World Food Day

You may not be aware of it, but Thursday, October 16 is World Food Day in Canada and the United States. This day was first established in 1979 in a collective effort to make the needs of hungry people known to the world at large.

Each year the World Food Programme(WFP)  of the United Nations publishes sobering facts about the number of hungry people in the world. Did you know, for instance, that there are at least 795 million people in the world who will go to bed hungry tonight? That is about one in every nine people. Asia is the continent that has the most hungry people, although the largest percentages of the total population can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. WFP also provides downloadable hunger maps that make the scope of this problem even more visible.

There are many resources available to churches who wish to educate about and simulate the issue of hunger. Continue reading

Back to Campus

This is the time of year for college students to return to campus or to attend for the first time. It seems to be a good time to talk about this transition from a faith perspective.  According to James Fowler’s stages of faith development, this is likely the age when young adults begin looking critically at the beliefs they have taken for granted in their younger years. They begin to take authority for their own beliefs. For this reason Sharon Daloz Parks in her book Big Questions, Worthy Dreams advocates for faith mentors to walk alongside emerging adults as they make this journey of reflecting on and wrestling with their faith.

For churches this is a time of sending their youth off around the country, sometimes with commissioning, sometimes with care packages, but neither they nor the family is there to walk alongside students as they grapple with all the new ideas and people that higher education may bring. Enter campus ministries–those hardworking folks who do this important work of partnering with young people on their faith journey. Continue reading

Back to School

It took me by surprise this week that the schools in my region were back in session. Where had the summer gone? As teachers set up their classrooms and families purchase their school supplies for another year, what are some ways that the church can be involved in supporting this yearly transition? Continue reading

Water @This Point

Almost ten years ago, Columbia Theological Seminary inaugurated a new online journal, @ this point: theological investigations in church and culture. The goal of the journal was straightforward: to model (and encourage) theological conversation among Christian laity on important topics of the day and, therein, help shape a more theologically literate church. The format, too, was straightforward: invite a scholar to write a lead essay on an assigned topic, ask three other scholars to write responses to the lead essay, and then have the lead essayist write a reply to the responses. The back-and-forth is intended not to foreclose conversation or thought but to open them up; as such we ask the scholars to end with questions, not criticisms and to highlight new ideas rather than simply assessing old ones. And we strongly encourage our writers to be brief but thoughtful and to avoid academic jargon where possible. “Think of your audience as the people sitting in the pews with you,” we tell them. “They may have college degrees, but those degrees aren’t likely to be in religion or philosophy. So think about the engineer or the schoolteacher in your midst.” Continue reading

Visual Parables: Connecting Faith and Film

Fr. John Culkin inspired me to develop bridges between faith and film when he wrote that were Jesus to begin his ministry today, he would become a filmmaker. The best storytellers are working in Hollywood, so that is where he would be in order to reach the masses with his message. VisualParables.org is the culmination of my media ministry (Presbyterian) that began in the Seventies with writing reviews for several Catholic magazines, followed later by reviews in Protestant and secular newspapers. VisualParables.org moves beyond merely reviewing films by providing tools for church leaders to use them with their people to explore faith and personal and social issues.

The site offers about 1200 free reviews with one or more Scripture references attached. (Sometimes I spend almost as much time searching for the relevant Bible passage as in writing the review.) Each month the VP journal, available by either annual subscription or individual issue, includes the reviews plus a set of questions, ranging from 4 or 5 to as many as 20. Preachers tell me that they usually read the column “Lectionary Links” first because it suggests one or more films related to the Sunday texts of the Common Lectionary. Methodist chaplain Doug Sweet contributes a column that reviews film books and new DVDs. There are special articles, such as “Celebration of the Dance in Film,” and “Social Issue Films Reviewed in Visual Parables,” arranged according to category/themes—the latter lists almost 550 films. Cindy Corey, director of a Presbyterian resource center, reviews various short films.

Continue reading

St. Andrew’s FISH – Families Integrating Sunday and Home

Like many churches these days, St. Andrew’s had limited volunteer resources and sporadic attendance at Church School. The “regular” families were frustrated and burned out. And my experience had taught me that parental involvement is the single most important success factor in Christian formation. We were ready to do church differently.

We’re an Episcopal church, with a rich liturgical tradition. I have long believed that worship is the most formative thing we do, and worship was working well. We have strong and consistent attendance for our Family Service, which meets during the readings, sermon and prayers of the primary service. We do all the same things, in a more family-friendly setting. Then we rejoin the primary service for Communion, every Sunday. We don’t have any rules about what ages belong where, or parental accompaniment; we let each family make the decision that suits them best. Many parents choose to worship with their children. Continue reading

The Church Finding a Voice

Von Clemans offers these important insights on how the ways we communicate information in the church are changing. This is a reblogged post from the APCE Adovocate via Kaye Bledsoe.

kayebledsoe

Goldfish Have Eight by Von Clemans (copied from APCE ADVOCATE Journal)

On a recent Sunday I passed through the narthex and noticed the large pile of bulletins left by departing worshipers. At least three-quarters of all the bulletins printed for that day were destined for the recycling bin. In each folded paper were dozens of carefully crafted announcements designed to engage and attract people to essential opportunities for their growth in faith. I’d like to think church people had memorized all the pertinent details for future reference. But the truth is many of them did little more than scan them. I know that because our weekly email newsletter is opened by less than half of the recipients, with a click-through rate of less than five percent.  Messages are going out but not being received.

Why?  Because communication patterns have changed. Information hits us from every direction in every possible media…

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