Latest course: animate: Practices 1 with Brian McLaren and Sara Miles

Another fabulous course from Augsburg Fortress and Sparkhouse’s animate series launches animatetoday, called animate: Practices 1. 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.

In this course, Practices 1, Brian McLaren explores the idea of prayer, admitting that he used to think of prayer as something onerous, a duty he was bound to perform and to perform “correctly” — and yet he has come to see the Lord’s Prayer as something simple, something active, something that reanimates our faith and our ability to live faithfully in this broken world. He breaks it down into four “moves” that can help us re-see the prayer given to us by Jesus himself.

Sara Miles tackles the idea of food and eating, noting that it’s (literally) a weighty topic in our society: poor people must think constantly about their next meal, and those with plenty find themselves also obsessed with food — how “pure” it is, whether it can save or kill, where it came from, who’s eating it. Sara challenges us to rethink our relationship with food, doing so with Jesus’ messy, unorthodox, and life-giving lens on the gift and blessing of sharing a meal. After all, she says, the Lord’s supper is for everyone, cannot be bought, and is never eaten alone.

We’re excited to share these talks with you and pray that they may help reanimate your faith and spark conversation in your small groups. Click here for more information or to register.

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders.

Sara Miles is the founder and director of The Food Pantry , and serves as Director of Ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Her books include Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead and Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion. She speaks, preaches and leads workshops around the country, and her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and on National Public Radio.

Violence and Faith

near

You may sigh inwardly when you see the word “Charleston” now, tired of all the news and posts and commentaries and analyses of the past week. And yet we cannot turn away from this event — we should not turn away, nor feel cynical and discouraged when things like this happen. Because we are the very people — we believers — who are called upon to remind people of the hope of the Gospel, of God’s charge to us to be instruments of peace, vehicles for transformation, messengers of love. Even in the midst of — or perhaps because of — such terrible news happening seemingly all around us.

This Sunday we’ll be launching our latest course whose timing and message now seem even more appropriate than ever. Suzanne Ross is co-founder of The Raven Foundation, which is “committed to making religion reasonable, violence unthinkable and peace a possibility by spreading awareness of the transformative power of mimetic theory. Our goal is to foster peaceful individuals and harmonious communities that will reject scapegoating and violence as ways to form identity and achieve real and lasting peace.” Suzanne’s course for ChurchNext is called “Violence, Myth, and Scripture,” and it helps us understand how Scripture, unlike myth, draws our attention to systems of violence, shows God’s concern for the vulnerable and the victim, and how violence is not of God, but of human failing. We offer this course up as a way of perhaps thinking about the (misunderstood) violence in our cultural traditions as well as how God grieves with us. (The course goes “live” on Sunday.)

If the violence in Charleston is weighing heavily on you, causing you to wrestle with those big questions about evil and the nature of God, we also commend to you any of the following courses already in our library. Why not arrange a small group discussion within your faith community, as a way not only of remembering the martyrs in Charleston, but of actively seeking to effect change by fostering discussion, dialogue, and time for prayer? Make us instruments of your peace, Lord.

How to Forgive

When We Get Angry with God

Why Does God Get Angry?

Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen. 

~ Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer p. 814)

Launching today: Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray with George Donigian

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.
Soren Kierkegaard

Today we launch a wonderful new course on prayer, Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray, by Methodist pastor and author George Donigian. In this course, which offers highlights from George’s new book by the same name, we learn more about three prayers from three very

donigiandifferent sources: the full Serenity Prayer (the shorter version of which is familiar from 12-step programs), the Prayer of Dag Hammarksjold, and the Lord’s Prayer, taught to us by Jesus himself.

You’ll find George’s reasons for highlighting these three prayers interesting, and we think you’ll also find that incorporating them — for those same reasons — into your daily prayer life can enrich and deepen your relationship with God. This course is also available in For Groups format, and would make a wonderful devotion and discussion course for small groups.

For more on the course or to register, click here. To learn more about George’s book, click here. And check out George’s blog here.

Prayers You’ll Want to Pray

This Sunday, we’ll be launching Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray with George Donigian, a delightful and helpful course based on George’s latest book of the same name. In the course and in the book, George speaks about The Lord’s Prayer, the Serenity Prayer, and the Prayer of Dag Hammarskjold, offering them as wonderful examples of challenging, faith-enriching conversation with God. George is a United Methodist pastor in Greenville, South Carolina. His writing builds upon his Armenian heritage, his literary and theological and musical interests and influences, and his perspective on culture and faith.

dagOn his blog, George explains why he wrote the book:

“When I worked in book publishing, one day I found myself considering the different experiences of worship I had during travels. For ten years I spent at least one week a month away from home. No matter where or what kind of worship—whether in South Africa or the US or Germany or Armenia, in interdenominational gatherings or whatever church I visited—we prayed the Lord’s Prayer. It seemed to me that we overlook the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer for unity. It is a prayer common to all Christians and it was given by Jesus in response to a request from his disciples to teach them to pray. So I started reflecting more on that idea and the book grew from that musing.

“My editor describes the book for 20-40-year-olds. I certainly tried to address questions I hear from adults in this age group, especially those in my family. And that’s why I also write a little about my background and experiences. For example, four teenagers attacked me one morning while I was preparing to go running and I got beaten badly. I write about this in the Diplomat’s Prayer. How do you express gratitude or pray, ‘For all that has been—Thanks!’ after that kind of situation? Suddenly a prayer that seems easy becomes a challenge.

“… I’ve heard from 80-year-olds who thanked me for saying what they’d felt intuitively, but had not found in other books. And I’ve heard from those who go across the spectrum of adulthood who have found the book offers them a new sense of the rhythm of daily prayer.”

One of the “three prayers you’ll want to pray” is The Serenity Prayer, familiar to most from 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. George quotes the full version of the prayer and explains why:

“The full version grounds us in the present, reminding us to take life in the same way that Jesus approached life—one day at a time—and without projecting problems into the future or the past. When you read the full version, it’s easy to understand the importance of the prayer to various 12-Step groups.

“But you know the importance of Reinhold Niebuhr, who gave us the Serenity Prayer. Niebuhr taught at seminary when he wrote the prayer, but he began as a pastor in urban ministry. Detroit was a boom town when he was there. I see a number of parallels between Niebuhr’s time and our own and write about that, and these parallels connect all of us more closely with the Serenity Prayer. One of Niebuhr’s other books—based on journals kept during those years in Detroit—is titled Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. Delightful title and it gives some insight into the character of Niebuhr. And he learned to take it one day at a time.”

We’re excited to offer this sneak peek at George’s book, which is full of wisdom and inspiration for enriching your daily prayer life. Click here to read more from George.

New: Praying with Icons with Randall Warren

We are thrilled to launch a new course today: Praying with Icons with Randall Warren.  Administrators can now find this course in the ChurchNext catalog and start using it in their schools!

The word ‘icon’ is perhaps most popularly used with reference to a thumbnail image on our computers: it is a small illustration that takes us to a much bigger place.

This is the same with the library of Christian imagery that believers have been using for centuries to take them to bigger places – into a deeper sense of the presence and understanding of God.

In this course, pastor and teacher Randall Warren introduces us to the theology, history, and practice of icons, showing us how we might use them to deepen our own faith in Jesus.