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.

 

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 4

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 4 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the fourth of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course in this series, Vicki examined the following texts and gives an overview of each: 1 and 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.

In the third course in this series, Vicki discussed overviews and major themes in the following books: Book of Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Youths, Prayer of Manasseh, Susannah and Bel and the Dragon, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

In this course, Vicki offers her own suggestions for how Christians can use apocryphal books as spiritual resources today. In particular, she suggests ways in which we can find comfort, guidance, hope, and peace in particular books from the Apocrypha. Her video lectures include:

  • Comfort: Wisdom of Solomon
  • Guidance: Tobit
  • Hope: 1 and 2 Maccabees
  • Peace: Baruch

The Apocrypha series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Jeremiah and Daniel especially.) For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 3 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 3 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the third of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course in this series, Vicki examined the following texts and gives an overview of each: 1 and 2 Esdras,Tobit, Judith, additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach.

In this course, Vicki offers an overview and discusses important themes in the following books:

  • Book of Baruch
  • Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Azariah and the Three Youths
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Susannah and Bel and the Dragon
  • 1 and 2 Maccabees

Vicki examines each book in terms of its structure, authorship, major themes, and historical context. By the end of this session, participants will understand enough about each of these books to have a sense of what they are about, what ideas and historical situations their authors were addressing, and how they fit with the other books of the Apocrypha and with the canonical Bible.

This class is the third in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Jeremiah and Daniel especially.) For a course preview, please click below.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 2 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 2 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the second of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

In the first course in this series, Vicki offered an overview of the Apocrypha, introducing the books, discussing the types of genre represented, going over the general times in which it was written, and examining how the books became the Apocrypha and how different branches of the Church view these books.

In the second course, Vicki examines the following texts and gives an overview of each:

  • 1 and 2 Esdras
  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Additions to Esther
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Sirach

Vicki examines each book in terms of its structure, authorship, major themes, and historical context. By the end of this session, participants will understand enough about each of these books to have a sense of what they are about, what ideas and historical situations their authors were addressing, and how they fit with the other books of the Apocrypha and with the canonical Bible.

This class is the second in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. This class will interest anyone interested in learning more about the Apocrypha, biblical-era literature, and any of the books above or associated canonical works (Ezra and Esther especially). For a course preview, please click below.

How to Offer Virtual For Groups Sessions of Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism

We recently launched a free 6-session curriculum, Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. We had a request for some help sharing the For Groups course virtually, for communities that prefer meeting online to meeting in person, and we thought we’d extend our suggestions to the rest of the ChurchNext community.

This curriculum comes with 6 video sessions (each 25-30 minutes long) that are available on the ChurchNext course page and a downloadable Facilitator’s Guide and Participant’s Guide. The Facilitator’s Guide is designed so anyone can lead. It includes suggestions for opening and closing prayers, structuring the class, and moderating discussion as well as the discussion questions for each session and resources for further study. The Participant’s Guide includes short summaries of each video’s main points, the discussion questions for each session, and resources for further study.

We suggest ensuring that each participant has a copy of the Participant’s Guide before the course begins. (You can download it and email it to participants with the link to the virtual meeting.) The moderator can use the Facilitator’s Guide. When everyone has arrived to the virtual meeting, begin the formal session with prayer. Then the course facilitator can share their screen and play the video for everyone (remember to share your sound!). It might help to encourage reactions in the chat as everyone watches. Chatting helps with engagement and reminds people what questions came up as they watched.

After the video is finished, the facilitator may stop sharing their screen and encourage discussion. (You may want to set some group norms to begin the conversation; the Facilitator’s Guide has suggestions about this on page 4.) If the group is large, the facilitator may prefer to utilize breakout rooms, which break people into small groups for conversation. (Here is a guide on how to use breakout rooms in Zoom, and many other meeting sites offer small group discussion options as well.) If you prefer to stay in the main group, run the discussion as you would an in-person meeting, with a moderator. People can ask their own questions and use the ones written for the course (available in both the guides). Ideally, they will use both. At the end of the session, close with a prayer.

We hope these suggestions help you as you decide how best to utilize these courses in your congregation. They will work for shorter For Groups courses as well if you intersperse the shorter videos with periods of discussion.

Just Launched: Survey of the Apocrypha 1 with Vicki Garvey

We just launched Survey of the Apocrypha 1 with Vicki Garvey For Individuals and For Groups. This is the first of four related courses on the Apocrypha taught by Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who has led workshops across the United States and internationally on Bible study.

Many Christians are curious about the Apocrypha — the series of books that are biblical canon for some branches of the church and not for others; that aren’t quite biblical for the Anglican communion and for Protestant churches in general but are included in some Protestant Bibles. What exactly are these books? What is their status in the church? If they aren’t biblical, why do we sometimes find them in bibles? What makes them different from other books of their time on Judeo-Christian topics that are excluded from both the biblical canon and the Apocrypha?

Examining how the apocryphal books became the Apocrypha by definition teaches us about how the biblical books became the Bible. Both contain texts that were floating around the Mediterranean region for centuries that claimed to offer insight into humanity’s relationship with the Judeo-Christian God. Why were some deemed inspired while others were considered wise but not biblical canon? Why did some branches of the Church deem the works canonical while others did not? What process was involved in making these decisions?

This class is the first in a four-part series that surveys this works of the Apocrypha. The series talks about the origins of these books, their genres and history, and about the value Christians and Jews have found in these books over the centuries. In the first class, Vicki introduces the Apocrypha. She gives an overview of the books and discusses how the various major branches of the church use them. She talks about how they relate to canonical biblical texts and the history and genre expectations that framed the books. Finally, she touches on the canonization process and the difference between apocryphal works and the pseudepigrapha (books that did not make it into either the Bible or the Apocrypha).

This class will interest anyone who has wondered what the books of the Apocrypha are, why they have been established as apocryphal instead of biblical, and how and why we use them today. For a course preview, please click below.