Category : * Christian Life / Church Life

(CT) Most Pastors Bracing for Months of Socially Distant Ministry

A new survey by Barna Research found over the course of just a week, most church leaders went from thinking they’d be back to meeting as usual in late or March or April (52%), to projecting the changes would extend to May or longer (68%).

“There is this realism that’s setting in,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president.

But while most pastors are realistic, they’re also optimistic, according to Kinnaman. “One of the cool things about pastors we’ve learned over the years is that they are by job description and by disposition more upbeat, positive, hope-filled people,” he said. “So they are often pretty capable of putting a good face in a tough situation, and they, like other leaders, are going to face a lot of tough decisions in the coming weeks as the crisis continues.”

Though most had already called off normal activities at church, pastors also implemented swift changes in policies around smaller group meetings over the past several days.

The percentage who still allow the church building to be used for “small meetings and gatherings” has dropped by about half (from 18% to 8%), according to Barna’s Church Pulse survey, hearing from 434 Protestant senior pastors and executive pastors in the US. A plurality say the church staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future (up from 25% to 40%).

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(9 Marks) Colton Corter–4 Reflections after Listening to 18 Hours of Sermons in America’s Biggest Churches

1. The gospel at best assumed; most of the time, it’s entirely absent.

Let me begin with the most important observation: in 36 sermons, the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was unclear 36 times. Often, some or all of these facets of the Christian gospel were left out. “No gospel” became a common note. (Here’s an answer to the question you’re probably asking: What content is necessary in order to communicate the gospel?)

I don’t mean to say various elements of the gospel weren’t occasionally mentioned; they were. Todd Mullins (Christ Fellowship Church) mentions in his sermon series, “What Do You See Next?, that faith is believing in what Jesus did for you—carrying the cross, rising from the dead, etc. But none of those elements are articulated or explained. It’s unclear exactly why we need Jesus to do anything for us. Furthermore, it’s unclear exactly what he did by doing the things Mullins mentions. Isolated phrases here and there without much reference to how the Bible puts them together was the norm.

In his sermon, “The Robe of Righteousness,” Robert Morris (Gateway Church) provides a happy exception. He mentions the doctrine of imputation, stating that we aren’t worthy of God and are in need of a “balancing (of our) . . . account.” Morris goes on to say that in the gospel we get Jesus’ assets while Jesus receives our debts. That’s as close to the gospel that any of these sermons gets—and even in this instance, the true things Morris mentions are isolated from the rest of the truths that make up the gospel message. (Neither God’s holy judgment, sin, nor repentance is mentioned.)

But here’s what’s even more disheartening: in his next sermon, Morris says the Jesus who accomplished all this for us “lays down all his divinity” (“The Ring of Authority). Conspicuously missing from Morris’ explanation of what he calls “substitutionary, propitiatory, blood-bought salvation” is the response one must have to this message in order to be saved, which leads us to our next observation.

2. Repentance rarely comes across as something urgent and necessary; instead, it’s either optional or not worth mentioning at all.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The Latest Edition of the Diocese of South Carolina Enewsletter

Leftover supplies donated by The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina for Hurricane relief last year including 120 N95 respirators, 130 Tyvek suits and five boxes of exam gloves were donated to the Medical University of South Carolina this week. Hats off to Stephen Haynsworth, Diocesan Disaster Preparedness and Relief Coordinator, and Bill Anderson who took the supplies to the hospital.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Media, Parish Ministry

John Donne’s Batter My Heart for his Feast Day

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me,’untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–Holy Sonnet XIV

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(CH) John Donne–Thanksgiving in the Midst of Fear

These poems speak, as [Philip] Yancey says, to “the guilt and fear and helpless faith that marked [Donne’s] darkest days.” They also answer one of the toughest questions we can face, “In the midst of plague times, how can we give thanks?”

Here are the three poems excerpted by Yancey, with his clarifying revisions of Donne’s eighteenth-century language…

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John Donne

Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Scottish Prayer Book

O God, who by the cross and passion of thy Son Jesus Christ didst save and deliver mankind: Grant that by steadfast faith in the merits of that holy sacrifice we may find help and salvation, and may triumph in the power of his victory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer

Uplifting music–so needed–from South Africa

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, South Africa

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Innocent of Alaska

Holy Immortal One, who didst bless thy people by calling Innocent from leading thy Church in Russia to be an apostle and light to the people of Alaska, and to proclaim the dispensation and grace of God: Guide our steps, that as he didst labor humbly in danger and hardship, we may witness to the Gospel of Christ wherever we are led, and serve thee as gladly in privation as in power; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, to the ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

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

O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth; We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of thy saints; through 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

Prayers for the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina This Day

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

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

Comfort, we beseech thee, most gracious God, these thy servants, cast down and faint of heart amidst the sorrows and difficulties of the world; and grant that, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, we may be enabled to go upon our way rejoicing, and give thee continual thanks for thy sustaining providence; through 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

(Item) Despite virtual services, Sumter South Carolina members still backing churches financially

Churches have had to adjust to the demands brought forth by the threat of the coronavirus. Along with having to livestream services with no congregations via social media, churches are having to find ways to make the opportunity of giving available to their congregations.

Many of the local churches are offering newfangled methods for their congregants to give as well as some of the tried-and-true methods.

“We’ve been very intentional about pushing people toward online giving,” said Joseph James, the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church at 226 W. Liberty St. “We also have a giving app (on iPhones) that is available that we’re asking people to be using.”

James also pointed out that the older members of his congregation send their tithes and offerings through the mail.

“A large part of our congregation is 60 and over, and they are very conscientious about their giving,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The Latest letter from the Archbishops to the Church of England on the Coronavirus Situation

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives

We are writing further to you given the rapidly changing nature of the situation in our country at present. We want to thank you for the ministry you are exercising and for the creative and imaginative ways in which you are responding to the crisis and showing the love and care of Christ to the communities we serve, particularly to the most vulnerable in our society.

As we move towards Passiontide, focussing on what Jesus did for us on the cross, more than ever this is brought into stark focus. We want to reiterate the advice we have already sent. The government is asking us to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We call upon all our churches and church leaders, clergy and lay, to follow this advice.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Politics in General

(Church Times) Stephen Torr–The right way (and some wrong ways) to be the Church in a pandemic

FOR many people, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought and will bring seemingly meaningless destruction to their lives. To explain too much is to offer nothing of use to them and us.

In time to come, we can reflect on how this experience may change how we treat each other and creation. But for now, what the Church needs to be is a people who, empowered by the Spirit, can live with the paradox of simultaneously affirming the core testimony in word and deed, as well as offering our laments to God about the world’s pain. Anything else would be less than the honest and open relationship that God desires with us.

The practical challenges are many, if we take this seriously. We have had a day of prayer in which we put candles in our windows as a hope-filled reminder of Jesus, the light of the world. How might we do something that creates national space for lament as well?

We created hope-filled collects for people to pray; but where are the collects that are inspired by the psalms of lament and Book of Job — prayers that have teeth, and bring honest, raw language to God about what many feel as we try to work through this time.

In order to aid the world, the Church must embody an honest relationship with God and lead others to do the same. Senior leaders and all others in the Church must not overlook the lament genre, which has such an important place in scripture for just such times as these.

So, as we walk this road together, let us think afresh how we might enable a deeper, richer level of honesty with ourselves and with God, as we cling to the hope of the resurrection that reaches into eternity.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Theology

(NBC) Coronavirus Pandemic Changes How The World Worships (with a helpful Rick Warren contribution)

Posted in Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

A Prayer to Begin the Day from William Temple

O God our Father, Who hast sent Thy Son to be our Saviour: renew in us day by day the power of Thy Holy Spirit; that with knowledge and zeal, with courage and love, with gratitude and hope, we may strive manfully in Thy service: may He keep our vision clear, our aspiration high, our purpose firm, and our sympathy wide; that we may live as faithful soldiers and servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

Roland Allen in his own words on Mission and Saint Paul

In little more than ten years St. Paul established the Church in four provinces of the Empire, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Before AD 47 there were no churches in these provinces; in AD 57 St. Paul could speak as if his work there was done, and could plan extensive tours into the far west without anxiety lest the churches which he had founded might perish in his absence for want of his guidance and support.

The work of the Apostle during these ten years can therefore be treated as a unity. Whatever assistance he may have received from the preaching of others, it is unquestioned that the establishment of the churches in these provinces was really his work. In the pages of the New Testament he, and he alone, stands forth as their founder. And the work which he did was really a completed work. So far as the foundation of the churches is concerned, it is perfectly clear that the writer of the Acts intends to represent St. Paul’s work as complete. The churches were really established. Whatever disasters fell upon them in later years, whatever failure there was, whatever ruin, that failure was not due to any insufficiency or lack of care and completeness in the Apostle’s teaching or organization. When he left them he left them because his work was fully accomplished.

This is truly an astonishing fact. That churches should be founded so rapidly, so securely, seems to us today, accustomed to the difficulties, the uncertainties, the failures, the disastrous relapses of our own missionary work, almost incredible. Many missionaries in later days have received a larger number of converts than St. Paul; many have preached over a wider area than he; but none have so established churches. We have long forgotten that such things could be. We have long accustomed ourselves to accept it as an axiom of missionary work that converts in a new country must be submitted to a very long probation and training, extending over generations before they can be expected to be able to stand alone. Today if a man ventures to suggest that there may be something in the methods by which St. Paul attained such wonderful results worthy of our careful attention, and perhaps of our imitation, he is in danger of being accused of revolutionary tendencies.

–Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours; A Study of The Church In The Four Provinces, Chapter One

Posted in Church History, Missions, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Roland Allen

Almighty God, by whose Spirit the Scriptures were opened to thy servant Roland Allen, so that he might lead many to know, live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Give us grace to follow his example, that the variety of those to whom we reach out in love may receive thy saving Word and witness in their own languages and cultures to thy glorious Name; through Jesus Christ, thy Word made flesh, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Gordon Hewitt

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst feed the multitude by the lakeside, using the humble gifts of a boy’s generous impulse, and a disciple’s faith in thy power: Help us in thy Church to call forth such generosity in others, and strengthen our faith that the hungry millions can be fed; for thy name’s sake,

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(NPR) ‘We Can’t Anoint The Sick’: Faith Leaders Seek New Approaches To Pastoral Care

Churches across America have managed to get around bans on public gathering by moving their worship services online, but technology provides only partial solutions.

In addition to presiding at services, religious leaders are expected to provide counseling, lead prayer groups and minister personally to people with special needs. For many, that aspect of their work has never been more important, or more difficult, at a time when communities are struggling to contain the coronavirus.

“A ‘high-five’ from across the room isn’t quite the same thing,” says Kathie Amidei, a pastoral associate at St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Church outside Milwaukee, Wis. “If we are to be a conduit of God’s love, we have to figure out how to do that without the ways we’ve always done it.”

Some creativity is required. Faith Wilkerson, the pastor at Centenary United Methodist Church in Shady Side, Md., has been hosting a “drive-thru” opportunity each Sunday morning. Anyone with a prayer request or a desire for a blessing is invited to pull into the church parking lot. Wilkerson, assisted by lay volunteers, chats briefly at carside with the visitors and then prays with them, all the while staying at an appropriate distance.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

A Look Back to 1918–Francis James Grimké–“Some Reflections: Growing Out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza that Afflicted Our City”

So Jehovah sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even unto the time appointed; and there died of the people from Dan even unto Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Jehovah repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough; now stay thy hand.
—Samuel 24:15–16

We know now, perhaps, as we have never known before the meaning of the terms pestilence, plague, epidemic, since we have been passing through this terrible scourge of Spanish influenza, with its enormous death rate and its consequent wretchedness and misery. Every part of the land has felt its deadly touch—North, South, East and West—in the Army, in the Navy, among civilians, among all classes and conditions, rich and poor, high and low, white and black. Over the whole land it has thrown a gloom, and has stricken down such large numbers that it has been difficult to care for them properly, overcrowding all of our hospitals—and it has proven fatal in so many cases that it has been difficult at times to get coffins enough in which to place the dead, and men enough to dig graves fast enough in which to bury them. Our own beautiful city has suffered terribly from it, making it necessary, as a precautionary measure, to close the schools, theaters, churches, and to forbid all public gathering within doors as well as outdoors. At last, however, the scourge has been stayed, and we are permitted again to resume the public worship of God, and to open again the schools of our city.

Now that the worst is over, I have been thinking, as doubtless you have all been, of these calamitous weeks through which we have been passing—thinking of the large numbers that have been sick—the large numbers that have died, the many, many homes that have been made desolate—the many, many bleeding, sorrowing hearts that have been left behind, and I have been asking myself the question, What is the meaning of it all? What ought it to mean to us? Is it to come and go and we be no wiser, or better for it? Surely God had a purpose in it, and it is our duty to find out, as far as we may, what that purpose is, and try to profit by it.

Among the things which stand out in my own mind, as I have been thinking the whole matter over, are these…

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Theology

Please join me in continued Prayer for Steve Wood

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer for the Feast of the Annunciation

We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that we who have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frederick B. Macnutt

O Lord and heavenly Father, who hast given unto us thy people the true bread that cometh down from heaven, even thy Son Jesus Christ: Grant that our souls may so be fed by him who giveth life unto the world, that we may abide in him and he in us, and thy Church be filled with the power of his unending life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

Latest letter from C of E’s Archbishops on how to Proceed given the pandemic and the Government’s instructions

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last night, it is imperative that for the health of the nation and in order for the National Health Service itself to manage the increase in those
requiring medical help, the Church of England strictly observes the new guidelines on staying at home and only making journeys that are absolutely necessary, such as shopping for essential
items and to take daily exercise.

Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own. A notice
explaining this should be put on the church door (please find template attached). We must take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave in order to slow down the spread of
the Coronavirus.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Front page Local Paper) One church, many contacts

Here’s how one conference led to thousands of exposures to coronavirus at St. Andrew’s Church and beyond:

Thursday, March 5 to 7: Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas holds conference at All Saints Pawleys Island. Clergy and lay delegates from across South Carolina and North Carolina, plus a few from Kentucky and Tennessee, attend. About 150 people.

On the first night, clergy and spouses have dinner at an event venue in Pawleys Island. 50-60 people….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry

A Rowan Williams sermon on the life and ministry of Oscar Romero on Archbishop Romero’s Feast Day

And so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is ‘who do you really speak for?’ But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, ‘who do you really feel with?’ Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of ‘feeling with the Church’ could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ – so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be ‘sad’ if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.

But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, ‘each of you will have to be God’s microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.’ Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole – and the hope and radiance of the whole – has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.

So Romero’s question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero’s day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero’s murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.

Read it all.

Posted in --El Salvador, Church History, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Oscar Romero

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in --El Salvador, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frank Colquhoun

O Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who art thyself the bread of life, and hast promised that he who comes to thee shall never hunger: Grant us faith truly to partake of thee through Word and Sacrament, that we may find refreshment of spirit and be strengthened for thy service; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Lent, Spirituality/Prayer