animate: Bible 3 launches today

In our third course of the animate: Bible series with Augsburg Fortress and Sparkhouse Publishing, we are challenged to rethink how we read, interpret, and relate to the Scriptures. William Willimon and Jay Bakker offer us hopeful reminders that, though the Bible is complex and in need of interpretation, the overall message is simple: love and grace and freedom. animate

Though many have limited and oversimplified the Bible — even using it as a tool for inspiring fear or guilt — this course reminds us that the Bible is more complex than that. It cries out for interpretation and ongoing study, with prayer and in community. William Willimon reminds us that the Bible represents all the complexity and unpredictability of our God and speaks to us, who are complex creations ourselves. And yet, paradoxically, the Bible’s message of love and forgiveness are heart-freeingly simple. If you grew up in a tradition in which the Bible incited fear, guilt, and distress, Jay Bakker invites you to revisit it through the “lenses” of Jesus and St. Paul. They just may set you free.

We’re excited to offer this third opportunity to reanimate our thinking about the Bible, with such engaging and wise instructors.  Click here for more information or to register.

Economic Inequality and the Church with Trinity Institute

We’re excited to continue our partnership with Trinity Institute by offering another course on Economic Inequality and the Church. Inequality — of resources, jobs, opportunities — robs people of their human dignity, one of the precious gifts from God we as Christians promise to honor and uphold. But the issue can seem so overwhelming, so complex and entrenched, that we don’t know where to start.

Why not start with each other? Conversation, discussion, sharing of ideas and resources, is one of CCG Logothe great gifts of living in community. The video lectures in this latest course are full of wisdom and ideas while being provocative, challenging calls to action. We invite you to use this latest course in a way that is most helpful to your church or small group. Choose any or all of the video lectures and accompanying discussion questions to get yourselves thinking and talking about ways we can carry out Jesus’ mission of love, service, selfless generosity, and neighborliness.

Malcolm Brown, director of the Mission and Public Affairs Division for the Church of England, argues that, contrary to public opinion over the last century, economics is the Church’s business; he tells how the Church of England is setting up credit unions in local parishes to support and encourage responsible economic stewardship. Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, discusses how increasing concern around economic inequality, as well as environmental sustainability, have spurred new trends and hopeful responses, a real movement toward mindful, intentional, responsible living.  And Michael Bowling, pastor of Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis, reminds us that the message of the Gospel is not complex:  we are called to deny ourselves, to love others more than we love ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Jesus’ example of ministry. He shares how his inner-city congregation has made educational equality a priority in order to support those who are most vulnerable – children – as well as the parents who are trying to provide for them.

There is perhaps no more challenging but vital mission than loving and caring for our neighbors — let’s start by working for equality and plenitude for all. Click here for more information or to take the course.

Animate: Bible 2 launches today

We’re thrilled with the second installment of animate: Bible, which launches today and features engaging and thought-provoking presentations by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Jose Morales. As we continue to shake up — to re-animate — our beliefs about and relationship with the Bible, we are reminded that the Bible is a crazy, life-changing, unbelievably deep and rich set of books that reward any investment we give them.

Nadia Bolz-Weber offers two reflections on how surprising the use of the term “gospel” was when it animatewas used by the gospel-writers, how the news represented by Jesus was good — but different — and why this crazy news is actually perfect for us right now. Jose Morales uses his wisdom and experience as a DJ to offer a new way to think about the Bible as a set of books, varied in genre, purpose and style as the books in a library or the types of music played in a club.

True to the mission of the animate: faith series, both Nadia and Jose’s video lectures will have you thinking — and redefining — what the Good News of the Bible is and how it speaks to you. Click here for more information or to register.

Animate: Bible 1 launches today!

The first part of animate: Bible launches today, and continues our partnership with Augsburg Fortress to offer the animate series in an online format. Animate: Bible 1 features video lectures by Eric Elnes, Phyllis Tickle, and Rachel Held Evans on the history of the Bible — its creation, distribution (or lack thereof), and nature — as well as what our relationship to it can tell us about our own faith journeys.animate

Last fall, ChurchNext and Augsburg Fortress teamed up to bring the popular “animate” series to an online learning environment. There are three animate series to date which have been launched in DVD format by Augsburg: animate: Faith, animate: Bible, and animate: Practices. The animate series has been described as “designed to energize conversations about faith, with the hope that this will spark new life in churches.” Casual but ordered, funky yet substantive, modern yet based on and exploring age old truisms, this series wants to “animate” all our senses. Participants are encouraged to create through journaling, creative writing and graphics; whatever method helps to explain or enhance the conversation.

Click here to register for animate: Bible 1 or for more information.

Finding God in Divorce launches today

You don’t have to be involved in a marriage that’s dissolving in order to experience its pain: our latest course, Finding God in Divorce with Carolyne Call, is one from which everyone can benefit. Divorce wreaks havoc on relationships, on self-esteem and a sense of one’s worth, on families, and on one’s faith. This course offers tried and true wisdom on the effects of divorce and how we as Christians can move through — and even find redemption in — the death of a marriage.


Carolyne Call is a United Church of Christ minister, teacher, and author of Spiritually Healthy Divorce: Navigating Disruption with Insight and Hope. She herself has experienced divorce firsthand, so her wisdom and honesty provide an added depth and richness to the material. She offers hope, advice, insight, and practical tips on dealing with the fallout of divorce as individuals, and as children of a loving, merciful, and all-redeeming God. Click here to register or for more information.

How to Create a Crisis Communications Plan for Your Church with Meredith Gould

We live in a world with instant transmission of news, a world in which people make snap judgments, and in which forgiveness may not be the immediate impulse for many. If something difficult or even devastating were to happen in your church, the way your church handles it — and the way your church communicates its position to those watching and listening — could have a lasting impact. If the worst happens, we can at least mitigate the damage by  responding in healthy, timely, and appropriate ways. We’re glad to offer this course on Crisis Communications to help you start the process of intentionally creating a proactive communications plan.

Meredith Gould has over 25 years of experience helping people share their message and helping gouldchurches plan for unforeseen crises. Though many folks have never considered it — or avoid the topic because it can be uncomfortable — Meredith reminds us that crises do occur, and that there are good ways and bad ways to handle them. Why not have a plan in place so that your response comes from a place of calm and confidence rather than a place of fear or thoughtlessness? Over five lessons, we learn the hows and whys of crisis communications, best practices, mistakes to avoid, and importance of care and support for those involved in managing crises.

This course is vital for anyone involved in church administration or leadership. It empowers clergy and lay people to proactively imagine scenarios, plan their response, and move forward. Click here to register or for more information.

Meredith Gould is an author, speaker and a communications consultant. You can find out more about her here.

Common Conversation On the Road to Creating Common Good

“We all know how important it is not to ignore or deny the bad news all around us. If we do, we aren’t being honest, and we won’t be motivated to work for change. But finding and passing along bad news is pretty much a no-brainer. The real challenge is opening our eyes to the good news! And seeing the possibilities within us and between us is just as important to working for change as candor about what’s wrong.” ~Parker J. Palmer


The Big Class is over 1,100 people strong now, and there are some thought-provoking and life-changing conversations going on in the discussion forums.  People care about this issue of economic inequality. People are committed to understanding the problem and making a change. People are overwhelmed but hopeful. Because as Dr. West says, it’s a good thing to be overwhelmed: it means you’re paying attention. But being overwhelmed doesn’t need to lead to despair. As Christians we have great hope, and we are called to spread the Good News, to live out Jesus’ radical Gospel of love, of service to the poor, the marginalized, the outcast. We’ve been given intelligent minds capable of reasoning, and we can use them to create solutions, to take risks, to enact the future that is God’s dream for all of us.

Here are just a few comments from participants in The Big Class:

“I long to see the church offer a genuine alternative to the culture of consumption.” 

“I like to evaluate economic growth based on empowerment.  How many people’s lives are made better? How many are brought out of poverty?  If wealth is just circulating amongst the same small percentage of people, then the growth isn’t very relevant.” 

“If we give up hope, then we have no ability to affect the system or improve it. If we submit to the overwhelming feelings, we become useless in making a contribution to the world. What more is there to this life than making a positive contribution?” 

“Vulnerability takes away the power structure. It levels the field, is healing, and goes a long way toward creating goodwill–a good first, second, or third step in creating common good. However, too often pride and arrogance keep us from spiritual maturity, and from taking the risk of vulnerability.”

Won’t you join us? Let your voice be heard, push yourself to think and pray and talk about the gross inequality in which we are all complicit. The Big Class continues for free until January 21, and Trinity Institute 2015: Creating Common Good runs from January 22-25.

Thanks to our co-sponsors, Forward Movement, Trinity Institute, and the Episcopal Church.