Category : Parish Ministry

A sermon of St Quodvultdeus on the Holy Innocents–Even Before They Learn to Speak, They Proclaim Christ

From here:

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.
Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.
But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.
How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Posted in Christmas, Church History, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Children, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Spirituality/Prayer

Jeff Miller’s Christmas Sermon for 2018–“Will You Miss Christmas This Year?”

You may download it there or listen to it directly there from Saint Philip’s, Charleston, South Carolina. Watch for a very interesting WWII reference toward the end.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Christmas, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Martin Luther for Christmas–Lay hold of this picture deep in your heart

This Gospel is so clear that it requires very little explanation, but it should be well considered and taken deeply to heart; and no one will receive more benefit from it than those who, with a calm, quiet heart, banish everything else from their mind, and diligently look into it. It is just as the sun which is reflected in calm water and gives out vigorous warmth, but which cannot be so readily seen nor can it give out such warmth in water that is in roaring and rapid motion.

Therefore, if you would be enlightened and warmed, if you would see the wonders of divine grace and have your heart aglow and enlightened, devout and joyful, go where you can silently meditate and lay hold of this picture deep in your heart, and you will see miracle upon miracle. But to give the common person a start and a motive to contemplate it, we will illustrate it in part, and afterwards enter into it more deeply.

First, behold how very ordinary and common things are to us that transpire on earth, and yet how high they are regarded in heaven. On earth it occurs in this wise: Here is a poor young woman, Mary of Nazareth, not highly esteemed, but of the humblest citizens of the village. No one is conscious of the great wonder she bears, she is silent, keeps her own counsel, and regards herself as the lowliest in the town. She starts out with her husband Joseph; very likely they had no servant, and he had to do the work of master and servant, and she that of mistress and maid, They were therefore obliged to leave their home unoccupied, or commend it to the care of others.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Christology, Church History, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The 2018 Christmas sermon from the Bishop of Sheffield

Some of you will have seen where I’m going with this, I suppose. There was a time, and maybe you can say the same, when the story I carried around in my head, and with which I interpreted the world, excluded God. The result was that when I was granted the occasional glimpse of God’s presence, I used to squeeze that data into the existing framework: ‘Obviously it’s not God. The genuine article is not possible. It must be a look-alike, or a sound-alike, or a feel-alike’. And I dare say I’m not the only here for whom conversion meant, in effect, abandoning an old story which had ceased to be adequate, which no longer did justice to my growing experience, in favour of a different outlook, one which made more satisfying sense, sense not just of the existence of God, but of myself in relation to God.

Well, I don’t know how far you identify with that. But the Gospel reading this evening suggests that that process, or some process like it, is not just a common one, but an inevitable one where God is concerned — inevitable because a relationship with God is not something within our grasp. It’s not easy for creatures like us, who dwell in time and space, to know an eternal and infinite Creator. It’s not easy for sinners like us to know the Holy One. Or (to use the terminology of our Gospel reading), it’s not easy for us to hear the Word of God.

Repeatedly in our reading there are little indicators that if we are to know God, we are utterly dependent on what Christian tradition calls ‘grace’: we rely on God’s initiative, his gift, his unmerited favour towards us. Listen again to these words: The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. It had to because almost by definition, it is beyond our capacity to enlighten ourselves: enlightenment always does come to us. Though the true light came into the world, the world did not recognise him, because this enlightening Word is almost always contrary to human expectation. But to those who did receive him (since the true light is always something that to be received), he gave power (because this power is always a gift), to become children of God (because a relationship with God is not our natural state, it is always something // into which we must enter). This true light, the Word of God, became flesh, says John, and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2018 Christmas Sermon

I have a friend, also called Justin – Archbishop Vardi of south Sudan, a country where there have been two and a half million refugees since the war started in December 2013. There the Government and opposition groups have been brought together in Christ and a ceasefire is holding.

It is learned by worship, like the Kings and shepherds. It is learned stumblingly, beginning with no more than a doubt filled, questioning opening to God who says to us and to the whole world, through this baby, “here I am”. We reply in the same way, knowing almost nothing except we are not fit or ready for Jesus, and we reply, “and here I am too”.

To follow Jesus is not through compulsion, for he has expressed God’s language of love by being a baby, so vulnerable and weak, so easily overlooked.

To follow Jesus is not to become dull and tedious, for in him is light and life more than anywhere else in all eternity. The very heavens shake with the music of his birth.

In him is love spoken and reliable.

In Him is a new language that transforms us and all around us, God’s language of love.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

(NYT) How to Keep Baby Jesus in the Manger? Bolts, Cameras and Tethers

Away in a manger on Bethlehem’s public square, a woman approached a statue of the baby Jesus one dark, December night. Then she stole it.

The theft, from a Nativity scene outside City Hall, raised alarm in this eastern Pennsylvania city that shares a name with the real Jesus Christ’s birthplace.

When the missing baby Jesus was found, it had been damaged, and Bethlehem’s police chief had to glue its leg back on. Then the city took action, positioning a concealed security camera exclusively on baby Jesus and assigning police officers to monitor the footage. In the two years since, the statue has been left at peace, asleep on the hay as the camera, nicknamed the “Jesus cam” by some residents, rolls.

“If anybody looks real close, they’ll see a crack in his leg,” said Lynn Cunningham, a leader of the local chamber of commerce.

Read it all.

Posted in Christmas, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(CTV) 126-year-old Springhill, Nova Scotia, church to be torn down

It stands like a beacon at the entrance to downtown Springhill, N.S.; a landmark more than a century old. But the All Saint Anglican Church will soon be gone.

The church was built in 1892 and lately, it’s been showing its 126 years of service. Damage to the roof and the steeple, and issues with heating the church all factor in the congregation’s difficult decision to tear the church down.

“The size of the building, the need for repairs on the roof, which, our conclusion was a new roof and we figured, we believed there would be other maintenance issues,” says Reverend Dr. Brian Spence, the church rector. “It was an extremely difficult decision and one that was the result of many years of struggling with the situation.”

Winter services have been held in the adjacent church hall for the last few years, and the congregation has dwindled to about 30 dedicated members. The cost of heating the church is just about more than they can afford.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry

(NYT) Laura Turner–Internet Church Isn’t Really Church

In his letters to early Christian communities, the Apostle Paul describes the church as a body comprising different but equally necessary members. When the church at Corinth was bickering over the importance of different spiritual gifts, Paul wrote to remind them that “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” He writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Later, he says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

Religious affiliation in America is down, according to a 2015 Pew survey. Religious institutions more and more reflect an insular community, and Churchome Global is the best distillation of where American Christianity is headed — your living room, your phone, your television. No longer will you have to leave your house to interact with fellow worshipers. You can do it all from the comfort, and isolation, of your own home.

But this individual, isolated experience of church is the poorer one for those of us who are able to go. (Live-streaming services are of course important for the homebound.) In an era when everything from dates to grocery delivery can be scheduled and near instant, church attendance shouldn’t be one more thing to get from an app. We can be members of a body best when we are all together — we can mourn when we observe and wipe away tears, just as we can rejoice when we can share smiles and have face-to-face conversations. Studies show that regular attendance at religious services correlates with better sleep, lower blood pressure in older adults and a reduced risk of suicide. I doubt these same phenomena occur when online church is substituted for the real thing, because the truth is that community is good for us. We need one another.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NPR) Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey

In a hotel conference room in Denizli, Turkey, about 60 Iranians sing along to songs praising Jesus mixed with Iranian pop music. When the music stops, American pastor Karl Vickery preaches with the help of a Persian translator.

“I’m not famous or rich. But I know Jesus. I have Jesus,” he says, with a Southern drawl. The Farsi-speaking Christian converts shout “Hallelujah!” and clap.

Vickery, who’s part of a visiting delegation from Beaumont, Texas, then offers to pray for each person in the room.

Women with hair dyed blond and short skirts and clean-shaven men in slacks stand up to pray in unison. Vickery puts his hand on one woman’s head and speaks in tongues. One man closes his eyes as tears fall. Another woman raises her hand and shouts “Isa,” Jesus’ name in Arabic and Persian. The room smells of sweat.

Among the parishioners are Farzana, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Tehran, and her daughter Andya, 3, who runs around, taking photos with her mother’s cellphone.

“It feels good. Our relationship to God becomes closer,” Farzana says. She doesn’t want to give her last name because she says her family in Iran might face persecution for her conversion. Her family knows she is a convert and they’re scared for their own safety inside Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Immigration, Iran, Religion & Culture, Turkey

(CC) Two vibrant Anglican congregations in Winnipeg

The two parishes turned out to be more similar than I had expected. Both combine the thoughtful liturgy and preaching that mark Anglicanism at its best. The two rectors, David Widdicombe, 67, at St. Margaret’s, and Jamie Howison, 57, at saint ben’s, both hunger to work with young people at the city’s several universities, and both sense that the ancient and mysterious aspects of Christianity will be more appealing to people than any seeker-sensitive effort of evangelism that strips down the richness of the faith.

The two are longtime friends and admirers of one another. Neither seems to be aiming for anything other than helping to develop the best church they can. Given his achievements at saint ben’s, Howison could have written a book on church growth, or joined the speaking circuit, but he shuddered at that idea. The book that he has written is about jazz musician John Coltrane, God’s Mind in That Music. He calls the book “delightfully irrelevant to my ministry,” and adds: “but Coltrane feeds me.”

Widdicombe is only a bit less shy in sharing his ministry insights. He has a D. Phil. in theology from Oxford, where he focused on the theology of P. T. Forsyth and worked under Rowan Williams. He tells of getting thrown out of two classrooms—once by a liberal professor, another time by a conservative one—each time over questions of biblical interpretation.

Widdicombe’s sermons exude erudition. The day I’m there he preached from the lectionary text on Israel’s demand for a king and God’s sad warning: “he will take, he will take, he will take.” Never mentioning Trump by name, he portrayed all politics as a revolt against the reign of Christ. In some sense, worldly politics have to fail—or else we would fail to long for the kingdom Christ will bring. With its Augustinian realism about the continued reign of Babylon, the sermon owed something to another of his teachers at Oxford, Oliver O’Donovan.

Widdicombe made no reference in the sermon to himself, those listening, or the world. His only interest seemed to be in Christ and the text. Afterward, I talked to Marilyn Simons, a Shakespeare scholar who teaches at the local universities and who came to faith at St. Margaret’s. She said Widdicombe does with texts what the church and the academy have forgotten how to do: he lovingly interprets them.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Parish Ministry

(AM) Andrew Symes–Transgender liturgies and the secular, postmodern re-shaping of church and society

I was alerted to a major new development in the Church of England: the publication of liturgies to mark ‘gender transition’. (Press release, and my comment here.) Well that wasn’t such a surprise, as this was accepted by General Synod last year, and then agreed again in February 2018. What is alarming is that the new services, which have been developed by clergy who are transgender activists, have been commended for use by a leading evangelical Bishop. No doubt he will argue that while he believes that God created us male and female, this is a way of offering welcome to those who don’t feel they fit into the traditional gender categories. But in speaking about ‘trans people’ and supporting the liturgies in this way, this Bishop has inevitably accepted the validity of the new ideology of gender, which is incompatible with Christian anthropology, colluding with a fiction which cannot ultimately be pastorally helpful, and based on propaganda and fake science rather than evidence.

Should faithful Christians just accept the decisions of their leaders in these matters, and keep quiet, perhaps focusing on evangelistic courses and foodbanks? Or can we counter this trend? If so, perhaps our challenge is to tell a “better story”. We know that heterosexual marriage and sexually abstinent singleness, living within the physical sex God gave us, are the most effective ways of living a flourishing life as individuals and communities, and for our future. Numerous studies prove that stable marriage and family life, and sexual self-control are beneficial for individuals and society; likewise it is clear that family breakdown is linked to crime and mental health issues, and immorality to sexually transmitted disease. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is commanded and explained in Scripture and has been taught by Christians and Jews for millennia. It makes sense. It is the truth. Surely, if the church demonstrates an attitude of love, and tells a positive and exciting counter-story, society will be convinced of the truth of the gospel and how we are supposed to live our lives?

In this paradigm, ‘truth’ is contained in God’s word, backed up by scientific research based on observation of an ordered world. Truth must be communicated clearly, imaginatively, winsomely with love, but it exists as an entity in itself, like a Platonic ideal, or indeed God himself. God exists and his word is true whether or not we communicate it effectively with love. One plus one equals two, regardless of how effectively and relationally it is taught, or how I feel about it and about myself.

But in the secular postmodern paradigm, things have changed. God, and truth, do not exist outside of the reality which is the interweaved matrix made up of millions of human beings’ individual consciousness and experience. The personal story, and the emotions it evokes, is not just a method of communicating truth. It is truth. If feelings of same sex attraction or gender dysphoria lead someone to embrace a gay or trans identity, this is a discovery of truth, and the church’s job is to affirm it through liturgies. To suggest that someone with these feelings might be able to explore a different direction is seen as hurtful, even abusive, and should be suppressed by law. 

Because of this tendency in us to be drawn to personal constructions of reality and reject Reality, the biblical writers insist that it’s not enough to simply repeat God’s true message, and to find better ways of communicating it, including demonstrating God’s nature through acts of love and mercy. It’s also necessary to enable the faithful community to reject the false messages they are being fed constantly in the world around them.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Church of England) Guidance for gender transition services published

New guidance for parishes planning services to help transgender people mark their transition has been published by the Church of England.

The pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship*, encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in using liturgy to enable people to mark a major transition in their lives.

It formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition.

It details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service and, crucially, makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.

As part of the service they could also be presented with gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.

It is important, the guidance adds, that the occasion should have a distinct “celebratory character”.

Read it all and make sure to follow the link and read the full text of the guidance itself.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Will We be Ready When he Comes (Luke 3:1-6)?

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

(Star-Telegram) Hundreds of sex abuse allegations found in fundamental Baptist churches across U.S.

Read it all. (Please note that this is a long and painful article whose content may not be suitable for some blog readers–KSH.)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Baptists, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s sermon yesterday at Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

(Hour of Death) Five Insights On Death And Dying From J. R. R. Tolkien

Tolkien describes the feeling the story of a boy’s miraculous healing at Lourdes gave him, and then says that for this unique feeling he coined the word “eucatastrophe.” He explains that the word means the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears. . . . And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives . . . that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest “eucatastrophe” possible in the greatest Fairy Story — and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorry because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

— From a letter to his son Christopher, who was serving with the Royal Air Force in South Africa (1944)

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology

The Diocese of Birmingham Response to Channel 4 News story this week

In response to the news report and interview with Jo Kind on Channel 4’s news programme (Weds 5 Dec 7pm) we believe that it is important to clarify a number of elements of the story as reported in that instance.

Most importantly, we need to make clear that the Church of England – Birmingham has never restricted, or sought to restrict Jo from telling her story. This is not the purpose of the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). It was and will always be her story to tell. The decision with regards to the NDA was made to protect the many contributors to the report, some of whom wish to remain unidentifiable, along with the many others whom this situation affects. The suggestion of asking Jo to sign the NDA was also made by the independent reviewer once the report had been finalised. We encouraged Jo to seek legal advice, which she did, before signing the NDA, rather than ‘forcing it on her’ as reported.

It is important to understand that Jo was not asked to sign a ‘confidentiality clause’. Such a clause would have prevented her from disclosing information contained within the reports that she was already aware of, or where elements were already in the public domain. Jo was asked to sign an NDA with the intention to prevent from sharing information not belonging to her that she was not previously aware of (for example elements within the report that refer to information provided from or by other individuals, along with factors that could lead to the identity of the contributors and others who have been affected by this from being identified).

Simply put, Jo is and always has been free to tell her story, but we need to protect others who do not want their story to be told….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Diocese of SC) Matthew Rivers Ordained to the Priesthood

“It’s all about the call. It’s all about the message. It’s all about the people.” Those were words the Very Rev. John Burwell, Rector of Church of the Redeemer, Orangeburg, stressed in his sermon at the ordination to the priesthood of the Rev. Matthew Rivers, Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at St. John’s Chapel in Charleston.

“It’s not a job. You can’t treat it like one,” said Burwell. “It’s a calling.” He noted that though the ordination itself would be “glorious,” the ministry entails hard, often thankless work and clergy rarely see the result of their efforts.

He encouraged Rivers, using words spoken to him personally by the late Bishop Terry Kelshaw, saying, “Preach the Word – the good news – every Sunday and your church will grow.”

Burwell also encouraged Rivers to focus on the people. Quoting his grandmother, he said, “They don’t care what you know until they know you care.” “Love the people the Lord puts in your path,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

An ENS story on The Funeral for President George HW Bush yesterday at the national cathedral

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Episcopal Church (TEC), Office of the President

(Channel 4 News) Church of England gags abuse victim with NDA

A woman who claims she was abused by a vicar has told Channel 4 News she was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – before she was allowed to read an official review accusing the Church of England of mismanaging her complaints.

Channel 4 News has seen a copy of the report, which makes a series of damning criticisms of the way a serving bishop handled her allegations.

Read it all.

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

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell–Church in Wonderland: the Clergy Discipline Measure shoves victims down a rabbit hole

What is missing in all this is the option of an ‘Admonishment’. By that, I mean that the Church of England does not currently accompany a ‘no action’ outcome with a plain unequivocal finding that ‘this was wrong’. Vindicating the victims complaint is immensely important to them, regardless of the sequelae.

Surely we need such an option in a revised system, preferably published and accompanied by a victim impact statement, and perhaps even an agreed statement of reconciliation in which the wrongdoer can offer an acknowledgement of error and a proper apology and, if possible an (entirely voluntary) acceptance. Closure on such a basis might be attainable with all parties able to move forward.

As it is, the Bishop is untouched, the Deputy President emerges as a humane judge constrained by an insufficient legal structure, and the role of the Chaplain has slipped under the radar. The Archbishop has been affirmed in his procedural propriety and judgment, and does not have the embarrassment of having to find against his fellow Bishop. Everyone within the church wins.

The only one… the only one for whom the whole prolonged process has offered nothing whatsoever is the poor victim, who has received no justice, no closure, and no apology whatsoever from anyone involved. On what basis do we in the Church suggest that this kind of outcome is anything other than a disgrace?

Talk to victims and they speak of an Alice in Wonderland world where injustice is justice, and due process means just what the church says it means: episcopal clothing is metaphorically rent, yet no apology escapes their lips. No wonder that victims increasingly advise each other not to disappear down this particular rabbit hole.

Read it all.

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

(CC) Katie Hays–When our church started receiving offerings through Venmo

…recently a twentysomething in my church wanted to send five bucks to pay the church for something small. I think we were collecting money for a birthday card. But PayPal takes a chunky fee for every transaction, even for nonprofits, so that’s not very efficient. “I wish I could just Venmo it to you,” the twenty­something said. And I said, as I often do, “Huh?”

After Venmo was explained to me, I handed over my laptop and said, “Make it so.” Fifteen minutes later, Galileo Church had dozens of “friends” on Venmo and had received its first gift— and we had “liked” it and commented by giving our thanks.

Venmo is a social media app. It’s for friends to share money with friends, electronically zapping it from one bank account to another. And depending on your privacy settings, anybody who is your friend can see all your Venmo transactions in a continuous feed.

Let’s say you and a friend are studying together, and you decide to split a pizza; your friend pays and you send your friend a few dollars for your half, along with emojis of pizza and books, at 11 p.m. Now anyone who is friends with either of you knows that you had a late-night cram session and got hungry, and pizza was the remedy. (They won’t see the amount you sent or spent.) They can “like” the transaction and comment: “Finals! Ugh!” or “Good work, you two!”

So what happens when the church goes Venmo? We got new givers almost immediately.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(Local Paper Front Page) College requirement prepares many SC preachers for ministry but serves as barrier to some

The Rev. Rosa Young Singleton didn’t have college, but she had a calling.

Singleton started as a youth minister at a nondenominational church in 2000. But when she went back home to Georgetown’s St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2013, she was told that she would need a bachelor’s degree if she wanted to pursue a pastoral ministry.

Raising two children and working, Singleton enrolled at Allen University and commuted from the Lowcountry to Columbia for classes every week.

“I got weary,” she said. “I was like ’Lord, do I really need to go through all of this to preach your gospel?‴⁣

There are many in the faith community who contemplate whether a church has the authority to restrict a person from pursuing God’s calling based on their level of education.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Education, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

President George HW Bush RIP

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Office of the President

A Fleming Rutledge Sermon on Mark 13 (the Synoptic Apocalypse) for Pre-Advent and the First Sunday of Advent

Let me illustrate this sequence by quoting from the memoirs  of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the famous Scottish-born tycoon who made his fortune in America.[2] Raised as a Presbyterian, he became suspicious of religion. When he read Darwin’s theories of evolution, the great philanthropist received what he thought was a revelation.[3] In his memoirs he wrote (this was during the Gilded Age, before the world wars):

…I remember that light came as in a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth…“All is well since all grows better,” became my motto, my true source of comfort. Man…has risen to the higher forms [and there can be no] conceivable end to [man’s] march to perfection.

I don’t believe anyone can read that with a straight face today. And indeed, as it happens, those were not the last words from Mr. Carnegie. The last paragraph of his autobiography was written as World War I broke out. He reread what he had written earlier, and here’s how he responded to it:

As I read this [what he had previously written] today what a change! The world convulsed by war as never before! Men slaying each other like wild beasts! I dare not relinquish all hope.

The manuscript breaks off abruptly.[4] He never finished the autobiography.

In a certain way, this illustrates the turn in biblical interpretation that I’m describing. The horrors of the two World Wars caused a widespread change in the way that serious people understood history. For biblical interpreters, it caused a change in the way the apocalyptic passages in the Bible were read. It was noted that Jesus said, “Behold, I have told you all things beforehand.”

Apocalyptic writing came out of a catastrophe. The Hebrew people—the Israelites—were the people of blessing. They were the people favored by God, who had promised them a future of safety and prosperity. But then they were overwhelmed and conquered and forced into exile in the far distant, pagan Babylonian empire.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) Americans dying younger as drug overdoses and suicides rise, report finds

Americans are dying younger, as drug overdoses and suicide kill an increasing number of people, according to a grim new set of government statistics.

Life expectancy declined in 2017, falling to 78.6 years, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control released on Thursday. It is the third straight year life expectancy in the US has declined or stayed flat, reversing course after decades of improvement.

“These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” Dr Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, said in a statement.

Life expectancy fell from 78.7 in 2016. Women generally live longer, with a life expectancy of 81.1 last year, a number that stayed flat compared with the year before. For men, the number dropped by a 10th of a year to 76.1.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Andrew

Almighty God, who didst give such grace to thine apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of thy Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by thy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Evangelism and Church Growth, Spirituality/Prayer

In the Diocese of South Carolina, Grace Anglican Parish Moves into New, Larger Space

Grace Anglican Parish will begin the Advent season in a new location. They’ve outgrown the Floyd Community Center. Their new location is 10373 Highway 90, Little River. This past Sunday (November 25) after lunch, they held a painting party to prepare their sanctuary for use. New locks, new carpet and a lighted sign come next. Keep them in prayer as they begin this new season. “There is so much to do,” says Vicar, Cindy Larsen, “but we will get there quickly. We are excited, busy and joyful!”

In a recent Facebook post, vicar Cindy Larsen gave the following update on the Grace Anglican Parish’s move to a new location.

“I give thanks that we have a new home for Grace Anglican Parish! We are so busy, but very glad to be moving into a larger space where we can worship freely, without renting by the hour for every purpose.

We have signed the lease and the electricity and water are on. The sign company is preparing proofs and a quote for our new sign. Volunteers are cleaning the space today and shampooing the carpet in the parish hall and other rooms….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Uncategorized

(Metro UK) Belgian Doctors face possible jail after ‘diagnosing woman with autism so she could get lethal injection’

Three doctors will face a criminal trial in Belgium accused of certifying a woman as autistic so she could die by euthanasia.

Tina Nys died after claiming to be autistic to two doctors and a psychiatrist. She was euthanised after telling officials her suffering was ‘unbearable and incurable’, however her sisters have said that her suffering was caused by a broken heart, not autism.

In the first such case since it was decriminalised in 2002, the officials face trial accused of failing to comply with the legal conditions for euthanasia. Ms Nys’s sisters have accused the doctors of making a rushed decision without treating her for autism.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics