This fall I was invited to speak as part of a series called "Conversations that Matter" for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. I gave the talk live at the first conversation in Nazareth, PA and then we recorded it for subsequent gatherings. The invitation was to speak about the future direction of the church in a way that provoked conversation and reflection.
This 22-minute video called "Make Your Neighborhood Your Cathedral" explores something I am deeply passionate about and I think is vital to the future of the Church—getting outside our church buildings and being present in public local and digital gathering spaces, whether it is the local cafe or pub, Facebook or Twitter. (Email readers will need to click here to view the video.)
We are learning about the Ten Commandments in our Confirmation class this fall, and most recently the Third Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy" and Martin Luther's explanation of it in the Small Catechism, "We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God's Word, but instead keep the Word holy and gladly hear and learn it."
Inspired by the work we are doing in my class Catechism as Platform and conversations on experiential learning with Bethany Stolle, I decided to craft a Confirmation class that was an experience of Sabbath, rather than just a discussion about it. It turned out to be a great mashup of premodern and postmodern, ancient and digital.
Luther's explanation of the third commandment, as I understand it, is about taking time to encounter the Word of God, whether that's on the traditional Christian Sabbath of Sunday morning, where we gather for worship and engage with the Word in Scripture readings, sermons, and the liturgy, or simply time apart from our busy routines in order for rest and renewal so that we can encounter God in the Word—which, for me, can be Scripture, or another person, or nature, or any number of ways people encounter and experience God.
When I introduced the session and told the kids that I just wanted them to relax and there would be time for them just to chill, they were pretty shocked. They are so programmed, just like adults, they weren't expecting to get permission just to be kids—really, just to be.
So, here's what we did, including links and resources. The entire experience lasted 90 minutes.
How are you cultivating experiential learning in your ministry? Share your good ideas in the comments.
Last Sunday we began posting this message before worship as people entered the sanctuary, and the response has been great.
People are checking-in, tweeting, and sharing pictures way more already.
The simple idea is that by checking-in and posting to their social networks, people can help spread the word about what's happening in our congregation.
Why does this obvious but brilliant little slide work so well?
It gives people permission to break out their smartphones in worship—still kind of a new idea. And it feels fun. You can interact with other people from church in a playful social media way.
Nadia Bolz-Weber makes me want to be a better pastor. She also reminds me that I'm bound to fuck it up.
In her new book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, Nadia chronicles her upbringing in a fundamentalist church, her path to self-destruction as a young adult, her improbable call to ministry, and her journey with her people at House for All Sinners and Saints.
It is beautifully written, funny, and heartbreaking. It will make you laugh out loud and, if you're like me, choke up and wipe away the tears pooling up in the corner of your eyes. Often all on the same page.
Surely, Pastrix is one of the first great spiritual memoirs of post-American-Christendom.
Pastrix speaks profoundly to those who are alienated from the church. I want to buy a copy for all my friends, and I've got plenty, who have given up on church long ago.
For my part, I can't help but read Pastrix from my own perspective as a ministry practitioner and Lutheran pastor.
What I have learned from Nadia, in our conversations and again in Pastrix, is that being a better pastor is not about accumulating skill sets and eventually, finally, getting it right. Its about being open enough to God (who she refers to as "Jesus the Boyfriend," who gets all up in our shit) and God's people to have your heart broken.
Today I begin co-teaching, along with Martin Lohrmann, a new online class at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia called Catechism as Platform: Teaching the Catechism in a Digital Age.
Here's the course description:
Luther's catechisms were written to invite parents, youth, teachers and pastors into a way of life built upon the good news of Christ crucified and risen for us. In 21st century terms, his catechisms were more like a "platform" than a "page." This course will study Luther's Large and Small Catechisms, with an eye on the many ways they continue to inform faith, worship, prayer and daily life. At the same time there will be a focus on developing fluency in today's digital technology, learning to communicate Luther's "platform of faith" through various social media resources. The course assumes that the catechisms are assets for public theology, sharing the faith both inside and outside our churches.
Needless to say I'm excited about the class, mainly because I think we are charting some pretty new territory when it comes to teaching the catechism in a world shaped by digital social media.
When I was younger, I pilgrimaged to medieval cathedrals. Now I pilgrimage to new mission churches.
Last week, I made pilgrimage to Humble Walk Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, a mission start congregation of the ELCA.
Humble Walk is true inspiration to me. Their pastor Jodi Houge is just amazing and gave one of my favorite interviews in Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. As she told us there,
"We recognized that most people don't come looking for a church, in our demographic. And so, we through from the beginning, 'We know this. The church is sinking.' The facts are on the table for the mainline denominations. So, we're not going to these big glossy things that try to draw people to our cool, fancy, hip church. We're going to be where people already are and try to be the church where they are."