ChurchNext in the World: St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

The Very Rev. Phoebe Roaf at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, VA has used RevPhoebeChurchNext in a variety of capacities at St. Philip’s. She says that they have had particular success with using ChurchNext classes to support specific ministries within her congregation.

Mother Roaf has used Introducing the Altar Guild, for example, to help members of the St. Philip’s altar guild learn how to practice this ministry effectively and prayerfully. And the St. Philip’s property development committee, when establishing a community garden at the church, used Spirituality and Gardening to help participants learn to use the act of building the garden as a spiritual act, a living example of prayer in the world.

Many ChurchNext classes are designed to support particular ministries within the church. We offer, for example, classes on lectoring, on lay Eucharistic ministry, on running a vacation Bible school, on bringing the Eucharist to shut-in parishioners, and on topics directly related to many other ministries. If your church uses ChurchNext, we suggest looking over our catalog of classes and considering how different ministries within the church might profit from using them. Let the leaders of each ministry know that a class designed to support their particular ministry exists. Because the classes are available in formats that support both individual and group learning, ministries have plenty of flexibility in terms of how they want to use the classes.

We hope that your congregation, like St. Philip’s, explores was to use ChurchNext classes to support its ministries. If you have a story of how a class has been helpful to a ministry at your church, please comment! We would love to hear about it.

Just Launched: Building a Spiritually Mature Congregation with Thomas Bergler

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Today, we launched Building a Spiritually Mature Congregation with Thomas Bergler, available for individual learning and for group study. Much discussion has taken place over the past few years about how our culture should handle the lengthening of adolescence. The process by which children become independent adults has been delayed over the course of the past two decades. People are less likely than their parents and grandparents were at the same ages to commit to marriage and more likely to be relying at least partially on their parents for funds. One noted professor of psychology even has proposed that we add an additional stage to our lexicon for the maturing process: Emerging Adulthood, occurring between ages 18 and 25.

Enter Thomas Bergler, who has stimulated animated discussion over the past few years by confronting the issue of delayed adulthood in terms of how it affects the church. Dr. Bergler argues that the American church has been juvenilized; that faith has become immature. He argues that people who are swept up into Christianity through the heady experience of youth ministry sometimes never leave that level of spiritual maturity, but instead settle indefinitely into a moving but unformed spiritual adolescence. His books The Juvenilization of American Christianity and From Here To Maturity: Overcoming the Juvenilization of American Christianity have stimulated discussions across denominations of what adult Christianity needs and how churches must work to achieve it.

In this class, Dr. Bergler focuses on how church leaders can work with their congregations to guide spiritually adolescent Christians into adult Christianity. He discusses his definitions for both juvenile and mature spirituality and addresses specific ways that church leaders may go about compassionately and wisely helping their congregations grow in faith.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Bergler’s work in this class, please watch this preview.

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Celebrating All Saints Day: ChurchNext and Other Online Resources

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The Feast of All Saints will be here in eleven days. As you prepare to celebrate All Saints Day, we would like to make you aware of ChurchNext classes and other online resources that can help you and your family celebrate both All Saints Day itself and individual saints throughout the year.

Several ChurchNext classes can help you and your congregation or family celebrate All Saints Day. As we remember those who have died, particularly in the past year, we grieve for them as well as celebrating their lives. For guidance through the grieving process, consider taking Grieving Screenshot 2015-10-21 17.18.54Well with Andrew Gerns (also available for groups.) Another class that you might find useful is Crossing Thresholds with Roger Ferlo and Suzann Holding, which covers how to transition with grace through important milestones in the life of a Christian. The class focuses on both baptism and death, making it particularly relevant to All Saints Day. Finally, since many people are made new saints through baptism on All Saints Day, we recommend our baptism courses, taught by Anne Kitch: Introducing Christian Baptism (available for groups), Adult Baptism in The Episcopal Church (available for groups), and Preparing for Infant and Children’s Baptism in The Episcopal Church (available for groups.) Prospective godparents might consider taking How to Be a Godparent or How to be a Godparent for Groups.

In addition to resources about All Saints Day, we would like to make you aware of excellent online resources that can teach you and your family about the saints, for use on All Saints Day and throughout the year. ChurchNext will be producing a class on Praying With Saints in the coming months. In the meantime, Saints and Commemorations of The Episcopal Church is a terrific resource that offers links to pages for each saint with a saint’s day celebrated in The Episcopal Church. The pages include information about each saint, images of the saints, and prayers appropriate to the day on which we celebrate each saint. Also, Forward Movement offers a Liturgical Calendar with links to information about the lives of the saints prayers for each saint’s day. Forward Movement also offers a year-long class free for downloading called Celebrating the Saints. (It’s not an online class, but you can get free access to it online, so we include it.)

Meet the Saints

Lastly, families and educators might consider online resources for teaching children about All Saints Day and about the saints. The Episcopal Church offers Lesson Plans That Work with links to specific lesson plans designed for teaching young children, older children, and adults about All Saints Day. Also, Forward Movement offers Meet the Saints, a guide for educators and storybook for families to learn about twenty-six of the saints. (Again, this is a free resource available for downloading.)

We hope that you find these resources useful and that you and your families have a blessed All Saints Day.

Just Launched: Introducing Benedictine Spirituality

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Today, we launched Introducing Benedictine Spirituality with Laurel Dahill. St. Benedict of Nursia was born in the fifth century and had such a strong and lasting influence on monastic life that he became known to history as the Father of Monasticism. One reason for his widespread influence was his Rule: regulations guiding day-to-day living which he used to guide the abbeys that he founded so that they could live according to his precepts in his absence.

In this class, the Rev. Laurel Dahill, a priest who lives her life according to Benedict’s Rule, shows modern Christians how we might adapt Benedict’s Rule to guide our day-to-day lives and help us live according to our values. Benedict’s Rule emphasizes stability and rhythm and a wise use of our time, so that we may nourish our minds, bodies, and souls. In our rushed lives, bombarded with news, videos, entertainment, and advertisements as well as many responsibilities, it can be helpful to commit ourselves to living mindfully, to acting purposefully, and to being deliberate in our daily activities.

If you are interested in incorporating prayer into your life, in living mindfully, or in utilizing spiritual practices on a regular basis, you should consider taking Introducing Benedictine Spirituality with Laurel Dahill. Prayer groups, devotional groups, and adult Christian formation groups might profit from investigating Introducing Benedictine Spirituality with Laurel Dahill for Groups.

If you are interested in this course, check out this preview and learn more about it.

ChurchNext in the World: Church of the Holy Comforter

hilaryThe Rev. Dr. Hilary Smith, Rector of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Richmond, VA, uses ChurchNext classes to support Episcopal 101, a class that offers everything a newcomer to the Episcopal Church could want to understand how the church works, what we believe, and what we stand for. Established Episcopalians also sometimes use the class as a refresher.

The Rev. Smith uses several ChurchNext classes to support Episcopal 101, but she is most enthusiastic about How to Be a Crazy Christian with Michael Curry. This class always inspires energy and conversation, and she finds it a great jumping-off point for group discussion. (Anybody familiar with Bishop Curry’s engaging and inspiring style will not find this reaction surprising.)

“I really appreciate it,” the Rev. Smith says of ChurchNext in her parish, “and it’s helped with my teaching in the parish.”

Holy Comforter uses ChurchNext to support other ministries as well — especially to reach out to young families in the congregation who can’t always make in to adult formation or Bible study meetings. The Rev. Smith uses ChurchNext’s parenting classes in particular to support parents of young children and offer them the opportunity to engage in parish community and discussion, even if their parenting obligations do not always allow them to attend events at the church. Anybody who has experienced the peculiar combination of joy and stress that attends young parenthood can understand what it can mean to these parents to have the church reach out and support them in ways that accommodate the unique demands on their time during this period in their lives.

Holy Comforter has used ChurchNext in these and other ways to support its parish life. We would love to hear how ChurchNext has supported your parish! We welcome your comments about how you use ChurchNext in your congregation. In the meantime, please enjoy this preview of How to Be a Crazy Christian with Bishop Curry.

Just Launched: How to Pray Online

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This week’s class, How to Pray Online with Karekin Yarian, which is available For Individuals as well as For Group study, shows us that the online world isn’t just for Game of Thrones quizzes and photographs of other people’s meals. Brother Yarian, a software engineer and monk from San Francisco, demonstrates many ways in which online resources can support our spiritual lives.

Having trouble working in devotional exercises around your other obligations? There’s an app for that. (Several, in fact.) Want to compare various translations of a problematic biblical passage? You can check out several websites that might serve your purpose, depending on how many translations and how much commentary you want. Feeling called to pray the Daily Office? A phone or tablet can bring up exactly the service you need for the date and time of day.

We are used to thinking of the constant buzz of activity online as a source of distraction. Brother Yarian shows how technology can help us bring our focus back to God. We are becoming accustomed to internal division. This class demonstrates how the opportunities of our unique age have the potential to unite us across continents as a truly global church. Global Techno World

Want to see more? Please enjoy this preview of the class.

Good Arguments = Stronger Communities

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On Sunday, we launched Approaching Scripture with Vicki Garvey. In lesson four, Garvey says that good arguments are important; that Christianity is nourished on productive disagreements. This idea struck me because in our increasingly polarized world, people have begun to argue so often and so angrily that I find myself frequently pulling back from anything resembling a religious or political argument with someone who disagrees with me. I rationalize that I won’t change anybody’s mind, which might be true, but sometimes, I owe it to myself and the subject matter to speak up — and I keep quiet to keep peace. This is my own conversational flaw; the disrespectful climate of discussion these days certainly creates many others throughout our culture.

Vicki Garvey’s words have reminded me, however, that there’s nothing wrong with argument in itself. In fact, the proliferation of angry, polarized arguments these days has had the effect of reducing the kind of arguments on which Christianity thrives. Arguments based in temper, or arrogance, or ego produce nothing but hot air, but arguments that people use to tackle important and difficult topics can be fruitful when they are conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Without that kind of respect, it’s not just the arguments that we have that create problems — it’s the arguments that we don’t have; the lack of  the kind of fruitful conversation that happens when people bring different perspectives to the table  and hash things out together.

This point was illustrated extremely well a few weeks ago, when members of our congregation met to discuss A Christian Response to Gun Violence. The class broke into small groups to go through the discussion questions. As I listened to the group discussions, I found myself thinking that the groups in which everyone agreed were simply echoing each other’s ideas. The conversation was good; different perspectives built some new ideas, but it was not as fruitful as the conversations in which people disagreed. In those groups, people grappled and wrestled with the subject, and in the end, they came out with more educated opinions because of the intelligent way in which they had argued.

Vicki Garvey is right. A culture that does not know how to argue productively has lost an important avenue to growth. I will keep that in mind the next time I have to decide whether or not to (respectfully) rock the boat. In the meantime, I encourage you to take Approaching Scripture with Vicki Garvey — or, in the spirit of productive discussion, to take Approaching Scripture with Vicki Garvey for Groups. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the class, here is a preview: