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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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The Church’s Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within

There is a strange silence in churches about biblical and theological scholarship. A huge knowledge gap exists between the pulpit and the pew. Consequently, many Christians cannot reconcile their belief system with modernity. Paul Jones explores seven secrets that jeopardize the nature and purpose of the church. These secrets, he asserts, must be exposed to restore the church to vigor and vitality.

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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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A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better

“Bessler makes an innovative argument about the question of the historical Jesus and he makes it well. He challenges my own skepticism about the historical Jesus, awaking me from my skeptical slumbers.” — Clark Williamson, Christian Theological Seminary emeritus

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We’re Really Like the Onions

From the ‘Sing Young, Sing Joyfully’ collection

We’re really like the onions
With skins beneath our skin.
Each face has ways of masking
The private worlds within.

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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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“Let me make this perfectly CLEAR … “

CLEAR is what I want to feel and be when it comes to something that means as much to me as FAITH. I want to be at peace with what I believe and choose to say and do, with regard to my way of living in faith. I want to own it whole-heartedly. I don’t want to apologize or make excuses for beliefs that don’t make sense, saying things like, “You just have to take that in faith. Someday it will make sense to me, even if it doesn’t now. God’s ways are not our ways.” With Clear Faith, I am at peace.

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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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Community is a Necessity

Every living being is driven to be a part of community. Newborns of every species cannot survive without community. Who would feed them? Who would train them in survival tactics? So the issue we humans have to struggle with is, “What kind of human community?”

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Redeeming the Bones: A Ritual of Participation

The dry bones raised by Ezekiel are a metaphor for those who died in the service of God’s justice: those who died working to restore God’s distributive justice-compassion to God’s Earth, and who themselves never saw the transformation. The army of dry bones is an army exiled from justice. Fairness demands that if Jesus was resurrected into an Earth transformed into God’s realm of justice-compassion, then all the other martyrs who died too soon should also be raised with him. “But in fact,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” It is the Christ – the transformed and transfigured post-Easter Jesus – who has started that general resurrection, which restores justice-compassion to a transformed Earth. The transformation has begun with Jesus, and continues with you and me – IF we sign on to the program.

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On Sacred Communities

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.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Church Music

The lyrics of the hymns and praise and worship songs of the church are, outside of the Bible, the way most people establish their belief system, which is reflected in the way they think about and live their faith. The lyrics may be good or bad, perceptive or trite, and may or may not teach sound theological concepts. Christians should carefully consider what they are singing because it shapes their theological perspective whether they realize it or not.

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The Once and Future Scriptures: Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church

“This collection of essays by Brisbane Anglican scholars, pastors and teachers . . . leads us deeper into both our treasured heritage and the future which God s Word is still creating. We are indebted to them.” —Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, Anglican Church of Australia

“… a courageous and thoughtful attempt to meet the need for ever-new and ever-fresh encounters with the biblical text.” —Focus

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – The Bible

We need to acknowledge that the final week in Jesus’ life is a blending of separate biblical accounts. In other words, the story grows and develops as each successive gospel writer imaginatively retold the story. There may be some historical memory in their stories, but the details are not historical.

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“The Wandering Soul” by Luanne Hunt – John Denver’s Previously Unrecorded Masterpiece

Star Creek Entertainment recording artist Luanne Hunt offers this new rendition of a song that John Denver wrote but never recorded. According to Denver’s autobiography, “Take Me Home,” he wrote the tune in Santa Fe, NM about three years before his untimely death in a small plane crash over the coast of California.

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