Earn A ChurchNext Certificate in Prayer Book Studies

ChurchNext has created a new certification program, in partnership with Bexley Seabury Seminary.

Announcing our new prayer book certification program. 

bcp 4

Image: Flickr. Creative commons.

ChurchNext has already created a certification program in vestry leadership, which has received positive feedback. Now we are adding a prayer book certification program, in which students take eight courses that explore the Book of Common Prayer. The courses are all taught by professors at Bexley Seabury Seminary.

By the end of this program, students will be extraordinarily well-educated about the Book of Common Prayer.

  • They will know who wrote it, and when, and why.


      Image: Flickr. Creative commons.

  • They will know how and why the collects were written.
  • They will know the history of the creeds most central to the prayer book.
  • They will learn how the prayer book incorporates scripture.
  • They will know the prayer book’s history in England, the United States, and across the world.
  • They will even learn how to sing it.
  • This list will get too long if we include everything that participants will learn, but you get our drift.

Students can earn a certificate by completing all eight 45-minute courses, which will take an average learner a total of 3 hours. The courses are also available in a For Groups format, making them ideal for small group learning.

Successfully complete all of these courses and receive your custom Certificate in Prayer Book Studies.

Learn more about the prayer book certification program here. In the meantime, here is a list of the courses program.

Please remember, these courses are available in For Groups format as well as for individual study.

For a preview of Roger Ferlo’s course on Scripture and the Prayer Book, click here.


Just Launched: Congregations as Sanctuaries with Paul Perez

Paul Perez

We just launched Congregations as Sanctuaries For Individuals and For Groups.

As most people in America know by now, the Trump Administration’s policies are hostile to undocumented immigrants. The U.S. government, which formerly tolerated most undocumented immigrants as long as they avoided committing serious crimes, has ICEadopted a much more aggressive approach, deporting people who are living here without permission even if they have no criminal history as well as hugely increasing the budget for policing the border and requiring local police offers to act as immigration enforcement agents. For more information about the Trump Administration’s policies toward undocumented immigrants, click here.

Many communities of faith in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious traditions see these laws as unjust and cruel, especially because so many families are being brokenup as undocumented parents are deported away from spouses and children who are legal U.S. residents. In response to laws that they see as inhumane, these faith communities have chosen to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants who are being threatened with deportation.

Lincoln Park Pres

Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in Chicago is one of the first congregations to have offered sanctuary to undocumented residents since the Trump Administration policy changes.

To offer sanctuary today means to offer a place on the church grounds for undocumented individuals to live, prepare food, and sleep while they work toward getting permission to remain in the U.S. U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement internal regulations treat churches and other sacred spaces as sensitive areas, and agents are generally reluctant to forcibly remove people who seek sanctuary in such areas — though churches are not guaranteed the right to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

In this course,  Paul Perez, founder and director of  Justice For Our Neighbors  in Southeastern Michigan, explains why and how faith communities in the U.S. have chosen to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. He offers guidance about how a congregation might prepare itself to offer sanctuary to an undocumented individual or family, and he suggests ways in which congregations might join a larger network of faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and legal aid programs that assist undocumented immigrants.

We hope that any congregation that is discerning about a call to offer sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant or family will get some guidance from this class about how to proceed. For a preview, please click here.



Online Resources for Holy Week

The most sacred week in the Christian year will soon be upon us. As you consider ways in which you and your family will experience Holy Week this year, consider utilizing the following online resources:

ChurchNext Courses: We offer several courses that you can use to enrich your Holy Week.

Online Holy Week Retreats: Here are two Holy Week retreats available online:

  • A blog called Pins of Light has offered popular online Holy Week retreats for the past ten years. On Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, go to the site and click on that day’s retreat video. Each retreat takes 45 minutes-1 hour and includes passages from scripture, reflections, musical selections, and opportunities for prayer. This year’s retreat is entitled, “Are You The One? Praying in Disenchantment.” 
  • Creighton University offers a Holy Week retreat as part of its Lenten Retreat series. The retreat includes suggested readings, reflections, suggestions for prayers, the Stations of the Cross, and an opportunity to reflect and share thoughts with others.

Online Stations of the Cross: Many organizations offer online Stations of the Cross experiences.

  • The Catholic Online website’s Online Stations of the Cross  includes individual videos for each station, each about 3-4 minutes long.
  • Busted Halo’s Virtual Stations of the Cross offers videos with music and images. Participants read reflections at each station.
  • Creighton University’s Online Stations of the Cross offers images of each station and prayers that users may read themselves.stations of cross children
  • Loyola Press offers a multimedia Stations of the Cross for children. Using music, images, and simple meditative text, it offers a child-friendly service that older children who can read can use alone and that younger children can use with their parents’ help.
  • You might also try a virtual pilgrimage through sites in Jerusalem that traditionally have been associated with each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The site brings visitors to a numbered map through Jerusalem. At each numbered station on the map, the site offers an introduction to what viewers will find there and a slide slow of the buildings and the markers that designate the site as one of the traditional locations for each station. (Be patient with the slide show; it moves slowly.) After the slide show, viewers are shown an image of the altar associated with each station and invited to pray. Each virtual prayer station includes background music and textual prayers.

We hope that these resource suggestions help you experience a sacred Holy Week as we reflect together on Jesus’ death on the cross, what it means, and why it was necessary.

Just Launched: Praying with Poetry with Dave Worster

We just launched a new course: Praying with Poetry with Dave Worster For Individuals and For Groups.

In a radio broadcast that he once made, the actor Charles Laughton described a conversation that he once had with the great sculptor Henry Moore, whose work is often characterized by his use of holes or hollows. Laughton asked Moore about this aspect of his sculptures, and Moore, after some contemplation, responded, “I tunneled so deep into the heart of the stone that I found God on the other side.”

Great art can tap into the eternal, connecting both the artists and those who encounter the artists’ work with the divine. In his book The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen describes an encounter that he had with Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son.  He writes that the painting “brought me into touch with something within me that lies far beyond the ups and downs of a busy life, something that represents the ongoing yearning of the human spirit, the yearning for a final return, an unambiguous sense of safety, a lasting home.”

Dave Worster uses poetry to connect with God in a way similar to that in which that Nouwen used Rembrandt’s painting.  The poems that he uses become vehicles reaching into the eternal, helping the reader reach out toward the eternal in a way that Dave describes as fulfilling a need that God has made inherent to the human soul. Like Henry Moore, we are born with the need to tunnel, to push toward God, he argues, and great poetry can help us establish or recognize a connection between ourselves and the creative and loving power that created us.

In this class, Dave Worster, a writer with a Ph.D in English literature who has written a book on prayer and poetry and who has taught poetry at Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and several other schools, offers guidance in ways to use poetry as a basis for prayer. He also models praying with different kinds of poetry. The class also offers participants opportunities to pray with poems and to discuss the experience with others.

We hope that poetry lovers and people who are interested in exploring different approaches to prayer use this course to enhance their spiritual practices.For a preview of the course, please click here.


“Family Group” by Henry Moore (1954). Note the hollow beneath the knees of the child, characteristic of Moore’s work. Image has been cropped. Used with permission through Creative Commons. 

“The Return of the Prodigal Son ” by Rembrandt (circa 1668). Used with permission through Creative Commons. 

Online Resource: Harvard Offers a Free Series of Classes on World Religions

Screenshot 2017-03-15 12.08.04

Different approaches to religion throughout the world — and confusion over what these religions teach — have created political and social tensions for millennia. The United States today is more conflicted about religion than ever. Anti-Semitism has (again) proven itself more relevant than most Americans want to believe it is. Bitter political battles are being fought over the current White House’s campaign to refuse many people of the Muslim faith entry to the United States. Recent events have demonstrated the dangerous results of the deep anger, confusion, and miscommunication that often occur between people of differing religious beliefs.

We’ve already discussed free classes on religion from Harvard and Yale on this blog, but here’s something new. Harvard University is attempting to shine light on what different world religions actually teach by offering World Religions Through Their Scriptures, a series of free online classes created by a team of professors in Harvard’s religion department that are available to anyone who wants to take them. The courses focus on teaching about these religions’ core beliefs through a focus on their sacred texts.

The courses originally cost $50, but now they are archived, meaning that students can no longer interact with the professors or take the course for any kind of credit or to earn a certificate, but the materials are freely available to people who simply want to educate themselves. The course materials include short video lectures, reading assignments , discussion opportunities (in which students may still participate, though the professors no longer moderate the discussions), and interactive online materials (maps, etc.).

Before forming strong opinions about other religions, learn from well-respected scholars who spend their lives studying them about what these faiths’ sacred texts actually say and how worship leaders and worshipers interpret these texts.

Screenshot 2017-03-15 12.08.13



Just Launched: Family Faith Formation with John Roberto



We just launched Family Faith Formation with John Roberto For Individuals and For Groups.

old Sunday school.jpg

Sunday school has changed a lot over the years. From the quiet discussion of Bible stories and memorizing of Bible verses that it involved decades ago, it has become a dynamic, age-appropriate resource involving crafts, computer technology, illustrated children’s Bibles, skits, children’s devotions, and colorful craft projects.


Yet in its most essential aspect, our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ approach to religious education resembles ours. Although we outsource many elements of children’s education that were once taught at home (preschool education, sports games, swimming, music lessons), families remain the main source of religious education for their children.

In this course, John Roberto discusses the essential role that families take in raising children in the Christian faith. Because families are such important agents of faith formation, he argues, churches need to reach out to the families rather than just expecting them to come to church or to depend on the church to educate children in faith.  In this course, John Roberto identifies ways to use technology to offer Christian parenting resources through websites that curate webinars, podcasts, online learning and other technological advances to help families with faith formation work. He discusses ways to match this material to the needs of families in the community and to encourage those families to utilize these resources.

We hope that you will use this course to re-imagine your church’s approach to family faith formation in exciting ways. For a preview, click below.

Screenshot 2017-03-05 13.45.32.png

Image : 1946 Sunday School in Lejunior, Kentucky. Public Domain. 
Image: Vacation Bible School at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys at Humphreys American School in Korea. Used with permission through Creative Commons.

Seeking a Lenten Discipline?

If you are still contemplating ways to enrich your personal Lenten season this year, why not work with the experts? Consider taking one or more thematically related ChurchNext courses at home, working with others or on your own. If fellow parishioners agree to take the courses at home as well, you can respond to one another’s answers to the discussion questions. Or simply take the courses on your own. (If your church has a ChurchNext subscription, just ask the person who administrates ChurchNext courses — your pastor will know who that is, if you don’t — to add the courses and send you the links. It’s easy.)

Here are some suggestions for themed groups of classes that might address issues that are close to your heart this Lent. Make a plan to take course one every week or two at your own pace and your Lent will be that much richer in ideas for living out your Christian ministry.

1. Making Sense of the Cross. David Lose, President of Luther Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and renowned D Lose Newauthor and speaker, has created a three-part series of courses called Making Sense of the Cross. Part one addresses understanding the cross through personal experience. Part two discusses the cross as revealed in the Bible. Part three addresses major theories that theologians have put forth concerning how we interpret the cross. Try taking these three courses over the next few weeks and think about what the cross means in your life.

2. Doing God’s Work. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that on the last day, the king will tell those on his right hand, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and spellerssisters of mine, you did for me.” In these classes, learn how to reach out to the brothers and sisters of Jesus whom the world treats the most ruthlessly.  Besides simply being the way that decent people behave — and what we would hope for ourselves in similar circumstances — caring for oppressed  people is an important way that Christians in particular are called to reach out to one another and to Christ. Learn effective ways to reach out into the world with these courses:
Radical Welcoming with Stephanie Spellers
Responding to Refugees with Allison Duvall 
Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
Creating Common Good: Educational Inequality with Nicole Baker Fulgham
Creating Common Good: Economic Inequality with Julio Murray

3. Wrestling with God. The ways of the Lord are mysterious — and sometimes frustrating brockfor the faithful. How do we know what God wants from us? Why does God let evil events come to pass? We can come to feel like Jacob, wrestling with the Lord throughout the night in Genesis 32. Don’t shy away from the hard questions — use Lent to engage them and come out spiritually stronger. Try these courses:
When We Get Angry with God with Laurie Brock
Why Does God Get Angry? with Rolf Jacobson
How to Discern God’s Will with Ruth Haley Barton

4. New Ways to Pray. Lent can be a great time to experiment with different methods of gunn-schenckprayer. Try a new way each week. Here are some classes that can help you learn about different approaches to prayer.

Holy Yoga with Allison LaBianca
The Anglican Rosary with Suzanne Edwards-Acton
Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck
Praying with Icons with Randall Warren

We hope that these courses help bring each of you a holy and blessed Lent.