• Book Reviews 22 hours ago

    How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity

    How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity

    by Rodney Stark Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Wilmington, Del. 455 pages REVIEWED BY ROBERT L. MONTGOMERY This is a book for those who, like me, are interested in the “fruits of faith” that have followed over the last 2000 years since the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. It is also a book for critics of Christianity who are overly impressed with the 17th century so-called “Enlightenment.” Stark has written much about religion, particularly Christianity. This is not a book about Christianity per se, but any history of the West… continue reading...
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  • Outlook Features 2 days ago

    Living soil

    Living soil

    by Jacob Bolton I was learning about compost. I’d never composted before, but a member of the church I serve informed me that it was simple and that we should start a composting program at the church. I took him to coffee and he shared with me how easy it was to construct a compost bin. He talked about his own family’s composting experiences. He informed me how once the right microbes are placed in the right environment, they can take almost any kitchen scrap and turn them into the… continue reading...
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  • Outpost Blog 2 days ago

    Canceling VBS

    Canceling VBS

    by Caitlin Deyerle
    I would love this to be one of those articles whose title is a misnomer – an article that claims it is about canceling Vacation Bible School but is really about the amazing new innovative program that a church chose to do in place of Vacation Bible School — but it is not. Maybe next summer I will be able to write the article about the amazing, new, innovative creation we have replaced VBS with, but we are not there yet. This summer is the summer that we really did… continue reading...
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Speaking from the heart

Jana Childers

“A MAN CANNOT LIE,” said Sigmund Freud (in the sexist language of his day), “if he lies with his lips he will chatter the truth from his fingertips.” Freud is talking, of course, about the way we human beings have of telegraphing our true feelings. “No, please, take all the time you need,” we say, and even as we arrange our features in an oh-so-patient expression, our drumming digits give us away. Most of us know what it is to be betrayed by our own non-verbals. Shifting feet (the desire to flee), a lifted chin (aggression, often compensating for fear), crossed arms (self-protection) … traitors, all. Freud’s words remind us of the old expression “the truth will out.” “Yes,” he seems to be saying, “and it will be the truth about you.” Sometimes it is not the fingers or the feet that give us away but our voices. Nearly every time we open our mouths, word choice, pronunciation and inflection patterns send subtle and not-so-subtle clues about what is going on in our unconscious minds. … [Read more...]

A vision of the future (September 7, 2014)

Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: Jeremiah 30:1-3, 18-22 To understand the book of Jeremiah it is helpful to have at least a basic grasp of the radical political and religious changes that the people of God experienced during the tumultuous period from the eighth to the sixth centuries BCE (before the common era). Israel struggled to survive amid the relatively rapid rise and fall of three superpowers in the Ancient Near East: Assyria, Babylon and Persia. The fall and disappearance of the northern kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians in 721, the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 587 at the hands of the Babylonians, exile in Babylon until 539, and the return of Judah as a client state in the Persian Empire transformed both the political and religious identity of the people who came to be called Jews. The prophets who spoke for Jahweh believed that the disastrous events engulfing the covenant people during this time reflected the righteous will of God who … [Read more...]

The new pastor’s first year: Part 1

earl-johnson-jr

What should a teaching elder and the session try to accomplish in the first year of ministry? If people think that the pastor will fulfill their expectations, continue great traditions, make creative changes, preach inspiring sermons, fill the pews, participate in community events and rejuvenate the church school and youth groups … what should he or she do in the first twelve months? Make no major changes.  One rule of thumb that is often advised is to avoid all radical changes. It takes time to get to know the history and members of any congregation and pastors often make the mistake of adopting a top-down administrative model of running the church without really understanding the personality of their new charge. Perhaps this style works in a corporation or small business when change is necessary for survival. But in a church that is totally dependent on volunteers, such an approach is often resented and resisted. In a few words: add new programs but make few alterations to old … [Read more...]

Continuing history

Bill Tammeus

WASHINGTON D.C. – It was late on a recent Friday afternoon when I slipped into New York Avenue Presbyterian Church here to check out something I was alerted to by a fellow member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, meeting here in annual conference. The woman at the reception desk said the Lincoln Parlor, containing an early emancipation document that Abraham Lincoln signed on July 14, 1862, was closed — but because it was just my wife and me, she’d allow us to have a look. So we entered the parlor with its red and gold wallpaper and its large wooden dining room table with 10 chairs at its center and found a display about the Emancipation Proclamation on a wall. The document there is one Lincoln drafted a week before he presented the proclamation to his cabinet. In the formal language of the period, the document begins, “Herewith is the draft of a Bill to compensate any State which may abolish slavery within its limits, the passage of which, substantially as … [Read more...]

Calendar Check – October 2014

Oct. 13-16 Montreat, N.C. More Than None: Engaging the Religiously Unaffiliated featuring Eric Weiner, Gabe Lyons, Katharine Henderson, Rodger Nishioka, Allan Boesak, Margaret LaMotte Torrence, Jack Jenkins, Johannah Carley Garrity, Eric Wall. Montreat Conference Center. montreat.org Oct. 16-19 Leakey, Texas The Poetics of Faith featuring Christian Wilman, Charlie Peacock, Paul Soupiset. Laity Lodge. laitylodge.org Oct. 20-21 St. Louis Pfautch Lecture: Song That Blesses Earth with Thomas H. Troeger. Second Presbyterian Church. secondchurch.net Nov. 2-5 Richmond, Va. Celebrating 100 years of the Assembly’s Training School for Lay Workers and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. Union Presbyterian Seminary. atspscecentennial.org … [Read more...]

Calendar Check – September 2014

Sept 15-17 Montreat, N.C. Healthy Congregations™ facilitator training. Montreat Conference Center. montreat.org Sept 22-27 Abiquiu, N.M. Change and Conflict in Congregations (Even if you Hate Both) featuring Anita Bradshaw. Ghost Ranch. GhostRanch.org Sept 23-25 Richmond, Va. Faith in Our Music: Many Voices, Diverse Chords, Common Hopes with John Bell, Warren Cooper, Amanda Powell. Union Presbyterian Seminary. upsem.edu/music_conference Sept. 25 Montreat, N.C. A Day with Eileen Lindner. Montreat Conference Center. montreat.org Sept. 28-Oct. 1 Montreat, N.C. An Introduction to Spiritual Direction featuring Deedra Rich, Debra Weir. Montreat Conference Center. montreat.org … [Read more...]