Just Launched: Water and Justice with Fletcher Harper

We just launched Water and Justice with Fletcher Harper For Individuals and For Groups.

As part of every baptism in the Episcopal Church, the priest or bishop who performs the baptism thanks God for the gift of water with the following beautiful prayer:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

Baptism in water, which we associate with healing, cleansing, and salvation, is part of every Christian denomination.

Christians are not alone in our reverence for water. The Hindu religious tradition holds rivers as sacred, particularly the Ganges, in which Hindus immerse themselves for prayer rituals.

Islam requires the faithful to perform ablutions before they enter mosques and at other times as well. An image of part of the minor ablution called wudu appears below.

Judaism too has ritual ablutions, some of which are performed in the mikveh, a ritual bath.

Most religious traditions, in short, include water as part of their sacred rituals and treat it with reverence. Water is a basic requirement for life.  Humans can live weeks without food, but only days without water.  We connect water with healing, with power, with cleansing. It is no wonder that faith traditions incorporate it into their most fundamental sacred rituals.

The Bible tells Christians that water is a great gift from God and reveres it as a human necessity and as a holy symbol repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 1: 1-2, we are told that water was part of creation before anything else. Water appears  as an element of power in the Great Flood and as a basic human need when the Nile turns to blood in Exodus. It is associated with spiritual healing and God’s mercy in the psalms (see Psalm 41, for example). In the New Testament, Jesus is baptized in water, heals with water, offers living water. Repeatedly, the Bible connects water to the sacred power of God.

In this class, Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of Greenfaith, an interfaith coalition that strives to enact sustainable environmental policies, discusses how Christians today should bring a reverence for water into our communities. He teaches about the challenges to water supplies that are developing throughout the world and discusses ways to develop a deeper appreciation of Christianity’s sense of water as a gift. Most importantly, Fletcher teaches about the impetus, but also the resources, that Christianity gives us to conserve water and minimize the effects of climate change.

We hope that this course moves you to preserve God’s gift of water in our world. Click below to see a preview.

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Cool Ways to Use ChurchNext Courses: Lunch and Learn

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Many parishes use ChurchNext courses to meet on days other than Sunday and discuss issues that interest them. The ECW at Grace Episcopal Church in Anniston, Alabama, for example,  uses ChurchNext courses for some of their monthly ECW luncheons.St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Ohio uses ChurchNext courses as the basis Saturday discussion groups once a month, after which the participants enjoy lunch together.

Why not take ChurchNext lunches to the next level? We had one suggestion for parishes located in high-traffic or business districts, and we thought it was so good that we should share it. Such parishes could use ChurchNext courses as the basis for Lunch and Learn, regular weekly or monthly meetings at lunchtime during which people who might otherwise not engage with parish activities during the week could come in and learn about topics of interest to their community while eating lunch.

Because working Christians still need lunch, this ministry could serve as a great opportunity to give busy folks a chance to pray and talk about faith together at a convenient time of day. It could offer a refreshing change of pace to participants and requires no prep work by the organizers beyond setting up the internet and a table. Depending on your parish’s tendency to discuss at length, classes could be broken up or enjoyed at one sitting.

Is your church located in an area in which working parishioners might find it convenient to join you for lunch? If so, consider trying using ChurchNext classes as the basis for a Lunch and Learn program with your congregation. There is virtually no downside to giving the ministry a try, and it might be a good way to engage a different crowd of parishioners in productive prayer and discussion.

6 Ways to Help Others by Doing Things You Already Do

so-wait-i-have-to-get-up-to-do-this-stuff-2Do you wake up and do stuff every day? If so, you can most likely support charities of your choice while doing that stuff — even while doing things that you wouldn’t think people would donate money for, like walking your dog or buying ramen.

Here are six activities that, if you do them right, can make the world a better place.

  1. Walking Around: Use the Charity Miles app on your phone when you exercise, hike, or even just walk your dog around the block. The app is free, and it tracks how far you go and donates money to your choice of 40 different charities for every mile you cover– 10 cents per mile that you bike; 25 cents per mile that you walk or run.
  2. Searching the Internet: Use the Goodsearch or Giftfluence sites or the Tab for a Cause app for your internet searches.They work like regular search engines, but they will donate money to a charity of your choice each time you search. The first two have connected programs that donate money to the same charity for online purchases that you make.
  3. Buying Stuff: If you use Amazon for online purchases, consider signing up for Amazon Smile. You keep your same account information and benefits, but they will also donate money to the charity of your choice when you make purchases.
  4. Playing online games: If you play games at FreeRice.com, for every question you get im-doing-it-for-the-puppiesright, 10 grains of rice  will be donated to the World Food Programme to combat hunger across the globe. Animal lovers can play games at Freekibble.com and donate food to animal shelters with every question answered.
  5. Having insurance: You don’t even have to get out of bed for this one as long as the roof you’re napping under is insured. Givesurance  works with insurance companies to turn part of your insurance premium into a charitable donation. Sign up for free to register your insurance policy with them.
  6. Grocery Shopping: Many grocery stores partner with nonprofits or charities and donate money when customers make purchases. Harris Teeter, for example, allows each customer to register a local school when signing up for the customer rewards program and donates money to that school for every purchase the customer makes. Winn-Dixie donates to Feeding America when customers buy bread. See whether your grocery store has a charitable giving program of some kind and sign up if necessary.

Do you know other ways that people can give to charity while doing ordinary, daily activities? Please comment; we’d like to share them.

Classes To Help Your Congregation Through Troubled Times

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During these difficult times, when so many people are angry, grieving, and fearful, many churches are in the process of considering what resources that they can offer to help their congregations persevere. What can we offer congregations that can help us act as God wants us to, especially in times of strife and contention?

This post is mainly for churches with ChurchNext subscriptions as you consider what resources you have to offer. The following courses might be particularly helpful at this time for groups or individuals in your congregation:

Social Justice:
We have many social justice classes, but we believe that these courses can help Christians refugee-1strive for social justice in areas that are particularly relevant today:
Responding to Refugees: Allison Duvall from Episcopal Migration Ministries offers Christians specific ideas about how to help refugees in the U.S. — obviously, a particularly vulnerable group at present.
Spirituality and Racial Justice: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry offers ideas about how and why Christians are called to pursue racial justice.
Racism and Racial Justice: Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University educates participants about the history of race and how “colorblind” racism makes itself evident in today’s culture.

Reaching Out Across Divisions:
Radical Welcoming
: The Rev. Stephanie Spellers discusses new and exciting ways in which the church can reach out into the community — and particularly to the community’s most frequently overlooked members.
Bridging the Political Divide: Respected theologian and author Parker Palmer offers guidance on how to talk productively with people who disagree with us on political issues.

Educating Ourselves:
Introducing Islam: Imam Mustapha Elturk helps introduce people to what Islam is actually about. Learning about the Islamic faith from an Islamic spiritual leader can help people separate fact from fiction as we discuss the ban on refugees and immigrants from predominately Muslim nations.

Spiritual Strength and Healing:
Radical Sending
: Demi Prentiss discusses the church’s role as a “base camp” — giving us prayerthe strength and spiritual refreshment to enable us to do God’s work in the world.
Everyday Spiritual Practices: The Rev. Keith Anderson offers guidance on daily activities that can enrich our spiritual lives — a type of self-care that we need more in times of trouble.
Practical Forgiveness: Rob Voyle suggests practical ways to forgive people with whom we are very angry.
How to Pray Online: We’re spending a lot of our time online fuming. Why not spend some time online praying and meditating and enjoying spiritual community with others? In this class, Karekin Yarian shows ways to use the internet to facilitate prayer and healthy spirituality.

We hope that these courses will help as you and your congregation navigate your way, with God’s guidance, through this troubled period in our nation’s history. We hope they help. May the peace of the Lord be always with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Launched: Speaking Our Faith with Kit Carlson

This week, ChurchNext has brought you something new: not just a class, but a full k-carlson-newcurriculum on ways that Christians can learn to communicate about faith. It’s called Speaking Our Faith™, and it is taught by Kit Carlson, an author, pastor, and Episcopal priest who has spent years studying the fundamentals of faith discovery and communication in mainline Christian communities.

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5 sessions, 5 weeks of Lent — It can’t be a coincidence!

Speaking Our Faith™ is designed to be taught in five 90-minute group sessions. Each session includes prayer, a video by Kit Carlson, discussion opportunities and handouts designed by Kit to work with her videos, and opportunities to practice developing your skills between sessions.

Churches may use this curriculum in a number of settings, including adult education or adult forum, Lenten prayer or study groups, or in an independent study group. One church had the idea of using it in small groups in people’s homes along with potluck dinners to build community in the church while enjoying focused conversation.

Speaking Our Faith™ is available for purchase for $99 per congregation or $49 for subscribing ChurchNext congregations. For more information, please click here.

At a time when communicating Christ’s message of love and hope has become particularly important in our country, we hope that you will consider using this curriculum to help your congregation talk productively about faith.For a preview, please click here.

 

 

 

Online Opportunities for Christian Involvement In the Coming Days

Today and tomorrow, Christians may wish to reach out to fellow Christians or to the wider community as our nation navigates its way through a time of deep anger, division, and confusion. Digital technology has made new kinds of community involvement possible.

Here are some resources for Christians who wish to participate in online community events in the coming days.

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Repairers of the Breach has a day of “self-purification, prayer, and fasting” scheduled for today, with a list of activities in which people may participate at home. At scheduled times, participants may pray with others, meditate, read suggested materials, listen to music, watch videos, and watch/listen to sermons by the Rev. William Barber. Participate here. Also, you may find that the links to individual videos and sermons on this page are useful even if you don’t want to participate in the full day of activities.

If you want to march but you can’t participate in person, join the Disability March, a virtual march designed for people with disabilities or illnesses who cannot join protests in body.

Sojourners has a page for Christians who plan to march this weekend (physically or in spirit) to come together to pray and communicate with each other about why they are marching.

If you know of other online resources for Christians who wish to get involved today and over the weekend, please comment. We would love to share them.

 

Resources: Celebrate Dr. King’s Work and Vision

mlkAt a time when we are constantly trying to decide on the appropriate roles for Christians and the church to take in the politics of nations, it is timely that we should recall the work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we will celebrate on Monday. King famously said, ““An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

It is essential to avoid turning the church into a vehicle for political squabbling — or even worse, into a mouthpiece for politicians. At the same time, we must acknowledge that it’s very difficult for individuals or churches to address the broader concerns of all humanity in meaningful ways without engaging political systems. King brought both his Christian vision and his church into many aspects of our culture, including the political, to work toward effecting the changes that he believed God wanted in the world. He didn’t soil his religion by interacting with politics, perhaps because his main concern was moving mountains rather than scoring points.

As we decide how the church and individual Christians should engage the world politically, we can profit from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s example. Here are some online resources to help us remember King’s life and work.

For Adults

  • YouTube has videos of several of Dr. King’s speeches, including I Have a Dream, The Other America, and I Have Been to the Mountaintop. You can also find recordings (though they lack video footage) of many of his speeches here.
  • The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (often called The King Center), established by Coretta Scott King in 1968, offers many resources for people who wish to learn more about King’s life and work. It includes a digital archive of thousands of writings associated with King’s work and an extensive bibliography for people who wish to read more about King and nonviolent protest.
  • Cornell University has a research guide to Martin Luther King that includes videos, recordings, transcripts of his speeches, and helpful websites as well as book recommendations. (It’s designed for use in their library, but it is very helpful for general use as well.)

For Families

  • The King Center has a page where you can download your dreams for the future and read about other people’s dreams. A great activity for kids and adults both!
  • National Geographic Kids has a kid-friendly page on King.
  • YouTube has several videos for kids about King’s life. Try this video by Kid President and this mini-biography of King’s life.
  • This short excerpt from King’s I Have a Dream speech can be used to begin discussion about the man and his work.

We hope these resources help you as you remember the Rev. King’s life this weekend and next week.