Just Launched: Praying with African-American Spirituals with Mark Bozzuti-Jones

We have just launched Praying with African-American Spirituals with Mark Bozzuti-Jones For Individuals and For Groups.

 

From Face to the Rising Sun: Reflections on Spirituals and Justice by Mark Bozzuti-Jones:

In the sacrament of Holy Eucharist as we share in the Body and Blood of Christ, we always say words akin to these: “do this in memory of me.” To sing Spirituals is to sing in memory of the Slaves and their faith, to recall these songs sung for centuries and handed down to us today as part of the legacy of the African American culture.

In the Christian tradition, prayer and remembering are always a call to action, always a call to repentance, and always a call to redemptive living. When we sing the Spirituals today, we commit to living a life of prayer that ensures justice for all, a life that calls us to make amends for the evil of slavery, and a life that calls us to work against the forces of racism and discrimination still present in our societies today.

In this course, priest, author, and public speaker Mark Bozzuti-Jones asks us to consider spirituals in the light of psalms of suffering created by people who never lost their faith that God was with them, was one of them, and wanted them to be free. He discusses spirituals as cries of suffering, as statements of powerful faith in the face of the worst kind of oppression, and as calls to action.

This course is ideal for anyone interested in African-American spirituals, racial justice, or theology related to human suffering.

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.

 

Just Launched: Biblical Fracking with Frank Wade

We just launched Biblical Fracking with Frank Wade For Individuals and For Groups.

Left: Illustration by Sidney Paget from the original printing of “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” in The Strand Magazine.

In the story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” by Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is able to discern who stole a racehorse by considering what did not happen on the night of the theft. Specifically, the fact that a dog does not bark when someone breaks in to steal the racehorse suggests that the dog recognizes the thief. (Sorry if this is a spoiler. To be fair, you’ve had 128 years to read the story.) The account of the theft does not emphasize the absence of barking — it just says that a watchdog was there and that the place was silent, and Holmes, in wondering why the dog did not bark, arrives at the solution to the problem.

Sometimes, wondering about silence, or about what does not happen, or about what we are not told, can lead the imagination to look at problems, stories, and ideas in a new way. This is the principle at the heart of biblical fracking.

 

Left: Title page of Midrash Tehillim, a collection of rabbinic midrashim (plural for midrash) on the Psalms written in the eleventh century or earlier. This page is from a copy of Midrash Tehillim from seventeenth-century Prague.

Biblical fracking is a practice derived from the ancient Jewish practice of midrash, though priest and author Frank Wade, this course’s instructor who has adapted the practice for Christian use, is careful to assert that the two are not identical. Fracking scripture involves examining texts with an eye toward exploring questions that they raise and do not answer. The questions often address details about characters — like, how did the homeowner react when strangers removed the roof of his home to lower their friend down to Jesus in Luke 5? Why do we hear nothing of Peter’s wife beyond knowing that she exists because Jesus heals her mother (Matthew 8)? What did Simon of Cyrene do after carrying Jesus’ cross to Golgotha?

For Christians, biblical fracking is not a substitute for traditional Christian forms of exegesis, but it can be a useful additional practice. It can lead to different ways of viewing or understanding text. It can raise questions in our hearts that can lead to new ideas about how we should live our lives. In this course, Frank investigates four different stories from the Bible and invites participants to frack them alongside him. We hope that in exploring the fissures and gaps in scripture, you will join Frank in finding spiritual treasure.

 

The Big Class with Cornel West: “Called to Common Good: Economic Inequality and What Christians Can Do About It”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cornel West to Teach Free, Online Course

“CALLED TO COMMON GOOD:

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY AND WHAT CHRISTIANS CAN DO ABOUT IT”


Open to anyone in the world between January 11-21

December 29, 2014, BLOOMFIELD  HILLS, MI – Cornel West, prominent intellectual, author, and cultural critic, will teach an online course on economic inequality that is open to all, from January 11-21.  This is an opportunity to learn about one of the most pervasive problems in the U.S. from one of the most thought-provoking teachers of our time.west

 

The online course derives from the Trinity Institute’s 2015 “Creating Common Good” conference on economic inequality and is offered through ChurchNext, a leader in online Christian education. The class, a series of video lectures and discussions, can be taken anytime between January 11-21. No special software is required. It will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete. Registration is free and open worldwide beginning today. (Click here for more information or to register.)

 

Dr. Cornel West has often spoken out for justice and equality, specifically what American Christians are called to do about it; the Trinity Institute, a program of Trinity Wall Street, is an annual conference, now in its 44th year, aimed at gathering clerics and intellectuals to discuss matters of deep significance. The upcoming 2015 conference focuses on the often-overwhelming issue of economic inequality. (Click here for more information on the Trinity Institute.)

 

Throughout Called to Common Good, participants are encouraged to think about and discuss economic injustice and moral responsibility. Dr. West explores the problem of inequality, notions of public and private justice, and how communities can effect change. He contends that “no matter how extreme inequalities are, we’ve always got a common humanity,” which is why, he adds, “I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” During the class, representatives from Trinity Institute will be on hand to respond to discussions.

 

Online learning hub ChurchNext has partnered with Trinity Institute to present Dr. West’s course as well as four other previously-released courses taught by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, educational advocate Nicole Baker Fulgham, evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans, and Julio Murray, Episcopal bishop of Panama.

 

Called to Common Good is a worldwide online learning course for all who are interested in social justice and the Christian faith and is free, thanks to the support of Trinity Institute, The Episcopal Church, and Forward Movement.

 

Trinity Institute is an annual conference, now in its 44th year, that equips clergy and laypersons for imaginative and catalytic leadership. The conference is sponsored by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal parish in New York City. Trinity Institute takes place at Trinity Church in New York City and is streamed at Partner Sites (which are often churches and seminaries) throughout the world. For more information, visit https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/trinity-institute/2015/what’s-ti2015

 

ChurchNext creates online Christian learning experiences that shape disciples. Along with our partners we are devoted to helping people grow in their Christian faith, improve their lives, and better the world. Learn more at http://churchnext.tv

 

New course: Preparing For Infant and Children’s Baptism in the Episcopal Church

This latest course on baptism by the Rev. Canon Anne Kitch is a wonderful exploration of what baptism of young children can and should mean for us adults. Preparing For Infant and Children’s Baptism isn’t just a wonderful primer on how to prepare for having a child baptized, it’s also an insightful reminder that baptism isn’t just a moment in time. Rather, it’s a life lived in Christ, one which we’re promising to support when we witness someone’s baptism.

In five lessons, Anne explains what sorts of promises we adults make, what they mean, how to live them out in our daily lives, and why this all matters. She offers concrete wisdom and tips on how to live out the covenant we make for ourselves and on behalf of our children. This course is a kitchwonderful introduction for parents and godparents; it’s also an invaluable reminder to all members of a church community who are responsible for helping to bring children up into the Christian faith and life, and into the full stature of Christ. Click here for more information or to register.

The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch is a mother and an Episcopal priest serving in the Diocese of Bethlehem, PA. She is the author of several books including The Anglican Family Prayer Book.

 

 

New course: Adult Baptism in the Episcopal Church with Anne Kitch

This latest course in our series on baptism offers an in-depth look not only at Adult Baptism in the Episcopal Church but also on the ways that baptism is an action and that the baptized life is an ongoing journey of deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.  So whether we were baptized years ago as tiny babies or recently as adults, we are all called to regularly read, pray, and inwardly digest our Baptismal Covenant and to work towards living out its promises in our daily lives. kitch

In this course, Anne Kitch explains how baptism in the Episcopal Church is meant just as much for adults as it is for infants.  She helps us explore, remember, and live out the promises we make in our Baptismal Covenants.  She shows us how baptism is an action, one that is ongoing. She reminds us of our calling as baptized Christians to love, to serve, to worship, to offer ourselves as ministers. In addition to being a rich introduction to baptism for adults, this course is a wonderful reminder of the importance — in our daily lives — of our own baptisms. Click here to register or for more information.

The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch is a mother and an Episcopal priest serving in the Diocese of Bethlehem, PA. She is the author of several books including The Anglican Family Prayer Book.

 

New course: Introducing Christian Baptism with Anne Kitch

You can’t know everything before you take the plunge. There is more grace and love to be had than you ever imagined. ~Anne Kitch

As we learn in this course, Introducing Christian Baptism, when we are born again by water and words, we are not just granted some one-time ticket to Heaven. Rather, we are entering into a new community, becoming part of the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and we are committing to becoming — day by day — more of who God intends us to be.  We are promising to uphold our faith through thought, word, and deed.  We enter into a sacred covenant with a loving God, one that can never be dissolved, one to which God will always be faithful. kitch

This course offers a wonderful introduction to baptism, especially within the Episcopal Church, but it’s also a fabulous refresher for those of us who have already been baptized.  Anne Kitch walks us through a brief history of baptism, defines what baptism as a sacred covenant is, and then helps us understand what baptism means to us and what we give in return. Baptism grants us belonging in the most wonderful community on earth and is something we don’t do alone. Click here for more information or to register.

And stay tuned for more courses by Anne Kitch on the sacrament of baptism launching this month: Adult Baptism in the Episcopal Church and Preparing for Infant and Children’s Baptism.

The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch is a mother and an Episcopal priest serving in the Diocese of Bethlehem, PA. She is the author of several books including The Anglican Family Prayer Book.

New course: Introducing the Altar Guild

Introducing the Altar Guild is not just an introduction to this vital ministry; it’s a stunning reminder that this often-invisible group makes the worship service beautiful, seamless, even possible: though we may take it for granted, the altar guild makes sure that the altar, the priest, the celebrant, and the Eucharistic elements are present for hinchmanworship and in ideal form.  Serving on an altar guild is a wonderful way to live out, in service, your awareness of God’s love.

In this course Hobey Hinchman, former president of the National Altar Guild Association, walks us through the duties, expectations, origins, and best practices for altar guilds.  Whether you’re a seasoned guild member, a newbie, discerning a call, or perhaps merely interested in learning more about this long-standing ministry, you’ll find much of interest in this course.

Click here to register or for more information.

New course: Introduction to Church Marketing

Some folks may raise their eyebrows at the title of our latest course, Introduction to Church Marketing — after all, isn’t marketing something sales-y people do, or companies trying to sell services or products?  Well, as Jake Dell points out, the opening sentences of Luke’s gospel show a pretty great example of someone selling a product and service — with a “money-back guarantee” to boot!

Marketing really is just evangelism by another name.  We believe in what we’re selling, don’t we? And our “product” promises everlasting life, peace, and grace. Our marketing efforts should match our enthusiasm for our mission. If we think about marketing our churches in this way, we can see dellthere’s a lot to learn from commercial marketing wisdom, and a lot that can be adapted for our purposes.  We’ll learn what marketing means, how to do it, when and where to do it, and just how important it is.

This course is perfect for those in church leadership, both lay and clergy; it offers a wealth of knowledge and tips for getting our gospel message out and getting folks in the door.  Click here for more information or to register.

The Rev. Jake Dell has worked in marketing and advertising for years and currently serves as the manager of digital advertising and sales for the Episcopal Church.

New Course: Introducing Stewardship with Kristine Miller

We’re excited to launch Introducing Stewardship in time for churches’ traditional Fall campaigns. And yet, one of the things Kristine Miller reminds us in this course is that stewardship isn’t just for a season. If we want to see real change and improvement in our fundraising, we need to remember that stewardship is more than money: it’s an ongoing practice of faith to which God calls us as we seek to do God’s work.miller

This course offers valuable advice on assembling a stewardship committee, strategizing communications efforts, and responding to changes in culture and practice so that we reach people where they are, as they are, and communicate our passion for our ministry.  If we’re excited about and committed to the work our church is doing, why shouldn’t we ask others to be?  No more apologizing or skirting around the issue.  People want to invest in things that matter — and we believe that our churches matter.

This course will be valuable to congregations, stewardship committees, church vestries and governing bodies, and clergy alike.  Click here to register or for more information.

Kristine Miller is a professional stewardship consultant, speaker, and writer. Her titles include Climb Higher: Reaching New Heights in Giving and Discipleship.