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.