prayer

Somewhere in that time period one of my parishioners became terribly ill with cancer. They had already done surgery but the cancer came back. She was hospitalized several times and then they tried a new, much stronger chemotherapy that pushed her to the edge of death. It made her horribly sick. Over the years I had come to love this woman like a sister and considered her more than a dear friend. I would have done anything to help her. As I stood next to her bed in the hospital I was frustrated that I could not do more. At one point she opened her eyes, smiled and quietly whispered, “Hi Pastor Fred. Will you pray for me?”

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The Holy Wholly Other

Be still and know what’s going on inside yourself, and after a while your relationship to yourself will change. There will be the One who observes with kindness and patience, and the one that is observed – and after a while you’ll identify more with the kind and patient Observer than with the one who is observed. The compassionate Observer is God. Then you’ll know that God is not some supernatural superhero working miracles in the cosmos. You’ll know instead that God is love even for your worst enemy, who, all to often, is your own selfish self.

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Praying to Love

For many Christians, a supernatural theistic God is a daily reality in their lives, but for many others, this kind of God is simply not there. They long to feel God’s presence and God’s love, but instead they experience emptiness and isolation. They worship God in church, but find that God is not present in the sanctuary. They pray fervently to God in private moments, but realize that their prayers often go unanswered. In the end, there is only silence.2 The biblical character of Job cried out to God in despair, “I cry to you God, but you do not answer. I stand before you, and you don’t even bother to look.”3

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On Prayer and Pentecost

When prayers in Jesus’s name go unanswered, and when unrelenting “knocking on heaven’s door” produces no result – even when bargains are offered (“I’ll stop smoking”) – instead of confronting the possibility that God is not going to intervene, the failure is treated as a “test of faith” that “God has a better plan for me.” But the transformation of human thought is far more powerful than petitions to a discredited god. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, first given by John’s Jesus, descends in tongues of flames on the Christian community gathered in Jerusalem. They are empowered to tell the story of Jesus in every language of the known world. Peter quotes the prophet Joel, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Paul proclaims, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” The imagery of fire represents the outpouring of the presence of sacred being and of creative power. No magic is required.

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More Things are Wrought: A Jungian Excursion

As part of this evolving universe we have our personal psyches, our individual mix of influences that shape and mold our lives and nourish our unique creativity. Amongst the multitude of forces that work within us is a central energy pushing us toward integration and wholeness. This integrating and creative force Jung called the Self.

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A Few Thoughts on Prayer

The indication here is that the answer to prayerful request is not the new bike, not health, peace, or justice, not any of the results that we usually pray for. It is, rather, the gift of the Holy Spirit. What is this gift? It is a heightened awareness of who God is, who you are, and who your neighbor is. The answer to prayer, quite simply, is a level of consciousness that is more in tune with God’s ever-abiding love. Inasmuch as prayer leads to this result, prayer is its own answer! As that awareness grows, we will become ever more conscious of God’s presence. God is always for us, in every way we can imagine and those we can’t. Our task is to become ever more aware of this love, and talking to God can assist that process.

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The Evolving Faith of a Liberal Christian Minister (8): What I Believe about Prayer

This current series of sermons offers me the opportunity to examine and reflect upon my own faith – and I share those reflections with you, not to tell you what you should believe, but to challenge you to examine your own religious convictions.

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