You Are Our Blessing

Untitled design (45)In the past two years, we have seen our mission thrive to bring online Christian learning opportunities into parishes across the nation. We believe that what we do gives people the tools to deepen their understanding and their spiritual lives. Watching you use these tools, ask questions, share ideas, and grow in spirit and learning gives our work its meaning and purpose.

Today, we thank God for those of you who are instructors, whose wisdom offers light in a world that can sometimes seem very dark.

We thank God for the technology, and the people who create it. They offer such unheard-of opportunities for learning and growth.

And most of all, we humbly thank God for you, the Christians who work alongside us, sharing your ideas, exchanging information, working together to grow in understanding of God, God’s creation and one another.

A blessed Thanksgiving to you and to those whom you love.



Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenk

Tim Schenk

Today, as individuals, families, and congregations prepare to experience Advent, we are launching anew Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenk For Individuals and For Groups. The creator of the extremely popular Lent Madness devotional and writer of Dog in the Manger: Finding God in Christmas Chaos, one of Tim’s great gifts as a priest is helping Christians experience church seasons with energy and devotion. His class is a great resource for people who want to experience a holy Advent.

Advent can be tricky. We want to wait with Mary, look at the stars in wonder with the wise men, hold our breath in anticipation of the miracle that we know will come to Bethlehem. At the same time, parties and parades go on around us and the temptation to spend, spend, spend meets us every time we step out the door or take even the tiniest peek at the internet. How can we reconcile a holy Advent with the holiday season? Tim has some thoughts on this point and some excellent guidance on Advent in general — why we do what we do in church; how to focus our energy on participating in these rituals of waiting for Christ’s birth.

As you consider how you will experience this unique season in your home and in your church, consider using Tim’s class. If you would like to learn more, please enjoy this preview.

Screenshot 2015-11-22 09.07.01



Online Reflection Resources for Advent


On Sunday, we launched Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for individuals and for groups. In this class, Bishop Susan Goff, bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia, recommends taking some time every day to pray for the coming of Christ. Today, I would like to offer some suggestions for online resources that might help you take those few minutes every day to pray during the Advent season. As you consider how you wish to reflect on Jesus’ coming this Advent, you might consider incorporating these resources into your plans.

Loyola Press offers 3-minute retreats, an excellent resource for any Christian who wants to take a short break for prayer and reflectionScreenshot 2015-11-18 10.26.45. The retreats offer music, images,
short reflections, and prompts for prayer. Personally, I have found this resource to be particularly helpful in getting me away from the world’s business and focusing my mind on prayer.

If you find it useful to orient your prayers around daily meditations or reflections, Upper Room Ministries offers Upper Room Daily Reflections, each of which includes a short reflection and then offers prompts for prayer, readings from scripture, and reflections on a saint, which users can utilize as they wish. Users may choose to participate interactively with others or alone, and may, if they wish, sign up to have the reflections sent to them every day through email or download the Upper Room Daily Devotional app. The Forward Movement also offers Forward Day By Day, which includes daily reflections, links to readings, and links to information about saints and prayers related to saints’ days.

I hope that you find these resources useful as you prepare to experience the anticipation and hope of the Advent season. To find out more about what Susan Goff offers in Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, please enjoy this preview of the class.

Screenshot 2015-11-15 13.32.53



Just Launched: Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year with Susan Goff


Today, we launched Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year with Susan Goff for individual study and for groups. As I write this post, I am sitting in a coffee shop that is playing Christmas carols a week and a half before Thanksgiving and two weeks before the beginning of Advent. If people bemoan the start of the holiday season inching earlier every year, what about people who try to experience a holy Advent? On the one hand, we prepare for and anticipate the coming of Jesus into our midst at Christmas time. On the other hand, we have already been nudged toward a Christmas activity buzz for two weeks before Advent even begins.

In this class, Bishop Susan Goff of the Diocese of Virginia offers guidance on how to experience a holy Advent in the midst of holiday season frenzy. She offers ways of thinking about the coming of Christ in three tenses. We anticipate the birth of Christ in the past, the coming of Christ into our daily lives in the present, and Christ’s return to us in the future that Christians anticipate when we pray for God’s kingdom to come to us here on Earth. Bishop Goff also offers specific devotional practices to help us anticipate the coming of Christ during the Advent season.

To get a sense of what Bishop Goff offers in this class, please enjoy this preview.

Screenshot 2015-11-15 13.32.53

Your Thoughts on How to Be a Crazy Christian

Bishop Curry

Three ingredients go into creating a great learning experience: an inspiring subject, a wise instructor, and most importantly, student energy and ideas. Today, we are going to highlight student comments from How to Be a Crazy Christian with Michael Curry to show just how greatly student input adds to the learning experience. Here, please read students’ insights, experiences and perspectives on being a crazy Christian.

This student lives the life of a crazy Christian:

Nearly 30 years ago, my husband returned to school to become a full time United Methodist minister. Our income went from about 35,000 dollars a year to 13, 000. We had 3 teenage children, left our 4 bedroom home on 27 acres of wooded land in upstate NY, and entered the unknown. Certainly in the world’s terms that seems crazy. Yet the call to my husband to pastor Christ’s people support life long Christians and drew many others into a relationship with Christ. As his wife I left home and friends and familiar Christian community, but discovered home is where you make it and there were many opportunities to learn that God does provide abundantly for those who love him.

This student notes a common critique of Christians in the world:

I think the world already thinks that Christians are crazy, but not for the same reasons that Bishop Curry is talking about. In fact, many of the sins he listed as ones that the world might list for the Church (bigotry, etc. – think Westboro Baptist and the like). I believe that we need to get back to that Jesus/scriptural kind of crazy.

to which comment other students respond with hope:

I guess we will just have to be the other kind of crazy as a counter!


When I started talking about trying to live out the Gospel, some in my family thought I had joined a cult. It was a foreign concept to them, and easier to conceive of stereotypes than engage me. Over time, most came around, but it took a lot of love and patience. Many came to trust in my transformation by watching me over time.

This student offers examples of looking outside ourselves, focusing on acting the world instead of on ourselves:

It’s easy to focus on what we think we hear from God, which is often self-focused. Crazy is discerning God’s call for us to bring the Gospel into our daily life and live it. We work for God, so it’s necessary to take a stand …When I’m in the checkout line, if i am so consumed with my time and getting my things together that I can’t acknowledge the person who is serving me at the cash register with a smile or a kind word, then I am not living a life of Christ….If I don’t put myself outside the parish walls and use my unique talents to help others, then I am not living a life in Christ. if I find myself in a work situation where I know abuse is occurring and I don’t stand up and question what I think I see, even if it costs me my job, then I am not being a crazy Christian.

Take the class and add your perspectives. It is available for groups if you want to take it in a group setting with members of your congregation. Share with others your understanding of the lives of crazy Christians. For a preview of the class, click here:

Screenshot 2015-11-08 08.03.14

How to Be a Crazy Christian with Michael Curry: Celebrating the New Presiding Bishop

Bishop Curry

Congratulations to the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry. To celebrate we’re inviting you to take his online class, How to Be a Crazy Christian with Michael Curry. We’re re-launching it because, whether you take the class on your own or take the one formatted for groups with other people, you will get a lot out of this class. It’s one of the most popular classes that we have ever produced. We love this class. You love this class. Congregations love this class; it has formed the basis of many adult formation classes and classes introducing the Episcopal Church to new members.

But the main reason that we are launching it again because we want to celebrate with you Michael Curry’s installation as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The historical significance of his installation is worth celebrating in its own right, but we also rejoice in Michael Curry’s exciting ideas about where the Episcopal Church should go and his powerful ability to move people to embrace his vision of what the church can be. So it seems like a great time to re-introduce you to some of Presiding Bishop Curry’s ideas about what it means to be a Christian in the twenty-first century — what the serious, joyful, crazy business of acting as Christians means in today’s world.

Take How to Be a Crazy Christian with Michael Curry and learn even more reasons to celebrate his installation as Presiding Bishop. To find out more about the class, please enjoy this preview.

Screenshot 2015-11-08 08.03.14

Advent Online Resource: Abundant Life Garden Project

On Sunday, we launched Digital Strategies for Churches with Kyle Oliver for individual and group learning. This course offers guidelines for churches on reaching out to their congregations and communities online and also on utilizing online resources to help with Christian formation. As we Watermove toward the season of Advent, I suggest that people who are looking for good online resources try The Abundant Life Garden Project. This is a terrific online resource for people who work with children, and it would make a wonderful Advent program.

Produced by Episcopal Relief and Development, the Abundant Life Garden Project is a 5-segment interactive education program oriented around the themes of water, seeds, soil, animals, and harvest. It’s designed for children from ages 4-12, and it can be utilized for different kinds of program, from children’s church to Sunday school to a weekday evening program. It includes a series of prayers specifically oriented toward the Advent season that can be used in children’s church services or simply as a resource for Advent prayers and reflections for each lesson.

Each lesson starts with a reflection question and activity focused on the theme for that day. For example, for the segment on water, the children draw pictures in response to the question, “How do we use water?” Each segment includes activities from which educators can select according to the type of event and the type of class with which they are working. ThScreenshot 2015-11-04 12.48.11ese include child-appropriate prayers and meditations related to the resource in question. They also include stories about individuals and families with whom Episcopal Relief and Development has worked who have lacked access to water, seeds, etc. The stories include optional videos to supplement them and follow-up questions and activities that ask the children to put themselves in these families’ positions.

Different activities can be used in different contexts. For example, one activity from the water segment that would be appropriate to a field trip or camp activity asks children to practice walking a distance of 10-15 minutes with a bucket and bringing back clean water so they can see what it’s like. Another activity, more appropriate for Sunday school, asks children to consider a story from scripture about the gift of water and to do art projects related to that story.

Each segment focuses children’s attention on the great abundance of gifts in God’s world. Each asks children to consider what life would be like if poverty blocked access to that resource and invites them to consider what Christians are doing in the world to give all people access to the great resources of this world. These are ideal messages to give our young ones as we teach them
to listen to the voice in the wilderness calling us to prepare the way for Jesus. I encourage anyone who is interested in Christian education to look into this program. Here is an introduction to the program, if you want to learn more about it.

If you are interested in learning more about online resources and the church, check out this preview of Kyle’s class.

Screenshot 2015-11-01 09.55.26