Consider ChurchNext’s Building Racial Justice Series

If you’re like many people across the United States right now, you want to do something in response to systemic racial injustice. One way that activists consistently recommend to respond to the events of the past weeks is to use the momentum to educate yourself. Change the way you think. Make building racial justice part of how you live and what you do rather than a short-term focus.

One way you might consider starting is with the ChurchNext series on building racial justice. We made this series in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

Here is a list, with short descriptions, of the courses included in this series.

Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry For Individuals and For Groups

Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church Michael Curry teaches this class. Bishop Curry has made racial reconciliation one of the priorities of his ministry as Presiding Bishop. In this class, he provides a sobering yet hopeful outlook on both the sin of racism and the reconciliation of working towards a more just world.


Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas For Individuals and For Groups

Learn the history of whiteness and how the dominance and privilege of whiteness impacts our desire to bring racial healing to society. The Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, professor, and author, leads us through a historical and sociological journey to better understand and bring about reconciliation and justice.

Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter For Individuals and For Groups

In this course, J. Kameron Carter, author and Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, explains many of the theological underpinnings of racial injustice.



Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva For Individuals and For Groups

In this class, activist, author, and Duke University professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva contends that after the Civil Rights Movement, a new kind of racism emerged: color-blind racism. Bonilla-Silva describes this new racism, how it got here, and what can be done about it.


Reparation and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey For Individuals and For Groups

In this class, Jennifer Harvey, author and Professor of Religion at Drake University, argues that the popular ‘reconciliation’ paradigm for building racial justice needs to be replaced with one based on reparation.

As you consider options for learning more about race, racial history in the United States, and racial reconciliation, consider this list of resources for racial reconciliation from The Episcopal Church. We encourage you to use these resources and any others you can find to change the way you understand race and racial justice, and our Christian responsibility to build a better world.

Just Launched: New Models for Mission with David Copley

See, THIS is how you mow a lawn!

We just launched New Models for Mission with David Copley For Individuals and For Groups.

When western Christians go to do mission work with groups of people whose cultures they don’t understand, with a determination to fix their problems, certain that we know what’s best for them, we act like neighbors who introduce themselves by telling you you’re mowing your lawn all wrong and then show you how to do it better.

In this course, David Copley, Director of Global Partnerships and Mission Personnel for The Episcopal Church, discusses ways to avoid this mindset and alternative approaches we might take to mission work that falls into this kind of error.

In his first lecture, David outlines the overall problem inherent in trying to solve other people’s problems for them in the context of mission work. He outlines why this problem persists and discusses the need for new models in approaching mission work. In the second lecture, he discusses what the focus of mission work should be instead, which is building relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ across social, economic, and physical barriers. In the third lecture, David suggests framing mission work around a common interest or goal toward which two parishes can work together, either locally or internationally. In the fourth lecture, David focuses on asset-based community development as a model that allows missionaries to help and serve people from other cultures without being intrusive or telling them what they need.

This course is ideal for those looking to learn more about modern missionary methods, especially global mission work. For a preview of the course, please click here.

Just Launched: Yes, We’re All Called to Mission

We just launched Yes, We’re All Called to Mission with Kate Gillooly For Individuals and For Groups.

If we define mission work as the work of reconciliation, it becomes every Christian’s job — not just the work of people called to the particular type of mission work that involves traveling to or living in foreign countries. We are all called to do the work of reconciling humanity with God, with one another, and with the created world.

The question then becomes — how should we serve?

In connection with mission work, this course discusses the discernment process in great depth. How are we called to bear witness to the work of the Lord in our world — to do the complicated work of reconciliation in our communities and/or across the world? How do we know what the world needs? How do we know where God calls us? What if our talents don’t seem especially missional in nature? How can we tell what God wants us to do with our gifts?

In the first lesson, Kate Gillooly discusses what Christian mission really is — what it means to be a missionary and why we are all called to do mission work. In the second lesson, Kate discusses how to discern what God is calling us to do. In the third lesson, Kate talks about discerning what gifts we bring to the table. Finally, Kate talks about how to make mission work successful in terms of discerning community needs, balancing out skill sets, entering into strong relationships with the people with whom we serve, and other factors.

This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about vocation, discernment, and mission work today. For a preview, please click here.

Just Launched — New FREE Course: A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit

We just launched a new free course: A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit For Individuals and For Groups.

This class launches on April 20, 2020. At this time, it has been a month or so since many individuals and communities began self-isolating and quarantining due to the Covid-19 epidemic. We’re (sort of) getting used to at least some of the new norms. Church communities are learning to worship together in new ways. Families have had to figure out both homeschooling and distance learning via their kids’ schools. Most workplaces are settling into a pattern of what can and cannot be done remotely. People who used to spend their time quilting now know how to make homemade cloth masks. Human creativity is rising to the occasion.

Some masks even have spaces where you can insert filters. Photo credit: Miranda Capra.

Getting systems in place is good — but the Covid-19 experience is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s one that nobody wanted to run, so our endurance is starting to flag a bit. Some people, frustrated with the demands of self-isolation, are straining against the quarantine restrictions, saying they have gone on long enough — though the risk, particularly to vulnerable groups, has not changed. The long-term strain on families, especially those with vulnerable members, is taking its tole. And of course, business owners and people who cannot work as long as the current restrictions are in place are desperate for the emergency to pass and for regular commerce to resume.

This course is designed to give you a boost. We don’t know when it’s going to end, but we can tap into resources to help us deal with it in healthy ways. As we are increasingly tempted to fall into our phones and ask people to wake us when Covid-19 is over, it becomes increasingly important that we maintain healthy habits at home. As people become lonely and frustrated under the present restrictions, it becomes more important to reach out and maintain community bonds.

To help people maintain self-care and community care as the epidemic progresses, four instructors have graciously offered their time and knowledge to help people cope.

  • The Rev. Dr. James Farwell is Professor of Theology and Liturgy at Virginia Theological Seminary. He has written numerous books, including a new version of the classic The Liturgy Explained (2013).
  • The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers is Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Stewardship of Creation. She is an author and teacher as well. Her most recent books are The Episcopal Way and Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation.
  • Dorothy Linthicum, an instructor at Virginia Theological Seminary, has studied and taught courses and workshops about older adult spirituality and ministry at the seminary, at conferences, and for dioceses. She is the author of Redeeming Dementia (2018).
  • The Very Rev. Bonnie Perry is Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.

This course is ideal for anyone who wants to learn coping skills as we go through the Covid-19 experience.

Creating High-Quality Music for Online Worship

Bill Adams, Musical Director at The Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, NC.

Many of you have asked about creating strong music for your online liturgies, so we reached out to Bill Adams, Director of Music at The Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Working with the choir and the music team at Holy Family, Bill has offered powerful music for online worship. We would have asked him about the process earlier, as many of you were asking about it before Holy Week and Easter, but Bill was a bit busy in the week or two before Easter. Keep reading to find out why.

Creating high-quality music for online worship takes many hours of work. “The individual tasks aren’t terribly complicated to do,” says Bill, “but there’s a lot to it.” For example, Bill spent 70 hours creating the videos for the three Holy Family worship services that used music and the Easter morning service. [This information has been updated — initially, it said that he spent 70 hours working on the Easter service, when it was actually four services. Sorry if we scared you.] Asked if there are shortcuts or easier ways to do it, Bill responds — not really. Some people do use the app A Cappella, but it limits you to nine people. If you want to incorporate a choir or a music team, the complicated way is pretty much the way that you have to do it.

That said, each individual step of the process is reasonably accessible. If you’re willing to put in the time, you can create high-quality music for your online liturgies.

First, it might help to view the end product. Here is a video of the Good Friday worship service at Holy Family. The anthem God So Loved the World starts at minute 16:22.

This is the process that Bill uses to create a video like the one used in that service. First, he chooses the anthem. Since the church does not profit monetarily from the video, Bill says, and since many anthems are available in public domain anyway, choosing your music need not be a complicated process.

Next, he sends the music to the members of the choir and music team.He includes tracks for individual parts and also a track that combines each part being played so the choristers can both learn their parts and listen to the anthem when they record themselves singing. Importantly, he also sends a video of himself conducting the anthem. (Bill really emphasized that point — it helps considerably with syncing the timing to offer a video of the director conducting the anthem.)

Then he has the members of the choir and music team listen to the music and watch him conduct it while recording themselves on their phones or other digital recording devices. He asks them to use the room with the best possible acoustics to record. He counts to four and then claps at the beginning of his video conducting the musicians, and he has them count to four and clap before beginning to sing/play so as to sync the timing as closely as possible. When working with the music later, he syncs the music from the clap. Between listening to the music, following Bill’s conducting, and starting at the same spot, each musician’s timing remains fairly consistent with the rest of the group. The musicians then send Bill the videos of themselves singing or playing their parts.

This is what Bill’s work space looked like at the height of preparing music for the Holy Week and Easter services at Church of the Holy Family.

At this point, the most time-consuming aspect of the musical director’s work begins. Each recording will have a different sound quality level because the recording space and recording equipment varies for each musician. Therefore, even if each member does his or her best, the director will need to polish the music so that it is consistent. Bill uses Logic Pro for editing the music, but he emphasizes that Garage Band (which is a free version of the same app) might be able to do what the musical director needs done, as recent versions of the app offer more options than the app once did. (Standard tutorials for using Garage Band and Logic Pro are widely available online). By enhancing the quality of some musicians’ recordings (accommodating for acoustics problems, etc.) and editing out serious blips without going too far, the musical director can make the sound consistent.

Finally, the music is set to a video of the musicians playing the music. Bill uses Final Cut Pro to create the video, but he emphasizes that iMovie, a free version of the same app, may be able to do what you need done. Here is a tutorial for creating a video collage like the one Bill uses in the Holy Family service using iMovie. Again, tutorials for creating video collages, grids, and multibox videos (the terminology varies) abound on the internet. The process of creating the video takes considerably less time than syncing and editing the sound does.

So that’s the process. No one step is impossible to learn — but as a whole, the process takes time. Is it worth it? From Bill’s point of view, it is. “We accomplished what we set out to do,” he says. “We helped people worship through music. And it really, really mattered…Seeing the whole group come together – yeah, that really made a difference for people.”

Announcing an Easter Season Live Course: Introducing Matthew with Vicki Garvey

Good news! In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, The Good Book Club is going to add an Easter “season” to its repertoire. Participants will study the Gospel of Matthew, in part to celebrate Easter and in part as a way of coming together.

As part of this event, during the Easter season, ChurchNext will offer a FREE, live course called Introducing Matthew with Vicki Garvey. Vicki is a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. She has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study, and we are very blessed to have her teaching this class. Vicki taught the live Epiphany course Introducing John this year, with exceptional results.

Here’s how it works: from April 23-May 28, every Thursday night at 8 p.m. E.S.T., participants will click on a link to a Zoom classroom to listen to Vicki Garvey’s talks about Matthew Gospel and to ask questions/participate in discussion. Course materials will be available on an online ChurchNext course page. We will also post recordings of the class meetings on the course page, so don’t worry if you can’t attend every class meeting.

You can incorporate this course into your Christian formation materials as you plan for the Easter season — have students participate in the class and then discuss its content on the course page (where discussion questions are easy to post and comment on) or in your own forum later on. Or you can just take it on your own.

Sign up here, and we look forward to seeing you on April 23!

Free, Live, 1-Session Class: Using Digital Technology in Churches

We are planning a free, live, 1-session class on ways that churches can use digital technology to help parishioners pray, worship, and study remotely during the Covid-19 crisis. The class will meet for one hour at 8:00 p.m. E.S.T. on Thursday, March 26. You can sign up for the class here.

Course participants can ask ahead of time for particular subjects to be covered, and the class will include a downloadable PDF of digital resources beyond those we will be able to cover in the live session. The PDF will offer a consolidated list of online resources that should help for different types of ministry and brief descriptions of how they might be useful.

Liz Brignac and Marie Hagan, ChurchNext course designers, will be teaching the class. It will cover digital resources in the following areas:

    • Prayer
    • Family Resources
    • Worship Resources
    • Online Christian Formation (Will include discussion of CN and the ability to BUILD as well as use CN classes)
    • Group meeting/streaming resources

We hope that churches that are currently trying to navigate the many digital options that are out there or that have questions about using these resources will make use of this course.

Free Courses on Effective Discourse Across Political and Social Divisions

One of the things that unites Americans, left and right, poor and rich, is the sense we might have slight room for improvement in terms of how we interact on community-oriented subjects. Like, say, who the next president should be. Or how to get as many people as possible access to healthcare that actually keeps them healthy. Or even smaller issues, like the best way to open town council meetings, or whether the local Boy Scout troop should open up to girls, or whether our church really needs that pricey new HVAC system.

So we have these two courses we built: Bridging the Political Divide with Parker Palmer and Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse, which we built in collaboration with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. Make Me an Instrument of Peace has been free since we first launched it and will remain free forever. And as long as we’re all staying home trying to figure out ways to stimulate our brains while staying at least six feet away from all other humans, we decided to make Bridging the Political Divide free too. That way, when we all get to interact again, we’ll be able to do so much more effectively. Home can be like a training ground.We can practice on our family members as we all get increasingly stir-crazy.

Basically, we’re suggesting that you approach these instructors as a free package deal. Parker Palmer is well-known to many people — he is an internationally respected author, teacher, and activist. He is also the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, meanwhile, has been working on civil discourse practices for years. At this point, they’ve put so much thought into productive discourse that they could probably teach Socrates how to get more out of his conversations.

Socrates doubts this assertion but is willing to discuss it calmly.

These are some great minds talking about a topic that’s extremely important in our particular time and place. So if you’re feeling like stretching your brain, your spiritual muscles — or even if you just want to be able to have productive conversation with family members who disagree with you over the turkey next Thanksgiving — you can use this home-oriented time to take advantage of these experts and their ideas. When we can all return to work, school, the gym, brunch, etc., we hope you will bring their approaches with you out into the world.

Just Launched: Prayer and Worship in Our Homes

We just launched Prayer and Worship in Our Homes, a free 5-course class open to anyone who would like to take it.

Recently, churches across the United States and in many other countries have been asked not to meet for worship due to the risk of participants’ being exposed to Covid-19 (the coronavirus). Christians across the world, because of quarantines or because churches are choosing not to meet in order to reduce the risk of exposing people to the virus, might be looking for alternative prayer and worship options. This course is designed to fulfill that need.

In this course, you will find five classes that teach different approaches to prayer. Some focus on particular types of prayer discipline. Others talk about reaching out and praying with others, even when we’re physically isolated from one another.

You can use these classes remotely in a couple of different ways. You can either:

  1. Have individuals within your parish take the course on their own, or
  2. Meet in a zoom-style online classroom and take a class together. In that case, you would guide the students through the classes, opening with prayer, watching the videos together, and then offering opportunities for discussion using the course discussion questions.

Each class in this course teaches an approach to prayer that can offer comfort and help now and helpful approaches to spiritual discipline in the long term.

Everyday Spiritual Practices with Keith Anderson teaches ways to worship through daily practice as well as weekly church attendance. Keith discusses ways to both find spiritual value in everyday activities and to bring habits of worship into daily life.

How to Pray with Christopher Martin offers an overview of approaches to prayer. It’s a good class for people just beginning prayer as a regular way of life or for people looking to make changes to their approach.

Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck reminds us that the saints are always available to us as models and companions in prayer. The saints are not distant and otherwordly creatures but human beings like us. They connect us to the Christians who have come before us and remain accessible to us as people with whom we can pray when God feels far away.

How to Pray Online with Karekin Yarian teaches Christians about online prayer and worship resources and how to use them. Knowing these resources can help in the short term with worship options that don’t involve breathing on one another and in the long term to help Christians worship in Keith Anderson calls the digital cathedral.

Praying the Anglican Rosary with Suzanne Edwards-Acton teaches a specific, centuries-old prayer discipline that people might find useful in both listening to God and connecting with other worshipers. Knowing that you’re praying with others who use the same practice each day, even if you aren’t physically with them, can create a sense of community.

As you use this course, please remember that even if you are separated from others physically, we are all part of a great, spiritual community that can’t even be divided by death, let alone by public health initiatives. We’re all praying and worshiping together — ideally, in person, of course, but even if not in person, we remain in community with one another in mind, heart, and spirit.


We just launched Leading Up to Lambeth For Individuals and For Groups.

The Lambeth Conference is a meeting of bishops who lead dioceses in the global Anglican Communion. It has been taking place roughly once a decade since the first Lambeth conference in 1867. The goal of the conference is for the bishops and their spouses to pray together, study the Bible together, and talk together about the direction in which the church should go and its responses to various important issues within the church and around the world.

After Lambeth concludes, the Anglican Church has often published resolutions made at the conference to help guide the global church. Since the churches within the global Anglican Communion are bound by tradition, loyalty, and the will to walk and work together rather than by any single authority or statement of doctrine, Lambeth resolutions do not have legal or legislative authority. They do, however, have a great deal of spiritual authority and strong influence on the direction that churches within the Anglican Communion will proceed for the next decade.

Above, you’ll find a video in which Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby outlines the plan for the 2021 Lambeth Conference, which will be held at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England from July 22 through August 2, 2021. This video gives you an overview of some of the most important activities and issues that Lambeth 2021 will cover.

In this course, the Rev. Charles Robertson discusses the history and purpose of the Lambeth conference and the goals and issues central to the 2021 Lambeth Conference. He highlights the relationship between Lambeth 2021 and Lambeth 1920 — conferences separated by a century (at least, they were when the Lambeth conference was expected to be held in 2020), yet facing some of the same challenges. Finally, he discusses the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion and the role the Lambeth conference plays in building that relationship.

This class is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about what the Lambeth Conference is about or about the global Anglican Communion. For a preview of the course, please click here.