Introducing New Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to Your Congregation

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North Carolina bishop Michael Curry was elected with great excitement, fanfare, and majority – by General Convention here in Utah. He will lead The Episcopal Church for the next nine years. Those unfamiliar with him, his preaching, and his Jesus-centered approach to his ministry are in for a treat. He is dynamic, charismatic, and brimming with infectious hope.

Presiding Bishop-elect Curry is an early ChurchNext supporter who teaches a class for us that is an ideal way for you and your congregation to get to know him.

It’s called ‘How to Be a Crazy Christian with Michael Curry’ and it is available in two formats; For Individuals which is ideal for a person to take by themselves on a tablet or laptop, and For Groups which is ideal for Sunday forums, Bible studies and other group gatherings.

This is a course with a warning label: All who enter here, expect to be transformed. Michael Curry is an inspiring and enthusiastic reformer with a clear call to reinvigorate the Church. Many people have experienced Christ’s transforming power through Bishop Curry’s ministry – you may be next.  Here’a  video preview:

Violence, Myth, and Scripture launches today

Today we launch our latest course, Violence, Myth, and Scripture with Suzanne Ross, and it’s seems a timely class to be offering, in the midst of the troubled events of recent weeks. Using rossRene Girard’s Mimetic Theory, Suzanne corrects some common misconceptions about violence in our faith tradition, and explains the difference between myths (where violence is naturalized) and scripture (where violence is highlighted, for a purpose). In this course, she reminds us that violence is not sacred or of God; rather, it is a symptom of our fallen state, and an illness that grieves God. It’s an affliction that we Christians are called both to understand and to begin to remedy.

We invite you to take this course as a way to begin effecting change in our troubled nation. It’s also available in For Groups format for small-group use. Click here for more information or to register.

Suzanne Ross is an expert in mimetic theory. She is an author, respected lecturer, and co-founder of The Raven Institute.

Violence and Faith

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You may sigh inwardly when you see the word “Charleston” now, tired of all the news and posts and commentaries and analyses of the past week. And yet we cannot turn away from this event — we should not turn away, nor feel cynical and discouraged when things like this happen. Because we are the very people — we believers — who are called upon to remind people of the hope of the Gospel, of God’s charge to us to be instruments of peace, vehicles for transformation, messengers of love. Even in the midst of — or perhaps because of — such terrible news happening seemingly all around us.

This Sunday we’ll be launching our latest course whose timing and message now seem even more appropriate than ever. Suzanne Ross is co-founder of The Raven Foundation, which is “committed to making religion reasonable, violence unthinkable and peace a possibility by spreading awareness of the transformative power of mimetic theory. Our goal is to foster peaceful individuals and harmonious communities that will reject scapegoating and violence as ways to form identity and achieve real and lasting peace.” Suzanne’s course for ChurchNext is called “Violence, Myth, and Scripture,” and it helps us understand how Scripture, unlike myth, draws our attention to systems of violence, shows God’s concern for the vulnerable and the victim, and how violence is not of God, but of human failing. We offer this course up as a way of perhaps thinking about the (misunderstood) violence in our cultural traditions as well as how God grieves with us. (The course goes “live” on Sunday.)

If the violence in Charleston is weighing heavily on you, causing you to wrestle with those big questions about evil and the nature of God, we also commend to you any of the following courses already in our library. Why not arrange a small group discussion within your faith community, as a way not only of remembering the martyrs in Charleston, but of actively seeking to effect change by fostering discussion, dialogue, and time for prayer? Make us instruments of your peace, Lord.

How to Forgive

When We Get Angry with God

Why Does God Get Angry?

Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen. 

~ Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer p. 814)

New course: Let the Women Speak!

Today we launch Let the Women Speak, a fascinating overview of some of the most memorable — and yet under-remembered — women in the Bible. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, Episcopal priest and author, does a wonderful job sharing her wisdom and passion about these female figures and all we can — and should — learn from them.freeman

As Lindsay reminds us, though women had very few rights and opportunities, they made a remarkable impact on the stories of the Bible. They were often God’s “surprising agents;” they were the original social media; they thrived within, or overcame entirely, their circumstances — they used what they had, to do what they could. There’s a lot we can learn from these women, in terms of their strength and courage, their pluck and resourcefulness, their lack of self-pity and their commitment to those for whom they cared.

Join us in this course, or perhaps in a Small Group setting, as we listen to those voices from long ago that still say so much. Click here for more information or to register.

Lindsay Hardin Freeman, a Minnesota-based Episcopal priest, has won over thirty awards for journalistic excellence, including the 2015 Gold Medal Award in Bible Study from Independent Publisher. A popular speaker and retreat leader on Bible women and contemporary spirituality, Lindsay is the author/editor of six books, and has served congregations in Massachusetts, Philadelphia and Minnesota. The long-time editor of Vestry Papers (2001 – 2010), she also serves as adjunct clergy for St. David’s, Minnetonka.

What Makes a REAL Woman?

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Top Ten List of What We Can Learn from the Mothers in the Bible:

– Real mothers seek, create and sustain life in the face of death, destruction and disappointment.

– Real mothers do not stop claiming what is their right—to bear a child.

– Real mothers love their people, forecast imminent danger, take steps to fight it, and serve on the front lines, ready to lay down their lives.

– Real mothers are courageous in letting their children step confidently into their future.

– Real mothers minister to others even in the midst of desperate circumstances.

– Real mothers speak up and voice their pain, especially in times of tremendous grief.

– Real mothers raise their sons and daughters to be faithful people, and to remain true to their teachings and values.

– Real mothers unleash their deepest desires at Jesus’ feet—and when seemingly rejected, persevere in pursuing healing.

– Real mothers stand up for and stand by their children and families, pursuing for them their best goal and godly vocations.freeman

– Real mothers, sometimes, at great personal expense, say Yes to God—and the the world is transformed.

As Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of this list and instructor of our latest course (launching Sunday) reminds us: these characteristics apply to all who serve as “mothers” — those who are biological mothers and those who aren’t. The women of the Bible are part of a “holy and sacred circle” — one that is still open.

Stay tuned for Let the Women Speak, which launches Sunday. In the meantime, check out Lindsay’s wonderful blog and books by clicking here.

New course: Welcoming Visitors launches today

Today we launch a wonderful course on hospitality, taught by Episcopal priest and author Elizabeth Geitz. As we know, welcoming visitors and strangers is a commission we have from God, and most churches make some attempt at a hospitality ministry.geitz

But there’s so much more to welcoming people than smiling and shaking their hands (though that is a start!). In Welcoming Visitors, Elizabeth reminds us what’s really going on when we practice hospitality; why it’s important; and key ways we can make sure that visitors and newcomers feel welcomed, heard, engaged, and incorporated, so that they become and remain active, involved members of our faith communities.

This course also lends itself easily to Small Group use; perhaps your church’s leadership, or your existing Hospitality Ministry, would find this a welcome springboard for strengthening and renewing your programs. As Elizabeth reminds us, hospitality is a vital ministry, one to which not everyone is called, and one that benefits from ongoing training and prayerful discernment.

We invite you to take and share this course, as we all seek to reach out to those around us, shaping disciples for Jesus’ work in the world. Click here for more information or to register.

The Gift Of Hospitality

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How does your church welcome visitors and newcomers? How does your church turn those folks into active, engaged members of the Body of Christ?

The Episcopal Church Foundation offers some ideas here.

A pastor of a large non-denominational church in California offers the “LINE UP” rule.

BuildFaith.org offers even more advice here.

This Sunday, we’ll be launching our latest course on Church Management: Welcoming Visitors with Elizabeth Geitz offers practical wisdom on the ministry of hospitality as well as why it’s so important, both for visitors and for long-term church members. Hospitality is about remembering the sacred importance of every single person who walks through the church doors. It’s about listening for the needs of those who come to church — since everyone who comes does so for a reason, whether they realize it or not.

Does your church practice intentional welcoming? Does it follow up with visitors and newcomers? Does it give thanks each worship service for the visitors in your midst? Does it make it easy for a newcomer to really get involved? Do you know everyone’s name in your pew?

How is God calling you and your church to welcome visitors? You might be interested in Elizabeth Geitz’s book, Fireweed Evangelism: Christian Hospitality in a Multi-Faith World. And stay tuned for our course launching Sunday.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so some have entertained angels unawares.”

Hebrews 13:2