Just Launched: Calming Your Inner Critic with Teri Racey

We just launched Calming Your Inner Critic with Teri Racey For Individuals and For Groups.

Jesus said we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Unless Jesus was suggesting we tear other people down, that direction suggests that Jesus wants us to love ourselves. But in our culture, harsh judgment — including harsh self judgment — is a common habit. Self-critique can even feel like a virtue, like keeping ourselves in line, in its cycles of rigid self-recrimination. Our inner critic — the self-talk narrative that runs through our minds and critiques our choices — can, therefore, be relentless for some people, and they may never recognize the damage it’s doing.

And a harsh inner critic DOES damage us. First, we are prone to listen to it. If anyone tells us we are bad, stupid, ugly, etc. often enough, it makes an impression — even if we’re the ones saying it to ourselves, even in the privacy of our own minds. Second, if you have ever met a person who tends to judge people and experiences negatively, you have probably noticed they are often wrong. They see the world far more negatively than they need to. Likewise, an inner voice that makes a pattern of harsh self judgments is often wrong about the self it’s judging. Finally, people who judge themselves harshly often find themselves sharing that dubious gift with others. If you feel you never measure up as a parent or partner, for example, how are you likely to treat your kids or your spouse? The frustration inherent in being constantly judged and habit of judging build up and tend to affect others.

In short, we really do tend to love others as we love ourselves — so treating ourselves with affection, compassion, and kindness is a good way to help ourselves love others. Which is all to the good, since God wants us to treat everyone with love.

In this course, author and mindfulness coach Teri Racey examines what the inner critic is and how it can hold us back, as well as offering techniques for rebuilding our internal narrative in a spirit of compassion rather than harsh judgment. In addition, she offers the practice of mindfulness meditation as a tool to connect with our inner selves and with God’s loving voice. Through mindfuless meditation we can learn to calm our inner critics and create a more loving and nurturing relationship with ourselves — and therefore with our neighbors.

This course is ideal for anyone struggling with a tendency toward self-criticism — which is most of us.

You Are Invited to Take Our Lenten Series: Wrestling with Faith and Money with Miguel Escobar


Join us this March for a thought-provoking four-part live series, Wrestling with Faith and Money with Miguel Escobar, in which participants will delve into the complex relationship between Christianity and wealth. Author and scholar Miguel Escobar will guide participants through an exploration of how early Christians grappled with issues of poverty and prosperity, and how their views evolved over time.

  • In the first session, Miguel will explore three stories in the Gospel of Luke that explore wealth’s liberative purpose and the way these same stories were reinterpreted by the Church in the third and fifth centuries.
  • In the second session, participants will examine the ideas of Clement of Alexandria on retaining riches.
  • In the third session, the class will look at ancient definitions of money itself including money as a useful tool, money as a source of temptation, as well as money as a powerful (but highly addictive) medicine during a time of natural disaster.
  • In the fourth session, Miguel will return to the New Testament and explore Paul’s vision of koinonia, a form of economic fellowship which reappears again and again in various forms in later centuries.

The class will meet in four Zoom sessions on Wednesday nights at 8 p..m. E.T. on March 1, March 8, March 15, and March 22, 2023. Participants will be able to view recordings of missed sessions, get optional reading assignments, and download course materials at the the ChurchNext Wresting with Wealth and Poverty course page.

Participants in this course can receive a 25% discount on Miguel’s book, The Unjust Steward: Poverty and Wealth in the Church. This book is not necessary to take the course or follow the discussions, but we will be suggesting readings from it that may enhance your learning experience.

Miguel Escobar is Executive Director of Union Theological Seminary’s Episcopal Divinity School. Hear what he has to say about this course by clicking on the video below.

Just Launched: Updated Version of Advent for Families with Heath Howe

We just launched an updated version of Advent for Families with Heath Howe For Individuals and For Groups.

About the Course

The Season of Advent may be the one time during the entire year designed for us to stop — to reflect, wait, be truly still. Advent for Families offers ideas for intentionally and peacefully celebrating this liturgical season, in ways that embrace the joy and fun of the holiday season without losing sight of the real meaning of Christ’s nativity.

Advent teaches us how to model faithful observance for our children without having to reject popular culture entirely.  The Rev. Heath Howe, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter in Kenilworth, Illinois, offers ways to incorporate parties, cookie-baking, and the magic of Santa Claus into a time of preparation and spiritual growth.

The Rev. Heath Howe

Each of the four lessons in this course teaches us about Advent–its significance, meaning, and rituals–while offering concrete practices for its commemoration. We learn about Advent wreaths and calendars, ways to bring Advent into our daily lives and homes, and themes to focus on as we prepare our hearts and lives for Christ’s birth. This course is one that will help families find greater joy and peace in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and offers opportunities for lifelong learning and growth.

What Does “Updated” Mean?

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 we have reviewed its video content and find that it 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.

We hope you’ll take advantage of this unique Advent offering. The course is ideal for families and children’s ministries. For a course preview, please click below.

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: How Pets Connect Us with God with Emily Mellott

We just launched How Pets Connect Us with God with Emily Mellott For Individuals and For Groups.

Humanity’s relationship with pets goes back a long way. Humans were still hunter-gatherers when we first domesticated dogs around 11,000 years ago. Cats were pickier about aligning with humans, waiting until about 8000 years ago to be domesticated (though in their case, evidence suggests we didn’t so much domesticate them as accept their decision to live with us.)

The nature of human relationships with pets has developed over thousands of years. Today, it differs across the world. In western culture, many pets offer humans companionship, amusement, distraction, and even exercise. When we are sad, troubled, or tired, snuggling with that kind of pet can bring comfort and peace, and they give us opportunities to offer love and care for them. Other animals with whom we might have less affectionate relationships offer endless opportunities for wonder, curiosity, and surprise.

Bringing an animal into our home as a pet bring us out of our human-focused mindset and into direct relationship with an element of God’s created world. When we observe a cat stretching, wonder at the graceful movements of tropical fish in a tank, try to discern how our pet bird thinks when it sees the world so differently from how we see it, we are taking opportunities to connect with creation in all its diverse glory. The fact that we often seek out these opportunities — that, in a culture where many of us no longer need pets for practical reasons, so many of us take on the expense and responsibility of caring for animals — suggests that some quality deep in human nature longs for this connection with the created world.

In this class, the Rev. Emily Mellott discusses ways in which our connection with animals brings humans, ultimately, into relationship with God, and ways in which mindful animal care can help bring us closer to God. Click below for a preview.

Articulating the Via Media

Embracing the mystery requires great (1)

This week, we’re pleased to launch The Episcopal Way, with Stephanie Spellers and Eric Law. If you’ve ever wondered about what makes the Episcopal Church unique, this course is a great place to start, as it’s a foretaste of a project seeking to rearticulate the beliefs and practices of the Episcopal Church. As Spellers says in the first lesson, about every 20 years the Episcopal Church commits to reexamining and defining itself as a church, as part of the Episcopal commitment to the “three-legged stool” of scripture, tradition, and reason, on which Episcopal liturgy and practice are based.

We commend this course to lifelong Episcopalians as well, since we live in a fast-paced and ever-changing culture, in which we need to feel comfortable articulating and sharing our faith tradition. Stephanie and Eric offer a working definition of “the Episcopal Way” as well as some engaging insight on why the Episcopal Church is especially relevant and life-giving in this day and age.

You may also want to take this course in a small group setting, either among newcomers to the church or those in leadership. Either way, you’ll enjoy and appreciate Eric and Stephanie’s engaging, insightful, and interesting discussions, as you think more deeply about this rich faith tradition — and its future.

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.