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Earlier I reflected on an “AHA!” moment I had during the 2014 NEXTChurch Gathering that I attended the past week. I wanted to follow that up with some reflections about what I heard and saw there, as well as, a few takeaways from the conference.

As I said earlier, this two and a half day conference was a wonderful chance to reconnect with old classmates and colleagues, connect face to face for the first time with many in my various social media networks, expand some of those networks, and participate in some deep, heartfelt conversations about the FUTURE of the church and the NOW of the church. I’ll posts thoughts on the FUTURE of the church and the NOW of the church later.

On this post I wanted to talk a little of my experience of NEXTChurch.

This was my first NEXT gathering, for lots of reasons I have chosen to attend other conferences and haven’t paid too much attention to the work that the folks at NEXT have been doing. I have followed the hashtags over the years and been intrigued by the conversations that occur at the gatherings. This year because the event was in Minneapolis (about a 6 hour drive from Nebraska City) and I had a free place to stay. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live about 5 blocks from Westminster Presbyterian Church (the host for the gathering) I decided I should try it out. 

I was blessed with an offer to ride with my colleague and friend Leanne Masters and her husband, Mike, from Omaha to Minneapolis. We had a lot of time to talk about our calls, baseball, the election of the moderator, and the different challenges and expectation of male and female pastors. Let’s just say those twelve-ish hours (there and back) were life giving. I was also blessed with a free place to stay, this is invaluable for someone like me who has a budget that really only allows for one “big” conference a year. My budget will go much farther this year because of sleeping on an air mattress (the inaugural sleep I might add) in my relatives guest room. I also had the chance to catch up with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who I don’t get to see all that often and all within walking distance of the conference.

The preaching was amazing, Alika Galloway struck me with her fire and passion, her truth telling, calling us into “contested places”. She began her sermon with a statement that struck me and got my attention.

“I don’t want to mess up this sacred moment by telling the truth.”

Her truth telling began to enliven the sacred space and she reminded we were not lost. This was only the beginning.

More great sermons from Dan Vigilante, J. Herbert Nelson, and MaryAnn McKibben Dana. Not to mention enlightening introductions to what is going on in the PCUSA world.

One of the ways that people had an opportunity to share was with what is known as “ignite” talks. They are short presentations accompanied by a slide show. They are designed to share a person’s passion in a clear and concise manner. One of the mottos for the ignite style of presentation is “enlighten us, but make it quick.” I have quite a bit of history with Ignite Bend and ignite style presentations. If you’re interested you can find them here and here. I was excited to see NEXT incorporate that style into the conference and I look forward to helping out in the future to make them even more helpful.

There was one presentation that got my mind swirling more than others. It was Erin Dunigan talking about her work with Not Church. Her work and her time sound interesting and life giving, her building of relationships that organically produced a community of diverse people working together to bring about the Kingdom of God, as they see it. A couple of quotes she shared flipped my world, you see I’m a transplant to the Midwest and sometimes I find it hard to BE here. 

The first from Peter Neilson,

“We [the church] must be prepared to go where the people are…and stay there.”

She added, “both physically, and theologically.” This stopped me in my tracks. I have some different theological leanings than many in my context and I often feel like the people I serve with are hearing these leaning for the first time. I want them to develop a deeper theological understanding, not so they can agree with me, but so they can bathe in the living water that is Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Erin’s words I heard, I have to be able to get out of myself, my own leanings, and just BE where the people are.

The second quote she shared was from Brian McClaren,

“What if we were to assume God was already at work in the world”

She added, “we are NOT bringing God to THEM.” This made me realize that God is already and has been at work in my community. God is already working on what’s NEXT, it is my call to listen and to BE there when I hear, when we hear the call to what’s next.

And the final word we received as we were sent into the contested places was from MaryAnn McKibben Dana,

“[We will] Love indiscriminately for as long as we are able…[we will] love THE HELL out of the world.”

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This week I spent some time with 400 of my closest friends at the NEXTChurch Gathering in Minneapolis. It was a wonderful time to see colleagues, catch up with old classmates, and be in a space where people were talking about what’s next for the PCUSA.

It was two and a half days of amazing preaching, transformative worship, creative ideas, informative workshops, and great conversation. In one of those conversations with my good friend John Vest something struck me like a thunderbolt.

The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus after the resurrection.

In the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John the resurrected Christ appears to his disciples and in each case they don’t recognize him, until he shows them his scars (John 20:24-29), breaks bread with them (Luke 24:13-35), speaks a word of peace (Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23), calls them by name (John 20:11-18), or tells them where to fish (John 21:1-14). This got me to thinking about what the “NEXTChurch” will look like.

We speak of revitalization and we heard wonderful, hopeful stories of how churches are rethinking ministry, but I wonder if a lot of it is doing the same things differently. I wonder if we are trying to live into a space, a church, that we recognize?

I don’t have an answer for what’s next, but I think it will be something that seems unrecognizable to us, especially those of us who have grown up only knowing this church. It will only be when we slow down and listen for Christ to call our name, to speak a word of peace to us, or guide our actions will we be able to recognize the Risen Christ and realize he has been with us the whole time.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20b

Image Courtesy of NEXTChurch

The authors envisioned this book as a way for lay people to wrestle with the depth and breadth of theological reflection found in seminary. I think it accomplishes this task well.

 

There is not much in this volume that is new to me as a self-identified progressive pastor. But I did find the chapters concise and think that this book will be a good reference when trying to deal theologically with these topics in preaching and teaching.

 

There are a few places that I take issue with the authors. They suggest that the reason for the decline of the mainline church is that we aren’t vocal enough about our progressive theology. I tend to think that low church attendance isn’t about theology, per se, at all. They also make the claim that vegetarianism is God’s desire for humans. That is not an idea I’d encountered before and one I’ll have to give more thought but am not immediately convinced.

 

With the study guide included in the book, I think this book would be great for a church book study or to hand out to church folks who are looking for more. I am personally glad to have it on my shelf now as a great reference that I am sure will get used.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

 

 

ReMoved

ggbolt16:

This is one of the hardest things I’ve watched in a long time. It’s also one of the most important.

Originally posted on Shelley Cadamy:

I woke up this morning to this lovely short film in my inbox. A sweet friend, who has devoted her professional life to therapeutic foster care issues, sent it along with the words, “Shelley: for those days you wonder ‘why’.”

I’m unsure of how the makers of this film so completely understand the path of a foster child, but I suspect at least one of them has shared the path of this little girl. This film is especially poignant for me, because my children came to me one at a time, which will resonate once you’ve seen the film. Please view and share. My heart is full of tears and love for these artists.

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I was looking forward to this book as a mom of two young kids who has spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the spiritual aspect of parenthood, especially young children.  I was hoping for some insights to illuminate what I already experience or some practices to incorporate into our daily life. Unfortunately, I found this book to be less grace filled than I had hoped.

The title is a bit misleading as this book is aimed not at parents in general but more specifically at moms and especially stay at home moms.  The book is geared towards evangelicals and I found the gender exclusive language for God and the emphasis on substitutionary atonement offputting.

While there were a few good points here and there, overall I found the writing to be rambling and hard to follow.  And while the author used Scripture references liberally throughout the book, I found some of her assumptions to be unbiblical.  For example, she claims that the bible says that God is always in a good mood and therefore we are to be optimists always striving to point out the good in people’s stories.  That is contradictory to my reading of the Bible and contradictory to my understanding of how to be in good relationships. Also, she demeans the church in several places and also puts down other mothers, both of which I find hurt her point of trying to live like Jesus.

I did not find much to recommend in this book, though I gathered from the first few sentences that I was not the main audience for this material. My only advice would be to look for other titles in this genre that might be more edifying.

Grace for the Contemplative Parent — Amazon

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

 

 

Can We Meet in the Middle?

heidib34:

Marci does it again. Eloquently stating what’s in my head. I, too, have strong opinions, I also value other’s opinions (or try to).

Originally posted on Glass Overflowing:

I’m very open about sharing my politics, and my opinions in general. ( I know. Not much of a newsflash.)

I don’t expect others to agree with my views. It seems the world needs all of our different perspectives. If we could really appreciate the other’s perspective–not so we could figure out how to correct it, but so we could figure out what to learn from it–then surely the world would be a better place.

Clearly, I’m some sort of pollyanna who believes in pixie dust and unicorns. Because there is seems to be no meeting in the middle any more.  I don’t see the middle in politics, where you are called a ‘flip flopper’ (so eloquent!) if you compromise or are seen as a traitor to the ‘base’ of your political team if you work across the aisle.

I don’t even see the middle in the church…

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heidib34:

This is an amazing array of questions that seem to break down a lot of what I have been feeling when attempting to have conversations about white privilege. I will have to pick up Lopez’s book.

Originally posted on The Weekly Sift:

There’s a type of faux scandal that’s been happening … well, I haven’t exactly kept track, but it seems like there’s a new one every month or two. They all fit this pattern: President Obama does something that symbolically asserts his status as president, and the right-wing press gets outraged by how he’s “disrespecting” something-or-other related to the presidency.

So, for example, in January, 2010 this photo caused FoxNation.com to ask whether Obama was “disrespecting the Oval Office” by putting his feet up on the antique desk.

Of course, it didn’t take long to uncover similar photos of previous presidents, none of which had raised any particular outrage at the time. But everybody forgot again, and so we had an almost identical flap last September. “This just makes me furious,” one woman tweeted. “He was raised so badly.”

Or remember last May when marines held…

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