Music for Good Friday – Ben Keseley

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I love this week. Not because it’s the busiest and most intense week for a church musician, but because it is a week that possesses things of great beauty and an incredible story. It provides us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the richest and most profound liturgies of the church which help us enter . . . → Read More: Music for Good Friday – Ben Keseley

Music for Maundy Thursday – Michael Bauer

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Ubi Caritas

The title “Maundy Thursday” comes from the so-called mandatum: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34). The service celebrated on this day incorporates one special commemoration that is unique to that liturgy, the foot-washing ceremony. . . . → Read More: Music for Maundy Thursday – Michael Bauer

A Passionate Passiontide: Three Powerful Hymns in Bach’s St. John Passion – Mark Ball

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Bach’s two surviving settings of the passion narrative (1685-1750) are filled with musical-spiritual treasures and both add richly to the Passiontide contemplation of people of faith. Of Bach’s two monumental works, St. John and St. Matthew, I find the St. John to be the most moving and meaningful. Bach employs more human-scale forces in the . . . → Read More: A Passionate Passiontide: Three Powerful Hymns in Bach’s St. John Passion – Mark Ball

Lent, Holy Week, and Musical Meanings – Ben Spalding

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The Season of Lent/Holy Week and Easter is my favorite time of the liturgical church year, especially as a church musician! I often begin my planning with dozens of books spread across a large conference table!

I have chosen two specific pieces which are especially meaningful to me during this season.

1) What Wondrous Love . . . → Read More: Lent, Holy Week, and Musical Meanings – Ben Spalding

A Holy Week of Musical Reflections – Elisa Williams Bickers

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The content of the Holy Week narrative is vast, ranging from the dubious celebration of Palm Sunday, to solemn and meditative Maundy Thursday and violent and tumultuous Good Friday, culminating with Easter, in all of its triumph and glory. This story has inspired countless artistic offerings, and we in turn are inspired by such gifts. . . . → Read More: A Holy Week of Musical Reflections – Elisa Williams Bickers

God Is in the Neighborhood – Donna Simon

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There’s a neighborhood in Kansas City called Columbus Park. As the name suggests, it was settled by Italian immigrants, around the turn of the twentieth century. Today, the red, white and green striped fire hydrants and a couple of seldom-used bocce ball courts hearken back to a heyday in which all of the doors were . . . → Read More: God Is in the Neighborhood – Donna Simon

You Must Be a Pontiff – Colleen Simon

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“You must be a pontiff!” WHAT? What did he say?

For over half an hour I had been listening to this Mexican Catholic Bishop talk and the poor translator trying to keep up with him and share his words with those of us who didn’t know Spanish. After a long day of travelling and adjusting . . . → Read More: You Must Be a Pontiff – Colleen Simon

Congregational Ministry: Moving from Maintenance to Mission – Jennifer Thomas

Pastor Thomas portrait summer 2012

Each congregation is a mission post. Each doorstep and the surrounding area is the mission field. Mission fields are no longer around the world. The people we are called to reach are our neighbors, our co-workers, our children, our family, and our friends. “Love God and your neighbor as yourself,” is not an abstract idea. . . . → Read More: Congregational Ministry: Moving from Maintenance to Mission – Jennifer Thomas

Coadunatio Dei – Michael Peck

Mike Peck

The missional church conversation has been a difficult one to grasp on a congregational level because of our proclivity for functional programs and measurable data. The selling point for any evangelism or stewardship program is that it will increase numbers in the pews and dollars in the offering plate. Ministry conferences held at large churches . . . → Read More: Coadunatio Dei – Michael Peck

Slouching Toward Redundancy…and also Bethlehem – Donna Simon

Donna Simon

In the summer of 2009, eager to take advantage of the $8000 President Obama was offering to first time homebuyers, I started looking at houses in Kansas City. I had been serving a church here—Abiding Peace Lutheran—for nine years, and it looked like I might be staying. So I looked at houses. A lot of . . . → Read More: Slouching Toward Redundancy…and also Bethlehem – Donna Simon

Lessons from Detroit: the Other America – Gloria Albrecht

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Twenty-two years ago my U-Haul van and I, a new Ph.D., arrived in Detroit. I came to teach Christian ethics. What I didn’t know was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Detroit would teach what neither my life nor advanced degree could. The process of house-hunting was an early clue. Real estate . . . → Read More: Lessons from Detroit: the Other America – Gloria Albrecht

Coming to Detroit, Deciding on Palestine – Amanda Michelle

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Palestine to Detroit. If you’ve never been to either of these places, you probably think they have nothing in common. Unfortunately, I’ve only been to the latter so far, but from my father’s city to our motherland, I see the similarities, the shared struggles, and the common threads of resilience that link our lives.

My . . . → Read More: Coming to Detroit, Deciding on Palestine – Amanda Michelle

What it Means to Meet in Detroit: The Presbyterian General Assembly 2014 – Cynthia Holder Rich

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This summer, people from across my church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and visitors from across the world will gather for the meeting of the 221st General Assembly. Many important issues will be debated; many reports will be discussed and received. The national press will predictably focus on the more sensational issues that come to the . . . → Read More: What it Means to Meet in Detroit: The Presbyterian General Assembly 2014 – Cynthia Holder Rich

Sacramental Missiology: McDonalds, the Table, and the World PART 2 – Dr. K. Nicholas Yoda

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AND I THINK FRANK AND JUSTIN GET THIS!

Never intending this to actually be an insert within this reflection, in light of who they are and where they had been found in the months since my return from Rome this past June, they remain persons that cannot go without mention. As great as it was . . . → Read More: Sacramental Missiology: McDonalds, the Table, and the World PART 2 – Dr. K. Nicholas Yoda

Cutting through Misdirection: Getting in Touch with Real Sacramental Vitality at the Table – Rev. Marc van Bulck

Marc van Bulck

Several years ago, I was on vacation when a friend of mine invited me to guest preach at his church one Sunday while I was in town. I was reluctant, at first. Selfish as it may seem, this arrangement sounded an awful lot like being asked to spend my vacation back on the clock. I . . . → Read More: Cutting through Misdirection: Getting in Touch with Real Sacramental Vitality at the Table – Rev. Marc van Bulck

Manners – The Reverend Dr. Michelle Bartel

Michelle Bartel

Carrying the manners of the sacraments with us, for we are called out and sent out, so people can see an outward and visible sign of the inward, invisible grace we have been given and created in. (Pope Francis, Joy and evangelism) Decades before I started reading the Miss Manners column, I learned the word . . . → Read More: Manners – The Reverend Dr. Michelle Bartel

The Fast I Choose: Fasting and the Mission of the Prophetic Voice – John Gromek

John Gromek

Probably in no other Christian tradition is food more integrated into sacramental and spiritual life than in Greek Orthodox Christianity. The Orthodox Memorial Service features the “koliva”, a ritual food of boiled wheat symbolic of both death and resurrection. Honoring Jesus’ feeding of the 5000, the Blessing of the Loaves (Artoklasia) is a brief service . . . → Read More: The Fast I Choose: Fasting and the Mission of the Prophetic Voice – John Gromek

Sacramental Missiology: McDonalds, the Table, and the World, Part 1 – Dr. K. Nicholas Yoda

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“When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, ‘Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.’ So, he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and . . . → Read More: Sacramental Missiology: McDonalds, the Table, and the World, Part 1 – Dr. K. Nicholas Yoda

Black First – Christina Garrett Klein

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Across communities in the United States and around the world, my primary identifier is that I am black, and not that I am female. It does not matter how I wear my hair, whether I’m wearing make-up or not, or what I wear (unless it’s a dress), because the color of my skin comes before . . . → Read More: Black First – Christina Garrett Klein

What I Am – Vance Blackfox

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As a child and a youth, I was so sure of who I was. I did not have a name for it – for me, for “what I was;” but I did know that I was different. I was led to believe that I was a “fag” and a “queer” (and not the good kind . . . → Read More: What I Am – Vance Blackfox

Engaging Gender: A Shift in Understanding and the Naming of Privilege – Travis Meier

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For most of my life I understood gender to be a clear, binary concept. You were either male. Or you were female. This was supported by a “traditional” understanding of the role of each gender. As I remember growing up, this could be seen and experienced in popular culture. Movies, T.V. shows, and music, for . . . → Read More: Engaging Gender: A Shift in Understanding and the Naming of Privilege – Travis Meier

Earrings – Alex LaChapelle

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My mother was worried that I would look like a woman. Well probably not… but that is what she said when I went by myself to get my ears pierced at Claire’s. A silver ball in each earlobe, my shaved head, baby face and my dark skin had my mother convinced that the rest of . . . → Read More: Earrings – Alex LaChapelle

Diversifying Gender – Emily Ewing

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Dominant United States culture holds that there are two easily identifiable genders, which match up with two easily identifiable sexes. Men have male anatomy, XY chromosomes, and testosterone and act masculine. Women have female anatomy, XX chromosomes, and estrogen and act feminine. However, this is not the case for everyone. There are many people who . . . → Read More: Diversifying Gender – Emily Ewing

The PC(USA) in 2064: Prophetic relevance through faith in action – Jessie Light

Jessie Light

Before I truly begin this post, I need to be honest: speculation makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because I don’t like being wrong. I realize it is highly unlikely that anyone will even remember this blog post in 2064 (maybe the Internet will cease to exist before then!), never mind hold me accountable to all the . . . → Read More: The PC(USA) in 2064: Prophetic relevance through faith in action – Jessie Light

Dismantling the Religious/Secular Binary – Caroline Barnett

Caroline Barnett

While there is a multitude of things the church needs to work on to become aligned with who Christ calls us to be, there is one issue that sticks out in my mind: the growing gap between religious and secular culture. As Owen pointed out, the church is rapidly losing its place of privilege in . . . → Read More: Dismantling the Religious/Secular Binary – Caroline Barnett

A Church for a Complex World: Discernment in 2064 – Geoff Wehmeyer

Geoff Wehmeyer

In 50 years, our church and our spiritual lives will be messier than ever. I say this because I believe that the major problems facing our world in 2064 will be more complicated and difficult to solve than even the issues that dominate our prayers today. This challenge may also be a blessing, for I . . . → Read More: A Church for a Complex World: Discernment in 2064 – Geoff Wehmeyer

Searching for Universal Truth – Nathan Lusk and Sarah Are

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Nathan:

It’s very likely that in 2064 the Presbyterian Church will be searching for truth.

Hopefully, there are a lot of reasons for this search, but the main motivation is that we will have fully emerged as a global postmodern society. If none of that made sense, what you need to know is that . . . → Read More: Searching for Universal Truth – Nathan Lusk and Sarah Are

Reflections on the Church of 2064 – Owen Gray

Owen Gray

If you had asked an incoming Presbyterian seminarian in 1964 what he expected the church of 2014 to be like, he (and it almost surely would have been a he, wouldn’t it?) would have needed to be nothing short of a prophet to get it all right. Think about it. Civil rights. Women’s rights and . . . → Read More: Reflections on the Church of 2064 – Owen Gray

‘School-to-prison pipeline’: A New Jersey pastor recounts how her small Trenton congregation is spreading its arms around the city’s vulnerable children – Karen Hernandez-Granzen

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On the south side of the Lower Trenton Bridge are large, neon-lit letters that read, “Trenton makes, the world takes.” When the slogan was adopted in 1917, Trenton, New Jersey, was a different city: a major manufacturing center brimming with jobs. Today, decades after the factories were boarded up and those who were able fled . . . → Read More: ‘School-to-prison pipeline’: A New Jersey pastor recounts how her small Trenton congregation is spreading its arms around the city’s vulnerable children – Karen Hernandez-Granzen

Crime, Punishment, Public Policy and the Church – Samuel K. Atchison

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A number of studies have shown that among adult males, perhaps the greatest predictor of violent crime is joblessness. Similarly, the greatest predictor of crime among youth is the absence of the father from the home. As criminologist Robert J. Sampson concluded in a 1987 study which linked joblessness among adult males with family disruption . . . → Read More: Crime, Punishment, Public Policy and the Church – Samuel K. Atchison

Violent Innocence in Racial Profiling and Incarceration in the United States – Michael Granzen

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In this article I argue that recent patterns of racial profiling and incarceration are normative behaviors authorized by the predominantly white state which contribute to the maintenance of racial injustice and white privilege in the United States. Racial profiling and incarceration are symptomatic of the larger historical problem of “violent innocence” and white supremacy in . . . → Read More: Violent Innocence in Racial Profiling and Incarceration in the United States – Michael Granzen

The Play’s the Thing – Chris Hedges

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I began teaching a class of 28 prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey during the first week of September. My last class meeting was Friday. The course revolved around plays by August Wilson, James Baldwin, John Herbert, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Miguel Piñero, Amiri Baraka and other playwrights who examine and give expression to . . . → Read More: The Play’s the Thing – Chris Hedges

Her: Relationships and Reality – Review by Zach Walker

Zach Walker

Written and Directed by: Spike Jonze

The first time I saw a trailer for Her, I immediately thought, “That’s not going to work.” I admit I can be a judgmental person, especially true when it comes judging a movie based on the trailer. So, when good reviews started pouring in (although I make snap judgments . . . → Read More: Her: Relationships and Reality – Review by Zach Walker

Nebraska: A Haunted Life – Review by Charles Conkin

Charles Conkin

Written by: Bob Nelson, Directed by: Alexander Payne

“Where are you going? Where are you coming from?” For Woody Grant the answers to those questions are easy. He is headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, traveling from Billings, Montana, to claim his prize money – one million dollars – via a magazine subscription service veiled as a . . . → Read More: Nebraska: A Haunted Life – Review by Charles Conkin

Dallas Buyers Club: finding priests in the desperate – Review by Craig Nash

Craig Nash

Written by: Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack; Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee

Dallas Buyers Club is a story of desperation and the lengths desperate people go to find salvation in whatever ways it can be found. And not “salvation” in the ethereal sense used in evangelical circles, but in the dirt and grime of everyday existence. . . . → Read More: Dallas Buyers Club: finding priests in the desperate – Review by Craig Nash

The work of forgiveness is hard: Philomena – Review by Meredith Holladay

Meredith Holladay

Screenplay written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on the book by Martin Sixsmith

This is not a movie about family. Or searching for a long-lost son.

On the surface it is a movie about family. And it is a movie about searching for a long-lost son. But it is so much more than . . . → Read More: The work of forgiveness is hard: Philomena – Review by Meredith Holladay