Introducing Romans, a Live Class with Jay Sidebotham Starts Tomorrow

jay sidebothamRegister now for Introducing Romans, a live online class with Jay Sidebotham. It starts tomorrow at 8 p.m. and lasts for an hour. It will meet for eight consecutive Wednesdays. This class supports the Good Book Club Epiphany reading initiative focusing on Paul’s letter to the Romans.

This class will offer an opportunity for Episcopalians to reflect on one of the books in the New Testament that has had the greatest impact on the church. The longest of Paul’s letters, Romans offers a sweeping vision of Paul’s theology, with a focus on grace that comes to all people. The letter includes rigorous recognition that we all contend with powers that bind us; that a new life of freedom is available in the good news of Jesus Christ. The letter to the Romans has had transformative influence on the church at critical moments in our history. It’s exciting to see what might happen to the Episcopal Church as we prayerfully reflect on its message this Epiphany season.

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We hope you will join the many students who have already signed up to read the Book of Romans with Jay. Please email if you have any questions.

Congregational subscribers and facilitators, please note: live online courses like this one will not work properly if you simply add them to your church’s school as you would add our pre-recorded classes. Your parishioners CAN, however, gain free access to the course due to your congregational membership. Please email or to learn how to give your parishioners free access to this course. The process is not difficult, and we will respond quickly to your email.

Image: Fragment of a fourth-century manuscript copy of the Letter to the Romans showing Romans 1:1-7. 





Just Launched: How to Play…Like God with Christine Sine

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We just launched How to Play…Like God with Christine Sine For Individuals and For Groups.

Although we think of play as an activity limited to children, Christine Sine argues that play characterizes healthy lives from infancy to adulthood. Play is an essential element in our mental and physical health — and, she argues, play allows Christians to connect with and imitate a playful God.

It can be hard to connect the notion of play with the same Alpha-and-Omega God who says things like, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of bondage. You shall have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:2). Yet Christine argues that God does play and that in playing, we can become closer to God. Adult play can be spiritual play: being with God in the moment and accepting God’s being with us in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. When we play, we surrender. The end result is not something we can craft.

This kind of play can happen on an individual level and on the level of a church community. For example, every year, The Washington National Cathedral holds a Seeing Deeper Week . In 2018, this week included a sound and light show, yoga in the nave, an indoor community-building carnival, and a “cosmic liturgy,” which the website describes as “a rave in the nave (but without the drugs).” This kind of creative, playful approach to liturgy is an example of spiritual play that might happen in groups. On an individual level, spiritual play can run the gamut from taking a nature walk with a child to praying according to the lectio divina model. We can reach the goal of freeing the mind and being joyfully present to the glory of God through many different methods of play.

We hope this class helps you to engage in play as a mental and spiritual gift — for adults and children alike. For a preview of the class, please click here.

Just Launched: Bringing Worship to Life with Dent Davidson

We just launched Bringing Worship to Life with Dent Davidson For Individuals and For Groups.

Anglican and Episcopal liturgy can be a very hit-or-miss . Done well, the beauty of a worship service done in this style can bring people great spiritual joy and fulfillment. Done in a rote or lackluster way…well, listen to comedian Eddie Izzard’s take on Anglican church worship:

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It seems strange that the same liturgies and even the same music and prayers can bring such spiritual joy to people sometimes and leave them so flat at others. Take the Easter Vigil service. It can be done with poetry, passion, music, and spiritual (as well literal) fire. Some churches bring congregations outside to see the flames leap into the heavens against the dark sky and the stars. Many have parishioners bring bells and other instruments — even just their keys — to ring in celebration of the risen Christ. The Easter Vigil at these churches can fuel spiritual fire for many weeks, just as the Paschal candle burns for months after being lit at that service. But without that creativity and energy, the same service can also be dry, long, overly formal, and exhausting — lots of Latin and symbolism, and no real passion.

Eddie Izzard’s sketch indicates that many people see Anglican services in the latter light — after all, that sketch was part of an international tour that became an album and a book. People across several continents related to his portrayal of a lackluster Anglican church service enough to find it funny.

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In this course, Dent Davidson, Missioner for Music and Liturgy at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, IL and chaplain to the House of Bishops, brings his expertise on energizing worship to a church that sometimes needs it. In his first lesson, he discusses ways to make worship accessible to newcomers and visitors even before the liturgy starts. In his second lesson, he discusses the two biggest challenges that Episcopal churches face in relation to engaging people in worship. In the third lesson, he discusses ways to bring renewed energy to the prayers during the liturgy. In the fourth lesson, he examines music in worship: ways to energize it and use it to reach out to into the community.

We hope that churches will use this course to bring revived passion and energy to their worship. For a preview of the course, please click here.

Just Launched: What is Resurrection? with Lucas Mix

We just launched What is Resurrection? with Lucas Mix For Individuals and For Groups

If you want to improve a bad day — or really any day at all — turn on Ray Charles’ song “Seven Spanish Angels,” an awesomely over-the-top song about star-crossed lovers in Texas who die in a shootout with unspecified bad guys. Seriously, it’s Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. If you’ve never heard it, take a minute and listen to this song.

There. Aren’t you happier now?

The only tiny hiccup in this otherwise epic song is that it turns the dead lovers in the Valley of the Gun into angels after they die. (Spanish angels apparently — because why not?) The whole dead-people-turn-into-angels notion has turned up a lot in popular culture over the years. Remember this book?

This classic Christmas story is about a little boy who has died and turned into an angel who eventually visits the Christ child. These are just two examples of the dead-people-as-angels phenomenon. This idea is popular, as is the notion that when we die, we leave our bodies and our spirits go to heaven.

The physicality of the resurrection is a part of Christian theology that some Christians forget and that others forget conveniently — that is, they get it in theory but choose not to think about that side of the resurrection too much. Influenced by Platonism and by the overall notion that our sinful bodies tend to get us into trouble, many Christians think of the body as something problematic that we leave behind in death. If we pattern our hope for resurrection on Jesus’, however, as all of Christian theology says we should, then we must assume from reading the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection that: (1) we will rise to new life after death; that (2) our risen life will differ from our life on earth today; and that (3) our resurrection will be physical in nature as well as spiritual.

In this class, the Rev. Lucas Mix, an episcopal priest and evolutionary biologist, discusses the nature of resurrected life, emphasizing its physicality and what that physicality means for us both in the afterlife and in our lives today. He discusses what scripture tells us about the afterlife and how Greek and Jewish ideas about the afterlife have affected the way we understand it. He examines Jesus’ resurrection and its implications for everyone else’s resurrection, and he addresses errors (like the idea of a purely spiritual resurrection) that Christians make in their thinking about our risen lives. He discusses how resurrection might happen and what happens to us between death and the last day. Most importantly, he talks about how we should live in this life to begin living into our hope of resurrection and becoming united with the created world as the body of Christ in our risen lives.

This course is ideal for people who want to deepen their understanding of the resurrection. For a preview of the course, click here.

Use ChurchNext Classes to Enrich the Advent Season

Advent candlesWhen it comes to Advent, if your church needs it, ChurchNext most likely has a class on it. We have several courses that churches can use to enrich the Advent season. Here’s a short profile of each of these classes.


Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck For Individuals and For Groups

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Do you have new parishioners who might not be sure what the Advent season celebrates or what activities it involves? The Rev. Tim Schenck has answers for them. In this course, participants will learn not just more about what Advent is, but how celebrating the Advent season can change our lives. For a preview of the course, click here.

Advent for Families with Heath Howe For Individuals and For Groups

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Do you want to explore ways to celebrate Advent with your family and teach your kids about Advent? The Rev. Heath Howe can give you some great ideas, both about creative ways to celebrate Advent as a family and ways to resist the consumerism that characterizes the holiday season. Preview the course here.

Advent: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year For Individuals and For Groups

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Experiencing the familiar frustration of trying to walk the line between the secular Christmas frenzy of December and the self-denial associated with a Christian Advent? Let Bishop Susan Goff advise you in her course. In this course, Susan invites us to take on some practical and inspiring disciplines in this season and to contemplate more fully what it truly means to prepare and anticipate the coming of Christ. For a preview of this course, please click here.

A 7-Week Advent with Stephen Smith For Individuals and For Groups

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Do you sometimes feel like you miss out on Advent entirely what with all the seasonal excitement of December? Try the Rev. Stephen Smith’s class on practicing Advent for seven weeks. His church found spiritual benefit from taking this approach. For a preview of Stephen’s class, click here.

We hope that these courses help you as your community anticipates the coming of Christ into the world, and we hope that you all experience a holy and blessed Advent season.

Just Launched: Introducing Spiritual Direction with Michelle Dayton

St AnthonyWe just launched Introducing Spiritual Direction with Michelle Dayton For Individuals and For Groups.

Christian spiritual direction dates as far back as the fourth- and fifth-century desert fathers and mothers, whom early Christians petitioned for spiritual guidance. St. Benedict codified the spiritual mentoring of novices by older, more experienced monks into his Rule — the guidelines by which Benedictine monks chose to live. Spiritual direction became a key feature in monastic life. For centuries, Christians have offered each other directed spiritual guidance. In the mid-twentieth century, developments in psychology and counseling combined with growing parishioner needs for individualized spiritual guidance led to a resurgence of interest in spiritual direction and a change in the ways in which Christians practiced this discipline.

In this course, spiritual director and trainer of spiritual directors Michelle Dayton discusses contemporary spiritual direction: what it is (and is not) and what it can do. She offers an overview of the practice, discusses the various methods that people use in practicing spiritual direction. describes what often happens in one-on-one spiritual direction sessions, and explains the role of the spiritual director in relation to the participant. She also discusses times in Christian lives when people often find spiritual direction particularly beneficial.

We hope that this overview will help people who are interested in learning more about spiritual direction discern whether the practice might help them listen for God moving in their lives.

For a preview of the class, please click here.

Just Launched: Why Suffering? with Ian Markham

We just launched Why Suffering? with Ian Markham For Individuals and For Groups.

Here lies veraIt’s an ancient question: God is entirely powerful. God is good and does not desire suffering. Complex life inevitably involves frequent suffering. How can we reconcile these three truths with one another?

Christianity doesn’t have a pat answer for this question. To some extent, accepting that we may never quite understand suffering is part of faith; we trust God anyway. St. Paul writes that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Trying to comprehend God’s entire plan would require what Ronald Rolheiser describes as “a slimming down of God to fit the size, expectations, and reasoning of the human mind and imagination.” Nevertheless, exploring the question of suffering in the world can help us move toward greater understanding, both of the role of suffering in our lives and of our relationships with God.

In this class, The Rev. Dr. Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, discusses possible reasons for suffering and ways to cope with suffering that can help Christians not only endure, but also grow from our experiences with pain. His overall argument rests on the idea that we may never entirely understand why we suffer, but that as Christians, we have the comfort of knowing that our God suffered, just as we do. We know, therefore, that God understands what we feel; that God cares about the pain and suffering of living creatures. We can trust that our suffering is part of a great drama; a story that centers on nothing less than the redemption of the universe, and we can take comfort in that knowledge.

This class is ideal for people who want to understand suffering in the world, or for people experiencing suffering or anxiety. For a preview of this course, please click here.

Image 1: Photograph of a makeshift grave for Vera Smith, a New Orleans citizen who died during Hurricane Katrina.

Image 2: El Greco. La Crucifixión (1597). Public Domain.