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.

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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.

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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

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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.

The Big Class: Called to Common Good with Cornel West is now live!

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

~ Dr. Cornel West

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

Join us, today through January 21st, as we attend to one of the most pressing issues of our time: economic inequality — and what we as Christians can and should do about it. We are each of us made in the image of God, which means we are entitled to equal dignity, opportunity, and justice. And yet the United States — one of the most nominally religious societies in the world, with 82% of Americans calling themselves Christians — is also founded on fiercely competitive capitalistic westvalues, leaving entire classes of citizens struggling with poverty, lack of education and opportunity, and a deep sense of powerlessness and despair.  How does the Gospel speak to this disconnect? What are we called to do in response to such an overwhelming problem?

Our lecturer, Dr. Cornel West, has often spoken out for justice and equality, specifically what American Christians are called to do; in this course, derived from the Trinity Institute’s 2015 “Creating Common Good” conference, he shares his own insights and experiences wrestling with the problem of inequality, how this issue relates to Christian teaching, and why it’s so vital to the health of our very souls. This course promises to be a thought-provoking and productive contribution to creating common good.

Thanks to the generosity of the following sponsors, The Big Class is offered free of charge to all:

Trinity Institute is an annual conference, now in its 44th year, that equips clergy and laypersons for imaginative and catalytic leadership. The conference is sponsored by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal parish in New York City. Trinity Institute takes place at Trinity Church in New York City and is streamed at Partner Sites (which are often churches and seminaries) throughout the world. For more information, click here.

Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to counter a period of anxiety, distrust, and decline in the Episcopal Church with a “forward movement” charged to “reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work.” Best known for the popular daily devotional Forward Day by Day, which provides daily meditations based on Bible scripture readings appointed by the lectionary and Daily Office. Forward Day by Day is published in English, Spanish, large print, audio cassette, and Braille editions, and the daily meditation is available online.

The Episcopal Church

ChurchNext creates online Christian learning experiences that shape disciples. Along with our partners we are devoted to helping people grow in their Christian faith, improve their lives, and better the world. 

TREC 3: Culture and Leadership launches today

We’re pleased to launch our third course in the TREC series (which stands for Task-Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church) today, and this is one that will get us all thinking about God’s dream for God’s church. When we think of the Church as God’s family, including all its members –and indeed relying on all its members — we also need to think of how well we are following Jesus’ example of listening to and celebrating the dignity of every human being.trec

In six lessons, various thought leaders in the Episcopal Church urge us to explore the ideas of wholeness, balance, inclusion, and relationality. Stephanie Spellers, who teaches at General Theological Seminary, presents the idea of the Gospel Flower and explores the role of women in church leadership. Lisa Fortunato, who leads a congregation in Boston, invites us to consider how minority communities such as Latinos are made to feel by well-meant inclusion practices. Bradley Hauff, who leads a congregation in Philadelphia, explains how Native American theology can enrich our understanding of leadership. Author and teacher Eric Law offers suggestions for creating and sustaining relevant communities. Isaiah Brokenleg, a theology student, invites us to more thoughtfully and reverently consider our differences and the power of listening.

What’s exciting about TREC is that part of its commission is to “gather information and ideas from congregations, dioceses and provinces, and other interested individuals and organizations, including those not often heard from; engage other resources to provide information and guidance, and … invite all these constituencies to be joined in prayer as they engage in this common work of discernment.” Taking part in these ChurchNext courses is one way to engage in this process. (See our earlier blog post here.)

Here are links to all three courses 1) Reimagining Church Leadership, 2) Mission and Leadership, 3) Culture and Leadership

All who are interested in church leadership or in the Episcopal Church will find much of interest and use in these courses. Click here for more information or to register.