New course: Radical Welcoming with Stephanie Spellers

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We’re excited to launch Radical Welcoming today, led by the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers. What is “radical welcoming”? Well, it’s more than just friendly greeters at the church doors, and easy-to-follow service bulletins. It’s more than serving the hungry from one side of a soup kitchen line. It’s more than “tolerance” of those we see as different.

It’s nothing less than the kind of love that Jesus offered to those on the margins of society: the unclean, the sick, the poor, the prostitute. It’s acknowledging that life has been different for those not in the traditional center of power and privilege, and that there is wisdom to be gained from listening to those we have so often pushed aside. It’s humble acceptance that those of us on “the inside” have a lot to learn from those on the outside. spellers

God’s church cannot be all it is called to be if it only welcomes people who abide by our conventions, restrictions, caveats, and customs. We cannot be fully Christian without acknowledging the rights, the dignity, the gifts of everyone. 

Radical welcome can be scary; it can induce feelings of guilt, when we finally acknowledge what we’ve so long pretended not to see. But Stephanie reminds us in this course that radical welcoming can be life-changing — that God is there waiting on the other side of our fear. God is calling us to reach out across the divides we’ve created, and work toward reconciliation and wholeness. It’s what Jesus lived and what Jesus commands. Church shouldn’t be always about comfort and safety — for growth and healing often require courage and daring.

Are you ready to embrace Radical Welcoming? Click here for more information or to register. (Click here for the course in For Groups format.)

The Reverend Canon Stephanie Spellers is a popular speaker and consultant on reimagining the mainline church and embracing new mission contexts. The author of numerous books — including Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Transforming Power of the Spirit and Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Traditions –Stephanie is an Episcopal priest and serves as Director of Mission and Reconciliation at General Theological Seminary in New York City and as Canon for Missional Vitality in the Diocese of Long Island. She is one of two Chaplains to the Episcopal House of Bishops and recently chaired the Episcopal Commission on Mission and Evangelism. 

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Practicing Resurrection

If you’ve never read Wendell Berry’s poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, you won’t know how much Becca Stevens’ ministry “practices resurrection” and embodies that nonsensical love for the world and its people that so characterizes Jesus’ own ministry. (Take a moment to read the poem by clicking the link above: you won’t regret it.)newbecca

Registration for The Big Class: A Simple Path to a Deeper Spiritual Life opens today; the free course runs March 22 – April 5. We’re thrilled to be offering this course free to the world and are grateful to our sponsors, The Episcopal Church, Trinity Wall Street, Church Publishing, and Forward Movement. Over four lessons, Becca shares the lessons and insights she’s gained in her ministry and offers wisdom on journeying into a deeper spiritual life. (Click here for more information or to register.)

But the point of the Berry’s poem — and Becca Stevens’ ministry — is that living a spiritual life and doing the work of Christ is simple: love God, love God’s creation and God’s people, celebrate Jesus’ power to redeem, recreate, refresh, resurrect. Becca, through her various ministries and through Thistle Farms, has seen death — living death — but has also witnessed resurrection. By paying attention, loving and celebrating what the world would see as wasted or maimed or undeserving of attention and service, Becca’s ministry has seen the power of new life, of what was dead becoming new again and flowering in a harvest that is much larger than we may ever know.

Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

In The Big Class, Becca invites us to a similar way of viewing the world, and reminds us not to worry about forging some deep spiritual path: just show up, get your hands dirty, dig in the soil God has given you to work with, and the new life will come. We hope you’ll join us in this mission and share it with anyone who may be longing for new life.

“Creating Common Good 4: A Christian Response with Archbishop Justin Welby” launches today

In this, the fourth ChurchNext course previewing Trinity Institute’s Creating Common Good conference, Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev. Justin Welby offers a Christian Response to the often overwhelming and disheartening problems of poverty and economic injustice. Rather than focusing on what we can’t do, the Archbishop urges us to focus on what we as a Church can offer: on-the-ground help, a message of hope, a challenge to cynicism, an understanding of human nature, and a commitment to outward, other-oriented service. welby

In this course, we consider ways that radical, systemic change has been accomplished with the support of churches; we reflect on the theology of “common good” and economic equality; and we explore concrete ways the Church can help right now. Creating Common Good 4: A Christian Response is a thought-provoking, inspiring, and hopeful look at how we as Christians can, when we follow God’s call, accomplish amazing things with the abundant gifts we’ve been given. Click here to register or for more information.

 The Most Rev. Justin Welby is the 105th and current Archbishop of Canterbury. Learn more about his mission and ministry here.

Creating Common Good 3: Educational Inequality with Nicole Baker Fulgham

Today we launch the third Creating Common Good course in partnership with Trinity Institute. In Creating Common Good 3: Educational Inequality, Nicole Baker Fulgham provides a truly engaging, challenging, and inspiring analysis of our education system, both how it’s failing and how we as Christians are called to help.

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Using her years of experience in education and in educational reform, along with her inspiring passion for helping young people, Nicole explores the “two system” paradigm of American education, how expectations and resources are unequally allocated along economic and social divides, and how change can occur. Education is the pathway out of poverty; it also helps each child discover his or her God-given purpose.

This course has much to offer all of us who call ourselves Christian and thus bear a responsibility to those in need, but especially those involved in bringing up and educating youth, those interested in economic reform, and in social justice. Click here to register or for more information.

Nicole Baker Fulgham is the founder and president of The Expectations Project, a non-profit organization that develops & mobilizes faith-motivated advocates who help close the academic achievement gap in public schools. She is the author of Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids (Brazos Press, April 2013).

Creating Common Good Part 2 is now open!

We’re thrilled to launch the second Creating Common Good course in partnership with Trinity Institute. In Creating Common Good 2: Christian Responsibility, Rachel Held Evans helps us rethink how we as Christians understand economic and social responsibility.

At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need, and thus there may be equality, as it is written:The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 2 Corinthians 8:14-15

evansRachel invites us to reconsider what we mean by “neighbor” and how we might take Eucharist out into our communities. Sharing her own experiences as an evangelical, she reclaims the term “evangelical” as one that indicates a commitment to justice, equality, and generosity through attention to Biblical teaching. This course will challenge, inform, and inspire all Christians who seek to address the overwhelming problem of economic injustice in our world. Click here for more information or to register.

Rachel Held Evans is a popular evangelical author and speaker. She blogs at rachelheldevans.com.