If you have been part of our Everyday Spirituality classes and events, you probably know of Thomas Keating. Otherwise, you may not. In either case, this short video will illustrate why he has been a mentor, teacher and guide for many. He passed away this week. The way he faced into death is a pretty good indication of the way he faced into life, and why so many were blessed by it. I'm one of those people.
The loneliest people I know during this holiday season are those who are also in a season of loss.
Grief isolates us. Nowhere is that truer than at the holidays. The time between Thanksgiving and New Years can feel forbidding. The music, celebrations and activities that used to gladden us now leave us empty. Holidays have a way of turning up the volume on the pain that comes with grief. If they had their choice, many of those experiencing grief would prefer to skip the holidays altogether.
It's at this time of year that people in a season of loss can feel most misunderstood by those around them. With the best of intentions, friends and family try to cheer us up and make things better. Often, they don’t. Attempts to cheer someone up sometimes makes things worse.
That is why I am grateful for our “Navigating Grief in the Holidays” workshop at New Hope (Saturday, November 11, 10:00-Noon.) People who lead it understand the minefield that is the holiday season. People attending can be confident that no one is going to try to make everything “better.” The point is to get our bearings, find out what might help- and what doesn’t. There won’t be lots of platitudes or quick-fix slogans. Instead, there are people who have gone (and are going) through the same thing themselves.
There are 168 hours in a week. We spend one of them in worship. What about the other 167?
The Antidote for Toxic Religion
God For Us
It is not just the name of our series, it is what we long to hear.
At its best, religion is able to connect us to God in ways that proclaim
There is nothing you are going to do to make God love you more...or less.
At its best, religion helps us embody and extend the unconditional love of God. But the truth is, religion is not always at its best. In fact, many people wonder if it is the source of much of what is wrong with the world.
There is bad religion- and then there is toxic religion- and there needs to be an antidote for both.
Why—with all the atrocities past and present committed in God’s name, amidst all the hostile divisions ripping apart Christ’s Church, in spite of all our own doubts and frustrations and fears about faith—are we still Christian?
If you have been around the church for longer than a month, you've probably asked that question. For some, there isn't a sufficient answer and they leave. Many of us stay, but its not because we haven't asked the question, or because we have answers that are completely satisfying. Most people I know would love some help with this.
That's why the "Why Christian?" conference caught my eye. The other thing that caught my eye were the sponsors: Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber. I've read their books and listened to them talk. I have been inspired by their honesty, wisdom and insight. I wasn't able to go to the conference but knew that if these two were hosting a conference addressing that question, it was bound to be worthwhile.
I would like to share with you two simple truths: there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness.
The content of this quote captures the attention. The source demands it. Desmond Tutu knows something about forgiveness and his wisdom and integrity are woven into every page. I have read a number of books about forgiveness over the years, some of them were very good. None is better than The Book of Forgiving.
Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, don't duck any of the hard questions about forgiveness. The book is eloquent as well as practical. If you have wondered about how (or why) to forgive others, even when they haven't asked for forgiveness, they address it. If you have wondered about how to forgive without feeling like you are simply excusing bad behavior, they tackle that, too. If you are wondering how to make forgiveness and reconciliation a regular part of your life, you will want to read this book. Copies are available at the church.
That's why I am excited about the new mid-week class that begins this Wednesday, (September 16). Rae Behrens is leading a five-week discussion on this book and its implications. I'll be there, assisting any way I can. I hope you'll be there, too! The class is from 6:45-8:00 and runs through October 14.
Every summer I pick a couple books that have had an impact on me and I want to share with others. I invite people to read along at their own pace (especially good for summer schedules!) and then gather to discuss it. All of us are learners. No one is an expert.
My first selection for the summer is Richard Rohr's, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Rohr is a prolific writer and one of the leading voices on Christian spirituality. Here is a short introduction to the book from the author himself.
I mentioned the Belhar Confession in worship on Sunday. It was written in the midst of the turmoil of South Africa in 1982 (8 years before Mandela was released). If you would like to read it, click here. This document is part of the proposal at last year's General Assembly to include Belhar into our Book of Confessions. It includes scripture references on the side.
Why are we still discussing whether or not to allow same-sex weddings in our facility?
Good question. It came up at our last Session meeting (4/11) and it reflected what has been asked around the congregation, more and more recently. Some of the reasons that I have heard why we should stop discussing this issue include:
This looks like indecision. We need to be more decisive and move on.
This is unnecessary. Everyone already knows what they believe about this topic. Why keep talking about it?
It feels destructive. We are making people uncomfortable and this topic is dividing us.
It is distracting us from other issues that are more important (i.e., membership decline, financial trends, outreach to our community, etc.)
In the end, Session chose to continue the course that we set last summer. Here are some of the reasons why:
Last Sunday, I made a challenge to the congregation that may have caught some people off-guard.
As part of our series on the Sabbath, I challenged people two commitments:
1. Attend worship services every week, even if you are out of town 2. Use a "Releasing Prayer" every night before you go to sleep (see below)
I don't think that people were shocked that a pastor thinks people should attend worship. That is not exactly "breaking news". What caught some people off-guard was the challenge to attend worshipevery week, even if you were out of town. For some, that brought back some dark memories of growing up under some oppressive rules; a kind of religion they are trying to avoid. One of the reasons people like New Hope is because we don't normally approach faith with a lot of Do's and Don'ts. Normally, we want people to attend worship because the want to, not because it is implied that they have to- or even that they are expected to. So why the change?
Glad you're here! My name is Russ Kane and I have the privilege of being the pastor of an amazing church called, New Hope Presbyterian Church. It's a place where people "Find a Home, Build a Life and Make a Difference." This blog is a journal of our life together. Welcome!