launching today: Everyday Spiritual Practices with Keith Anderson

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It doesn’t have to be complicated: simply taking time each morning and evening to connect with God, to reflect on one’s day, to offer thanks and prayer, are everyday spiritual practices that help us recenter, andersonrefocus, and become more aware of the presence of God in our lives. Such seemingly mundane activities as washing dishes or changing a diaper can be performed with presence and intention, and can also draw us closer to God. Everyday spiritual practices bring peace, contentment, and a sense of gratitude. It’s that simple.

In our latest course, Everyday Spiritual Practices, Lutheran pastor Keith Anderson reminds us of the myriad ways we can incorporate small practices into our daily lives in order to bring us closer to Emmanuel, the God that is–always–with us. This is a wonderful course, one that will appeal to anyone seeking a deeper sense of peace and trust. It’s also great for your small group — whether busy parents, empty-nesters, women’s or men’s groups, or youth. Keith can offer wisdom about the how’s and why’s of spiritual practices, and how they can fit into — and enrich — anyone’s life, at any stage of life, every day. Click here for more information or to register.

The Reverend Keith Anderson is a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia, author of The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World (Morehouse, 2015), and co-author with Elizabeth Drescher of Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse 2012). Keith is co-editor with Elizabeth Drescher of The Narthex, an online magazine about the changing contours of American Christianity and serves on the editorial committee for Odyssey Network’s ON Scripture lectionary commentary series. An expert on digital ministry and sought after speaker and writer, his work on religion, new media, and popular culture has  appeared on The Huffington PostReligion Dispatches, Day 1, and The New Media Project.

Online Learning — and Spiritual Growth

Online learning is a huge blessing to those who otherwise might not be able to attend classes or take part in education programs, whether because of geographical or financial limitations, or family responsibilities and scheduling conflicts.

And yet studies find that, while people enroll in online education courses and programs, they very often do not complete them. In a study of online education in Africa, one student pointed out that  “[i]n a regular class you have a teacher who is in front of you who makes you concentrate. With the online environment, you have to have discipline, make your own timetable to listen to the lectures, and submit the assignments online.”

It’s like joining a gym: you have the best of intentions, but oftentimes without a personal trainer there to motivate you and hold you accountable, you tend to let it slide. The same goes for learning online  — and spiritual growth in general.

Think about it: that’s precisely why we need church: for the community of people on similar journeys, who hold each other accountable, and who motivate, inspire, challenge, and teach each other. As the Rev. Frank Wade says in our course, The Episcopal Tradition, “By ourselves, we begin to worship ourselves.” Sure, he says, “you can worship God by taking a walk in the park — but does the God you meet in the park ever tell you anything you don’t want to hear?”

So online learning (or a gym membership) is only as good as the person invested in it. And the same is true of spiritual formation. If we want to grow in faith, we must commit to it and keep “showing up.” Faith communities are great in that they can help pull us back in when we stray, but at the end of the day, no one can make our journey for us.

What seems to work best for many people is a combination of online and in-person activities. ChurchNext offers several ways to meet this need: individuals in a parish can take a course on their own schedule but then meet regularly, or at the end of a prescribed time period, to discuss and think further about the course content. For example, your church can make a course available for, say, three weeks; parishioners can take the course at their leisure during that time period, and then meet as a group for coffee or dinner to share and discuss. Alternatively, small groups can use the For Groups version of a course to meet regularly, watch a video presentation, and then discuss it together.

How do you learn best? What fosters your spiritual growth? We’d love to hear it in the comments.

animate: Practices 3 launches today

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The third and final part of the animate: Practices series in conjunction with Augsburg Fortress launches today, and it’s another great one: this time, we’re led by scholars, authors, and pastors Shane Claiborne, Enuma Okoro, and Doug Pagitt in re-animating our engagements with three seemingly-mundane concepts: money, service, and community.

Shane offers his own experiences and learning on how we as Christians are called to think of and use money (and stuff and other resources), how the Bible can make us feel at odds with the world around us as well as offering us freedom and peace from this oddness. Sharing what we have and emphasizing a gospel of enough are practices that are both biblically-mandated and spiritually life-giving.

Likewise, Enuma Okoro reminds us that service isn’t something that just happens “out there” in third-world countries or in desperate hardships or labor; it’s also something we’re called to every day, in ordinary and small ways. Making ourselves available to each other and seeing the image of God in each other are what service is all about.

Finally, Doug Pagitt tells about his experiences with community as a transformative practice of mutual growth. He invites us to re-think what we expect or do when we welcome newcomers into our midst.

All three of these presenters offer thought-provoking talks on vital practices for the Christian life, and help breathe new energy into our faiths. Click here to learn more about this third course or to register.

We’re proud to partner with Augsburg Fortress in presenting some of the animate series as ChurchNext courses. The  series is unique in that it not only tackles some of the big questions of our faith, like “Is God real?” and “Is there such a thing as too much Bible?” but it does so not in order to teach a certain lesson or to impart fixed wisdom, but to challenge assumptions, spark conversation and dialogue, and encourage wrestling with the deep questions of our souls.

Shane is a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.  He is the author of several books including Jesus for President and Becoming Our Prayers.

Enuma is a writer, speaker, communications consultant and an award-winning author of four non-fiction books.  A graduate of Duke Divinity School, Enuma also served as the Director for the Center for Theological Writing at Duke Divinity Law School.

Doug is associated with the emerging church movement and is founding pastor of Solomon’s Porch in South Minneapolis. He is the author of several books including Body PrayerChurch Re-imagined, and Flipped.

Making the Most of ChurchNext in Your Church

This is the first in a series offering ideas for ways to use ChurchNext in your congregation, to meet the needs of parishioners and to build strong faith communities.Bible-Reading-Group-Photo

Finding God in Divorce (also available in the For Groups format):  Does your congregation have a divorce support group?  Carolyne Call offers a wonderful way to begin working through the emotional and spiritual damage broken relationships can cause. If your church has a support group, you may want to take this course together, either by meeting as a small group to watch the videos and discuss them, or by offering the course in your church’s online school. Participants could be encouraged to keep a journal of their thoughts, experiences, and wisdom gained; they could use their journal, the course and its Takeaway as references to revisit in times of need. Perhaps participants could collect the wisdom they’ve gained and share it with others outside the church, or with new members of the divorce support group.

Newcomers: What about those folks who are new to your parish and new to the Episcopal Church overall? If you come from a non-liturgical background, you may feel overwhelmed and confused at times by the different aspects of Episcopal worship and theology. You might want to offer Introducing Episcopal Worship and The Episcopal Tradition (also available in the For Groups format). By adding the course to your online school, you offer newcomers or the curious — or even their friends — an opportunity to learn more about the Episcopal Church in a non-threatening way. Alternatively, you can offer a time and space for newcomers to meet as a group, watch the videos, and discuss them. Clergy can be on hand to answer other questions — because there are always many!

Parenting: Parents often long to take part in congregational programs and spiritual formation, but haven’t childcare, are overscheduled, or are simply strapped for time. Why not offer a spiritual parenting program at your church — one that is based online, so that parents can take courses on their own schedule and as needed? In addition, you might arrange — or encourage them to arrange — regular small group meetings, playdates, potluck get-togethers, and the like, where parents can meet, learn from, discuss with, and support each other. There’s nothing more powerful than moral support and strength in numbers, as any parent knows. Simply offering time to think, reflect, learn, and then enjoy fellowship and discussion, can make a world of difference as parents try to raise their children in the faith. Courses along these lines include Spiritual Roots of Loving Parenting; Handling Strong-Willed Children, and Start a Family Devotional Time. They may also want to review the vows they made at their children’s baptism (and their own), since the event itself can be a distant memory.

How have you been using ChurchNext courses to shape and inspire disciples? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on social media (#churchnext).

Part III of Animate: Faith is open!

We continue to be excited about the potential for life-changing conversation that the innovative Animate series offers; the final course in this three-part series, Animate: Faith 3, launches today. This unique program is designed to spur thought, discussion, wondering, pondering, and spiritual growth not by offering answers to some of faith’s most difficult or basic questions but by offering new ways of considering them.animate

Animate Faith 3 features two more of the most engaging and sought-after speakers on faith today: Lauren Winner invites us to consider just why we read and re-read the Scriptures, and what makes them different from any other great book. She also suggests ways we might renew our daily Scripture reading, using “embodied cognition.” And Bruce Reyes-Chow helps us rethink what we mean when we call the church a “family.” He suggests that going to church — and being part of an often dysfunctional family group — can be the best decision we can make.

This course is produced in partnership with Augsburg Fortress Publishing, which offers the Animate Faith DVD curriculum as well as facilitator guides and journals for small groups. Click here to find out more.

For more information or to register for Animate Faith 3 please click here.

First course in the Animate Faith series is now open!

We are thrilled to be presenting the engaging, thought-provoking, and innovative Animate series through ChurchNext. The first course in this three-part series, Animate Faith 1, launches today. This unique program is designed to spur thought, discussion, wondering, pondering, and spiritual growth not by offering answers to some of faith’s most difficult or basic questions but by offering new ways of considering them.animate

Animate Faith 1 features three of the most engaging and sought-after speakers on faith today: Brian McLaren offers his reflections on what we mean when we talk about God, and the various ways people have of imagining, describing, and conceiving of God. Mark Scandrette shakes up our ideas of the way we do church, suggesting that if we truly want to practice Christianity, we need to practice a revolution of love and service like Jesus did. And Lillian Daniels offers wisdom on why we actually do need religion, that though religion is often seen as a dirty word in our culture, spirituality is not enough.

This course is produced in partnership with Augsburg Fortress Publishing, which offers the Animate Faith DVD curriculum as well as facilitator guides and journals for small groups. Click here to find out more.

Stay tuned for the launch of Animate Faith Parts 2 and 3 in the coming weeks.  To register for Animate Faith 1 please click here.

New Course: Your Faith Can Make You Well with Scott Stoner

There’s a lot of talk about “wellness” these days, says author, speaker, and Episcopal priest Dr. Scott Stoner. But it’s not some new fad, as much as it is an extension of an ancient idea that finds its origins in God and our creation.
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In this course, Scott begins to unpack what faith and wellness look like, based on his work with the popular ministry called Living Compass. Here’s what we’ll explore:

– Connecting Faith and Wellness
– Four Dimensions of Wellness
– Wellness and Balance
– Gladness and Singleness of Heart

This 45-minute course is suitable for anyone looking to better understand the link between faith and wellness!

Find out more about Your Faith Can Make You Well here.