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

Five tips for a God-centered December

I might be “preaching to the choir,” but these five December tips are worth remembering.

First, December might mean Advent to church worship planners. But to the people around us it means a strange combination of joy and sorrow, anticipation and dread, fond remembrance and unbearable grief, financial stress and children’s delight.

It’s the season for year-end performance reviews at work, and thus the prospect of lean bonuses, reduced salaries, or layoffs. It’s the season for budgeting, at work, at church and at home, and thus a time when dreams might be doused.

Second, December is a confusing time for church folks. We know the culture’s commercial crush has nothing to do with Jesus. But we also wonder where is God when the difficult month is winding down to January. Why are so many people feeling sad and frustrated when the drumbeat says, “Joy”?

Third, a disconnect can occur as the God of hope whom we seek is put aside so that church can focus on Advent, blue vestments and candles. I know church leaders don’t intend this disconnect. They feel duty-bound to give Advent its due. I wonder, though, whether we are being “churchy” at a time when people need help. Would it bother God if we sang “Silent Night” sooner than December 24?

Fourth, I think churches should stop “business” and focus entirely on worship and pastoral care. Change our fiscal years to June 30. Do performance reviews and salary adjustments in May. Hold annual meetings in July.

Free up all of the congregation’s energies to deal with depression, suicide watches, pastoral care, quiet talks, families reaching out to those without families, and clergy focusing on preaching and healing, not on grappling with stewardship results.

Fifth, we need to look radically outward. If you have homeless persons nearby, this is a time to help. If your community is struggling with racial tension, this is a time to do what Jesus did, namely, show solidarity with the oppressed.

This isn’t a time to pull into ourselves and make sure we get the “perfect Christmas” we desire. The world sees us pulling inside and wants nothing to do with our God.

Instead, we can lift up the God who loved us first, who gave his Son, and who is central to our lives twelve months a year.

Originally published here

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