How to Recognize Superman


On Sunday, we launched Finding the Resurrected Jesus with Susan Goff For Individuals and For Groups. Bishop Goff’s class discusses the disciples’ encounters with the resurrected Jesus, and ways in which their eyes were opened to the presence of Christ in their midst.

We might remember, sometimes, to look for Jesus in the hungry, the stranger, the prisoner. But do we recognize Jesus in the people whom we see every day?

It is a question so common that it has become a cliche: How do Clark Kent’s friends not recognize that he is Superman? Take off the glasses and add a cape, and he looks just like Superman. He awkwardly disappears in every emergency for which super powers might be needed. He is a reporter who presumably covers the big events of Metropolis, but he is never around when Superman shows up.

Why don’t they recognize him? Because it’s easier to imagine Superman as an exotic stranger than as the bumbling, semi-competent reporter whose flaws are all too clear.

Here are some ways to take off the glasses of the Clark Kents in your life and recognize that they are Superman — THE super man — Jesus himself.

  1. Look for moments of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. The person who quietly washes the coffee pot in the break room every day; the spouse who takes on the dishes AND the kids when she sees that you are exhausted — take off their glasses and add a cape.
  2. Look for moments of deepest need. The friend battling addiction; the child who simply cannot seem to behave in school no matter what you try; the co-worker who is clearly overwhelmed and keeps making mistakes — take off their glasses and add a cape.
  3. Look for healing. The person who comes and stands with you when you are off by Superman_CGIyourself watching your son at a barbecue because he is the one who is most likely to spray the other kids with the garden hose; the doctor or nurse who takes the time to focus on listening to a frightened patient — take off their glasses and add a cape.
  4. Look for patience. The puppy rescue lady who takes on the problem dogs; the administrative officer who calmly puts out endless office fires; the grad student instructor who is never too busy to help a confused freshman, even if the confused freshman never really seems to get it — take off their glasses and add a cape.
  5. Look in the mirror. When was the last time you sacrificed your time for a friend? Were patient with a child? Offered kindness to someone who needed you? Take off your glasses — which can so often only see weight gain, wrinkles, and problematic behavior — and add a cape. See, in both your vulnerability and in your goodness, the face of Christ in the world.

If you would like to learn more about finding the resurrected Jesus in the world, please click below for a preview. And happy Easter. He is risen!

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Just Launched: Finding the Resurrected Jesus with Susan Goff

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He is Risen! A joyful Easter to all of you!

Bishop Susan Goff of the Diocese of Virginia has created a class called Finding the Resurrected Jesus For Individuals and For Groups. Like Mary in the garden or the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we do not always recognize the resurrected Christ when we see him in our daily lives.

In this class, Bishop Goff teaches us how to recognize Jesus when we encounter him in our lives — at the movies, in the created world, in one another. She emphasizes that in order to hear the voice of Christ, we need to listen for it, and in order to recognize Christ in the world when we encounter him, we need to look for him.

Experience the wonder of the Easter season through the words of Bishop Goff, and see the world around you in a new way as you look for the face of Jesus in the world.

For a preview, please click below.

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Use These Classes to Support Your Devotions During Holy Week

Holy Week

This week is a time when Christians set aside space for silence and contemplation in the face of Christ’s death — why it had to happen and what it did to change the world.

What does it mean, this sacrifice? How did Christ’s death on the cross offer us a way out of the mess that we have made for ourselves? What does it mean, that this death opened the door to salvation? As you contemplate the events leading to Jesus’ death on the cross, we invite you to take some classes that address these topics. They are available for groups, as all of our classes are, but Holy Week brings many opportunities for prayer in groups. This week, you might profit from taking these classes at home on your own, to support your personal devotions.

Consider taking David Lose’s three-part series on Making Sense of the Cross. In Making Sense of the Cross, Part I, David talks about understanding Christ’s sacrifice on the cross through experience rather than through theories about what it means. In Making Sense of the Cross, Part II, David discusses the four gospels and their perspectives on the cross.  In Making Sense of the Cross, Part III, David leads students through three of the most prevalent theories about what the cross means for Christians.

You might also consider taking Praying the Stations of the Cross with Kathrin Burleson. In this class, artist Kathrin offers a brief discussion of the liturgy of the Stations of the Cross and then discusses her fourteen paintings depicting stages in Jesus’ journey to Golgotha.

Another class invites students to contemplate the man at the center of the events that we remember at Holy Week and Easter. Take Who Is Jesus? with Jason Fout, who argues that the best way to understand who Jesus was and what he means in our lives is to look at him through the lens of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Finally, please remember that this is the final week that our Lenten series on building racial justice, created in partnership with Trinity Institute, will be offered for free to anyone who wants to take it. Consider these instructors’ wise words on resisting racial injustice in our world as we contemplate the necessity for Christ’s death and resurrection.

We hope that you have a blessed Holy Week.


Take the Final Class In Our Free Lenten Series: Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva


This week, take Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva For Individuals and For Groups. This course is the fifth of five courses in our Lenten series on building racial justice, created in partnership with Trinity Institute. These courses are free to anybody who wishes to take them through Lent of 2016.

In Racism and Racial Justice, Dr. Bonilla-Silva, a professor of sociology at Duke University whose acclaimed book Racism Without Racists is now in its fourth edition, examines a new kind of racism in America, one which has developed since the end of the Civil Rights Movement. As opposed to the periods of legal and overt racial aggression that characterized previous periods of racism in the United States, he argues, today’s “colorblind” racism, while equally present, is less overt and in some ways harder to combat. It is based in speech, opinions, and systems that have surface legitimacy, and it corrupts more silently — but no less powerfully — than racism of previous eras.

We hope that this series of classes continues to educate you about how we may work together to build a more racially just world. For a preview of Dr. Bonilla-Silva’s class, please click here.

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Resources For Talking to Kids About Racism

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In several of the classes in our free Lenten series on building racial justice, questions arise about how to help children grow as advocates for racial equality. In Spirituality and Racial Justice, Bishop Curry emphasizes education as a means of building justice for non-white races in America. In Racism and Racial Justice, Dr. Bonilla-Silva talks about how white people in America frame race in conversation and about the story lines that we use when discussing race. The class asks students to consider ways in which they talk to children about race in light of these story lines.

Dr. Bonilla-Silva emphasizes that many white people embrace “colorblind” racism — the idea that “I don’t see color; just people.” This is a theme that white parents often use as they raise children, as Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman discuss in NurtureShock. children 4Parents don’t want to introduce the idea that people of different races are treated differently, so they often remain silent on the subject of race. But children remain aware of race, and as Bronson and Merryman demonstrate, they use other sources to fill in the gaps for themselves. Most child rearing experts emphasize that we need to talk to children about race if we want them to grow up to combat racism.

Toward that end, we have put together a list of resources, especially online resources, that might help you discuss race productively with children.

Creative With Kids: 60+ Resources for Talking About Race with Children: On this page, Creative with Kids contributor Lorian Van Ness offers lists of age-appropriate books, crafts, and games that can help parents and educators engage in meaningful conversations about race with children of different ages.

Raising Race Conscious Children: This is an entire blog devoted to giving parents resources for raising children to build racial justice. It offers resources, lists of topics, strategies for discussing race withchildren 2 children, and other approaches to helping parents race racially aware children.

Musing Momma:This blog, written by a child psychologist who is also a parent in a mixed race family offers support for and ideas about raising children in mixed race homes. Some of the posts offer terrific insights on talking about race with children. See for example, Will Talking About Race With Kids Make Them Racist? and 3 Strategies for Raising Racially Sensitive Kids .

NutureShock: Chapter three of this book covers research that has been done on child rearing and conversations about race.

Children’s Books:
All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color
Big Hair Don’t Care
Let’s Talk About Race
Shades of People
The Colors of Us
I Love My Hair

We hope that this list helps you engage in productive conversations about race with the children in your life as we all try, with God’s help, to build a racially just world for our children.

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Take the Fourth Class in our Free Lenten Series: Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter

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This week, take Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter, either For Individuals or For Groups, depending on how you want to engage the material.  This course is the third of five courses in our Lenten series on building racial justice, created in partnership with Trinity Institute and free to anybody who wishes to take them through Lent of 2016.

In this class, J. Kameron Carter, a professor of religion at Duke University’s Divinity School, discusses the origins of race, which resulted from Europe’s first forays into the New World and into sub-Saharan Africa. He develops the argument that these first encounters with Africans and with Native Americans were tightly wrapped up in Christian theological thinking and that as the white church developed in North America, the white church remained closely involved with the expropriation and exclusion of people of color. In response, he argues, the black church in America developed an extraordinarily inclusive and ecumenical approach to Christianity.

This class can be taken as part of our Lenten series on on its own for anybody who wishes to learn more about the origins of race and about how our racial history affected the growth of the Church in the United States.

For a preview of Dr. Carter’s class, please click below.

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Earn Badges with ChurchNext and Virginia Theological Seminary

ChurchNext has partnered with the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary to offer an exciting opportunity to deepen your understanding of different ministries at your church. Take a ChurchNext class and follow the steps instructorthat VTS recommends, and you can earn a digital badge created by none other than Kyle Oliver, Digital Missioner for the CMT.

Right now, we offer the opportunity to earn two of these badges. The first, the VBS Planner badge, guides students through the process of developing strong Vacation Bible School programs. VBS-Planner badgeTo earn this badge, students take our class How to Run a Vacation Bible School with Dorothy Linthicum. They then follow the steps outlined by VTS, which guides students through the process of developing and implementing a strong VBS program. In the end, students should have established well thought-out programs for ministering to the children in their congregations through VBS.

You also can earn the Digital Strategist badge. To earn this badge, students learn ways to engage church ministries effectively using digital technology. StudentsDigital-Strategist-badge can educate themselves about digital technology and ministry using our class Digital Strategies for Churches with Kyle Oliver and other resources. They then follow the steps that VTS outlines on developing and implementing effective digital strategies in churches. The goal, in the end, is for each student to work with his or her church in developing an effective, cohesive strategy for how to approach and utilize social media.

Once you have followed the steps required to earn either (or both!) of these badges, VTS will send you a digital badge. You can display it on your church’s website and also on any social media that your church uses to engage parishioners to demonstrate the work that you have done in developing your church’s VBS program or in planning its strategy for engaging in ministry through digital technology. Students also can display the badge on their own social and professional media sites, online resumes, blogs, and other personal and professional texts to indicate the work that they have done in learning how to engage these ministries.

To learn more about how to earn digital badges through the CMT, please check out their video on how to earn e-formation digital badges. You also might want to look at their overview on the badges and at this article on the ways that digital badges can help congregations encourage parishioners to educate themselves about their faith and their churches’ ministries.

We hope that you will consider using our classes and the guidance of VTS’s Center for the Ministry of Teaching to engage in these learning processes. And we hope you enjoy earning and displaying the badges that recognize your hard work.




Take the Third Class in our Free Lenten Series: Reparation and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

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This week, take Reparation and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey For Individuals and For Groups. This course is the third of five courses in our Lenten series on building racial justice, created in partnership with Trinity Institute and free to anybody who wishes to take them through Lent of 2016.

Jennifer Harvey is a professor of religion at Drake University as well as an author and lecturer. Her book Dear White Christians was acclaimed by critics as an important offering to the conversation about race in “post racial” America.

Dr. Harvey’s central argument is that white Christians who seek reconciliation with Christians of color, particularly African American Christians, tend to jump the gun. The recipients of great advantage on account of their race, both historically and in the present day, many white Christians since the 1970s have wanted to sit down at the table with Christians of other races and reconcile. Such a request at this point, Dr. Harvey argues, is both ineffective and premature. We do not yet worship as brothers and sisters with Christians of other races, nor is it appropriate that we should do so.The only way to achieve reconciliation, she says, is first to engage in repentance and, to the extent it is possible to achieve, reparation for the wrongs that have profited white people so greatly at the expense of so many.

If white Christians manage true repentance for their wrongdoings  and engage in genuine gestures of reparation, working toward building justice under the guidance of Americans of other races, reconciliation between the groups might become a realistic, if very long-term goal.

In this class, Dr. Harvey develops this central argument, offers reasons for it, and suggests ways in which white Christians might successfully engage in the process of repentance and reparation with their brothers and sisters of other races. Her arguments offer rich substance for serious conversations about race during Lent. For a preview of the class, please click below.

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ChurchNext in the World: St. Peter’s in Charlotte, NC


If you want some ideas about how to use ChurchNext in your congregation, just ask the good people of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, NC. They have a great system for incorporating ChurchNext classes into their different ministries.

The Rev. Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector at St. Peter’s, says that at St. Peter’s, the staff periodically looks at the church’s goals and considers how their resources, including ChurchNext classes, can support what they are trying to do at the time. In this way, they have found many exciting ways to use ChurchNext classes to support their ministries.

For example, in 2015, the staff at St. Peter’s wanted to focus the church’s energy on joslynschaeferJesus: on renewing their understanding of who this compelling figure at the center of our religion was. Toward that end, one approach they tried was to unify four ChurchNext classes on the gospels into one class called “Befriending Jesus” and create a Christian formation project wherein students took the class over the summer. They plan to use modified versions of the same kind of class again in the future. (To learn how to use ChurchNext classes to create your own classes for your congregation, take our 15-minute free class, ChurchNext for Congregations.)

St. Peter’s finds the variety of ChurchNext classes available to be useful in planning Christian formation series. For each topic, they look to see in what ways ChurchNext courses can support their needs. They have found classes to support many topics, from stewardship to spirituality to aging. St. Peter’s also uses ChurchNext to support baptism. All prospective godparents are asked to take How to Be a Godparent with Nancy McLaughlin to help them prepare to take on this important role in the lives of their godchildren.

We hope that your congregation, like St. Peter’s, explores was to use ChurchNext classes as you consider ways to enact your current goals. If you have a story of how a class has been helpful to a ministry at your church, please comment! We would love to hear about it.