5 Ways to Use Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer at Your Church

P Palmer newStart fall programs at your church off with a bang during this election season by bringing respected author and activist Parker Palmer in to talk about productive political discourse. As you may know, from Sept. 5-19, we will be offering Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer for free to anyone who wants to take it. After Sept. 19, we will offer the class in the usual way, For Individuals and For Groups, to churches with ChurchNext subscriptions and for individual purchase.

For those who are new to ChurchNext, the classes consist of four lectures of about five minutes each. Each lecture is accompanied by a short written introduction, a brief, optional quiz, and three discussion questions. In group settings, people often skip the quiz and go straight to the discussion questions.

So what are some ways to use this class in your congregation?

  1. Use it in adult forum. During this election season in particular, people are feeling alienated from each other by politics. Help guide your congregation through the divisive rhetoric of this time by offering this class in one or two sessions of adult forum. This approach is especially useful for churches that want to kick off a new season of online learning or introduce online learning to their congregations. It’s a good way to get people interested, let them know that these classes are available, and show folks how they work.
  2. Use it in EYC. Parker particularly emphasizes modeling respectful interactions withteen adult conversation 2 young people. Teenagers, who are learning how to engage in adult conversation and beginning their lives as mature citizens, may profit greatly from watching these videos and engaging these discussions. Better yet, have adults and teens discuss these issues together — perhaps over a meal.
  3. Make it a hybrid class. Many churches like to use the online format to both meet in person and enjoy discussion online. Perhaps meet once in person to discuss two lectures and discuss the other two online. Perhaps have a class that watches the videos at home and discusses the questions together in person. The format is pretty flexible — be creative!
  4. Use it in Bible study. This class discusses themes that appear often in Scripture. Use Bible study groupthe class, or one of its lectures, to discuss issues in Scripture in ways that are relevant to today’s world. Take, for example, 1 Corinthians 10, in which Paul writes to the bickering Corinthians, I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Parker’s class, especially lectures two and four, would be a great way to approach this passage from Corinthians on a relevant and contemporary level.
  5. Use it to promote outreach. Outreach means reaching out to all kinds of people in the community — especially to people who are different. Parker’s class deals directly with handling differences with grace — not just avoiding discourtesy in conversation, but engaging differences and growing through communication with those whose views differ from our own. How much more outreachy can you get? Use the class to kick off the year with your outreach commission.

Have some other ideas about how to use this class with a congregation? Please comment! We’d love to share them.

Announcing The Big Class: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer

From September 5-19 2016, ChurchNext will be offering a free class to anybody who would like to take it: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer.

If you feel like the nation has become increasingly polarized in recent years, you’re right. Research suggests that the U.S. has become exceptionally politically divided. More than in decades past, Democrats and Republicans prefer not to marry one another, consider one another threats to the well being of the United States, and would rather their children not marry people from the other party. The current election season underlines these studies’ findings. We are in the midst of what may be the most polarizing and contentious election cycle in recent U.S. history.

Parker J. Palmer, a teacher, author, activist, and an outspoken advocate on faith and democracy issues, believes our current political climate provides a rare opportunity to think more deeply about who we are as people and a nation. His course is intended to spur thought, conversation, and action around current political tensions. The class, a series of video lectures and discussions, can be taken anytime between September 5 – 19. Students can sign up today. No special sofware is required. It will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete. Registration is free and open worldwide.

Throughout the free course, participants are encouraged to ponder and discuss what it means to live faithfully in a society racked with political division. “We the people have made America great,” says Palmer, “and re-discovering our potential, in light of the present political climate may be our greatest challenge and reward.”

For more information and to register, click here or go to churchnext.tv > The Big Class. Also, resources for congregations, including downloadable posters, bulletin inserts and a Launch Guide can be found here or at churchnext.tv > The Big Class.

This course is made possible by the generous support of Forward Movement, The Episcopal Church, Bexley Seabury Seminary, Living Compass, and the Center for Courage & Renewal.

Online Resources for Altar Guild and Flower Preparation

Flowers 2

Two weeks ago, we posted about online resources for vestry members and lectors, and last week, we posted about online resources for Eucharistic visitation and pastoral care. Today, we will go into online resources for your church’s altar guild and the flower team.

We encourage you to forward this post or resources in it that you find particularly helpful on to the people at your church who are in charge of these ministries. Also, if you know of any particular online resources on these subjects that people might find helpful, please comment!

1. The National Altar Guild Association has a really extraordinarily good website filled with useful information about serving on the altar guild. The page includes detailed sections about the ministry of the altar guild, running an altar guild, and how to do specific tasks connected with the altar guild.

2. Try our class on Introducing the Altar Guild with Hobey Hinchman.

3. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Columbus has put up a helpful series of videos showing people step by step how to arrange flowers for the altar. Just start with step one and let the women in these videos show you how it’s done.

4. The National Altar Guild Website has a good subsection on preparing flowers for the service.

5. Fearless Flowers is a website devoted to helping people learn to arrange flowers for all kinds of purposes. It includes helpful instructional videos as well as pages of resources, tutorials, and ideas.

6. This list of secret flower arranging tips from florists is short and offers some good, basic tips for all kinds of flower arranging.

We hope that you have found these online resources helpful.




Online Resources for Eucharistic Visitation and Pastoral Care

Good samaritan

Last week, we posted about online resources for vestry members and lectors. Today, we will go into online resources for helping  Eucharistic visitors and pastoral care ministers practice their callings.

We encourage you to forward this post or resources in it that you find particularly helpful on to the people at your church who are in charge of these ministries. Also, if you know of any particular online resources on these subjects that people might find helpful, please comment!

Eucharistic Visitation

1.We offer a course on Eucharistic Visitation in which Tim Spannaus trains people for this ministry. It is, as are all of our classes, available For Groups as well as for individual learning.

2. The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts has written an excellent guide on Eucharistic Visitor Training  that gives detailed history of the ministry and guides visitors in this practice.

3.The Episcopal Diocese of Albany has published a Handbook of Lay Eucharistic Ministry and Eucharistic Visitation  that offers detailed guidance on how to pursue each of these ministries.

Pastoral Care

1. One of the first ChurchNext classes we ever produced was HoUntitled design (3)w to Help a Sick Friend with Joyce Mercer. Joyce has terrific suggestions about how to approach people who are ill, how to listen to them, how to support their families, and other subjects.

2. Vestry Papers and Vital Practices has a whole section on pastoral care. It’s not formal training — as with most of the vestry papers, it’s more thoughts on the process than a series of steps — but then, pastoral visits don’t usually follow step-by-step guidelines. It’s a great place to browse around and read about the experiences of people who have made pastoral visits and who have received them. They have some excellent tips.

3. The Anglican Fellowship of Prayer has produced a short pamphlet called Pastoral Prayer and Care with suggestions for how to prepare for and make a pastoral visit. In addition to reading it online, pastoral visitors might find it a useful “cheat sheet” to help them prepare for their first visits.

4. Ministry Magazine’s article Visiting the Sick is really intended for clergy, but it offers in-depth guidance that will profit lay visitors as well.

We hope that you have found these online resources helpful.

Coming soon: Online resources for the altar guild and flower teams.





Online Training Resources for the Vestry and for Lectors

These days, the internet offers excellent resources to train people for ministries at your church. Over the next few weeks, we will present posts about online resources — some that we have produced and some produced by others –for helping people at your church learn to participate effectively in these ministries. The lists aren’t exhaustive, but if you are looking for online resources to help train people to participate in any of these ministries, these are good places to begin.

We invite you to pass this post, or the resources that it mentions, along to the people responsible for organizing these ministries at your church.


Untitled design (2) 1. You can earn your ChurchNext Certificate in Vestry Leadership by taking four classes in different aspects of vestry leadership from experienced church leaders. Discuss your ideas about vestry leadership with other members or future members of vestries. The For Groups versions of the classes can be particularly useful at vestry retreats and orientations.(You can, of course, take these classes individually as well if you want to learn about some particular aspect of vestry leadership.)

2. The Episcopal Church Foundation publishes its Vestry Papers and Vital Practices online.  Find literally hundreds of different ideas, resources, and suggestions for different aspects of vestry ministry.

3. Some dioceses include information that can be of use to vestries on the diocesan website. We recommend looking on your diocese’s website and seeing what online resources it provides.


1. We offer a course designed to train lectors in the ministry of proclaiming God’s word in Untitled designchurch. It’s called Reading and Praying in the Church: The Office of Lector with Tim Spannaus, and in about 45 minutes, it covers everything covered in standard lector training — and more. Use the For Groups version of the class and add some practice time, and your church’s lector training sessions should be covered.

2. Denise Thompson, a well-respected trainer of lectors in the Catholic tradition from Illinois, runs a series of lector training videos on her YouTube channel. Many of these videos cover subjects that lectors encounter across denominations (rate of articulation, pronunciation resources, etc.) Lectors can use the videos in training or to address particular topics that interest them.

3. This isn’t really a training resource, but if you want to recommend a good site for learning to pronounce some of the more difficult words in scripture, try Net Ministries’ Biblical Words Pronunciation Guide.

4. Many congregations like to create their own training videos and post them on YouTube. The process is not difficult; if you have access to a smartphone and a tripod, you can make a video that will serve your purpose well. To learn how to make video that will look and sound clear on YouTube, click here or here . If you would like to learn how to post your video to YouTube, click here.

We hope that you find these resources helpful. If you know of any good resources that you can recommend to help people build or train parishioners in any of these ministries, please comment. We would love to share them.

Coming soon: Resources for the Altar Guild and the Flower Team.