• Book Reviews 21 hours ago

    Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer

    Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer

    by Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill InterVarsity Press, Downers’ Grove, Ill. 192 pages REVIEWED BY ASHLEY GOFF The very first chapter of this book is titled, “A New Way to Pray.” The authors, Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill, deliver on those words. Isbell and Bill set out to write a collaborative book on creating fresh language — new linguistic frames — for the individual prayer life. What Isbell and Bill present is far from some sort of cookie-cutter script for prayer. Warning against “snack-bar and microwave-meal equivalents of… continue reading...
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  • Outlook Reporting 21 hours ago

    Healthy congregations need healthy pastors

    Healthy congregations need healthy pastors

    by Jana Blazek
    Karen Russell “Generally speaking, pastors are among the most unhealthy people ever,” said Karen Russell, associate for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology and Worship, in opening a workshop at Big Tent in Knoxville on August 1. “We’re educated people, we know what’s good for us,” though so often pastors neglect their own physical, mental and spiritual health. “The primary call of the pastor is to be a good Christian,” she said, however only about half of working pastors read the Bible outside of sermon preparation. Shifts in church… continue reading...
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  • Outlook Reporting 2 days ago

    A snapshot of Fringe Christianity

    A snapshot of Fringe Christianity

    by Jana Blazek
    In Bloomington, Indiana, Mihee Kim-Kort, campus minister for UKIRK @ IU, is part of a new collaboration to gather campus leaders, mainline pastors and those working in social service agencies to collaborate on worship, prayer and justice issues. This group, called Fringe Christianity, is a “loose collective of campus leaders, mainline denominational ministers, social workers, counselors, teachers collaborating in creative ways around spirituality and social justice,” she said. Why “fringe”? In a workshop at Big Tent on August 1, Kim-Kort explained the name choice reflects living on the borders and… continue reading...
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Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer

Finding God in the Verbs- Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer

by Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill InterVarsity Press, Downers’ Grove, Ill. 192 pages REVIEWED BY ASHLEY GOFF The very first chapter of this book is titled, “A New Way to Pray.” The authors, Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill, deliver on those words. Isbell and Bill set out to write a collaborative book on creating fresh language — new linguistic frames — for the individual prayer life. What Isbell and Bill present is far from some sort of cookie-cutter script for prayer. Warning against “snack-bar and microwave-meal equivalents of prayer,” they seek instead to flesh out a “home-cooked, made-in-love sort of prayer” that comes from an authentic self. Throughout, “Finding God in the Verbs” helps readers reflect critically on the prayers that they might have depended on as teenagers but that now seem inadequate for their adult lives. In considering her own journey with prayer, Isbell writes of a recognition that the “words of teaching songs from the Sunday school ladies [were] … [Read more...]

Healthy congregations need healthy pastors

Karen Russell

“Generally speaking, pastors are among the most unhealthy people ever,” said Karen Russell, associate for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology and Worship, in opening a workshop at Big Tent in Knoxville on August 1. “We’re educated people, we know what’s good for us,” though so often pastors neglect their own physical, mental and spiritual health. “The primary call of the pastor is to be a good Christian,” she said, however only about half of working pastors read the Bible outside of sermon preparation. Shifts in church demands may play a role in the decline in spiritual health as well. Russell shared results of a recent inventory of Ministry Information Forms from Presbyterian churches seeking new pastors, which found that less than 10 percent of list “strong spiritual leader” as a top quality; instead, many congregations are searching for an entrepreneur or innovator. Russell said churches and pastors both need to know this fact: there is a strong correlation … [Read more...]

A snapshot of Fringe Christianity

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In Bloomington, Indiana, Mihee Kim-Kort, campus minister for UKIRK @ IU, is part of a new collaboration to gather campus leaders, mainline pastors and those working in social service agencies to collaborate on worship, prayer and justice issues. This group, called Fringe Christianity, is a “loose collective of campus leaders, mainline denominational ministers, social workers, counselors, teachers collaborating in creative ways around spirituality and social justice,” she said. Why “fringe”? In a workshop at Big Tent on August 1, Kim-Kort explained the name choice reflects living on the borders and the edges of a group, a context, a culture; being in the fringe requires engaging different experiences and perspectives. The Fringe Christianity movement plans ecumenical gatherings, to attract students and those from other churches in town. Here are some of the things they’ve done recently: Nadia Bolz-Weber: Author of the memoir “Pastrix” came to Bloomington to speak about her … [Read more...]

4 PC(USA) trends from Gradye Parsons

Gradye Parsons, in University of Tennessee orange, talking to Big Tent participants.

What’s ahead for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)? “We need to recalibrate as a church,” the denomination’s stated clerk, Gradye Parsons, told participants in a Big Tent workshop August 1 in Knoxville. “We can’t just do church better,” said David Loleng, the PC(USA)’s associate for evangelism. “We need to do church in a different way.” To make his point, Parsons rolled out the numbers. Here are some of the trends: Declining PC(USA) membership since the 1960s. Increasing numbers of young Americans with no religious affiliation. Most of the “nones” say they’re not looking for religion. The PC(USA) remains about 92 percent white – in a country that’s becoming increasingly diverse and will before long be majority non-white. If that doesn’t change, “we’re going to be a boutique church,” Parsons said. Congregations report that they serve, on average, 815 people who are not members of that church. Parsons called that “my new favorite … [Read more...]

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3 questions and answers from Heath Rada

General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada with Ben Terpstra of Oak Ridge, TN

Heath Rada, moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), shared trends he has seen in the life of the denomination and invited questions from participants during an August 1 workshop at Big Tent. Here are three questions tossed his way, and the answers Rada gave: You’ve said you are seeing a new spirit in the PC(USA). What does that look like? Rada said he has visited 26 states in the last year, and “I am observing a new spirit emerging.” He sees a renewal of young adults coming back to the church. In his home state of North Carolina, White Memorial Presbyterian Church and Myers Park Presbyterian Church both have experienced “tremendous” growth in young adult members, Rada said. He also said that the congregation where he is a member has – for the first time in memory - more members under age 45 than over 45. Why are young adults flocking to Presbyterian churches? “We’re a safe place,” Rada said, where questions are welcomed. “We are a … [Read more...]

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Collaborative peacemaking: Suggestions for congregations

Blake Collins (center) talking with a Big Tent participant.

When University of Kentucky students took to the streets last spring after their basketball team lost in the Final Four – lighting fires, flipping over cars, damaging property – some news reports described them them as rowdy students, not a mob. When people took the streets in Baltimore last spring to protest the death of Freddie Gray in police custody – lighting fires, flipping over cars, damaging property – news reports depicted them as dangerous and violent. In the portrayals of the Kentucky fans, “these students are not violent criminals,” said Blake Collins, a mission engagement specialist for the Young Adult Volunteer Program, showing a photograph of a young white man taking a selfie with a police officer in riot gear. “These students are armed with beer and bravado.” Collins showed another photograph of a smiling young Kentucky fan holding a chair over her head, ready to fling it. “Why is she not seen as dangerous?” Collins asked during a Big Tent workshop August 1 … [Read more...]

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