Free, Live, 1-Session Class: Using Digital Technology in Churches

We are planning a free, live, 1-session class on ways that churches can use digital technology to help parishioners pray, worship, and study remotely during the Covid-19 crisis. The class will meet for one hour at 8:00 p.m. E.S.T. on Thursday, March 26. You can sign up for the class here or just follow this link:

We encourage participants to sign up for the course as well as following the link. Course participants can ask ahead of time for particular subjects to be covered, and the class will include a downloadable PDF of digital resources beyond those we will be able to cover in the live session. The PDF will offer a consolidated list of online resources that should help for different types of ministry and brief descriptions of how they might be useful.

Liz Brignac and Marie Hagan, ChurchNext course designers, will be teaching the class. It will cover digital resources in the following areas:

  • Prayer
  • Family Resources
  • Worship Resources
  • Online Christian Formation (Will include discussion of CN and the ability to BUILD as well as use CN classes)
  • Group meeting/streaming resources

We hope that churches that are currently trying to navigate the many digital options that are out there or that have questions about using these resources will make use of this course.

Free Courses on Effective Discourse Across Political and Social Divisions

One of the things that unites Americans, left and right, poor and rich, is the sense we might have slight room for improvement in terms of how we interact on community-oriented subjects. Like, say, who the next president should be. Or how to get as many people as possible access to healthcare that actually keeps them healthy. Or even smaller issues, like the best way to open town council meetings, or whether the local Boy Scout troop should open up to girls, or whether our church really needs that pricey new HVAC system.

So we have these two courses we built: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer and Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse, which we built in collaboration with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. Make Me an Instrument of Peace has been free since we first launched it and will remain free forever. And as long as we’re all staying home trying to figure out ways to stimulate our brains while staying at least six feet away from all other humans, we decided to make Bridging the Political Divide free too. That way, when we all get to interact again, we’ll be able to do so much more effectively. Home can be like a training ground.We can practice on our family members as we all get increasingly stir-crazy.

Basically, we’re suggesting that you approach these instructors as a free package deal. Parker Palmer is well-known to many people — he is an internationally respected author, teacher, and activist. He is also the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, meanwhile, has been working on civil discourse practices for years. At this point, they’ve put so much thought into productive discourse that they could probably teach Socrates how to get more out of his conversations.

Socrates doubts this assertion but is willing to discuss it calmly.

These are some great minds talking about a topic that’s extremely important in our particular time and place. So if you’re feeling like stretching your brain, your spiritual muscles — or even if you just want to be able to have productive conversation with family members who disagree with you over the turkey next Thanksgiving — you can use this home-oriented time to take advantage of these experts and their ideas. When we can all return to work, school, the gym, brunch, etc., we hope you will bring their approaches with you out into the world.

Just Launched: Prayer and Worship in Our Homes

We just launched Prayer and Worship in Our Homes, a free 5-course class open to anyone who would like to take it.

Recently, churches across the United States and in many other countries have been asked not to meet for worship due to the risk of participants’ being exposed to Covid-19 (the coronavirus). Christians across the world, because of quarantines or because churches are choosing not to meet in order to reduce the risk of exposing people to the virus, might be looking for alternative prayer and worship options. This course is designed to fulfill that need.

In this course, you will find five classes that teach different approaches to prayer. Some focus on particular types of prayer discipline. Others talk about reaching out and praying with others, even when we’re physically isolated from one another.

You can use these classes remotely in a couple of different ways. You can either:

  1. Have individuals within your parish take the course on their own, or
  2. Meet in a zoom-style online classroom and take a class together. In that case, you would guide the students through the classes, opening with prayer, watching the videos together, and then offering opportunities for discussion using the course discussion questions.

Each class in this course teaches an approach to prayer that can offer comfort and help now and helpful approaches to spiritual discipline in the long term.

Everyday Spiritual Practices with Keith Anderson teaches ways to worship through daily practice as well as weekly church attendance. Keith discusses ways to both find spiritual value in everyday activities and to bring habits of worship into daily life.

How to Pray with Christopher Martin offers an overview of approaches to prayer. It’s a good class for people just beginning prayer as a regular way of life or for people looking to make changes to their approach.

Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck reminds us that the saints are always available to us as models and companions in prayer. The saints are not distant and otherwordly creatures but human beings like us. They connect us to the Christians who have come before us and remain accessible to us as people with whom we can pray when God feels far away.

How to Pray Online with Karekin Yarian teaches Christians about online prayer and worship resources and how to use them. Knowing these resources can help in the short term with worship options that don’t involve breathing on one another and in the long term to help Christians worship in Keith Anderson calls the digital cathedral.

Praying the Anglican Rosary with Suzanne Edwards-Acton teaches a specific, centuries-old prayer discipline that people might find useful in both listening to God and connecting with other worshipers. Knowing that you’re praying with others who use the same practice each day, even if you aren’t physically with them, can create a sense of community.

As you use this course, please remember that even if you are separated from others physically, we are all part of a great, spiritual community that can’t even be divided by death, let alone by public health initiatives. We’re all praying and worshiping together — ideally, in person, of course, but even if not in person, we remain in community with one another in mind, heart, and spirit.

Just Launched: Leading Up to Lambeth with Charles Robertson

We just launched Leading Up to Lambeth For Individuals and For Groups.

The Lambeth Conference is a meeting of bishops who lead dioceses in the global Anglican Communion. It has been taking place roughly once a decade since the first Lambeth conference in 1867. The goal of the conference is for the bishops and their spouses to pray together, study the Bible together, and talk together about the direction in which the church should go and its responses to various important issues within the church and around the world.

After Lambeth concludes, the Anglican Church has often published resolutions made at the conference to help guide the global church. Since the churches within the global Anglican Communion are bound by tradition, loyalty, and the will to walk and work together rather than by any single authority or statement of doctrine, Lambeth resolutions do not have legal or legislative authority. They do, however, have a great deal of spiritual authority and strong influence on the direction that churches within the Anglican Communion will proceed for the next decade.

Above, you’ll find a video in which Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby outlines the plan for the 2021 Lambeth Conference, which will be held at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England from July 22 through August 2, 2021. This video gives you an overview of some of the most important activities and issues that Lambeth 2021 will cover.

In this course, the Rev. Charles Robertson discusses the history and purpose of the Lambeth conference and the goals and issues central to the 2021 Lambeth Conference. He highlights the relationship between Lambeth 2021 and Lambeth 1920 — conferences separated by a century (at least, they were when the Lambeth conference was expected to be held in 2020), yet facing some of the same challenges. Finally, he discusses the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion and the role the Lambeth conference plays in building that relationship.

This class is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about what the Lambeth Conference is about or about the global Anglican Communion. For a preview of the course, please click here.

Just Launched: Free 5-Week Curriculum — Make Me an Instrument: A Guide to Civil Discourse

We just launched a Make Me an Instrument: A Guide to Civil Discourse For Individuals and For Groups. This free 5-week online curriculum was built in conjunction with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and its Department of Faith Formation. The course is free to anyone who would like to take it.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has said: [L]ove the neighbor you like and love the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor. Your black neighbor and your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino, your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here.

In this curriculum, representatives and teachers from across the church teach civil discourse as a skill that we can develop and use to build healthier communities through building relationships across divisions within those communities.

The course instructors teach civil discourse as a specific style of conversation that requires particular skills and practices. Civil discourse is engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding. Rabbi Steve Gutow, speaking at the Episcopal Church’s event Civil Discourse in America, remarked that “civility is simply demonstrating respect for the dignity of our fellow humans—even those humans with whom we have sharp disagreement. Civility is allowing others to speak, and having the humility to admit that we may have something to learn. Civility favors truth over cheap gain, and patience over knee-jerk judgment.”

The goal of these conversations is to be in deeper relationship and to more truly know each others’ dignity and worth. We strive for this deeper relationship so that when we go out to do our own advocacy, activism, and community engagement, we are better informed about who the “other” is without dehumanizing or demonizing them.

As well as explaining the practice of civil discourse, the reasons for using it, and its grounding in scripture and the sacraments, the instructors address challenges that can arise with the “listen and learn” approach they advocate. What if one group has been exploited by another? Is it unjust to expect the marginalized to listen to the privileged? What is the risk a conversation becomes mired in theory rather than allowing us to deepen our relationships with one another? And what if we all listen and value each other’s conversations and find that in the end, we simply do not share the same values? Or what if we do share values but are so hopelessly divided over how to achieve our goals that the values shared seem unimportant? What if the other conversational partner won’t abide by the “respectful listening” rules? All of these important questions, and many others, are covered in this curriculum.

This civil discourse curriculum offers hope that by using the tool of civil discourse, we can find new ways to love our neighbor. We look forward to exploring it with you.

For a preview of one of the courses, please click here.

Starting this Week: Thursday Night Bible Study — Introducing John. Free, LIVE Class with Vicki Garvey

Thursday Night Bible Study is back! (Ok, so it’s not exactly “back,” because last year it was Wednesday Night Bible Study, but let’s not get caught up in technicalities. ) This Epiphany, anyone who is interested in learning more about the Gospel of John can take Introducing John, a 6-week free, live online course on Thursday nights with Vicki Garvey, long-time Canon for Lifelong Christian Formation in the Diocese of Chicago, and a respected author, public speaker, and biblical scholar.

Staring this Thursday, January 23, participants will meet once a week for six weeks on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. E.S.T. in a zoom online classroom to discuss important ideas in John’s Gospel with Vicki Garvey. Themes that Vicki will cover include (but are not limited to):

  • John’s portrayal of “the Jews” and, despite that enmity in this gospel, the many revisited themes from the Hebrew Bible.
  • The surprising place of women in John’s Gospel.
  • The Johannine community and radical commitment.
  • Concern for the various strata of communities, covering those contemporary with Jesus through the Johannine circle of Jesus’ followers — those who “believe but do not see,” including 21st-century followers.

Class meetings will include both lectures from Vicki on John and online discussion opportunities.

This class is ideal for people participating in the Good Book Club this year and anyone who would like to learn more about John’s unique and fascinating Gospel.

Just Launched: Mr. Rogers’ Simple Faith

Photograph of Fred Rogers on the set of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in the late 1960s.

We have just launched Mr. Rogers’ Simple Faith For Individuals and For Groups.

Adults who grew up in the decades from the 1960s through the 1990s are likely to remember the opening to the iconic television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The rest of you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. With the 50th anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in 2018 and the premiere of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks, Mr. Rogers-centered dialogue has remained more relevant than ever while other popular children’s show hosts have come and gone.

Fifty years after his show began and almost twenty years after it ended, why are Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood still important?

Mr. Rogers’ television persona was authentic. According to the people who knew him, he was really like that. When he got on the screen and sang simple songs about how he loved children; how he thought each was special just as they were, he meant it. He let his show model values that he found important — quiet, kindness, a deliberate pace, the use of imagination, and getting to know and value many different kinds of people.He remains important because children (and the rest of us) still need what he offered. His message, and his authenticity still have much to offer.

In this course, contemplative spirituality director and author Westina Matthews discusses Mr. Rogers’ lasting impact on the world. In the first lesson, she offers details about Fred Rogers’ life and personality. In the second lesson, she discusses Rogers’ work in the context of Christ’s teachings. In the third lesson, she examines Mr. Rogers’ show in the context of contemplative spirituality — slowing down, examining and appreciating the world as it is. In the last lesson, she talks about Mr. Rogers’ authenticity, and his value for people’s being sincere — and being accepted for their authentic selves.

This class is ideal for anyone interested in Mr. Rogers, contemplative spirituality, reaching out to children, or everyday spiritual practices. If you’d like to view a preview, please click here.