Category : Parish Ministry

(The State) A Heartbreaking local story–A Columbia, South Carolina, teen who drowned in the Lowcountry was pursuing a life in ministry

Jack Fleischer spent much of his 19 years of life at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center as a camper, counselor and staff member. And, after a memorial service this weekend, his ashes will be buried at the Lowcountry camp he loved so much.

Fleischer, a Columbia resident, drowned after he jumped off a dock into Bohicket Creek in Charleston County on Friday night, multiple media outlets reported. That’s just off S.C. 700 near Johns Island.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said crews found Fleischer’s body early Saturday.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Teens / Youth, Youth Ministry

(Telegraph) Church of England sees fall in planned donations for first time in 50 years as millennials fail to engage

The Church of England has seen a fall in planned donations for first time in 50 years as it says millennials are not taking up the mantle of previous generations.

Money given through direct debits and standing orders has fallen for the first time since records began in 1964, it was revealed on Monday.

John Spence, chair of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee, told its governing body, the General Synod, that in 2016 income coming from planned giving fell by 0.4 per cent.

Figures for 2015 show that a total of £337.5m was given to the church this way, suggesting that there was a fall of around £1.35m in 2016.

The donations formed around a third of the money collected by parishes in 2015, which Mr Spence said rose by 1.8 per cent overall because of other sources of funds.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Young Adults

(CT) New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher.

But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

Food for Thought from CH Spurgeon

Posted in Church History, Preaching / Homiletics

(NYT Op-ed) Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good

Once, as Tom Junod described in a profile for Esquire, Rogers met a 14-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy left him sometimes unable to walk or talk. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.

The boy was thunderstruck. He had been the object of prayers many times, but nobody had asked him to pray for another. He said he would try since Mister Rogers must be close to God and if Mister Rogers liked him he must be O.K.

Junod complimented Rogers on cleverly boosting the boy’s self-esteem, but Rogers didn’t look at the situation that way at all: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

And here is the radicalism that infused that show: that the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer than the healthy; that the poor are closer than the rich and the marginalized closer than the celebrated.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ministry of the Ordained, Presbyterian

(Star-Tribune) Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations face unprecedented declines

For 100 years, Lutherans in this farming community on the Minnesota prairie have come to one church to share life’s milestones.

They have been baptized, confirmed and married at La Salle Lutheran. Their grandparents, parents and siblings lie in the church cemetery next door.

But the old friends who gathered here early one recent Sunday never imagined that they would one day be marking the death of their own church.

When La Salle Lutheran locks its doors in August, it will become the latest casualty among fragile Minnesota churches either closing, merging or praying for a miracle. Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.

“Sunday used to be set aside for church: that’s what families did,” said Donna Schultz, 74, a church member since grade school at La Salle, in southwest Minnesota. “Now our children have moved away. The grandkids have volleyball, dance on weekends. People are busy with other things….”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, United Church of Christ

“They do kill some of us, but those who are alive just continue… we will not wait wait for persecution to stop before we preach the gospel – we just keep preaching. If we die, we die preaching. If we live, we continue the job…” –

Watch it carefully and watch it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Evangelism and Church Growth

A Prayer for Stewardship to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Almighty God, the source of all that we can have, and all that we can hope for,

Grant that we may be worthy custodians of the earth in which we dwell.

Make us creative so that we will not burden others;

Make us conservative so that we will not squander what comes our way;

Make us perceptive so that we may properly weigh our necessities against the needs of others;

Make us generous so that we may give freely of what we have that others can enjoy a portion of our fortune.

Remove from us all trust in anything but thee;

Strengthen us in the knowledge that thou wilt always provide all that we really need;

And finally, by thy Grace, instill in us that perfect desire to be thy servants and ultimately to be with thee in thy Heavenly Kingdom,

Who reignest forever and ever, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer, Stewardship

(CT) What Christians in the US Can Learn from Immigrant Pastors

But perhaps the most significant distinguishing mark of US Christianity is the pervasive individualism that saturates the culture and the church, which differs from the community centered values in other parts of the world.

“We go to funerals of people we don’t know, simply because they are Ethiopian and are part of our larger community,” said Endashaw Kelkele, pastor of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Denver. “Not many Americans go to funerals of those they don’t know.”

His colleague, Ermias Amanuel, offered another example. “In the US, people drink coffee alone! In Ethiopia, if you have coffee, you share it with someone.” When people are dependent on one another, community is more important. Self-sufficiency and independence lead to breakdown of community.

This individualism affects more than just social interactions. At times, individualism trumps theology.

Jay Kim, a South Korean who now pastors a Presbyterian Church in Alliance, Nebraska, said, “The church in Korea is more interconnected, so much so that sometimes you feel like people know you too much. But in the US, though we go to the same church, the attitude is ‘your faith is your faith and my faith is my faith.’ Though they come to a Presbyterian church, many do not really follow Presbyterian doctrine.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Globalization, Immigration, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper front page) A SC funeral home left a body to rot for years in ‘corrupt’ system that protects homes

The funeral board, which oversees discipline, is dominated by people who work in the funeral business. By law, nine of its 11 members must be licensed funeral directors and embalmers. The remaining two slots are reserved for public representatives, but those seats often sit vacant. On at least one occasion, a part-time funeral worker served as the public’s voice on the panel.

This guild of peers includes members and former leaders of South Carolina’s funeral industry associations. It rarely revokes or suspends a license, preferring to levy reprimands and light fines that keep problem operators in business. Even when licenses are pulled, no one checks to make sure those disciplined are abiding by the rules unless someone files a formal complaint.

What’s more, nearly 40 percent of the 600 complaints filed against funeral homes and their operators were dismissed between 2006 and 2017 with no action taken, according to labor department records.

That doesn’t surprise Joshua Slocum, who leads the national Funeral Consumer Alliance, a Vermont-based nonprofit that fights for transparency and funeral affordability. He said most states have models similar to South Carolina’s, with funeral boards dominated by funeral professionals. It’s an opaque system rigged to benefit the death industry, concealing misdeeds and leaving consumers in the dark, he said.

“It’s an outrage against public policy and a clear, no-gray-area conflict of interest,” he said. “The system may be legal, but it’s inherently corrupt.”

South Carolina’s funeral board is ensconced in the state’s labor and licensing agency, one of some 40 professional boards that oversee more than 400,000 licenses for everything from architects and accountants to foot doctors. Most of these boards also are dominated by insiders from their respective industries.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Consumer/consumer spending, Death / Burial / Funerals

(Newsroom) New Zealand Anglican Bishops are Divided on Assisted Suicide

The eight top Anglican bishops of New Zealand have come out against David Seymour’s proposed euthanasia bill but three other bishops have voiced their support.

The two very different submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill are a sign of the differences of opinion within the country’s second largest church and among its 450,000 adherents.

The eight bishops, the church’s top leaders, have told Parliament’s Justice select committee that more money should be put into palliative care and helping families looking after the terminally ill, rather than allowing euthanasia or assisted dying.

The submission – by the bishops of Dunedin, Christchurch, Waiapu, Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Te Waipounamu and Waikato/Taranaki – is one of 35,000 to the committee and among thousands made public this month.

But three other bishops – two former bishops, John Bluck and David Coles, and Assistant bishop of Auckland, Jim White – have published a contrary opinion saying for some people with a terminal illness, assisted dying “is a good and moral choice”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(ENS) 69 percent of congregations in the Episcopal Church (TEC) ‘have an average Sunday attendance of less than 100’

Although capacious churches, glorious choirs, multiple clergy and the smells and bells of Holy Day services may capture the imagination of Episcopalians, the reality is that the majority of congregations in the Episcopal Church tend toward the smaller size, with often dramatically different backdrops and ministerial needs than large churches.

In fact, according to data presented by the Task Force on Clergy Leadership Formation in Small Congregations, 69 percent of Episcopal congregations have an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, placing them in the category of “small congregation.” To take this even further, bishops surveyed by the task force reported that a “substantial minority” of their congregations number less than 20 on an average Sunday.

Recognizing these congregations’ unique needs and issues, the 78th General Convention three years ago asked for a task force to “develop a plan for quality formation for clergy in small congregations that is affordable, theologically reflective and innovative.”

Read it all and I found the comments of interest as well.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

The Guardian view on an Anglican cover-up: the church that didn’t want to know

It’s not the scandal that does the damage, they say, but the cover-up. What happens if the cover-up is itself covered up? This is the question that the Church of England must face with the publication of an extraordinary report into the occasion, eight years ago, when it gave itself a pass mark on the issue of sexual abuse. A report then published, prompted by scandals earlier in the decade, was meant to measure the extent of historic sexual abuse known to the church. Instead it produced the frankly incredible claim that there were only 13 cases in 30 years that had not been dealt with properly.

Now that Peter Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester, has been convicted of indecent assault and been sentenced to 32 months in jail, while Lord Carey, who as archbishop of Canterbury attempted to rehabilitate him and suppressed some of the evidence against him, has been barred from working as a priest in retirement, it is time to review the church’s earlier self-examination. The Ball case is only the most visible of what is now obviously a considerable load of past cases. The archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, along with two of his bishops, has been formally reported to the police for alleged inaction over the case of one of their priests who was as a young man raped by an older priest.

So it is disappointing to see that the church has managed to produce another report that appears to argue that the original clean bill of health was the product of perfectly innocent misunderstandings.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

David Ould–The Australian diocese of Wangratta pushes ahead with same-sex blessings

The Diocese of Wangaratta, at it’s recent synod, passed the following motion,

That this Synod:

a) acknowledges the widespread national and local support for the recent changes to Australian marriage laws, to include same-sex couples

b) commends the pastoral value of the Bishop authorising a Form of Blessing for optional use in the Diocese of Wangaratta alongside, or in addition to, a wedding conducted by a civil celebrant, and

c) requests that the Bishop of Wangaratta ensure opportunity for the clergy and laity of the Diocese to engage in further discussion as part of the process leading to the potential Diocesan provision for blessing of civil marriages.

Moved: Archdeacon Clarence Bester

Seconded: Ven Dr John Davis

The motion was passed overwhelmingly on the voices. A number of observations can immediately be made:

  1. The motion comes from the leadership of the diocese, presented by an Archdeacon and the former Vicar General of the Diocese.
  2. The sentiment of the motion is in clear contradiction to a number of motions at the 2017 General Synod and position established in the more recent Bishops’ Agreement which Bishop Parkes of Wangaratta agreed to….

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PFC) The Supreme Court Declined Their Case , but the battle over the Historic Diocese of South Carolina is far from over

When asked this question,…[The] Reverend Lewis said that, “[i]n its argument for why the Supreme Court should not review our case, The Episcopal Church attorneys argued it was too ‘fractured’ to be used for setting precedent. On that one point, we would agree. The South Carolina ruling is composed of five separate opinions that do not agree on either legal principles or outcomes. Interpreting what the conflicting legal opinions in this ruling actually mean and how they will apply will require further adjudication by the courts. We continue to believe the facts and law of the case favor our positions.”

As the case returns to the Dorchester County court later this summer where it originated and a judge considers several motions one of which is the motion to execute the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision, Reverend Lewis and the Diocese appear confident that this motion cannot be implemented until “numerous significant and complicated legal questions are answered.” The Diocese then can hope and pray that because the facts and laws indeed favor their position, the legal process still has time to correct the situation.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court