Experience a Single Faith Tradition

Offered each month of the year, these 5-day courses are designed to inspire and educate people who are called to serve in an Interfaith capacity in our increasingly diverse world or for those who are interested in learning more about a specific faith tradition. Participants immerse themselves in a deeply creative and nurturing environment to develop and deepen their personal theological perspectives, while also expanding their capacity to serve the spiritually and culturally diverse world in which we live; or simply to gain a greater understanding of those from different cultures or faith paths than theirs. Many individuals enroll in Thematic Module Intensives to discern their call to ministry or chaplaincy, prior to applying to our Interfaith Studies Certificate Course. Some attend because they have an interest in increasing their knowledge and understanding or particular faith tradition.

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Six ways for moving forward beyond our own dying

… the familiar point that mainline and evangelical congregations are weighted toward elderly constituents and have little appeal to younger cohorts.

Okay, okay. Old news to anyone who has been observing the changing shape of Christianity in America. But the question remains, what do we do about it?

I have six suggestions for moving on to a better future.

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Principles and guidelines for interfaith dialogue

Dear interfaith colleagues around the world: This compendium of concise and handy resources provides insight into the interfaith movement and its treasure chest of wisdom and learning opportunities. This collection explores the goals, types and stages of dialogue and touches on issues such as interfaith etiquette, listening, peace-building, hospitality, respectful presence and dialogue-versus-debate. These principles and guidelines are useful for those who are new to interfaith as well as for veterans of interfaith work.

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Pastor2Pew

A new and innovative ministry is now available exclusively to Progressive pastors and congregations: Pastor2Pew. Our mission is to produce timely materials to assist progressive preachers in sermon preparation, and generally inform congregations about progressive theology.

The centerpiece is a collection of video interviews with prominent pastors following their approach to the lectionary text of the week. We will be looking over their shoulders (as it were) as they move from meditating on the text to its final form.

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In So Many Ways, We Have Already Won

Colonization tragically forced many indigenous people to forget and forsake our innate connection to Earth. But many of us today are beginning to remember. What is taking place in Standing Rock is awakening what once lied dormant in so many of our people: the Earth is our Mother, and Water is Life.

It was late at night when I drove into the conjoined Oceti Sakowin and Red Warrior camp in Standing Rock. I set up camp in the rain with my sisters, crawled into bed, and eagerly anticipated waking up wrapped in the energy of unity that next morning. That is exactly what happened.

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What an entrepreneur does as church leader

Can people who draw energy primarily from within themselves be effective as entrepreneurial church leaders?

In a word, yes. For the entrepreneurial role isn’t about extroversion or introversion. In fact, some of the most effective entrepreneurs in business are introverts. Bill Gates, of Microsoft, for example. Also Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook; Marissa Meyer, of Yahoo; investor Warren Buffett.

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Look At The Unknown

Ever tried so hard to solve a problem that you thought your head would explode? You’re not alone. Sometimes our obsession to figure something out gets in our way of finding the answer.

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The Chaplaincy Institute offers education programs for those with a unique calling to spiritual service

About our Seminary Programs At The Chaplaincy Institute, we believe that the world is in need of the gifts and talents of every individual called to service. Our Interfaith seminary is dedicated to supporting the unique call …

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Learn New Things

The path forward is clearly marked: reach beyond our walls, communicate more aggressively, stop relying on Sunday worship, encourage clergy to be entrepreneurs and not chaplains, form small groups, turn our funds to mission work, seek to change people’s lives. Many congregations are trying it. But it’s like installing a swimming pool. Everything is new, and the new things that need to be done now are the hard ones.

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Look Outward, Reach 3 Audiences

The work of the religious professional must look “beyond the walls” of the church, beyond the comfortable conversations we have with people we know, beyond in-house concerns, beyond the shared language of our years together.

To engage with the larger world beyond our walls, we can’t just send more people our latest in-house, inward-facing conversations. We need to address the needs, concerns, yearnings, questions and personalities of that larger world.

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Make Communications a Major Draw on Your Time

You should be spending as much as 50% of your time on communications, I told a group of clergy at the Kenyon Institute’s “Beyond Walls” writing seminar for religious professionals.

That means time spent blogging to the vast world outside your walls, engaging with prospects, and communicating with your flocks. It means email campaigns, as well as ad hoc emailing. It means creative use of social media, especially Facebook. It means messaging. But always, three audiences, and distinct messages tailored to the questions, hungers, issues, yearnings that actually occupy each audience.

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Leadership Transition: A Time When Many Churches Go Astray

Let’s talk about leadership transition, namely, calling a new pastor. This is where many congregations go astray, because they make transition more difficult than it needs to be, because they infuse the process with “magical thinking,” and because they fail to complete the transition process.

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Jewish – Muslim – Christian Youth Peace Camp

This a remarkable film about interfaith cooperation among youth here in Canada. We Canadians are proud that this kind of interfaith youth cooperation is taking place in Canada. Here is a description of the film followed by a YouTube link that will enable you to view this must-see film.

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Seeing Abuse

For 20 years, I went from one abusive situation to another. A small group, usually longtime members who resented my efforts toward growth and mission, believed they had the privilege and the duty to make my life miserable.

They left snide notes, sometimes anonymous, at my desk. They berated me in parish meetings and made sure I knew my salary was on the line. They started whispering campaigns and held secret meetings that they made sure I knew about. One warden sat in my office and said, “We are going to destroy you, Tom.”

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Gender-inclusive Bathroom Signs

Last month, PCU leadership discussed our need to respond to anti-transgender rhetoric and discrimination in our society. It’s easy to condemn bigotry but harder to think of creative ways to respond. We determined that we would find a way to promote gender-inclusive bathroom signs in progressive churches.

We found an organization making such signs, and they have agreed to sell them to any church who wants one at a discount of 40% from their regular price. Just go to their website, pick out the sign you want to purchase (can choose color, shape, and image) and put in the following code: PCU40. You can read more about the campaign here.

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Journey of Faith Sermon – Rev. Fred Plumer – IUCC on the 25th Anniversary of Open and Affirming

  View Video of Fred’s Sermon at IUCC on June 12th, 2016 My story starts 35 years ago when I entered seminary. Pacific School of Religion is the oldest seminary on the west coast and has always …

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‘Open and Affirming’: Irvine Church is a Haven for LGBT

On a hot day in June 1991, about 130 church members packed the Irvine United Congregational Church sanctuary. The air conditioner wasn’t working. At least, that’s how it felt. “It was tense,” said the Rev. Fred Plumer, the church’s founder and pastor at the time. “There was a lot of excitement and anticipation.” They’d all come to cast their votes. The issue? Should they become an “open and affirming church?” In other words, should the church welcome LGBT members?

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Issue Isn’t “Graying,” It’s Not Enough New Folks

  Beware the “graying” of the church – says the common wisdom. And I confess that I have contributed to that concern. My reasoning has been: as the average age of mainline congregants surges past 60, attracting …

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