Bishop John Shelby Spong ~ June 16, 1931 – September 12, 2021
Bishop Spong provided a much needed place for those of us who did not connect with traditional theology. We love you Bishop Spong. You will be missed! Funeral services will be held at St. Peter’s, Morristown, NJ and at St. Paul’s, Richmond, VA. Dates and times will be announced as soon as they are available

    • Community Christian Church, Springfield
    • Dr. Roger Ray holds masters and doctoral degrees in divinity from Vanderbilt University as well as a bachelors in philosophy from Murray State University. He was a 2004 Merriell Fellow at Harvard Divinity School. Dr. Ray is a regular opinion writer for the Springfield News-Leader. He is also the author of “Progressive Faith and Practice” and “Progressive Conversations” (available on Amazon) and various journal and magazine columns. Dr. Rays' sermons have been published in several professional journals and popular collections. He had 28 years of experience in pastoral ministry before becoming the founding pastor of Community Christian Church in August of 2008.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

Let’s take care of one another. Let’s share our resources whether that is money or toilet paper. Let’s inject humor into our conversation and encourage one another. This crisis will be over one day, and when it is, let’s have carried on in a way that we can be proud of.

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Redemptive Suffering

The world will now be faced with a time of moral testing as Covid 19 spreads from pole to pole. The early response of hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer is not an encouraging sign predicting whether our better angels will be revealed or our fearful, selfish demons.

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Is Stupid Worse than Evil?

In the desperate final days of Bonhoeffer’s life, he wrote from prison about the futility of trying to talk to stupid people about facts, as many of his neighbors and fellow church folk simply rolled along with the Nazi movement. M. Scott Peck defined evil as a kind of “militant ignorance,” a refusal to deal with the known facts of reality.

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Video Sermon: Changing the World, Changing Me

Changing the world vs/and changing ourselves. Today we consider the remarkable life of Eleanor Roosevelt who was first lady during the New Deal, WWII, and was our first ambassador to the United Nations.

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Listen to the Poet

As Leonard Bernstein said, art doesn’t stop a war or change historical events, but it can change how we see the world, how we think, and in that way, it changes how we act, how we vote, and how we recreate the world. This talk adds to the advocacy of Leander Keck in advocating that churches employ art, poetry, music, and architecture to “astonish our souls,” to feed our being after the deprivations of a hard and hate filled world.

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Renegotiating Love (evolution and symbiosis)

It seems like falling in love and staying in love should be easy. However, clearly, it is one of the most difficult things that almost everyone wants to do. At least a part of the problem rests with an out of date conception of what marriage must or should be, coupled with fears rooted in our earliest years and our connection to our parents.

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Personal Faith and Public Policy

Archibald MacLeish wrote, “Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” We progressives generally agree with allowing faith to be personal and resist making any one religion’s beliefs a matter of public policy.

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A Preference for Facts

Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. In fact, faith based on rational evidence has been a part of the study of theology for hundreds of years. This sermon discusses the use of logic in philosophy in the study of probability, and references Bayes’ Theorem, (Thomas Bayes was a Presbyterian minister!) as we apply critical thinking to our religious beliefs.

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The Price of Defending Whiteness

Why is race still a thing in America? 150 years after the end of slavery, 50 years after the integration of public schools, a decade after the election of a black president, why is racism still such a powerful influence in our culture.

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The Macro View of Economics and Time

The current Keynesian economic system is on its last legs. The consolidation of wealth of the industrial revolution brought on the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the resulting war manufacturing of WWII created the middle class.

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The Emerging Church (from the ashes of the old church)

Paraphrasing St. Oscar Romero, “If a church is not publicly opposed to war, to murder, to political assassination, of what use is that church?” While we may hope that churches will avoid wading into partisan politics, we cannot be tricked into believing that ethics is the same thing as politics. As the USA inches closer to war with Iran and ignores even the executive order of Ronald Regan forbidding political assassination, the prophetic church must now do the one thing for which we exist: speak truth to power.

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In This Life

Though most western religious traditions seem to promise some kind of afterlife, what if, as Martin Hägglund articulately argued, our limited mortal life is all there is? Our days, being limited in number, become more valuable, and our work becomes more meaningful. Without eternity, preserving the earth becomes more imperative. Though many spiritual teachers give assurances they cannot support with evidence, this sermon deals with morality in a matter-of-fact manner.

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Christmas Now and Then

If we pay attention, the Christmas story is a mirror held up for us to see that we live in a country where the government locks thousands of migrant children into dog cages, sexually abusing some, torturing others, and allowing many to die while the church is largely compliant and silent. And we seriously wonder if this government might actually win election approval from poor church goers in a few months. Merry Christmas?

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What I Learned From My Critics

Critics are often bullies who offer nothing of substance of themselves in public but they snipe at those who do enter the arena to try to make substance progress. Soren Kierkegaard called it “being stomped to death by geese.

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(Dys)function and Family: Holiday Guilt Trips

Holidays have always been challenging as families from divergent views try to gather around one table and reconnect. Now, in our deeply polarized political environment in which most of us only expose ourselves to media that confirms our biases, even people with DNA and history in common find one another to be so profoundly “other” that they can barely tolerate one another.

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Incrementalism

The weight of the status quo bears down on even the well intended and well informed so that we assume that all change comes by degrees, in small incremental moves. It persuades us to believe that only moderate progressives can ever win election and that most of what progressives want (universal health care, an end to racism, aggressive work to save the planet, a universal basic income, a compassionate immigration policy) is unobtainable.

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Life is a shipwreck, remember to sing in the lifeboats

To say that something “only” has a placebo effect does not have to be seen as a criticism. In fact, the placebo effect is proof that we can heal ourselves. But just as our minds can help us to be healthy, even to control pain, our minds can similarly make us sick, even to hasten our death.

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Healthcare – America Taken Hostage

Access to healthcare is a spiritual issue, deeply rooted in a compassionate world view. Currently, in America, more than 40 million people are uninsured and millions more have insurance with such a high deductible that they cannot afford to use it. It is estimated that 22,000 Americans die prematurely every year because of a lack of access to healthcare.

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Columbus Was A Jerk

America has two original sins. The sin of African slavery is obvious to most of us, but less obvious to Americans who do not live near a reservation was the genocide of Native Americans.

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Drugs, Race, and Prisons

Unfortunately, putting non-violent offenders and drug users in jail has become so profitable that we continue to incarcerate more and more people and we keep them in prison for longer and longer sentences.

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When Our Emotions Become Our Prison

About one in five adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness but none of us can be held up to the light as an example of mental health. While we all have issues (triggers, quirks, hot buttons, etc.) rather than focusing on psychological problems there is a whole school of study around positive psychology that marries well to a spiritual path in which we hope to grow, become stronger and more insightfully aware of ourselves and others. Our emotions can become a mental prison or, we can take charge of our journey and become increasingly healthy and subsequently, free.

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Do Something!

The majority of Americans are horrified by our government’s inaction on gun control. Most voters, by a large margin, want enhanced background checks, they want to close the gun show loophole, and they want to outlaw military style assault rifles.

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Overwhelmed or Just a Short Attention Span?

Noam Chomsky has warned us that our present moment is threatened by twin challenges that could end human life entirely: global climate collapse and nuclear war. Progressives can add to those nightmare scenarios, concerns about refugees, undocumented children in cages, addiction, gun violence, income disparity, a broken justice system and a corrupt government, etc., etc.

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Jesus Never Laughed and Socrates Never Cried

Ironically, though our present moment in history is in possession of amazing means of communication through the internet, social media, cell phones, and virtually free international calling, we are beset with unprecedented loneliness. Somehow, our emotional health has not kept up with our technological capability!

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Meditations: Post-theistic Prayers for Progressive Congregations

Roger Ray’s frank and thoughtful meditations are a welcome addition to the growing library of liturgical resources for those who no longer subscribe to the dogmas and superstitions of traditional religion.

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Capitalism vs Socialism

Socialism” has become a political scare word used to frighten voters away from progressive programs intended to expand health care coverage, make higher education available to lower income families, and to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Spiritual people should not allow their compassionate instincts to be corralled by political propaganda. Let’s get totally honest about what is being said when we debate capitalism and socialism.

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Jesus: Without Christmas or Easter

What if Jesus was not divine? … Some will hear this as liberating good news, and others may find this to be shocking and disheartening. Still, the best path for any faith community is to follow the truth where it leads.

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A Celebration of Marriage

We knit our hearts and intentions together in this solemn moment to resolve individually and as family, friends, and community to honor and support these two in the vows they now make.

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Living Beyond Regret

Though our culture tends to praise youth while apparently being embarrassed by aging (offering a multi-billion dollar industry to hide it) the ancient sages did not see it that way. In fact, even though very many young people are very smart, it is difficult to be wise without first living a long time. The aged, according to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Marcus Aurelius owe a debt of meaningful guidance to the world. Those who can retire should retire to something rather than simply retiring from work.

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Devaluing Humans

A school district in Pennsylvania, in attempt to collect about $20,000 (against an $8 million budget) of unpaid lunch room bills, sent letters to parents with accounts in arrears threatening to have their children placed in foster care if they did not pay. It forces us to wonder how people whose careers are in the care and nurture of children could become so callous and lost?

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Evidence Based Faith

Haud Ignota Loquor (Speak not of what is not known)

What is “evidence based faith” and how does it inform the progressive faith movement? This important lecture was delivered in April at the Anderson SC Progressive Theology Forum and in June at the Secular Liturgies Conference in Exeter, England. This recording was made at the Annual Conference of the Emerging Church in Springfield, MO.

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The Demand For Gun Safety

Two mass shooting events took place on Saturday morning, August 3, in Texas, and that night in Dayton, Ohio. In both incidents, the shooter was stopped, the first in 6 minutes, the second in less than a minute. Still, in both cases people were killed and many more wounded because of the insanely powerful, military style weapons available for purchase all over America. This cannot go on.

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We Are All Connected (but I got mine!)

Physicists, Buddhist monks, and Christian mystics affirm in unity that “we are all connected.” This is fundamental to a spiritual world view. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars, if others are poor. I can never be truly healthy while others languish without healthcare. The opposite of spirituality, a perspective sadly seen not only within secular culture but also at the heart of many religious communities, is to see the world only from the perspective of how to advance our own cause, increase our wealth, comfort and sense of security.

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America’s Diseases: Depression, Addiction, and Suicide – Part 2

Dr. Roger Ray (a pastor) and Dr. Paul Thomlinson (a psychologist) team up in this message to talk about the root causes of addiction, depression, and suicide and to discuss best practices (and some of the worst practices) in treatment.

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Missed Connection – Part 1

The most effective treatment for depression or addiction, the best way to prevent suicide, is to strengthen a person’s connections to people, meaningful work, and nature.

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Against Giving Up

This sermon invites listeners to see the families seeking asylum, not as illegal immigrants but as fully human people who deserve our respect and compassion. These brown children forced into cages are the princes and princesses of Central America.

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