Just Launched: Praying the Stations of the Cross with Kathrin Burleson

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We have just launched Praying the Stations of the Cross with Kathrin Burleson For Individuals and For Groups. Kathrin Burleson’s work has been exhibited in museums and Painting 1galleries across the country. Recently, she published The Soul’s Journey: An Artist’s Approach to the Stations of the Cross, in which she depicts her Stations of the Cross series: fourteen paintings of scenes from Jesus’ journey with his cross to Golgotha. The paintings may be used for formal prayer during the Stations of the Cross liturgy, or simply may be contemplated on their own.

In this class, Kathrin discusses the history of the Stations of the Cross liturgy and then takes the viewer through each painting in her series of Stations of the Cross scenes. With each painting, she discusses the scene being portrayed, considers it in the context of Jesus’ overall journey, and offers opportunities to consider how each of these momePainting 2nts could resonate in our contemporary lives. She invites us to consider how we might imitate Jesus’ choices in our own lives, and ways in which the actions of other characters in the story — Peter, Pilate, the women who weep for Jesus as he passes, the women who wait for him outside the tomb — might inform our own actions and decisions.

Kathrin’s class could be used productively in a Stations of the Cross liturgy, in prayer groups, especially during Lent, and for personal contemplation. We hope that you find this class moving and that you can use it to support your Lenten activities. For more information about the class, please enjoy this preview.

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ChurchNext Lenten Resources

Lenten Resources

We have written a lot lately about our free five-course 2016 Lenten series on building racial justice, produced in partnership with Trinity Institute. On Sunday, we launched the second class in this series, Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas For Individuals and For Groups. Last week, we offered suggestions for five ways that congregations can use this series to enrich their Lenten programs.

ChurchNext offers many Lenten resources in addition to this series that you can use with your congregation or on your own to support and enhance a holy Lenten experience. For an introduction to Lent, which might be especially useful for church newcomers, try Introducing Lent with Maggie Dawn. Families and educators who support family ministries will find Lent for Families with Kim Baker extremely helpful. Many churches use the Stations of the Cross service during Lent, so you might consider our class, Stations of the Cross with Kathrin Burleson (to be launched this Sunday).

People who wish to implement Lenten disciplines related to daily spirituality might find Everyday Spiritual Practices with Keith Anderson helpful. People who wish to implement spiritual practices into busy schedules during Lent might consider taking How to Pray Online with Karekin Yarian, which suggests some terrific online prayer and meditation resources and discusses their usefulness in our on-the-go culture. People who wish to experiment with new approaches to prayer during Lent might consider Praying with Icons with Randall Warren or Praying with the Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck (which is also popular with fans of Lent Madness.)

We hope that you will find these suggestions for supporting your Lenten experiences helpful. We also suggest that you browse the catalog; you are likely to find classes there that will fulfill needs specific to your congregation or your individual needs.

Just Launched: Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas

Kelly Brown Douglas

Today, we launched Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas For Individuals and For Groups. This is the second course in our five-course Lenten series created in partnership with Trinity Institute. The courses in this series are free throughout Lent of 2016. The first course, Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry, launched last week. The other three classes in this series will be launched on February 7.

In this course, the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas examines whiteness as a social construction. What does it mean to be white now, and what did it mean historically? What privileges are associated with whiteness in the U.S., and how did those privileges come to be attached to white people? For Christians, particular questions about whiteness emerge: how did Christians come to embrace privileging white people over people of other races, and what does the Bible have to say about situations like the racially unjust one that persists today in America? Dr. Brown Douglas discusses these questions and many others over the four classes that make up this course.

Dr. Brown Douglas calls this time in our history a kairos time: a time when God moves through the world creating disruption and opportunity for change. We can choose to embrace this opportunity and build a more just world, or we can relax back into business as usual. We encourage you to take this course and others in this series. Use this opportunity in history to build a better world — a world that more closely resembles the one that God wants for us.

To learn more about this course, please watch this preview.

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Five Ways to Use Our Lenten Series to Enrich Your Parish’s Lenten Ministries

Lent 2016As you may have read, ChurchNext is producing this year’s Lenten series, a free five-class curriculum on building racial justice, in partnership with Trinity Institute. We already have launched the first of the classes, Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry For Individuals and For Groups. Today, we want to suggest some ways that your congregation can use this series during Lent.

First, the basics. Trinity institute will be holding a conference, “Listen For a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice,” from January 21-23. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is the keynote speaker, and many other wise voices on building racial equality will be speaking. (By the way, many churches around the country are live streaming the conference this weekend in their parishes. See if you live near one.) ChurchNext has been fortunate enough to partner with Trinity Institute and create a series of five classes with speakers from the conference as our Lenten series for this year. (For more information on the series, click here.)

So how might you use this series of classes to support a holy Lent?

Well, really, there are dozens of ways. During this Lent in particular, serious conversations about racial disparity seem appropriate. Here are five suggestions for how this series of classes on building racial justice might enrich your church’s Lenten ministries:

  1. The series could be an excellent basis for an adult formation series during Lent. Five classes available in For Groups format to anyone who wants to learn. Six weeks of Lent. It works.
  2. Use one or two classes from the series to support other Lenten topics that you plan to explore during Lent. Bishop Curry’s class in particular could enrich any number of conversations about the effects of sin infused into the world.
  3. Encourage your church members to take the For Individuals classes on their own as part of their individual Lenten disciplines. Make sure they know that the classes are free, easy to use, and require no special programs or equipment. A user can take any class at his or her own pace, and the classes only take about 45 minutes each.
  4. Use the classes to enrich outreach ministries during Lent. Remind people why what they are doing is necessary as they engage in ministries that help build equality within the community, and use the classes to get new ideas for ways to strive for racial justice.
  5. Use the classes this Lent to help move your congregation to reach out and engage people of other races. In 2014, The Episcopal Church national membership was about 87% white. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in the same year, only about 62% of the country considered itself to be made up of white, non-Latino people. Our church needs to do a better job of engaging people of diverse races and ethnicities. Let this series be part of the catalyst that moves your church to grow in the direction our country is growing.

For a preview of Bishop Curry’s class, please visit the link below. In the meantime, blessings as you prepare to engage a holy Lenten season.

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Encourage Substantive Conversations on Racial Equality with this Free ChurchNext Lenten Curriculum

Bishop Curry

Trinity Institute and ChurchNext are teaming up to help you and your congregation go deeper with one of the most pressing issues of our time. Based on Trinity Institute’s 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice, a complete Lenten curriculum is being offered including these presenters: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, PhD., Kelly Brown Douglas, MDiv, PhD., Jennifer Harvey, and J. Kameron Carter, PhD.

Each course is free during Lent, 2016.

We’ve just launched the first of these five courses: Spirituality and Racial Equality with Michael Curry, which is available in two formats, For Individuals and For Groups. The second course, Whiteness and Racial Equality with Kelly Brown Douglas, will launch on January 24, with the other three courses to follow on February 7. All courses will be available in two formats, For Individuals and For Groups, which include Facilitator Guides and Participant’s Guides.

Bishop Curry has made racial reconciliation one of the priorities of his ministry as Presiding Bishop.  He has said,”The choice is ours: chaos or community. That work is the work of finding ways for people to come together to really create and be what Dr. King called the ‘beloved community.’ That’s not just some Utopian ideal. That, frankly, is the difference between life and death for the world.”

Trinity Institute is an annual conference in its 45th year that equips clergy and laypersons for imaginative and catalytic leadership. Trinity Institute conferences present emerging and inclusive theological and social perspectives and engage participants in inquiry, dialogue, and reflection. Participants from all faith perspectives are welcomed. The conference is sponsored by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal parish in New York City. This year’s conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice, focuses on combating racial oppressing and building a more just world.

For more information about Presiding Bishop Curry’s class, please enjoy this preview.

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Resource: The Network of Biblical Storytellers

On Sunday, we launched Biblical Storytelling: The Feeding of the 5000 with Kathy Culmer . In this class, Kathy introduces the craft of biblical storytelling and tells the story of The Feeding of the 5000 from the Gospel of Mark. Kathy’s moving performance results in part from many years of experience. She belongs to the Network of Biblical Storytellers, International, a terrific resource for all who wish to incorporate biblical storytelling into their coScreenshot 2016-01-12 10.50.54mmunities. NBS International is an organization of biblical storytellers and of people use biblical storytelling to enhance their work as Christians — in church, in outreach, as teachers, and in other capacities. They value the oral communication of scriptural stories, as our spiritual ancestors communicated the stories for centuries. They work to make the telling of Bible stories available to anybody who wishes to participate, as a teller or as a listener.


NBS International offers many useful resources for people who wish to gain access to biblical storytelling performances. Their website offers videos of biblical storytellers Screenshot 2016-01-12 10.49.13telling tales from scripture as well as links to audio versions of the stories and commentary about the stories. They also provide a directory of biblical storytellers that users can search by name and by region  (I found three in my general area and two in my town!) Also, each year, NBS International organizes a biblical storytelling festival providing days of biblical storytelling performances as well as opportunities for scholarship, worship, and discussion.

The organization also offers opportunities for people to learn about practicing the craft of Screenshot 2016-01-12 10.51.03biblical storytelling. The festival offers many workshops for basic storytelling instruction. For people who want to learn more, NBS International offers a rigorous biblical storytelling educational program, mostly conducted online.

Anybody who wishes to learn more about biblical storytelling would profit from exploring the resources available through the Network of Biblical Storytellers, International. For a terrific introduction to biblical storytelling and a moving performance of a well-loved biblical story, watch Kathy’s lecture and performance in our class: Biblical Storytelling: The Feeding of the 5000 with Kathy Culmer.


Just Launched: Biblical Storytelling: The Feeding of the 5,000 with Kathy Culmer

K Culmer New

Today, we launched the first story in our new Biblical Storytelling series: Biblical Storytelling: The Feeding of the 5000 with Kathy Culmer For Groups. This is a brand new series with unique classes designed around performances of stories from scripture by biblical storytellers, and we are excited to be able to offer it.

Today’s biblical storytellers base their craft on the oral tradition through which many of the stories in scripture were told for centuries. They prepare their performances of stories in prayer and contemplation, internalizing the stories and conveying them to their listeners with the goal of communicating God’s word to the heart as well as to the mind.

Each class in our new series will begin with a lesson about the craft of biblical storytelling with Kathy Culmer. We will base the second lesson on a biblical storytelling performance of a story from scripture. As is usual for our For Groups classes, each class will include a Participant Guide containing material that people in the group can use when they gather to discuss the story and a Facilitator’s Guide for people who want ideas about leading a group through the class; we have adapted these guides to suit biblical storytelling performances. The classes also offer suggestions for ways to integrate these stories into your church ministries.

We hope that you enjoy Kathy’s moving performances of these stories as much as we have. We are very glad to be able to offer this new kind of class, and we hope that you find ways to use the stories with your congregations to the benefit of your fellow parishioners and to the glory of God.

Giving Faces to the Numbers

Refugee 1On Sunday, we launched Responding to Refugees with Allison Duvall For Individuals and For Groups. Allison’s class teaches people who want to learn about how to support refugees who resettle in our communities. It is not hard to find statistics concerning the current global refugee crisis, one of the worst since World War II.  From Syria alone, 4.4 million people from have applied for refugee status, or have received it, while 6.6 million more people have been displaced and are struggling to survive within Syria.

In a strange way, the very magnitude of the current refugee crisis can Refugee 2make it hard to comprehend. Numbers like these become too big. The tragedy becomes unfathomable. Emotionally, we cannot manage suffering on that range; we turn off our emotions to protect ourselves from too much sorrow. But each number represents a person. Each person has a story. Whether or not refugee assistance is your choice of ministry, we believe that God wants us to pray for and feel for the Syrian refugees and indeed for all refugees as human beings. In order to do so, it helps to see their pictures and hear their stories — not as part of a promotion or political campaign, but simply because these people matter to God and should matter to us.

Refugee 3Here are a couple of resources that can help introduce you to individual refugees and their stories. Humans of New York did an amazing series a few months ago from September 26 through October 6. This series follows the usual pattern of the Humans of New York blog, providing moving or interesting photographs of people — in this case, Syrian refugees — along with short paragraphs quoting the subjects of the photographs or telling their stories. I encourage you to go to this website’s archive and find September and October (or just click here for September and here for October.) The Washington Post also did a terrific series along similar lines called Refuge. A writer and photographer went to Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, took photos, and told stories — in this case, multiple photographs of the same people and longer stories. The photographs are moving, and the writing is excellent.

Look at these people. Read their stories. Don’t do too many at once — just a few. After too many images, people start to detach from the emotional impact of the imagery. Keep these refugees people in your mind by only considering a few at once. We hope that you will take this opportunity to see the faces of these refugees so that we may pray for them as fellow children of God rather than as anonymous numbers.

If, as you pray and discern, you become interested in learning more about how to help refugees, please look at this preview for Responding to Refugees with Allison Duvall.

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Just Launched: Responding to Refugees with Allison Duvall


allison duvall

Today, we launched our new class, Responding to Refugees with Allison Duvall For Individuals and For Groups. If ever there were a time for us to pay attention to refugees and the problems that they face, this would be the time. The war in Syria has created a refugee crisis the likes of which the world has not seen since the Rwandan genocide over twenty years ago. An estimated 4.4 million people have fled Syria and have applied for or received refugee status from the U.N. As the civil war in Syria approaches its fifth year, thousands more people flee the country every week, while an estimated 6.6 million more people within Syria have been displaced. Between the refugees and the displaced people within Syria, more than half the country’s pre-war population have died or have lost their homes.

Numbers like that almost stop meaning people in our minds. They become statistics. It becomes hard for our brains to wrap themselves around the fact that each number represents a person, and each of those people needs help.

Allison Duvall has worked for years with Episcopal Migration Ministries, one of the nine organizations that works with the federal government to help resettle refugees. She has a lot of experience with helping refugees resettle, and she frequently lectures and writes about effective ways to assist them. In this class, she explains the  process that refugees face in the process of leaving their homelands and about how to help families who resettle in the United States.

We hope that you will utilize this class as refugees who need help enter the United States. Please learn more about this class from this preview:

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