Just Launched: Updated Version of Praying with Icons with Randall Warren

This Byzantine icon of Christ Pantocrator (“Ruler of All”) is one of the earliest Christian religious icons, dating back to the 6th century C.E. Public domain.


We just launched an updated version of Praying with Icons with Randall Warren For Individuals and For Groups.

Icons are windows to the divine. Not merely beautiful works of art, they are prayerfully painted (or, more properly, “written”) reflections of God’s beauty and radiance. Though many of us close our eyes when we pray, icons offer an alternative form of prayer, one in which our eyes are wide open to God’s glory. What we see in an icon imprints itself on our heart, carving new pathways in our minds and souls to God.

In this course, The Rev. Dr. Randall Warren, an author, teacher, and priest, introduces us to the ancient and sacred practice of praying with icons. He discusses the reasons for their creation and use, the fraught history of icons in the Western Christian Church, and then offers some guidance on how to pray with icons in our own devotions. Along the way, he walks us through several beautiful and famous icons, teaching us some of their most prominent symbols and meanings.

If you are interested in learning more about icons, in enhancing your prayer life, or in finding new ways to encounter and relate with God, this course is for you. For a preview of the course, please click below.


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.

ChurchNext Lenten Resources

Lent is approaching, and ChurchNext offers a buffet of Lenten resources, so step right up and make your choice. (These are especially useful tools for a Lenten season like this one in which some people may not be gathering in person because the classes offer participants opportunities for online discussions.)


Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. You can register for the course today. The course content will become available January 31.

Designed for study over a period of six weeks, the curriculum explores how systemic racism has been integrated into U.S. culture from the very beginning as well as the Episcopal Church’s history of active participation in systemic racism. The curriculum offers guidance on learning from this history and building toward what Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry describes as “the Beloved Community of God.” Each of the six sessions include half-hour videos, optional self-assessments, opportunities for discussion, take-home materials, and recommendations for further research. The course is led by two experts on the topic of system racism and the church: Dr. Ivy Forsythe-Brown, associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson, affiliate professor of church history at Bexley-Seabury Seminary and rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

With Gladness: 5 Weeks of Holy Practices for Disciples

Do you long to grow in your relationship with Christ? Take a ‘Lenten challenge’ and join The Rev. Christopher Martin on an inspiring and informative journey, in which he offers insights into discipleship that can be truly transformative. In this course he touches on various habits and disciplines that can easily be incorporated into our walk with Christ.




A Spring in the Desert with Frank and Victoria Logue For Individuals and For Groups

This curriculum, based on Frank and Victoria’s book A Spring in the Desert, examines the seven Christian virtues through the lens of the desert. Using historical accounts of the desert fathers and mothers, meditations based on plant life and imagery of the desert, and scriptural references to the desert, Frank and Victoria walk participants through the Lenten season.



Your church and families within your church may find the following classes helpful during Lent:

Making Sense of the Cross Parts 1-3: These three courses  offer David Lose’s examination of how to understand Jesus’ death on the cross in the context of our life experiences (part one), the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and death (part two), and theological interpretations (part three).

Introducing Lent with Maggi Dawn: This class offers people new to the church and anyone who wants a refreshed understanding of the season an overview of Lent. Author, priest, scholar, and teacher Maggi Dawn discusses Lent’s history in the church and ways that we observe and commemorate the Lenten season today.

Lent for Families with Kim Baker: In this class, longtime educator and priest Kim Baker discusses ways that families can celebrate a rich Lenten season together.

Walk in Love Part 2: Marking Time with Scott Gunn and Melody Shobe: This course is part of our Walk in Love series. It goes through the church year as a whole, including a lot of focused discussion about Lent and Holy Week. This class is another one that people new to the church might find particularly useful.

Starting Thursday: FREE Live Class on the Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey

It’s Good Book Club time again, and as usual, ChurchNext is offering a FREE, live class in connection with the GBC program. This year, Vicki Garvey will be back to talk about Exodus in our Live Course: The Book of Exodus with Vicki Garvey.

“Finally, I get to talk about the part of the Bible that is my first love,” writes Vicki. Those of you who have taken other classes with Vicki have seen the high quality of her teaching on other books of the Bible. Now imagine her talking about part of the Bible she describes as her “first love.” Whether or not you plan to formally participate in the Good Book Club, you really don’t want to miss this class.

Vicki Garvey 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 has already taught live courses on the Gospels of John, Matthew, and Mark. Her Gospel of Mark class was so popular that participants went back and viewed recordings of her classes on the Gospels of John and Matthew. We are grateful to have another chance to work with her.

Here’s how it works: from January 6 through February 10, 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 Exodus and to ask questions/participate in discussion. Course materials will be available on an online ChurchNext course. 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 take this course with others from your congregation or on your own.

Sign up here today! We look forward to seeing you on January 6.

Just Launched: Global Philanthropy Leaders Curriculum

We just launched the Global Philanthropy Leaders Curriculum, developed in partnership with the Global Philanthropy Leaders’ founders at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

If you are looking for a way to engage youth at your church with healthy and respectful ways to combat global poverty and oppression while also guiding them in responsible ways to use money, you should look into Global Philanthropy Leaders (GPL).

GPL teaches teens about global poverty and  introduces them to a website that facilitates microloans to struggling entrepreneurs across the world. Using church funds, teens decide where and how to loan the money for which the church has made them responsible. They learn to evaluate borrowers based (1) on what the borrowers want do with their business and (2) on the likelihood that the money will be paid back. When the money is repaid, participants re-loan it to other borrowers. Adults advise the participants, but the teens make the final call on how and to whom they will loan money. At the end of the year, participants present the work they have done to the parish, showing what they have learned and how they have used the church’s money to do the God’s work in the world.

Please note that you do not need to be an expert in any kind of finance to lead a GPL ministry at your church. The curriculum is designed so anyone can lead, and Rich Stein, the curriculum instructor, who co-founded the GPL program at St. Stephen’s and has made many microloans over the years, is happy to answer any questions that come up.

Instructor Rich Stein, co-founder of GPL

GPL began in 2017 at St. Stephen’s. It took off, and when other congregations heard about GPL, they began asking for help building GPL programs at their own churches. Soon, GPL had spread to a dozen parishes, and the St. Stephen’s staff found themselves looking for a way to train people more broadly to use the program. This online curriculum is their solution. (Please note that the curriculum presented here is an in-depth guide to running GPL sessions at your church. For an introduction to the program, check out Raising Young Philanthropists, a ChurchNext short course that gives an overview of the program and its benefits.)

This curriculum guides both leaders and participants through the GPL program. It offers everything you will need to start a GPL program at your church. The curriculum is organized into six sessions. These include scripture readings, prayer, video presentations, discussion opportunities, and activities.

Session One introduces participants to GPL and shows them how to use Kiva international’s web portal at kiva.org to make microloans. It also shows participants how to evaluate borrowers’ potential to repay money.

Session Two familiarizes participants with the seventeen U.N. Sustainable Development goals adopted in 2015. It shows how their work in GPL can make a difference in efforts to eliminate poverty, offering people across the globe the means to improve their quality of life.

Session Three offers a brief history of microloans. It focuses particularly on Muhammad Yunus, who, along with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which he founded, won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics for their work with microloans.

Session Four teaches participants basic skills for maintaining healthy personal finances. It asks students to consider ways in which the Christian faith influences our approach to our finances.

Session Five introduces participants to the most serious issues related to hunger and malnutrition across the globe and discusses the wisest ways to combat starvation and malnutrition..

Session Six teaches students about making presentations and how to make their end-of-year presentation to their congregation.

The GPL curriculum is ideal for people looking for new ways to engage youth at their parish in doing Christ’s work in the world. For a preview, please click below.


launching today: Reading and Praying in Church: The Office of Lector

The scripture is fullfilled in our hearing

Lectoring is an ancient ministry. Scripture says that Jesus himself read aloud in the temple. If you read or lead prayers in your church (or both!), or if you are considering engaging that ministry, consider taking our new class, Reading and Praying in the Church: The Office of Lector with Tim Spannaus.

Tim takes us back to the origins of lectoring and teaches us how the laity came to engage this sacred ministry. He offers valuable suggestions for preparing and proclaiming passages from scripture, including intellectual and spiritual ideas on how to better understand and convey the meanings of scriptural passages. The class also includes training on practicalities. Wondering what to do if the reading includes words like “Pi-Hahiroth” or “Zerubbabel”? Concerned about when to look at the congregation and when to look down at the reading (and not losing your place trying to do both at the same time)? Tim’s class answers these questions and many more. The class also includes valuable training about leading psalms and reading or leading public prayers.

If your ministry involves training lectors, or if the lectors at your church would like to study together, consider utilizing our group class, formatted for group discussion. While you are there, take Tim’s advice and practice your readings for one another! You can give each other valuable feedback.

Would you like a sneak preview? Enjoy this video! 

Tim Spannaus is a deacon and lector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, Michigan. He teaches on liturgy at The Whitaker Institute in Detroit, Michigan.

TREC 2: Mission and Leadership

Our second course in the TREC series (which stands for Task-Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church), launches today, and is once again designed to spark thought, prayer, reflection, and conversation about the future of the Church.

In TREC 2: Mission and Leadership, we delve more deeply into what it means to be a good leader in the Church of the 21st century. With Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, the Rev. Jesus Reyes, and the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville Burrows, we explore what makes a healthy, Spirit-filled leader; how leaders should create and support community in our increasingly wired and global world; and what place innovation has in these arenas. trec

What’s exciting about TREC is that part of its commission is to “gather information and ideas from congregations, dioceses and provinces, and other interested individuals and organizations, including those not often heard from; engage other resources to provide information and guidance, and … invite all these constituencies to be joined in prayer as they engage in this common work of discernment.” Taking part in these ChurchNext courses is one way to engage in this process. (See our earlier blog post here.)

All who are interested in church leadership or in the Episcopal Church will find much of interest and use in these courses. Click here for more information or to register.

TREC 1: Reimagining Church Leadership launches today

TREC stands for Task-Force for Reimaining the Episcopal Church, and we’re excited to help further its mission by offering three courses, the first of which launches today, to spark thought, prayer, reflection, and conversation about the future of the Church.

TREC arose out of a charge by the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to create a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration. What does that mean? Simply — and complexly — this means that a group of thought leaders is tasked with reimagining and reinvigorating the Episcopal Church so that “we may more faithfully

• Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
• Teach, baptize and nurture new believers
• Respond to human need by loving service
• Seek to transform unjust structures of society
• Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” (more here)

In TREC 1: Reimagining Church Leadership, we hear from three thinkers who have much to offer on the topic of reimagining leadership in the Church: Dwight Zscheile, Associate Professor of Congregational Leadership and Mission at Luther Seminary; Frederica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor of Historical Theology at Episcopal Divinity School; and Winnie Varghese, rector of St. Mark’s in the Bowrey in New York City. We explore Christlike leadership and innovation, our baptismal covenant as it relates to leadership and imagination, and the concept of truth-telling, both by and to our leaders.trec

What’s exciting about this Task Force is that part of its commission is to “gather information and ideas from congregations, dioceses and provinces, and other interested individuals and organizations, including those not often heard from; engage other resources to provide information and guidance, and … invite all these constituencies to be joined in prayer as they engage in this common work of discernment.” Taking part in these ChurchNext courses is one way to engage in this process.

All who are interested in church governance in general, or in the Episcopal Church in particular, will find much of interest and use in these courses. Click here for more information or to register.