Just Launched: How (and Why) to Build a Farm-Faith Partnership with Justine Post

We have just launched How (and Why) to Build a Farm-Faith Partnership with Justine Post For Individuals and For Groups.

A farm-faith partnership is a partnership between a congregation or group of congregations and a farmer or group of farmers in which the congregation’s members provide a market for the farmers to sell their produce. The goal: to close the gap between underserved farmers and farmers of color and the markets to which they have access. Faith communities benefit too in gaining access to fresh, local, nutritious food and also in access to education about how to build healthy food systems in their area.

Justine Post, who teaches this course, directs the Come to the Table program for RAFI-USA, a farmer advocacy nonprofit organization in North Carolina. Her program’s mission is to empower faith communities to participate in the creation of a just food system through collaboration, capacity building, and advocacy. She uses her expertise in forming connections between faith-based groups and farmers, particularly farmers of color, to teach others how to build this kind of collaboration and why they should do so.

Justine’s examples are based in Come to the Table’s mission, but you can start a farm-faith partnership anywhere. These partnerships could look like a group of churches that strengthen their collective purchasing power by purchasing multiple CSA shares for their congregants from farmers of color. Or it could look like a church hosting a farmers market in their parking lot. Through these farm-to-church connections, churches are able to participate in a just and healthful local food system while also engaging in relational ministries with farmers in their communities.

Her video lectures include:

  • Why Food and Faith?
  • The Farm and Faith Partnerships Project
  • Farming and Systemic Racism
  • Getting Started
  • Resources for Leaders

This course is ideal for anyone interested in combating systemic racism, learning about building sustainable food systems, and doing justice through food ministries. For a preview, please click below.

 

Just Launched — Gleaning Today: Conserving Food for Hungry People with Michael Binger

We just launched Gleaning Today: Conserving Food for Hungry People with Michael Binger For Individuals and For Groups.

Gleaning is the age-old agricultural practice of collecting excess food for the hungry. For centuries, the edges of crops were left in the field for the poor to harvest. Over the years, versions of that practice remained standard in many cultures as a way of providing food for hungry people.

Today in America, we waste literally tons of excess food every year, either because it doesn’t fit high retail standards and nobody considers it worth harvesting or due to other inefficiencies in the food system. We, like those who came before us, have a responsibility as people of faith to nurture God’s abundance and to ensure that people who need help in our areas have enough food — and we have food available. Good, fresh food full of nutrition. Food that rots and gets thrown away if it isn’t recovered and made available to hungry people.

Ugly tomatoes like this little guy are discarded in our food system, even though they taste just like their prettier brothers and sisters. (Sometimes better!)

The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) works with volunteers throughout the U.S. to help reclaim food that becomes available for poor people through the food system and deliver it to food banks and food pantries. In this class Michael Binger, SoSA’s Regional Director of the Carolinas, explains how gleaning works in the twenty-first century food system. He discusses the biblical foundations of this call and explains how and why people can work with SoSA or organize independently in our communities to get excess produce to those who need it.

Congregations can use this course to start learning how and why to organize groups to glean fresh food from local farms for local food banks — an activity with which kids can be actively involved and which does not require steady participation; people can join when they are available. Individuals can use it to figure out how to start gleaning with their family or on their own, from their own gardens or in local farms and urban gardens.

This course is ideal for anyone interested in serving the hungry. For a preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Updated Version of When We Get Angry with God with Laurie Brock

We just launched an updated version of When We Get Angry with God with Laurie Brock For Individuals and For Groups.

What Does “Updated” Mean?

First, a brief explanation of what it means when we update courses, since we’ve re-launched a number of updated courses recently.

We’ve been looking at some of our older offerings to see if they hold up with time. Just as books with high-quality content need to be updated occasionally, some of our earlier courses do as well. When we relaunch a course, that means its video content remains strong and relevant, but the accompanying materials (introductions, discussion questions, supporting materials) could benefit from an update, either to remain consistent with what we’re doing now in terms of style or content or because references we made might have started to feel dated. When we find a good course that needs a little routine maintenance, we update it and re-launch it so you know it’s been reviewed and revised to remain current and helpful.

Course Information

When We Get Angry with God, Laurie Brock discusses our discomfort with the idea of being angry at God. Years of conditioning have taught us that not only is anger bad, but that anger at God is almost akin to heresy. In this class, Laurie, an Episcopal priest and author, examines anger as an emotion that is part of the human experience, neither good nor bad. She argues that we must learn to see anger not as a negative emotion, but as a gift from God, placed in our souls to be a useful part of our spiritual growth and a holy part of what it means to be a person of faith.

Laurie presents anger as a transformative opportunity, likening it to fire which burns, clears and leaves way for new growth. Malcolm X once said, “usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” Laurie argues that anger can give us the transformative energy we need to move ourselves into a new and better place.

Laurie’s lectures include:

  • What is Anger?
  • Why Do We Get Angry with God?
  • Is Anger at God Okay?
  • Coping with Our Anger with God.
  • Transforming Our Anger with God.

This class is ideal for anyone who is angry. Which is a lot of people these days, so really, you should probably check out this class.

About the Instructor

The Rev. Laurie Brock is an Episcopal priest, former attorney and author of God, Grace and Horses and Where God Hides Holiness:Thoughts on Grief, Joy and the Search for Fabulous Heels. She is also a celebrity blogger in the Lent Madness series. Learn more about her work on her website.

For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Updated Version of Why I Am Not an Atheist with Frank Schaeffer

We just launched an updated version of Why I Am Not an Atheist with Frank Schaeffer For Individuals and For Groups.

Frank Schaeffer is the child of fundamentalist Christians who has spent his adult life writing and speaking about his journey away from fundamentalist belief systems — including atheism. Frank sees atheism as one of the major world religions. What some might think of atheism as a staunch lack of religion, he argues, is its own committed belief system, complete with a faith– a faith that there is no God. Atheists claim the tangible, the scientific, the purely rational as the only means for understanding life and the universe rather than belief in a higher power. Frank believes there are rational arguments for atheism’s being a faith system of its own — one that cannot accommodate many aspects of human experience.

This course focuses on why atheism attracts people, especially in our time, and on those reasons being the ones people generally feel when embracing fundamentalist religious belief systems: impatience with gray areas, a need for clarity, a straightforward set of answers to the questions that hover around human existence. Frank also offers his reasons for preferring non-fundamentalist belief systems (as opposed to either fundamentalist faith systems or atheism, which he views as mirror image born-again experiences) and Christianity in particular.

 

Frank’s video lectures include:

  • What is Atheism?
  • Why is Atheism So Attractive?
  • Why Does Christianity Make Sense?
  • Why I Am a Christian

This course is ideal for anyone who is interested in atheism, who has ever questioned their faith, or who is interested in the relationship between intellectualism and faith. For a preview, please see below.

Just Launched: New Edition of Introduction to Luke with John Lewis

We just launched a new, updated edition of Introduction to Luke with John Lewis For Individuals and For Groups.

Luke is often read as the social justice gospel — the one that champions the poor, women, and others without power. Luke’s Christ has a universal message of compassion enacted in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Who was the author? Was he the beloved physician and companion of Paul? A new convert? A gentile? Was he educated or uneducated? Did he actually know anyone named Theophilus?

Whoever the author was, and whatever his status in life, Luke’s Gospel takes us on a journey of head and heart; of divine inspiration and meticulous detail; of joy in the risen Christ and the need for discipline and action in our discipleship. We see through Luke a “new world order” – the inclusivity of God’s grace and the universal love that Christ has for all people. Luke tells us about the Holy Spirit that empowers us to do God’s will. The gospel gives special place to women and is often called the Gospel of Praise, having provided the world with The Magnificat, The Benedictus, and the Nunc Dimittis.

In this course, scholar and teacher John Lewis takes us through the Gospel of Luke. He talks about the most important themes and ideas in Luke as well as about who the gospel’s author may have been. John shows us Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the friend of sinners and outcasts. He discusses Luke’s use of parables to show Jesus’ compassion for the lost and the poor and for those who suffer.

This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about Luke’s Gospel. For a preview, please click below.

Just Launched: New Edition of How to Be a Godparent

We just launched an updated edition of How to Be a Godparent with Nancy McLaughlin For Individuals and For Groups. We’ve built Nancy McLaughlin’s wise insights for godparents into a new and improved learning experience.

Christians take diverse approaches to baptism. From people who utilize elaborate baptismal gowns and trickle water on a baby’s forehead over indoor fonts to those who practice outdoor baptisms in rivers, people embrace many forms of the liturgy.

The presence of a godparent to help usher new Christians into the life of the church, however, remains consistent.

The common belief when selecting a godparent is that this person starts a new Christian’s official entrance into the church community and will remain a strong presence during that person’s spiritual journey with Christ. Godparenting has a rich history in the church, from the time when converts to Christianity had to be vouched for to preserve the safety of the church and its members. When the godparent is helping to raise a child in the spiritual life of the church, the role is less about sponsorship and more about modeling and raising the child according to the values of the Church.

Yardenit Baptism Christianity Jordan River Israel. CC

In this course, Nancy McLaughlin discusses the role of godparents, why we need them, and what we expect them to do. She talks about the precedent for godparents in biblical and church traditions. She goes over their role in the baptismal liturgy and its significance. Finally, she offers practical suggestions for the long-term role of godparent, particularly in the life of a child.

We also offer a podcast of How to Be a Godparent. You can find it with other episodes of the ChurchNext podcast here.

This course is ideal for anyone who is interested in becoming a godparent or thinking about how to find a godparent for someone who will soon be baptized. For a preview, please click below.

 

Just Launched: Courses on Organizing for Justice, Creation Care, and Patience

We have been busy over here lately, resulting in several exciting, new learning opportunities as we commence a season of summer learning.

First off, we just launched Organizing for Justice with Kayla Gilchrist For Individuals and For Groups.

In the Church we are typically very good at doing mercy — meeting people’s immediate needs with feeding programs, clothing programs and more. We are less effective in enacting justice — changing the systems that direct our lives to hold officials (today’s kings and nobles) accountable for fair practices and policies, the fair and equitable treatment of God’s people, so that we build a community more reflective of the kingdom of God.

In this class, Kayla Gilchrist discusses what it means to organize, why we should organize, how God calls us to organize. She describes community organizing as a Christian duty and a means to creating Beloved Community.

Second, we have updated two of our creation care courses. Our series of creation care courses might be of particular interest to those of you utilizing Forward Movement’s Creation Care Bible Challenge. You can now take new and improved editions of these two courses:

Water and Justice with Fletcher Harper For Individuals and For Groups 

Christianity, like most religious traditions, includes water as part of sacred rituals and treats it with reverence. Water is a basic requirement for life. Humans can live weeks without food, but only days without water. We connect water with healing, with power, with cleansing. It is no wonder that faith traditions incorporate it into their most fundamental sacred rituals.

The Bible tells Christians that water is a great gift from God and reveres it as a human necessity and as a holy symbol repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. In this course, participants will learn about challenges to water supplies that are developing throughout the world. They will develop a deeper appreciation of Christianity’s sense of water as a gift. Most importantly, they will learn about the impetus and resources that Christianity gives us to conserve water and minimize the effects of climate change.

Other courses in our Creation Care series include Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben and Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman. Take all four of these courses and earn a ChurchNext Certificate in Creation Care. 

Holy Grounds: The Surprising Connections Between Coffee and Faith with Tim Schenck For Individuals and For Groups

Coffee impacts people’s day-to-day lives all over the world. It can be fancy and expensive or basic and affordable, served in big mugs or tiny cups, drunk on the go or savored slowly, but in its various forms, it tops the lists (along with tea and beer) of most-consumed beverages in the world.

Because we use it so much, both in our culture and in our churches, it’s only fitting that as Christians, we examine this drink in our midst. What is its role in our social lives? Are we using coffee in wholesome and meaningful ways? Do we savor it as part of God’s creation? What consideration do we give to the ways that coffee is made and processed in terms of how we relate to God’s creation and to one another?

In this class, the Rev. Tim Schenck takes us on a journey examining the origins and rituals of coffee preparation and consumption. He discusses how coffee, the early Christian response to coffee and ways in which we choose to prepare and drink coffee, can affect our spiritual lives. He also notes our responsibility as Christians to consider how our consumption of coffee affects people’s lives globally.

Finally, in these days of tension, anxiety, and anger, we thought it was time to update the course Developing Christian Patience with Jeff Bullock For Individuals and For Groups

Patience is a skill we teach children in order to help them get along in the world. We teach them, for example, that if they are patient and save their money instead of spending it immediately, they can eventually afford that toy they want. That kind of patience is a useful skill to learn, but it isn’t the subject of this course. Christian patience is about building relationships rather than accessing things. We don’t wait for a prize; rather, we build into a process. Secular patience goes through a story breathless to see how it will turn out. Christian patience isn’t about building up to a choice or a result, because we already know the outcome: the love of God is the beginning and the end. Instead, Christian patience is more like being part of the story — enduring, reaching out, listening, making ourselves vulnerable, never giving up on one another.

In this course, Jeff Bullock provides a thought-provoking exploration of what true Christian patience is. The lessons help us step back and reexamine who and what is ordering our time and our sense of worth. Jeff teaches that Christian patience is a gift from God. If we can abide in it, he argues, we will know deep peace.

We hope you enjoy exploring these courses and that your summer is both fun and spiritually fulfilling.

Episcopal Parish Network Webinar on Understanding Systemic Racism

Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan — Dearborn.

Yesterday, the Episcopal Parish Network (formerly CEEP) graciously offered Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown and me (Liz Brignac, Senior Course Producer for ChurchNext) as well as three people who have taken Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism the opportunity to talk about the course on an informative webinar. A recording of our discussion is available here.

In the first part of the webinar, Ivy, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Michigan, Dearborn and one of the course instructors, and I discuss why we built the course, what our goals were, how the course is formatted, and the major ideas the course covers.

In the second part of the webinar, Caroline Christman from Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina talks about her experience taking the For Individuals version of the course and why she values the opportunity to take the course privately. Diana Alm from Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Moline, Illinois describes how a group of parishioners from her church is approaching the For Individuals course as a hybrid learning opportunity and discusses how they are using the course as a launching point for a group focused on racial reconciliation activities. The Rev. Dave Guilfoyle Deacon at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Oxford, Ohio talks about how his congregation is using the For Groups version of the course in a small group context.

Throughout the webinar, the panelists answer questions about using this resource to Become Beloved Community.

If you are interested in creative approaches to using these courses, have questions about how congregations or individuals might use Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism in conjunction with other offerings, such as Sacred Ground, or if you simply want to learn more about it, you will find this webinar interesting.

Many thanks to Joe Swimmer, Betsy Buschman, and the EPN staff for working with us on this and to Ivy, Caroline, Diana, and Dave for sharing their expertise and experiences.

Just Launched: Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben

We have just launched Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben For Individuals and For Groups. Anyone familiar with Bill’s extensive history with environmental advocacy will understand that this is a great opportunity to get a Christian viewpoint on a crucial issue from one of America’s most respected environmentalists.

We have heard for decades now about the disastrous effects related to the warming of the earth due to carbon emissions. We are starting to see the results scientists have predicted coming to pass in the news as wildfires burn across continents and storms increase in fury and frequency.

 The magnitude of the problem climate change presents can seem impossible on a couple of different levels. On the one hand, while we may understand the situation intellectually, it can be hard to wrap our minds around our ability to have such effects on the earth. Humans have been around in one form or another for 6 million years, according to scientists. How can our burning fossil fuels, even a lot of them, over the last 250 years or so possibly change something as basic as earth’s temperature — let alone creating effects like raising the levels of the oceans?

The situation can also feel impossible the other way. If the entire earth is heating, what does it matter what one person does? What can we do in the face of damage that huge and forces as large as national governments and international corporations making the world-altering decisions about it?

These reactions are natural enough, and Bill McKibben addresses them both in this class. Most importantly, he shows us why we no longer have time to get used to this idea. We still have time to turn the situation around by taking concrete action — but not as much time as we once had, and not as completely as we once might have been able to manage. Bill’s main messages: we need to act now, and we need to act in groups. Individual actions count for a lot, but at this point, pooling our individual resources of money, talent, and energy is what can save us.

Fortunately, churches are good at resource-pooling — not to mention having reason for hope in the face of adversity. Our faith communities can play a part in bringing the people of our planet together to demand the change we need to see in the world.

This course is ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about creation care and particularly about how churches can respond to the climate change emergency.

Just Launched: Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom (1826), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

We just launched Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman For Individuals and For Groups.

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, scripture has much to say about food. The Old Testament spends a lot of time on foods that are considered clean and unclean, while the New Testament spends time explaining that foods that were once considered unclean can now be considered clean (Acts 10:12-15). We are exhorted to enjoy food (Ecclesiastes 2:24) but not to overdo it habitually (Proverbs 23:20-21); to be generous in sharing food without expecting repayment (Luke 14:12-1). These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Bible’s many rules and nuggets of advice about food.

After Adam and Eve leave the innocent world of Eden, however, nobody is exhorted at any point to be a vegetarian. God even provides the children of Israel with quails when they demand meat (though the meat does makes some of them sick) (Numbers 11:31-32). So why should Christians today take seriously the idea that the Christian life calls us to vegetarianism?

In this course, Steve Kaufman makes a strong case that a vegetarian lifestyle allows Christians of today to live in accordance with ethical themes that run throughout the Bible in a way that we cannot do easily as consumers of meat. Partly, he emphasizes, this is because of the way we raise animals for food today. We are stewards of creation, and the impact that raising animals for meat has on creation today is not responsible stewardship. Partly, he argues, God wants us to live as nonviolently as possible. If we can avoid eating meat to survive, we should do so.

In Eden, God’s unsullied world, humans didn’t need to kill animals because there was an abundance of vegetable food — so they lived on plants. In Isaiah’s vision of the future God will bring, animals will not need to kill one another for food (Isaiah 11). Killing animals might have been necessary in order for most people to get enough calories in the past, but with today’s food production systems, many of us can live healthy lives eating as vegetarians. In this course, Steve discusses reasons we should consider doing so and also offers practical suggestions about getting started. Steve’s video lectures include:

  • Biblical Foundations of Vegetarianism
  • Theology and Vegetarianism
  • Climate Change and Vegetarianism
  • Getting Started with Vegetarianism

This course is ideal for anyone interested in Christian ethics or creation care. We hope you enjoy it.