• Outpost Blog 11 hours ago

    Let’s talk about … health

    Let’s talk about … health

    by Emma Nickel
    This week we asked our bloggers what they wish churches talked about more. My husband left this morning for his Credo conference. While I mourn the fact that I never “won the lottery” to get my own invitation, I am pondering the importance of this ministry to our pastors. The Board of Pensions has found these gatherings so worthwhile that it covers nearly all the costs to attend a weeklong conference to discuss spiritual, vocational, financial and bodily well-being. It’s that last one I’m most interested in. The church is… continue reading...
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  • Movie Reviews 1 day ago

    Film in review – “Two Days, One Night” (Deux jours, une nuit)

    Film in review – “Two Days, One Night” (Deux jours, une nuit)

    by Ronald P. Salfen
    Yes, there are some red-blooded American moviegoers who absolutely refuse to mess with subtitles. In a way, I can’t blame them. It’s distracting to be trying to read the English printed at the bottom of the screen while you’re trying to watch the movie at the same time. And if you happen to not have much familiarity with the language being spoken by the characters (in this case French), you miss a lot of nuance (when they switch between informal and formal second person endings, for instance). But if you… continue reading...
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  • Movie Reviews 2 days ago

    Film in review – “Cake”

    Film in review – “Cake”

    by Ronald P. Salfen
    Jennifer Aniston forsakes all attempts at Hollywood glamour in “Cake.” She plays Claire, a severely wounded middle-aged woman who has suffered a great tragedy and, frankly, is just not dealing very well with it. We don’t get the story in sequential order, but learn that Claire was the victim of a horrible car accident, which took the life of her only child, a preschool son. She barely survived; but she’s in constant pain and suffers from visible scarring over much of her body, including her face. Though she was a… continue reading...
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First female bishop ordained in Church of England amid ongoing controversies

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) More than 1,000 people watched as Uganda-born Archbishop of York John Sentamu, laid hands on the Rev. Libby Lane Monday (Jan. 26), making her the eighth bishop of Stockport and the first woman bishop in the Church of England. A large choir sang as bishops from all over the world watched the historic ceremony described by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as “a completely new phrase in our existence.” Her husband, an ordained priest, too, watched from the sidelines. But it was not all hymn singing and rejoicing in one of England’s great medieval cathedrals, York Minster. Immediately after Sentamu asked the congregation if it was also their will that Lane be consecrated as a bishop, a lone male voice was heard ringing out — “No! Not in the Bible.” Sentamu quickly read from a prepared text in which he said he was obeying “Her Majesty’s command and proceeding with the consecration of Libby Lane.” (Queen Elizabeth II is the supreme governor of … [Read more...]

A party

Ted Wardlaw

AS I WRITE THESE WORDS, I’m just grinning as I reflect on our annual seminary Christmas party last night. The president’s manse was spruced up with outdoor lights, the tree was fully decorated, the cherished ornaments and candles and crèches and Santas were up from the basement, unpacked and placed around the house. The first floor was filled with people — 80 or 90 of them: faculty, staff, local trustees, various alums, retirees and their widows or widowers, 2-year-olds capturing the attention and delight of everybody — and they frequented the dining room table groaning with cheeses and salads and flank steak and shrimp. The desserts were in the breakfast room; the wine and soft drinks in the study. Some people went out to the terrace where the chimenea was burning that piñon wood that makes the most fragrant smoke. Louisa was there. For 30 years she worked as the seminary housekeeper and now she takes care of a 103-year-old woman. “You’re going to see her through, aren’t … [Read more...]

Serving neighbors, serving God (February 8, 2015)

Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: Luke 10:25-37 The parable of the good Samaritan is perhaps the best known of the many parables Jesus told. No doubt many people who are familiar with this parable prefer to think of themselves as good Samaritans, people who offer help when it is needed. A beautiful stained glass window of the good Samaritan by artist Marc Chagall honors philanthropist John D. Rockefeller in the small country church where the Rockefeller family worshipped. Although few people have the means to do as much good as Mr. Rockefeller, many people aspire to be good Samaritans. The good Samaritan has become a model of compassionate concern for others. Luke 10:25-28 — Inheriting eternal life This parable is found only in Luke’s Gospel, where it is the second part of a friendly debate between Jesus and a lawyer. Since the law involved was the Torah, the law of Moses, Jesus is responding to questions from a Scripture scholar, quite possibly a scribe. He addresses Jesus as … [Read more...]

Feasting and fasting (February 1, 2015)

Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: Daniel 1:5,8-17; Matthew 6:16-18 Long ago the anonymous author of the book of Daniel knew something that many people today are just now finding out for themselves: Eating vegetables is very healthy. That was the food Daniel and his three friends requested when King Nebuchadnezzer offered to feed them from the variety of delicious foods available in the royal kitchen. To understand why Daniel and his friends refused to accept the king's offer, we need to know why they were in Babylon and what King Nebuchadnezzer intended to do with them. The first six chapters of the book of Daniel contain a collection of traditional stories about Daniel, a Jewish hero and savant. Daniel is a faithful and observant Jew whom God enables to resist foreign practices that were incompatible with his Jewish faith. The literary setting of these stories is the beginning of the Babylonian captivity of Israel in the sixth century BCE, but most interpreters are agreed that … [Read more...]

Ash Wednesday for all ages

Lauren Scharstein

Mimi, an energetic 7-year-old, sat next to me at Christmas Eve dinner last year and asked, “Do you remember when I came to church and you put those ashes on my head?” I was surprised. Of course I remembered Ash Wednesday, but we had just celebrated one of the most stirring worship services of the liturgical year with multiple choirs, the lighting of candles, the singing of beloved Christmas carols, the star, the baby, the manger. How could the somber, reflective Ash Wednesday service come to mind amidst the breath-taking joy of Christmas? Ash Wednesday is quickly approaching – February 18th to be exact – and it is one of the church days least likely to draw in young families. Who really wants to talk about sin and mortality and death in the presence of bright-eyed little ones? Yet Ash Wednesday speaks a powerful word to young people and their families. Ash Wednesday is a time when we stand authentically before God and one another, a time when we confess out loud that we do … [Read more...]

Stewardship shifts

Tom Ehrich new

I see stirrings of annual church stewardship pro- grams: pledge cards in the mail, appeals in writing and from the pulpit, maybe even lists and calls. This has been difficult terrain for many years now. Giving throughout mainline Protestantism has been in free-fall for at least 30 years and is proving to be challenging even in evangelical traditions that supposedly teach the tithe. There are three important truths about congregational stewardship. 1. Pledge results aren’t a report card on the congregation or its leaders. Some antagonists will try to use results to corral or to undermine leaders. But pledge results are about per- sonal faith and economic well-being. We give back to God because we are grateful for God’s gifts to us. A certain level of token giving will express loyalty to the congregation. But most giving, and certainly any giving beyond token amounts, arises from gratitude. Economic distress — today’s prevailing reality except in … [Read more...]