Just Launched: What is Resurrection? with Lucas Mix

We just launched What is Resurrection? with Lucas Mix For Individuals and For Groups

If you want to improve a bad day — or really any day at all — turn on Ray Charles’ song “Seven Spanish Angels,” an awesomely over-the-top song about star-crossed lovers in Texas who die in a shootout with unspecified bad guys. Seriously, it’s Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. If you’ve never heard it, take a minute and listen to this song.

There. Aren’t you happier now?

The only tiny hiccup in this otherwise epic song is that it turns the dead lovers in the Valley of the Gun into angels after they die. (Spanish angels apparently — because why not?) The whole dead-people-turn-into-angels notion has turned up a lot in popular culture over the years. Remember this book?

This classic Christmas story is about a little boy who has died and turned into an angel who eventually visits the Christ child. These are just two examples of the dead-people-as-angels phenomenon. This idea is popular, as is the notion that when we die, we leave our bodies and our spirits go to heaven.

The physicality of the resurrection is a part of Christian theology that some Christians forget and that others forget conveniently — that is, they get it in theory but choose not to think about that side of the resurrection too much. Influenced by Platonism and by the overall notion that our sinful bodies tend to get us into trouble, many Christians think of the body as something problematic that we leave behind in death. If we pattern our hope for resurrection on Jesus’, however, as all of Christian theology says we should, then we must assume from reading the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection that: (1) we will rise to new life after death; that (2) our risen life will differ from our life on earth today; and that (3) our resurrection will be physical in nature as well as spiritual.

In this class, the Rev. Lucas Mix, an episcopal priest and evolutionary biologist, discusses the nature of resurrected life, emphasizing its physicality and what that physicality means for us both in the afterlife and in our lives today. He discusses what scripture tells us about the afterlife and how Greek and Jewish ideas about the afterlife have affected the way we understand it. He examines Jesus’ resurrection and its implications for everyone else’s resurrection, and he addresses errors (like the idea of a purely spiritual resurrection) that Christians make in their thinking about our risen lives. He discusses how resurrection might happen and what happens to us between death and the last day. Most importantly, he talks about how we should live in this life to begin living into our hope of resurrection and becoming united with the created world as the body of Christ in our risen lives.

This course is ideal for people who want to deepen their understanding of the resurrection. For a preview of the course, click here.


Use ChurchNext Classes to Enrich the Advent Season

Advent candlesWhen it comes to Advent, if your church needs it, ChurchNext most likely has a class on it. We have several courses that churches can use to enrich the Advent season. Here’s a short profile of each of these classes.


Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck For Individuals and For Groups

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Do you have new parishioners who might not be sure what the Advent season celebrates or what activities it involves? The Rev. Tim Schenck has answers for them. In this course, participants will learn not just more about what Advent is, but how celebrating the Advent season can change our lives. For a preview of the course, click here.

Advent for Families with Heath Howe For Individuals and For Groups

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Do you want to explore ways to celebrate Advent with your family and teach your kids about Advent? The Rev. Heath Howe can give you some great ideas, both about creative ways to celebrate Advent as a family and ways to resist the consumerism that characterizes the holiday season. Preview the course here.

Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year For Individuals and For Groups

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Experiencing the familiar frustration of trying to walk the line between the secular Christmas frenzy of December and the self-denial associated with a Christian Advent? Let Bishop Susan Goff advise you in her course. In this course, Susan invites us to take on some practical and inspiring disciplines in this season and to contemplate more fully what it truly means to prepare and anticipate the coming of Christ. For a preview of this course, please click here.

A 7-Week Advent with Stephen Smith For Individuals and For Groups

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Do you sometimes feel like you miss out on Advent entirely what with all the seasonal excitement of December? Try the Rev. Stephen Smith’s class on practicing Advent for seven weeks. His church found spiritual benefit from taking this approach. For a preview of Stephen’s class, click here.

We hope that these courses help you as your community anticipates the coming of Christ into the world, and we hope that you all experience a holy and blessed Advent season.

Just Launched: Introducing Spiritual Direction with Michelle Dayton

St AnthonyWe just launched Introducing Spiritual Direction with Michelle Dayton For Individuals and For Groups.

Christian spiritual direction dates as far back as the fourth- and fifth-century desert fathers and mothers, whom early Christians petitioned for spiritual guidance. St. Benedict codified the spiritual mentoring of novices by older, more experienced monks into his Rule — the guidelines by which Benedictine monks chose to live. Spiritual direction became a key feature in monastic life. For centuries, Christians have offered each other directed spiritual guidance. In the mid-twentieth century, developments in psychology and counseling combined with growing parishioner needs for individualized spiritual guidance led to a resurgence of interest in spiritual direction and a change in the ways in which Christians practiced this discipline.

In this course, spiritual director and trainer of spiritual directors Michelle Dayton discusses contemporary spiritual direction: what it is (and is not) and what it can do. She offers an overview of the practice, discusses the various methods that people use in practicing spiritual direction. describes what often happens in one-on-one spiritual direction sessions, and explains the role of the spiritual director in relation to the participant. She also discusses times in Christian lives when people often find spiritual direction particularly beneficial.

We hope that this overview will help people who are interested in learning more about spiritual direction discern whether the practice might help them listen for God moving in their lives.

For a preview of the class, please click here.

Just Launched: Why Suffering? with Ian Markham

We just launched Why Suffering? with Ian Markham For Individuals and For Groups.

Here lies veraIt’s an ancient question: God is entirely powerful. God is good and does not desire suffering. Complex life inevitably involves frequent suffering. How can we reconcile these three truths with one another?

Christianity doesn’t have a pat answer for this question. To some extent, accepting that we may never quite understand suffering is part of faith; we trust God anyway. St. Paul writes that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Trying to comprehend God’s entire plan would require what Ronald Rolheiser describes as “a slimming down of God to fit the size, expectations, and reasoning of the human mind and imagination.” Nevertheless, exploring the question of suffering in the world can help us move toward greater understanding, both of the role of suffering in our lives and of our relationships with God.

In this class, The Rev. Dr. Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, discusses possible reasons for suffering and ways to cope with suffering that can help Christians not only endure, but also grow from our experiences with pain. His overall argument rests on the idea that we may never entirely understand why we suffer, but that as Christians, we have the comfort of knowing that our God suffered, just as we do. We know, therefore, that God understands what we feel; that God cares about the pain and suffering of living creatures. We can trust that our suffering is part of a great drama; a story that centers on nothing less than the redemption of the universe, and we can take comfort in that knowledge.

This class is ideal for people who want to understand suffering in the world, or for people experiencing suffering or anxiety. For a preview of this course, please click here.

Image 1: Photograph of a makeshift grave for Vera Smith, a New Orleans citizen who died during Hurricane Katrina.

Image 2: El Greco. La Crucifixión (1597). Public Domain. 

Announcing Our New, Live Wednesday Night Bible Study Classes

Starting in September, ChurchNext will be offering three live online Wednesday Night Bible Study classes once a week for six weeks. On Wednesday nights, students from all over the world can meet and study online together, led by experts in different fields of biblical study and church history.

This fall, students can choose to take one of the following three Bible study classes:

The Bible and Evangelism with Marcus Halley
Meets Wednesday evenings from 8-9 p.m. EST from Sept. 12-Oct. 17.

m halleyWhat does the Bible say about evangelism? What does the process involve? How can we pursue evangelism respectfully and effectively in our pluralistic society? In this class, the Rev. Marcus Halley, Rector of Saint Paul’s Church on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis and an author whose work has appeared on Grow Christians, The Logos Project, Lent Madness, Forward Day-by-Day, and Thirty Seconds or Less, explores issues related to evangelism and scripture. The class helps participants discern how to live out our call to spread the good news in the 21st century.

Heretics in Good Company with Scott Gunn and Melody Shobe
Meets Wednesday evenings from 8-9 p.m. EST from Sept. 12-Oct. 17.

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Was Jesus really God? Is there a difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament? Does everyone go to heaven? In this class, the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement, and the Rev. Melody Shobe, co-author of Walk In Love: Episcopal Beliefs and Practices and several other books, will explore questions that are fundamental to Christianity and how the church has answered these questions. Why have some people been considered heretics for the ways in which they have answered these questions? Why does it matter? Explore these questions with Scott and Melody. 

The Bible and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
Meets from 8-9 p.m. EST on Sept. 13, Sept. 18, Oct. 10, and Nov. 14

kb douglasThis class explores the racialized history of biblical interpretation in the United States. It  then goes into a scripture-based evaluation of what the 21st-century church in the U.S. must do to build racial reconciliation. What would such a reconciliation look like? How might Christians achieve it? Participants will explore these questions and others with The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, professor, and author of Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.

These classes are ideal for people who are interested in studying these topics with experts, for people who want to use technology to make individual Bible study easier to manage, and for congregations would like to study this material together in groups.

You can take these classes with groups from your church or on your own. Classes run for six weeks starting in September.  They are free to subscribing ChurchNext congregations, dioceses, and to individuals who purchase a $9/month ChurchNext subscription.You will be able to take these classes by computer from anywhere in the world using the Zoom online meeting platform. Students may access class materials and interact online using a ChurchNext online classroom.



Just Launched: Metro Theology with Chip Graves

In 2012, The Very Rev. Dr. Chip Graves took the position of rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Huntington,West Virginia. Once a thriving town supported by railroad and industrial money, for decades, Huntington’s economy had been suffering a depression. People lost their jobs, and urban flight was followed by urban blight. Once a flagship church in the region, Trinity had experienced declines in membership, energy, and participation.

Trinity’s congregation wanted to bring new life to their church. They also wanted to develop a deeper sense of connection with their local community. The church sought renewal through engaging a formula that Chip calls “metro theology,” which requires those who practice it to embrace the approach of loving God by caring for our neighbors.

Metro theology requires churches to review what resources they have and to look outside and see what their communities need. They then engage in aligning the  resources of the church with the resources of the local community to create a movement that opens the doors of God’s house to those who need it. Churches can do this work through tangible programs, financial assistance, food and fellowship, prayers and worship.The result can be transformation, both of the churches that reach out and of the communities to which the churches minister.

In this class, Chip discusses the four steps of metro theology.  Chip argues that metro theology is one way of being active in the Jesus Movement, “participat[ing] in the resurrection and healing of God’s world” and finding renewal through that process.

This class is ideal for congregations seeking new ways to participate in the Jesus Movement, seeking renewal, or looking for new ways to become involved in their local communities. For a preview of the course, please click here.

Image: Photograph of Huntington, WV skyline. Youngamerican. 14 June 2006. Creative commons.

Missed The Big Class with Bishop Curry? No Worries. You Can Still Take It.

Royal WeddingThe Big Class: From Palace to Public Square — The Way of Love with Michael Curry is over — but your opportunities to take it have only just begun.

This class is now part of our regular library in both For Individuals and For Groups formats. You can add it to your congregation’s online school or buy it on its own.

Students across the world have offered insight about how the church has been given an opportunity to move forward in response to Bishop Curry’s lectures. Here are some student responses to discussion questions in The Big Class:

In response to a question about opportunities that have arisen in recent months to talk about the Jesus Movement with others:

WOW! Finally an answer I can believe in. I am one of those described in the introduction to this lesson who did not want to evangelize. I don’t think it is right to push my beliefs onto others. Bishop Curry’s positive evangelism is something I can get behind. If someone asks or is interested, I am willing to talk about my faith and beliefs as formed by the Episcopal Church, but I rarely start the conversation. Maybe now I can begin the conversation with the words of Bishop Curry.


The best opportunity is created by people’s positive reactions to [Bishop Curry’s] authentic enthusiasm about the love of God. For once, the media has shown not some crazy, fringe ‘Christians’ but a believer (Bishop Curry) who’s on fire with Christ’s love. This helps mainline folks stop being ashamed of being Christian and helps us have conversations with others that yes, this is who we are and what we believe.

In response to a question about how the church might realize Bishop Curry’s challenge to restore Jesus to the center of our faith communities:

Working in ecumenical and inter-faith groups, we should strive to spend more time with each other getting to know about religions and practices that are alien to us. I live in the most ethnically diverse diocese in the Episcopal church, yet many of our parishes are silos who have little interaction with other Episcopal churches, let alone with other faiths and denominations.


Our “parish” is outside as well as inside the walls of our church building and the message of the Jesus Movement needs to be offered accordingly.

The responses have gone on and on. In this course, participants have given serious thought to what Bishop Curry had to say in his sermon and in his lectures. Students across the world have responded with energy, intelligence, and creativity. Join them and bring your own thoughts into the worldwide conversation engendered by Bishop Curry’s work.

For a preview of the course, please click here.