Resource Update: Pins of Light Holy Week Retreat

Last week, we posted about online resources for Holy Week, and one of those resources was the blog Pins Of Light and their annual online retreat for Holy Week. Details about this year’s retreat were a little sketchy last week, but this week, they’ve put out more information, and it looks so interesting that we thought we’d draw particular attention to it.

This year’s retreat is called Chosen: Stories, Silences, and Songs from Scripture. It pursues the theme of reading between the lines in scripture by imagining situations from various characters’ viewpoints. It consists of three 45-minute online videos that will be released on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. People can participate at their own pace and on their own timetable with the videos. Jesuit spiritual directors are available for questions.

This online resource looks like a fantastic and creative option geared specifically for Holy Week. We hope that you find it helpful this week as we follow the story of Christ’s Passion and await the day of his resurrection.

Here’s Pins of Light’s video preview.






Resource: Holy Week Online Classes and Retreats

Last week, we updated you on online stations of the cross devotions that you might find useful during Holy Week. Today, we’re offering some suggestions for ChurchNext courses and online retreats that you might use during Holy Week. We hope you find these helpful.

ChurchNext Courses: We offer several courses that you can use to enrich your Holy Week.

  • Any of David Lose’s three classes on Making Sense of the Cross would be a good Painting 1focus for contemplation. Try Making Sense of the Cross Part 1 (which focuses on understanding the cross through experience), Making Sense of the Cross Part 2 (which focuses on understanding the cross through the gospels), and Making Sense of the Cross Part 3 (which focuses on Christian theories about the cross).
  • You also might enjoy Kathrin Burleson’s Praying the Stations of the Cross, in which artist Kathrin Burleson discusses and reflects on her series of fourteen paintings representing the Stations of the Cross.
  • And of the classes in our free Lenten curriculum Luke the Liberator would be a useful addition to Holy Week. These were developed as a resource for the Good Book Club as well as for anyone who is interested in learning more about Luke’s gospel. They are free until the end of Lent.

Online Holy Week Retreats: Here are two Holy Week retreats available online:

  • A blog called Pins of Light has offered popular online Holy Week retreats for the past ten years. This year’s retreat is connected with a musical called Chosen, but they aren’t being forthcoming with details about it. We’ll update if/when we learn more about it.
  • Creighton University offers a Holy Week retreat as part of its Lenten Retreat series. The retreat includes suggested readings, reflections, suggestions for prayers, the Stations of the Cross, and an opportunity to reflect and share thoughts with others.
  • offers a series of online retreats throughout Lent. They offer this one  for Holy Week.


Just Launched: Healing Spiritual Wounds with Carol Howard Merritt

We just launched Healing Spiritual Wounds with Carol Howard Merritt For Individuals and For Groups.

St. Paul is famous for having  written, “We see through a glass, darkly” — or, as the NRSV translation puts it, “in a mirror, dimly.” We cannot understand God’s nature without human language and human concepts limiting us because God is larger and greater than our understanding of reality can accommodate. The nature of our interactions with God requires us to use metaphors to describe God. The Bible uses the images of a father, a king, a war leader, a bridegroom, the master of an estate, a potter, a farmer, and many other metaphors that highlight elements of our relationship with God.

This necessity is part of our journey toward God; of what it means to be a human who worships God. Conceiving of God in erroneous ways, however, can cause great spiritual damage. When we grow up with images of God that are violent, full of hatred, cold,  wrathful, arbitrary, etc. we learn to fear God, but not to love God; to pray to God, but not necessarily to ask God for guidance. This kind of damage is a spiritual injury. It damages how we conceive of and interact on a spiritual level with God and with our neighbors.

In this class, Carol Howard Merritt talks about spiritual injuries: what they are, how to avoid inflicting them, particularly on an institutional level, and how to heal them — again, as churches, not just as individuals.

This class is ideal for people who want to learn how to deal with the spiritual injuries that people and institutions inflict — and how to keep our institutions from inflicting spiritual harm in the first place. For a preview of the course, please click here.

Resource: Online Stations of the Cross

Many Christians use the Stations of the Cross liturgy during Lent and Holy Week. We want to draw your attention to some of the many online opportunities to pray using this ancient liturgy.

Online Stations of the Cross for Adults

  • Catholic Online has created a version of the Stations of the Cross that is available as a devotion on their website and as a video on YouTube.  This version is highly produced, with professional voice-over, music, and editing. It uses both video footage of religious sites in the Holy Land and actors who silently play the roles in the passion story as the voice-over narrates the events for each station and meditates on these events It starts with a short introduction to the Stations of the Cross; the stations themselves begin a little over two minutes into the video.

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  • Busted Halo’s Virtual Stations of the Cross offers videos with music and images. Participants read the reflections at each station to themselves.
  • Creighton University’s Online Stations of the Cross offers images of each station and prayers that users may read themselves.
  • You might also try a virtual pilgrimage through sites in Jerusalem that traditionally have been associated with each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The site brings visitors to a numbered map through Jerusalem. At each numbered station on the map, the site offers an introduction to what viewers will find there and a slide slow of the buildings and the markers that designate the site as one of the traditional locations for each station. (Be patient with the slide show; it moves slowly.) After the slide show, viewers are shown an image of the altar associated with each station and invited to pray. Each virtual prayer station includes background music and textual prayers.
  • Another video version of the Stations of the Cross utilizes paintings by Pietro Rudolfi of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco. This version uses sacred chant and voice-over prayers, reading, and meditation.
  • You might also enjoy ChurchNext’s course on Praying the Stations of the Cross, in which artist Kathrin Burleson discusses and reflects on her series of fourteen paintings representing the Stations of the Cross. This is not a service so much as an introduction to the devotion and the artist’s reflections on the paintings for each station.
  • YouTube offers many other Stations of the Cross resources — too many to list here — some highly produced and some very simple. If you are interested in finding more online Stations of the Cross resources, YouTube is a good place to explore.

Online Stations of the Cross for Children

  • Loyola Press offers a multimedia Stations of the Cross for children. Using music, images, and simple meditative text, it offers a child-friendly service that older children who can read can use alone and that younger children can use with their parents’ help.

stations of cross children

  • The Catholic Online version of the Stations of the Cross described in the section above very clearly addresses the first part of each mediation to children and the second part to adults.
  • This is another child-friendly version of the Stations of the Cross. It uses meditations and images appropriate for children.

We hope that these online Stations of the Cross resources help you during Lent and Holy Week this year.

Just Launched: A New Free Class — Revelation: The End of the World or Heaven on Earth with Michael Battle.

Saint_John_on_Patmos_2We just launched a new FREE class, Revelation: The End of the World or Heaven on Earth with Michael Battle For Individuals and For Groups.

In this course, Michael Battle, Episcopal priest and author of the book Heaven on Earth: God’s Call to Community in the Book of Revelation, offers five lectures, each about forty minutes long, on how to read The Book of Revelation.

In his Book of Revelation, John of Patmos addresses the age-old conundrum that we can seek God — but we cannot seek God.  We can open our hearts to God and have faith that God will, in God’s way and in God’s time, enter.  We cannot, however, force a union with God any more than we can free ourselves from sin; we can only open ourselves to possibilities.

In this course, Michael discusses the good dreams in the Book of Revelation that people today tend to discount. He emphasizes that in the Book of Revelation, good dreams and nightmarish monsters are connected through the reconciliation process. The good dreams — union with God — result from the nightmares — the possibility of separation from God. Likewise, union with one another through empathy and reconciliation after wrongdoing results from the will of God acting in our lives, not through our ability to reunite with one another.

Michael’s overall emphasis in this lesson and in his discussion of Revelation is connection — between sin and union with God; between the beginning and the end;galaxy and cell between the oppressor and the victim; between the sufferer and the outsider who empathizes with the sufferer. The hardest aspect of these unions is that none of them is under our control. We may want forgiveness, reconciliation, union with God — but we don’t get to run the ship.

Michael argues that the Book of Revelation connects nightmares to good dreams; the beginning to the end. It tries to convey the paradoxes that human beings can only dimly comprehend, and when we read it this way rather than according to the grim tradition of analyzing the nightmares, we can begin to understand it.

We would like to thank Trinity Institute for allowing us to use Michael’s lectures and their curriculum material in this course.

Image 1: John on Patmos by the Master of the Rotterdam, 15th century. Public domain. 

Image 2: A galaxy and a cell, both used with permission through Creative Commons.

Sacramentum Day One: Off to a Great Start

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So we started Sacramentum, our first live online course, last Sunday, and the first of our seven classes went very well. Thanks to Lisa Kimball, who will go down in history as the very first instructor of ChurchNext live courses, for offering a terrific presentation on Relationships and what it means to be in a relationship with God. Thanks to Sarah Stonesifer and Malcolm McLaurin for moderating the course with grace and efficiency. And, of course, many thanks to the almost forty students who have helped us launch this course with their courtesy, curiosity, and insight.

We’ve had a few last-minute requests from people who wanted to join the course after the registration date passed, so we decided to extend the registration deadline until February 26. If you’re interested in joining us, you can still do so for the next week and a half.

We hope to see you this Sunday, 2/18, when Wendy Claire Barrie will be offering a discussion on Belonging.

Just Launched: Our Free 5-Course Curriculum on Luke the Liberator

We’ve just launched our 5-class curriculum on Luke the Liberator. It’s free for anyone who wants to use it from today through the end of Lent. This series is designed to support the ministry of the Good Book Club.

Luke LindisfarneWhy study Luke right now? This is a time when our culture is addressing many questions that are deeply relevant to Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s works are written as part of his mission to reach out to strangers across international and cultural divides to tell the story of Jesus. His writing addresses how we should treat strangers in foreign lands, Jesus’ attitude to poor people, the role of women in the culture and in the church, the right way to approach other marginalized people of that time, and the power of grace to redeem us from the sins of our fallen world.

In the past couple of years, our nation has been engaged in bitter debates about issues that are deeply relevant to Luke’s Gospel. We have debated about allowing refugees into our country and our nation’s attitude toward our neighbors in Haiti and Mexico. We’ve argued about the government’s role in assisting poor people, veterans, and senior citizens. We’ve focused on the empowerment of women, in part through hundreds of courageous women having taken a united stand against a culture of sexual assault. We’ve gone back and forth on the place of transgender people, gay people, people of color, and other marginalized people in our culture. We’ve enclosed ourselves in echo chambers while judging one another on the internet. In short, there has never been a better time for people in our country to read the Gospel of Luke.

In this curriculum, five instructors adress different aspects of Luke as a liberator.

Introduction to Luke
We begin the series with an overview as John Lewis, a teacher and scholar of the gospels J Lewis Newfrom The Seminary of the Southwest, introduces the Gospel of Luke and discusses who its author was, the audience to which its author is writing, and its most important themes.

Liberation for Women
The Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an award-winning religion journalist who has written extensively on women in the Bible, discusses the Gospel of Luke in the context of women. She examines women’s voices in Luke, Luke’s message about women in its historical context, and Luke’s Gospel as it applies to gender and social justice in the 21st century.

Liberation from Wealth 
The Rev. Ron Spann, a longtime social justice advocate, examines issues related to wealth in Luke’s Gospel. How does wealth enslave us? How does Christ free us from that enslavement? Ron addresses these questions and others in this class.

Liberated to Share
The Rev. Nurya Love Parish, an activist in the Christian Food Movement, the mission of which is to create sustainable food production methods and ensure that all people have access to good, healthy food. She talks about Luke’s Gospel in the context of giving — what it means to give; how Christ frees us to give freely.

Liberated to Preach
The Rev. Jay Sidebotham, founder of RenewalWorks, focuses his work on church renewal — on freeing churches to grow in the spirit of Christ. In this class, he discusses Luke’s approach to spreading the good news of Jesus and what that means for 21st century Christians.

You can take these classes at your own pace. One profitable way you might use it would be to study one class during each week of Lent. While this curriculum has been designed with the idea of group study in mind, this course offers opportunities for individuals to engage in online discussion with other students around the world.

We hope that you benefit from this curriculum on Luke and that it gives you much food for thought about how Luke’s gospel can help us engage the divisive issues that concern our culture at this time.

Image One: Luke the Evangelist from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Free for use through Creative Commons license.

Image Two: Photograph of the Women’s March in Washington D.C. , 22 Jan 2017. Public Domain.