Wisdom from You

Have a farmer’s theology- there’s always

The Big Class with Becca Stevens is over 700 people strong, and the Holy Spirit is clearly at work. Here is what some of you had to say in the discussion forums. We are so glad that this course continues through April 5 — join this life-giving study.

On having a farmer’s theology:

“I like the analogy of a farmer’s theology. I had never thought of spirituality in that context before, but it makes perfect sense. Just like many other biblical precepts can be seen in things in the secular world also. If you leave the garden, animals, or our spiritual life un-tended, they become emaciated or wilted, and eventually wither away to nothingness. I can see the times in my life where I neglected the daily weed and water, and then I wonder why I feel so far from God, like the Spirit is not within me. I order to abide in Him, I need the daily discipline of prayer, study and quiet time in the presence of my Lord. Thank you, Becca, for giving me a visual that I can identify with.” ~Michael A.

“Water and weed is a practical, clear way of walking out our obedience and being a living sacrifice. As an adoptive mom of many kids, I can easily get uninspired by the mundane or the repeated setbacks in their lives. This concise phrase gives me a tangible reminder of daily service. Not to mention if we follow the metaphor, then the farmer does not see fruit for a long time. He hopes. He works. He nurtures, but he’s operating in faith. In hope.” ~Suzanne M.

On the power of just “showing up”:

“Like walking a labyrinth — sometimes it seems you’re getting nowhere … or going in the opposite direction of where you wanted to go … but just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.” ~Judy S.

“As an artist, I can’t always rely on inspiration. Sometimes I just have to start creating. That is true for other things, from cleaning house to going to work. Sometimes inspiration comes. Sometimes it doesn’t. But there is always satisfaction in showing up.” ~Amy Jo G.

“Early in my faith walk, I reached a point where I thought that I was not being fed spiritually in a particular church. A dear sweet saint and pastor took the time to help me understand that we cannot just soak up the good things of being a Christian, but that there are expectations that go with being a Christian. He gently let me know that when I started feeling like I wasn’t being fed spiritually, perhaps I should roll up my sleeves and go to work after consulting the Lord for what it was that He would have me do. Miraculously, spirituality took an exponential leap for me. It was in serving that I received. I reflect back on this lesson that happened over 40 years ago, and it still serves me well to this day. ” ~Michael A.

On “considering the thistle”:

“To me the ‘thistle’ is the thing I turn from or  push aside cause it may be too hard to face at the moment.  I am ever pressing forward to see through the ‘hard’ thistle and to find the peace, beauty, love or learning lesson it has to show me.  I have learned to love not change the ‘thistle’….. what a profound feeling to just love, without the anxiety to try to change!” ~Phyllis S.

On a single act (or “light”) that can change everything:

“I often need the light, and sometimes reflect the light.  Learning to accept light from others really helps us learn to accept God’s unconditional love for us.. In reflecting the light of Christ, through whatever means we have been given allows us a glimpse into what he wants to be to us.” ~Ken M.

The Big Class is now live!

A Simple Path to a Deeper Spiritual Life with Becca Stevens

free worldwide from today through Easter Sunday

Join us for a wonderfully inspiring and thought-provoking course on deepening our spiritual lives. Becca newbeccaStevens shares insight and wisdom from her years of ministry and service as an Episcopal priest and as founder of Thistle Farms, the social enterprise for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets.  Because, as Becca shares, a deeper spirituality comes from the daily practice of loving and serving the world.

The Big Class also offers a sneak peek at Becca’s new book, Letters from the Farm, which releases in June. Take this course at your own pace with people from around the world over the next couple of weeks. We pray that it spurs you to reflection, conversation, and action as you deepen your own spiritual journey. Click here for more information or to get started.

Thank you to our sponsors, Church Publishing, Forward Movement, the Episcopal Church, and Trinity Wall Street.

Practicing Resurrection

If you’ve never read Wendell Berry’s poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, you won’t know how much Becca Stevens’ ministry “practices resurrection” and embodies that nonsensical love for the world and its people that so characterizes Jesus’ own ministry. (Take a moment to read the poem by clicking the link above: you won’t regret it.)newbecca

Registration for The Big Class: A Simple Path to a Deeper Spiritual Life opens today; the free course runs March 22 – April 5. We’re thrilled to be offering this course free to the world and are grateful to our sponsors, The Episcopal Church, Trinity Wall Street, Church Publishing, and Forward Movement. Over four lessons, Becca shares the lessons and insights she’s gained in her ministry and offers wisdom on journeying into a deeper spiritual life. (Click here for more information or to register.)

But the point of the Berry’s poem — and Becca Stevens’ ministry — is that living a spiritual life and doing the work of Christ is simple: love God, love God’s creation and God’s people, celebrate Jesus’ power to redeem, recreate, refresh, resurrect. Becca, through her various ministries and through Thistle Farms, has seen death — living death — but has also witnessed resurrection. By paying attention, loving and celebrating what the world would see as wasted or maimed or undeserving of attention and service, Becca’s ministry has seen the power of new life, of what was dead becoming new again and flowering in a harvest that is much larger than we may ever know.

Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

In The Big Class, Becca invites us to a similar way of viewing the world, and reminds us not to worry about forging some deep spiritual path: just show up, get your hands dirty, dig in the soil God has given you to work with, and the new life will come. We hope you’ll join us in this mission and share it with anyone who may be longing for new life.

The Big Class: A Simple Path to a Deeper Spiritual Life with Becca Stevens

You don’t have to worry about being inspired. Just do the work of daily spiritual growth and the inspiration will come.

We are so excited for our next Big Class, which runs 3/22 – 4/5 with Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene newbeccaand Thistle Farms. In “A Simple Path to a Deeper Spiritual Life,” Becca will help us explore what the spiritual life really means: how to believe, to hope, to experience resurrection, to be inspired. In four lessons, she shares what she has learned in her years of ministry and service, and how this wisdom can enrich our own journeys. She reminds us about the importance of just showing up, of believing, of surrendering, of giving ourselves space. And that love heals and changes and brings about resurrection and justice.

This short, free course will be open to all from March 22 – April 5; registration opens this Sunday, March 15. We invite you to join us and to share this course with friends and neighbors. Our prayer is that, as we enter the season of Easter, this course may renew and inspire our journeys to resurrection.

ChurchNext for Groups launches today

fishers of men

We are called to live and learn in community, and we here at ChurchNext are committed to shaping and forming disciples in this way. When we launched two years ago, we did so with the aim of offering more ways for Christians and seekers to gather in community to learn, question, pray, and grow, making use of technology to enable learning in non-traditional settings. Our courses offer people time to stop, listen, think, pray, and discuss with others in their church –anytime, anywhere. Online discussions enable folks to chat whenever they wish — and from wherever they are.

And now, with ChurchNext for Groups, you’ll be able to use the rich content of our courses in small group settings. ChurchNext for Groups offers the same videos and discussion questions, but in a format that enables people to watch the videos together, on one screen, and then have in-person discussions. In this way we hope that the library of educational resources that ChurchNext offers can also meet the needs of those hungering for physical community and connection.

We are thrilled to launch the first fifteen ChurchNext for Groups courses today:

How to Pray with Christopher Martin

When We Get Angry with God with Laurie Brock

Creeds and Commitments of the Prayer Book with Jason Fout

Handling the Work-Life Balance with David Gray

Praying with Icons with Randall Warren

The Gospel of Mark with David Lose

Creating Common Good 1: Economic Inequality with Bishop Julio Murray

An American Prayer Book, A Global Prayer Book with Tom Ferguson

The Episcopal Tradition with Frank Wade

Culture and Leadership with TREC (Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church)

Mission and Leadership with TREC

Reimagining Church Leadership with TREC

How to Take a Sabbath with MaryAnn McKibben Dana

How to Simplify Your Life with Mark Scandrette

Each ChurchNext for Groups course comes with a Facilitator’s Guide and a Participant’s Guide that you can print out and use in small-group meetings, either at church, in people’s homes, wherever you’d like to meet. The Facilitator’s Guide is designed to empower lay people to lead small groups, since it doesn’t necessarily take an advanced degree or an ordination certificate to run a successful small group. Willingness to lead and learn is all that’s required.

It is our prayer that ChurchNext for Groups can help us continue to shape, teach, equip, and inspire disciples for the work of the Church. We will continue to launch courses for groups in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, visit us on Facebook and let us know what you think!

Connection Matters

ceep

We’ve just returned from the 2015 CEEP (Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes) conference, where we once again connected with scores of amazing people doing wonderful things in their churches and organizations — locally, nationally, and globally.

The conference theme “Connection Matters” was truly made manifest as people came together online and in person to discuss, think, share, brainstorm, laugh, and learn. We at ChurchNext enjoyed meeting face-to-face with many of our subscribers all over the country, and hearing how folks are using ChurchNext to enhance and expand on their Christian formation offerings.

ChurchNext, too, is about connection: connecting people of faith and seekers, both online and in community, to wrestle with life issues, grow in faith and wisdom, and become leaders in their churches.

As Sara Miles noted in her lecture on Friday, the most important word in the Bible is “with.” Jesus is God with us. Christianity is about people with people. Love is abiding with another. Connection matters: we are called to live, love, worship, learn, and serve with one another. And whether that “withness” is facilitated online in virtual discussions, in Sunday forums at church, or in small group meetings at home, ChurchNext is committed to empowering God’s people as they seek greater and deeper connections with God, with creation, with other people, with knowledge, with faith.

The Church has a long history of making use of the latest technology to spread the Good News (as Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows teaches in this course), and we’re committed to finding new and meaningful ways to help people connect. What sorts of connections are most meaningful for you? We’d love to connect with you.

Lessons in Belonging with Erin Lane launches today

Lessons in Belonging, from Erin Lane’s new book, Lessons in Belonging from a Churchgoing Commitment-Phobe, speaks to a real — and pressing — issue in the Church: everyone’s deep soul-need to belong, alongside a culture that is increasingly reluctant to actually do so. erin

This is especially true for the “nones” — those under 30s who check the “none” box when asked which religion they affiliate with. In a culture of cynicism and mistrust, along with a reluctance to commit or conform, many misunderstand the blessings, gifts, and healthy challenges that come with committing to a church community. Erin shares her own experiences and helps remind us of the benefits of truly belonging, and the rewards that make taking that risk so worthwhile. Being in community, being vulnerable, learning how to love charitably, to see the best in people and be reminded of our own true selves — these disciplines can, like honoring the Sabbath — be a pathway to living a life larger than our own limited imaginations can fathom.

Erin’s course is a fabulous one for those considering joining a church and for those who might need a reminder of why they belong. You may never think of church membership the same way again. Click here to register or for more information.