Day1 Weekly Programs by The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt
Tuesday May 16, 2017
Carol Howard Merritt shows us that Jesus looked at his friends--even the ones who would inevitably betray him--with overwhelming concern and love. We are made in the image of God, and in that image we long for one another. We work with and delight in one another. Our lives are not complete without company.
Tuesday January 25, 2011
In her sermon based on one facet of the multifaceted jewel that is the Beatitudes, the Rev. Carol Howard Merritt reflects on how Jesus' words can offer comfort and hope in any time of grief.
Articles by The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt
Saturday December 16, 2017
My daughter and I were watching 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' when Midge Maisel pulled out her measuring tape and began to write down the size of her ankles, calves, and thighs. While she checked her proportions, we laughed at the ridiculousness of it.
Thursday November 02, 2017
As I think about all of the complex questions we have ahead of us concerning downsizing, restructuring, property, and buildings, I’ve begun to have one guiding question.
Monday October 09, 2017
Our culture will continue to replace traditional religion with other services that attempt to provide the same thing.
Friday July 21, 2017
We cannot always create something out of nothing. Rather, we change what already exists, and these tiny alterations give us meaning and purpose in our lives.
Saturday June 24, 2017
One gift of being a pastor is that death stands right in front of us. We understand that our days are numbered.
Friday June 16, 2017
We are called into liberation””a freedom that sees not our value as consumers but the dignity inherent in our humanity.
Sunday May 14, 2017
Theological issues might be “settled” for us, but there is a big world out there that needs to hear our voices.
Wednesday March 08, 2017
Will young men and women from middle and lower class backgrounds be pushed down with medical and educational debt? Will they see the military as the only option for education, health, and opportunity?
Wednesday January 11, 2017
In Asheville, one church was dying while another was being born.
Thursday December 29, 2016
Can we begin to incorporate the best practices of social media? Can we become more adept at incorporating social media into our larger plan as we hold propaganda machines accountable?
Tuesday December 13, 2016
I talked with a group of innovative pastors and members of governing bodies who support new churches. My question for all of them was, 'What do we all need to know before entering into this work?'
Thursday December 08, 2016
Many people in my line of work are anti-institutional. I am not. Even though my mission in life is not to save the institutional church (it is to love God and people, first and foremost), I believe in institutions.
Friday December 02, 2016
As the people at Grace Presbyterian worked toward a robust public theology, identifying the wounds of the culture and needs of the community, the form of their expanded ministry began to take shape.
Thursday November 10, 2016
Pastors Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy and Nick Larson have been thinking about the rituals of the church and how they might mark the life passages of people who follow a different life sequence. They wonder how the church can celebrate neglected milestones and grieve suffering that was once private but is now public because of social media. These new events take on a communal significance, so Buchakjian-Tweedy and LarÂson write liturgies and create rituals for them.
Tuesday October 25, 2016
In our churches, people long for the time when going to church was the center of a town’s social life. Mothers got to dress up after a week of housecleaning, fathers made professional connections, and teens met the people they would soon marry. The sanctuary was full, and everyone understood the importance of Sunday school.
Thursday October 20, 2016
I was working with a group on racial reconciliation, and I felt frustrated. I mostly listened, but then every time I spoke, the words coming out of my mouth were all wrong. And I’m a type-A, liberal, PC, white woman. I don’t like to be wrong. I like to 'get it' and secretly roll my eyes at other wrong people.
Thursday October 13, 2016
Through prayer and discernment, First Church realized that the congregation’s ministry had been focused inward””it maintained buildings, protected endowments, and cared for members. While this was important work, people had neglected the call to stretch themselves in new ways. It was only when they could no longer keep doing business as usual that they looked outward.
Thursday October 06, 2016
I began hearing the question in seminary. It became louder as I started writing. 'Who will be the next Reinhold Niebuhr?' In 1948, Niebuhr was on the cover of Time Magazine. He commented on politics, and since his death in 1971, his voice has been missing from popular discourse.
Saturday August 27, 2016
What happens when our congregations are in transition? What happens when the church's ministry is something we have to get out a rearview mirror to see? What if we suddenly foresee the end of our life together? Do we give thought to dying well as congregations?
Thursday August 11, 2016
Increasingly, people ask me, “How do you do what you do?” They want to know how to become a writer, speaker, or consultant. I wouldn’t be a speaker or a consultant if I didn’t write a book, so I’ll start with how to write a book.
Thursday August 04, 2016
Perhaps when we plant congregations, we should plan on starting two congregations, realizing that one will probably be long-term and the other short-term. Above all, we can support colleagues when a church closes, celebrating and mourning with its pastor and participants. We can honor how wrenching it is to walk away from a dream and respect the learning that takes place.
Wednesday May 18, 2016
Gathering in coffeehouses, huddling in homes, working around gardens, or converging in church basements, new church communities have sprung up across the nation. They have different means of social cohesion, focused variously on social justice, creation care, art, reading, or music, but most of them have one thing in common””their small size.
Tuesday May 03, 2016
A friend went to UNCO (short for Unconference) to see how it worked. She had been a part of numerous 'future of the church' conferences who paid the best and the brightest speakers and leaders to impart their wisdom. Everyone attended and talked about how the church was changing.
Saturday April 09, 2016
South Louisiana is “a place that produces writers the way that France produces cheese””prodigiously, and with world-class excellence.” Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin, Walker Percy, Ernest Gaines, John Kennedy Toole, and Truman Capote””you could hardly pastor while ignoring their words.
Friday March 11, 2016
Do women plant churches differently than men? Do they use different methods or a different style?
Sunday March 06, 2016
Businesses are rethinking annual reviews. Should churches do the same?
Wednesday February 24, 2016
Is it a lack of confidence or does society simply undervalue women? Do women really just need to lean in?
Wednesday February 03, 2016
I used to get a phone call every Monday morning. 'I just wanted to let you know what's being said,' the caller would begin, and my body would tense as if preparing to be punched. Then, I would get the rundown of every complaint that people had about me.
Saturday January 23, 2016
If you asked me what I wanted to do when I was a child, I would have answered that I wanted to be a writer, an artist, or a pianist. (I didn’t know that pastor was an option.) I’m a person who likes to make things. Christmas decorations, gardens, prayers, photos, food, books, paintings…whatever””what the thing is doesn’t matter much. I must be producing something.
Thursday January 14, 2016
Attendance is down at church. At most places, there is a lag at Sunday morning services, Sunday school, or mid-week programs. It’s not just your church. It’s most churches. It’s easy to blame outside forces.
Sunday January 03, 2016
Unlike some of her past work, where Diana stands on the mountain, giving us a broad overview of spirituality in our current landscape, this intriguing and beautiful book invites us to participate deeply in God’s work from the ground level.
Tuesday December 29, 2015
Is that new church planter working less than the big-steeple pastor who’s getting six figures? No, not usually. But the planter is getting paid minimum salary, while the large church pastor is making 2-3 times more.
Wednesday December 09, 2015
Friendship began when six churches of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), located within a five-mile radius in northwest Chicago, met with one another to see if they could collaborate. All were struggling to maintain big buildings.
Wednesday December 02, 2015
Someone recently questioned my feminist credentials, when I picked up Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity. Upon further investigation, I found out my cross-examiner was harboring the book as well.
Thursday November 12, 2015
Since New Covenant welcomed people from different cultures, it couldn’t rely on traditional Presbyterian hymnoÂdy to be a source of cohesion. And the church was evenly divided between conservatives and liberals, so it didn’t agree on political issues or on the hot topics with which the PCUSA wrestles. So the church has had to focus on relationships.
Tuesday October 20, 2015
I grew up as a good evangelical girl, and nice was a very high priority. The highest, I think. I was told to smile and submit, with all sincerity. But one of the greatest things to ever happen to me was reading feminist theologians who extolled the virtues of getting angry.
Thursday October 01, 2015
I’m re-reading Man’s Search for Meaning. The last time I read it was when I was in seminary. I skimmed it for a course. It had a profound effect on me then, but it’s been good to soak it in this time around.
Friday September 18, 2015
Recently a friend came to me for financial advice. I was stunned, because... well... we don’t have money. We have a home. We have equity. We have retirement savings. We have a plan to send our daughter to college. But, our day-to-day lives are lean. There have been a couple bountiful years here and there, but for the most part, we have to be careful. Why ask the person with no money for financial advice?
Sunday September 13, 2015
I served two small congregations who wanted a lot of pastoral care. Which was good, because I love people, and I love visiting with them. But it did get to be too much. Smaller churches often expect visits more than larger ones.
Sunday August 30, 2015
When Bec Cranford-Smith gradÂuated from seminary, she figured she would go to Atlanta and start a congregation in the urban center. But Margaret Aymer at Austin PresÂÂbyterian Theological SemÂinary challenged her: 'Why go to the city?' Aymer asked. 'There are enough new churches there. Why not plant a church in the suburbs, where you’re from?'
Sunday August 23, 2015
The person has been robbed and beaten. He’s bleeding on the side of the road. Unlike the Good Samaritan, we step over him. But we have really great reasons for why we do it.
Tuesday August 11, 2015
I spoke with ten church development pastors, including people I have written about before and a couple who closed their community as a consequence of what they did wrong.
Tuesday August 04, 2015
I love raising money. I just do. The churches I served had healthy increases in giving, and I oversaw a successful capital campaign. It’s really fun for me.
Friday July 31, 2015
Lately, when I travel and explain that I'm from Chattanooga, Tennessee, I get one response: 'Oh. The South. It’s so racist down there. How can you live there?'
Saturday July 18, 2015
Can I show you what’s behind the curtain for a moment? Progressive Christian authors are suffering. It’s difficult to sell books and it’s hard to get book contracts.
Wednesday July 15, 2015
"What happens if we just cleaned the slate?" Sara Shisler Goff asked, describing the origins and mission of the Slate Project. "What if we had a blank slate for being and doing church?"
Sunday July 12, 2015
There were a lot of interesting people on the Pastors’ School faculty. Gene Fowler was among them. He lead us through grief training, pointing out the difference between modern and postmodern ideas of grieving.
Sunday June 28, 2015
There might be a reason our ceremonies having the feel of a real estate transaction. The Bible has many passages that see women as a husband’s property. Of course, 'her price is far above rubies,' but why is she wearing a price tag in the first place?
Tuesday June 16, 2015
I was talking about an author I admire and Brian, my husband, asked, 'Her writing’s great and all, but who’s she bringing up?'
Sunday June 07, 2015
Let’s be honest. Apart from a few oddities, most of us are church leaders because we love God and want to do some good in the world. We want our lives to matter. And perhaps that’s the scariest thing of all.
Thursday May 21, 2015
A friend was going to seminary, and she became very disappointed that someone in her home church did not send her a birthday card. When I heard this story, I thought that the church probably did her a favor, because it’s good to know that there are a lot of things that the church cannot do for you once you become a pastor.
Friday May 15, 2015
A few blocks away from where I live, there’s a lovely green space. Renaissance Park is a revived bit of Chattanooga along the Tennessee River. There’s a walking tour that you can take, where you call a phone number and hear the history of the place. Within that explanation, a soothing voice speaks of how the Trail of Tears began on that piece of land. But, the audio recording goes on to explain, the removal of the Native people allowed us to have a vibrant business district.
Sunday April 12, 2015
I love this article on raising teenagers by Rachel Cusk. I didn’t at first. During the beginning paragraphs, I thought that it was going to be another generational screed about how teenagers are monsters.
Tuesday March 31, 2015
Pastors struggle with alcoholism. It’s not big news to those of us in the profession. Graham Greene's whiskey priest is a very believable literary figure In The Power and the Glory.
Saturday March 14, 2015
It feels like I’m always constructing my bio. Whether it’s for a 140-character Twitter account, a description for a conference, a display of credentials for a consulting client, or meeting someone for the first time, I am always trying to articulate who I am.
Saturday February 28, 2015
I was reading this article in the NYT, entitled, "Madam, CEO, Get Me a Coffee.” And it says a lot of the things that we have been reading and experiencing for decades about women. The workplace responds differently to the ways women work, and especially when it comes to staying late and helping others. This is particularly true for our work in the church.
Sunday February 08, 2015
Like a lot of my preacher friends, I typically read nonfiction, theology, and fiction classics. So, it was a little different for me to delve into the world of hot-off-the-press page-turners. I did it for a year. This is what I learned...
Tuesday February 03, 2015
Andrew Kort and Mihee Kim-Kort just wrote Yoked, a wonderful book about being a clergy couple. To celebrate its arrival in the world, Mihee invited me--along with other clergy couples--to reflect on our own stories. Please watch Mihee's blog for more stories.
Thursday January 15, 2015
This week, I was speaking to a handful of strong, smart writers who were on their way to publishing major books, but they were nervous about entering the Wild West World of the Internet. How were they going to handle the criticism they would have to endure?
Thursday January 01, 2015
As I settled into the pew at All Souls EpisÂÂcoÂpal Church in BerÂkeÂley, CalÂifornia, my eyes turned to the crayons strategically placed in the seats as an invitation for the adults to color their bulletin along with the children. I had a strange kid-at-a-birthday-party feeling. I studied the order of worship and realized that the service would mix the expected and the whimsical.
Sunday December 21, 2014
I often hear the term 'cafeteria Christian.' It is a description of our current religious milieu. People pick and choose what’s important to them in their faith. It’s usually said with disdain””and a bit of eye-rolling.
Thursday December 18, 2014
My daughter came home from school””elementary school””reading a book that she absolutely could not put down. Then she starts telling me the plot. 'Kids kill one another.'
Friday December 12, 2014
I sat during my first year of evaluations at the church. The personnel committee said, 'We love your work in the church. You’re doing a great job. But what are you doing outside of the church?'
Saturday November 29, 2014
My travels this month have been fascinating, because they have allowed me to look at new church movements from the view of a seminary, practitioners, and denominational leadership.
Sunday November 16, 2014
'The church’s best days are still ahead,' said CamÂÂeron Trimble. I shared a conspiratorial smile, as I often do when with her. She is executive director of the CenÂter for Progressive ReÂnewal, where I am a consulÂtant. She was telling me about ConÂvergence, a network that she is dreaming up with a group of people, including authors Brian McÂLaren and Diana Butler Bass.
Sunday November 02, 2014
In her essay 'An Expedition to the Pole,' Annie Dillard writes about explorers who didn’t make it. When their skeletons were exhumed, reÂsearchers learned a lot about their last days. For instance, many of them tucked settings of silver into their coats. When those adventurers braved the frigid brutalities of the AntÂarctic, they could not imagine leaving behind those elegant and weighty trappings of luxury.
Tuesday October 21, 2014
A few weeks ago, Meredith Gould mentioned something on Twitter that made me pause. She was in a discussion with someone else, and I was eavesdropping on the conversation, because that’s what we do on Twitter. She mentioned that there was a difference between guilt and shame.
Tuesday October 14, 2014
I think about the children of Abraham and Sarah, wandering around the desert for forty years, eating manna while they longed for milk and honey, stumbling over shifting sands while they yearned for the promised land. They had a tabernacle, a dwelling place for God that they set up and took apart.
Friday October 10, 2014
One of the most powerful forces in any sort of leadership is optimism, and it’s especially important in the church. Setting small goals and being excited about reaching them is crucial. Initiating a new mission, a Bible study, a community garden, or an outreach/evangelism plan and celebrating the achievement is vital.
Tuesday October 07, 2014
Often we want our churches to grow, but we're not sure what sort of tools to use. We don't have any sort of action plan to get the word out about our congregations. Of course, word of mouth is still the best way to get people to church, but there are things we can do to make that message sharable. Here are a few steps we can take.
Thursday October 02, 2014
There’s no feeling quite as depressing as a line of connection being suddenly cut short. Ministers have this sensation a lot. We’re often lonely in a crowded room. There are reasons for this.
Thursday September 25, 2014
I recently read 'The Circle,' Dave Egger's dystopian novel about a benevolent Internet company that eerily crept into every aspect of our lives, taking it over, one smiley emoticon at a time. Think about it like this: a company encompasses Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and then it begins partner with the government.
Thursday September 18, 2014
Walking into the sanctuary of Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church reminded me of a revival. The word revival has been used in many different ways in our religious history.
Friday August 29, 2014
Watching Richard Linklater's film "Boyhood" reminded me of the beauty of being with people for decades, of watching them change and growing older together. We have seen one another unwind.
Wednesday August 20, 2014
In the past days, I have been thinking about the people of Ferguson, as their grief and anguish over Mike Brown's murder pushes them to the streets in a longing for justice. And this is when I’m not a very good blogger, because I haven’t responded to anything for over a week.
Friday August 15, 2014
Most of us have seen this coming for a decade, but it’s still startling to read the headlines in the Atlantic: The Vanishing of Middle Class Clergy.
Thursday August 07, 2014
About three times a week, pastors ask me 1) how to get on the speaking circuit or 2) how to get published. The questions go together, because the answer to how to get on the speaking circuit is usually to get published. Sometimes they are just starting out in the ministry, and other times they are retired. Either way, my answer is the same, no matter what stage of life you’re in: Writers write.
Saturday August 02, 2014
Hugh Hollowell, a pastor in Mennonite Church USA, began Love Wins in Raleigh, North Carolina, seven years ago. Believing that homeless people need a pastor in their lives, Hugh began to care for people in the park.
Friday July 25, 2014
We’ve had family farms. We’ve had family businesses. We have worked and lived intergenerationally for many years. We had a small blip, where independent living became more of a norm, but now it may be time we go back to sharing our homes and resources. Is that such a terrible thing?
Friday July 18, 2014
Using fear, when it is already untamed in a person's mind seems (at the least) irresponsible, and (at its worst) close to torture. It can be a very traumatic experience when the adults, who are in charge of your spiritual health, exaggerate that fear in order to manipulate you. So, as spiritual leaders who work with teens and the parents of teens, what can we do? What can we do when we work with adults who have experienced religious trauma as teens?
Tuesday July 08, 2014
As progressive Christians look to the Bible, we come to the text with the curiosity of people longing to know not 'how,' but 'why.'
Sunday June 29, 2014
Bags are packed! Camel is ready! Can’t wait to see you all at #COJ1. Woohooo! @Peter @Paul @Simeon
Tuesday June 24, 2014
I had to have business cards made. It just had to be done. Even if people never use them any longer, they still ask for them. I struggled with what to put on them.
Thursday June 19, 2014
John Green was enrolled at University of Chicago Divinity School, preparing to become an Episcopal priest. He was doing his CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), working as a chaplain when he conceived The Fault in Our Stars. The book hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and Green didn't go to Div School.
Tuesday June 17, 2014
I’m not writing a book on the Gospel According to the Fortune 500 any time soon. Do you know why? Because churches have a much more sustainable business model than businesses do.
Tuesday June 10, 2014
Now that online community is possible, and people are looking to their computers, tablets, and phones for those sacred moments, how are churches responding?
Friday June 06, 2014
I returned from UNCO (short for Unconference), an open-space incubator for churches. We wanted a place where creative ministries would be celebrated and supported, and it’s working. We have grown from two new ministries to over twenty. It’s a brain trust for starting progressive communities and sustaining traditional ones. The break-out groups are always interesting, because they give us a taste of what young(ish) ministers struggle with and what they’re excited about.
Tuesday May 27, 2014
My friend, Landon Whitsitt, and I have an ongoing argument about a particular metaphor. When you complete a piece of art””a poem, book, sermon, painting, or (in Landon’s case) song””what is that process like?
Thursday May 22, 2014
If you look around at most denominational meetings, you will see that Baby Boom retirements will have a massive impact on our denominations. Boomers make the majority of those in the pews, in the pulpits, and in power. The first wave of Boomers is in the midst of retiring, so what can we expect? How will this affect us?
Tuesday May 13, 2014
An interview with Nick Larson, Aric Clark, and Doug Hagler on their new book, 'Never Pray Again.'
Thursday May 08, 2014
In a recent interview, someone asked me, What did you write in Tribal Church that you regret? Is there anything that you would change? The question reminded me of the fact that we’re always predicting and observing things that may not prove to be true a few years later. Here are three myths that I often hear about ministry that I question.
Thursday May 01, 2014
Yes, a vocation should give us joy, but sometimes the sunshine comes with sorrow and suffering. If we enter into the profession thinking that everyone is going to love us, that every day will make us come alive, that we only get the parts of the job we choose, we’re going about it all wrong.
Friday April 25, 2014
When we imagine what a church can become, there is one thing that can be a great liability or a considerable asset: the church building itself. It can be difficult to know what to do with the stained glass and soaring ceilings, especially when a congregation needs a new mission and ministry.
Tuesday April 22, 2014
We know about all of the shifts in communication and technology, but there are also huge changes when it comes to giving money. Younger generations often think much differently when it comes to finances and budgeting, and we should think differently as a church as well.
Tuesday April 15, 2014
For a good generation, Alban has been creating books and resources that slip into our common clergy vernacular. When we think of applying of family systems theories, navigating size transitions, being a blessed church, re-imagining faith, creating open-source communities, or (if I may dare to add my work to the Alban classics) reframing hope, we often refer to Alban.
Wednesday April 09, 2014
My good friend has three beautiful children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. Forcing them to sit through an hour-long service had become too difficult when the community didn’t understand how people of all abilities could worship together.
Tuesday April 01, 2014
I grew up in the midst of the Prosperity Gospel movement, and it’s left its mark, I’m afraid. I believed that God would bless (meaning financially bless) those who served the Almighty. It wasn’t only that money came with service to God, but financial reward also came with God’s favor.
Thursday March 27, 2014
Yesterday, I was removed from the hazy world of The Goldfinch. Though the book is quite lengthy, it felt like it wasn't quite long enough. Don't get me wrong, the ending was satisfying, I just wanted to linger in the rich work that Donna Tartt created.
Thursday March 13, 2014
In the years to come, as denominations close churches and plant new ones, we should remember that the churches being planted today also reflect a particular culture of their own. The key will be to celebrate and support differences and interpret them to one another.
Thursday March 06, 2014
Those who know me well know that I have a teenaged daughter who speaks most fluently in the language of books. We've always enjoyed stories together, so these days I spend a great deal of time reading teen and YA literature. The latest request was the 'Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.' She wanted to find out who Mara was and thought that we could talk through it.
Thursday February 27, 2014
Where is that iconoclast spirit? We yawn as cheaper, mass-marketed pictures take the place of icons. Jesus smiles from our bumper stickers and T-shirts. Now we trade in Rublev for Sallman, without much protest. If we're going to give up our iconoclast ideals, shouldn't we do it for the sake of decent art?
Thursday February 20, 2014
According to Matt Hedstrom, our worries about not having enough men in church are not new. They existed even before we women started getting cooties under our collars.
Thursday February 13, 2014
As a pastor, I often preach about something and members of the congregation will say, 'You can’t talk about this, get us all worked up, and then not do anything about it!'
Tuesday February 04, 2014
Hipster reflects a certain age group. When we speak of different generations, we use terms””geezer, hippie, slacker””as pejoratives. It can be a way of belittling people, putting them in another category so that they aren’t taken seriously.
Tuesday January 28, 2014
In the past we have had a sort of architecture to our religious thought in the United States. It is being dismantled. But it is also being reassembled.
Tuesday January 21, 2014
I am sensitive to the unfairness of life. People walk around, go to work, sing hymns, pray liturgies, while tragedies rip up their days. My heart breaks when I find out about the horrible things people do to one another. I become overwhelmed by the worry that people bear for one another.
Tuesday January 07, 2014
When the only religious voice is fighting against contraception, we have the hazard of communicating to a generation of women that Christians don't care about their education, productivity, or empowerment.
Tuesday December 31, 2013
One of the most fun films I saw this year was World’s End””the final installment of the trilogy that included Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. While the first two were about zombies and buddy cops, this one was about saving the planet from Stepford-like robots.
Thursday December 12, 2013
The courts have been inundated by cases from corporations who refuse to provide insurance for contraception based on the religious beliefs of their owners. The Supreme Court will be hearing the cases soon. As a clergyperson, I’m obviously concerned about people being able to have the freedom to practice their faith. Yet as a woman, I am concerned about the health and dignity of people who need contraception. What happens when those two things contradict one another?
Wednesday December 04, 2013
As grateful as I am for the time and mentorship of some pastors early in my ministry, it took me years to sort out that I needed to consider the source of a lot of the counsel. As a 26-year-old woman, I was dealing with different issues than the pastors surrounding me. Here are some of the things I often hear in ministry, that I’ve had to adjust for my circumstances.
Saturday November 30, 2013
I watched my dad breathing through the tubes in his nose and I heard the machine beeping by his bedside. I found myself looking over at the pulsing line almost as much as I monitored his resting eyes. It reminded me of that children’s book, Harold and his Purple Crayon. I thought about how my father’s brilliant life, all of the accomplishments, hopes, dreams, anger, fear and anxiety had been condensed to that glowing line.
Thursday November 14, 2013
For about a month, there has been an ongoing discussion about the term 'mainline.' I posted that I refused to use it because it has historic connections to upper class, white society and doesn’t adequately reflect the diversity of our social justice history. That spurred a number of Internet conversations.
Thursday November 07, 2013
Every year, UNCO offers a good gauge to find out what’s exciting and difficult about being an innovative church leader. Here are a few things that I gleaned from our recent gathering.
Friday October 11, 2013
Who will wrestle with the theological and ethical implications of our technology?
Saturday October 05, 2013
The religious landscape in Chattanooga is interesting. It may be a magnified version of what’s happening in a lot of places. There are many culturally hip churches that are utterly regressive when it comes to women. In our city, the number of PC(USA)’s are in the minority. That means that many Presbyterians in our town don’t allow women to be deacons, elders, or pastors.
Tuesday October 01, 2013
'Mainline' was not a term that denominational leaders came up with, but we have embraced it for many years. Now, it’s a good time to discard it. Why?
Sunday September 15, 2013
A lot of people talk about how the Occupy Movement was a flash-in-the-pan media stunt by a bunch of youngin’s who had no organization skills, no leader, and no clear message. And they would be wrong.
Saturday August 31, 2013
I write, speak, and consult a lot already, but I had a bit of a lull between now and when my next book comes out, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to jump back into bi-vocational ministry. But, I jump into it with a bit of trepidation, and I think that our churches should have some concern as well.
Thursday August 22, 2013
Many in Gen X are annoyed that we’ve spent a lifetime living under the looming Boomer shadow, and now we’re getting swallowed up by Millennials.
Thursday August 15, 2013
I’ve been working with God Complex Radio for over four years, and the readings and conversations never cease to nurture me in my preaching and writing. The guests are amazing. Although I’m regularly told that our conversations make long commutes and housework drudgery bearable, Derrick Weston, Rob Dyer and I have wanted to see these interviews used in other contexts as well.
Friday August 09, 2013
I was at a youth retreat and a senior in high school asked me, Who are your inspirations when it comes to public speaking? I mean, you’ve told us how you felt called by God and how the church influenced you. Who influenced you outside of the church? I said two things: TED Talks and comedians.
Monday July 29, 2013
I wrote an innocuous tweet yesterday. After pouring over commentaries and writing five different sermons and lectionary articles on Hosea, I simply wrote that I wished that Hosea and Philemon were not in the lectionary. My reasoning? I don't like that the books uphold the notions of people being bought and sold as property.
Monday July 22, 2013
I saw the stranger across the crowded room. My eyes were drawn to him like a dog to a raw steak. He looked lonely. I could tell that he needed a friend. I smiled broadly at him. He smiled back, and that was my cue. I walked over to him. My words oozed with kindness as I asked, If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?
Friday July 12, 2013
Most spiritual leaders have wrestled with faith. Most of your pastors and most of the people that you look up to have questioned their faith and doubted God. It’s just that when we do it, we call it fancy, poetic things, like, The dark night of the soul.
Thursday July 04, 2013
Thistle Farms is a social enterprise to create handmade products as good for the earth as for the body. They work with the community and graduates of Magdalene, a residential program of women who have survived sex work, trafficking, and addiction. Hear an interview with her founder, Becca Stevens.
Monday July 01, 2013
How do you close a church? When do you start having the conversations?
Sunday June 02, 2013
You will do big things. That's not just some sort of pie-in-the-sky commencement lingo. You will be changing Christianity in our country. You know why? Because we've been serving up a lot of Costco lasagna in our churches.
Friday May 17, 2013
If you’re a pastor, lay leader, seminary student, writer, academic or anyone interested in working toward the future of the church with action that moves beyond hand-wringing and an institutional nostalgia, then by all means, go to UNCO. You’ll find kindred souls there.
Friday April 26, 2013
This week, we feel the weight and yearnings of those far beyond our pews. We hold the pain of the country, as we pray for the bombing victims in Boston and those who suffer through the explosion in West, Texas. Someone addressed poison-laced letters to our politicians. We fought for sensible gun laws and felt desperate that our congress could not pass the legislation that a majority of Americans support, even after the mass shooting of children.
Monday April 22, 2013
On Thursday, April 18, I will be in the Chicago area for Impact 365. If you're in the area, you're welcome to attend! Here is an interview, conducted by Bronwen Henry, one of the event's coordinators and the Managing Editor at New Church Connection.
Friday April 12, 2013
Since Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, has been urging us to lean in, conversations have been buzzing about what it means to be a feminist. I’m always thankful for the opportunity to revisit the question.
Friday April 05, 2013
How do extensions, avatars, anonymity, masks and criticism affect the way we see ouselves in community?
Saturday March 30, 2013
How retraditioning, innovation, teams and mututality can help us as we face what's to come in the future of the church.
Sunday March 24, 2013
What do you think the church will look like in 20 years? People constantly ask me this question””in person, on Twitter, on Facebook. I love looking at generational trends, philosophical understandings and technological developments, while praying and imagining where God might lead us.
Monday March 04, 2013
One afternoon when I was completely stressed out about some criticism I received from my congregation, another minister took me to lunch. She asked me about the history of the congregation and helped me sort out some of their past traumas.
Thursday February 07, 2013
When I walk into a space, I automatically imagine how it can be more aesthetically pleasing. As a pastor, my brain often kicked into action: Asbestos tiles and white carpet? We might as well put a sign up that says, "No children allowed." We could surely replace these yellow fiberglass windows with stained glass. We need to paint this wall.
Sunday February 03, 2013
Public Religion Research just came out with a report that says that 64% of evangelicals who say “pro-life” describes them very well oppose stricter gun laws. How can this be?
Thursday January 10, 2013
What are progressive Christians doing in order to help women thrive in our society? And can we learn anything from the Religious Right?
Monday January 07, 2013
I'm proud to be a part of a movement whose great concern is learning to love your neighbor as you love yourself. And as we move into the New Year, I hope those voices of justice will grow stronger and I wish for some other things as well.
Saturday December 15, 2012
We called it the spring semester, but it felt like the dead of winter to me. The never-ending Chicago cold months slapped me in the face. I juggled my new schedule along my books, when I walked into the classroom filled with women. I was a student at Moody Bible Institute.
Monday December 03, 2012
I wrote that Progressive Christians are entering the age of relevancy, but I hope that we can quickly end our back-patting congratulations and get to work. I also pray that we will not respond to our relevancy by becoming ensnared by the trappings of power. On many accounts, it would be good to learn from the Religious Right and their demise. What happened? Why did they fall into irrelevancy? Can we avoid the same problems? How?
Monday November 26, 2012
It's been a sobering few decades for Christians who work alongside the poor, claim their feminism, respect scientific discovery, care for the earth, and yearn for marriage equality. We felt like the voice of Christianity had been captured by some strange ventriloquist, and it was proclaiming things that often contradicted our faith. We became frustrated with our own irrelevance, as our speech in the public square seemed to be on permanent mute.
Saturday October 27, 2012
The scripture text is full of emotional content and if we do not pay attention to it, then we’re missing another layer of what God might be saying to us.
Monday October 22, 2012
How do we respond to our anxious culture during this election cycle?
Monday October 08, 2012
I feel much more spiritual when I don’t admit that I’m jealous. It's not an attractive emotion and I’m sure that my shadow side will disappear if I never shine any light on my pettiness. But, somehow it doesn’t work that way.
Saturday September 22, 2012
As Christians who strive for social justice, we know that we need the fast and furious exposure that social media can bring. But we also need the long-term, careful work that takes decades.
Friday September 14, 2012
Recently, I was reading another article that said that the church should be like Apple computers and pastors ought to be like Steve Jobs. But that does not reflect the calling of the church.
Friday September 07, 2012
f you’re starting out in the ministry, here are some things that you can do when inappropriate comments are directed your way. These tools should be used for use with verbal, awkward, unwanted situations. If there is a physical touch, a verbal violation, or if you are in danger, the tools should be entirely different.
Thursday August 16, 2012
Montreat's Institute for Church Leadership is holding a Leading with Bold Imagination Conference. I'm the conference preacher, so they asked me a few questions.
Monday August 13, 2012
Most people who serve as church leaders realize what an important time it is in our religious landscape. Because of demographic, generational, technological, and economic shifts, we realize that many churches are coming to the end of their seasons. In this important moment, we will need leaders who can experiment, create, test, and plant. Montreat Conference Center interviewed me on this.
Friday July 20, 2012
For the last couple of years, I have been a bivocational minister by choice. In other words, I have had a strong, deep sense of call to the pastorate, a place where I have served and loved people for fourteen years, while also nurturing this growing drive to write. I understand the excitement and frustrations of trying to balance. As I thrive in two pursuits, I feel like I’m cheating life.
Saturday July 14, 2012
For ten years, I expected my father to die. For those long years, when I picked up a call from my mom, I anticipated devastating news. Dad had those mini-strokes that snuck up on him and addled his brain, and so I balanced for a decade on edge.
Saturday July 07, 2012
In our corner of the economy, excellent pastors got fired and many took wage and benefit cuts. In some cases, the congregations didn’t realize that their decrease in membership was a national trend that had a lot to do with shifting demographics.
Tuesday June 19, 2012
Authentic. For the last ten years, "authentic" seems to be a key word for ministers. I’m not sure when the shift happened, but when we work in multi-generational settings, the changing expectations can be palpable.
Monday May 14, 2012
As church leaders, how do we manage our time? Our day is already full, and now we need to do social media on top of it all?
Sunday March 25, 2012
"I saw him in the parking lot with her. I think he wanted to get caught," my mom's hushed voice bleeds with betrayal. Unlike most gossip, this conversation doesn't have the quality of a listener, hungry for salacious trivialities. The whole house feels on edge, as I sit on the couch in an adjoining room, straining to hear.
Saturday March 03, 2012
I’m chairing a committee that just finished its initial report for the national assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We were charged with making plans for our common future. Of course, these finding are from our denomination, but I think they’re instructive for most mainline traditions.
Thursday February 02, 2012
Not many people in our denominations would admit to being a racist. And yet, we hear stories of systemic discrimination on a constant basis. What are we going to do about it?
Friday January 27, 2012
I learned in seminary that a church is a place where we proclaim the word and administer the sacraments. I’m now learning there’s another criterion: financial sustainability.
Thursday January 19, 2012
In the beginning of our careers, it becomes particularly important to ask, what did God have in mind when God was knitting us together? What is our vocation?
Tuesday January 03, 2012
How do we do to signal to a new generation that they're not welcome in our churches? Usually congregations don’t mean to create these obstacles, but that doesn't keep younger generations from seeing them. What are the signals?
Friday December 23, 2011
One thing that has been difficult to realize (and equally difficult to communicate to the larger church) is the young clergy crisis.
Monday December 05, 2011
In some ways, I think of our churches like a crop of corn that was planted at the same time. That field produced corn for 50 years””so much wonderful corn that many of us were fat and happy. In our abundance, we forgot to diversify and plant new fields.
Tuesday November 22, 2011
A Scrapper is pragmatic. We are people who have learned to work outside of institutional structures in order to get stuff done.
Tuesday November 15, 2011
When first settled down to read Barth, I had to make sure that I had Kleenex close at hand. We read about God the Creator first. The words clinched me, each time I read, “God is for us.”
Sunday November 06, 2011
Recently, I discovered a new place in my internal landscape. It came after several rejections. When I was frustrated with a bundle of no’s, I went to see my spiritual director, and she pointed me to something else.
Thursday October 27, 2011
For three months, I’m immersing myself in the art of letters. It was as if my words needed to breathe and I’m relearning the beauty of the page.
Monday October 24, 2011
It occurred to me as I was talking about the situation in which many young adults find themselves, that we might need a new definition of selfhood. Right now, it seems that we define ourselves by our independence and our careers.
Tuesday September 20, 2011
We’ve set the landscape: we looked at work, family structures, finances and ethnic make-up. Now, we need to ask, what sort of church would work in a new generation? What is our vision for the 21st Century?
Thursday September 15, 2011
Putting energy into helping one homeless person does not keep you from defending the poor in the political sphere. Loving my daughter does not keep me from fighting for women’s rights.... One action informs the other, and we need to keep doing both.
Tuesday August 16, 2011
Our country is seeing an incredible shift in ethnic makeup, as a new majority emerges. If we can embrace those changes, we can be ready for a vital church for generations to come.
Wednesday July 27, 2011
I still have the song in my head. The haunted voice of Amy Winehouse echoes through my work, as I answer emails and file papers: "You know I'm no good."
Monday July 25, 2011
While answering “What is your vision for the church in the 21st century?” I’m focusing on a few of the cultural changes that have occurred in the last fifty years. We’ve talked about Work and Finances, now I’d like to look at Family Structures.
Wednesday July 13, 2011
This is the 2nd part of a series of posts that I’m doing as our denomination explores what it means to be a church for the 21st Century. Many denominations have been joining in, so please don’t feel left out if you’re not Presbyterian.
Thursday July 07, 2011
So, I’m heading up a national Presbyterian committee which is studying the Nature of the Church for the 21st Century. We’re asking people five questions....
Saturday June 25, 2011
As we creatively think about the future, we need to come back from the edge of the cliff a bit, and not be so quick to create ministries where we cannot feed our families.
Tuesday May 24, 2011
If I had one word to describe the Unconference (#unco11) experience for me, personally, it would be cathartic.
Friday May 13, 2011
Today is the day of my father’s funeral. He died last week. Here’s a sermon that I preached last weekend in Colorado…
Thursday April 21, 2011
I like that we have a God who needs””just like a baby girl who is being baptized, just like a grown man who is facing death””we come to this Holy Week knowing that we have a God who needs. And when we realize that, we understand something about the humanity surrounding us.
Friday April 08, 2011
Vienna Presbyterian Church (USA), one of the largest and most conservative Presbyterian Church (USA) churches in our area, is seeking forgiveness after the horrifying details of a sexual abuse scandal have come to light.
Friday February 25, 2011
Food is at the heart of our practice together. So it's important to remember that what we put on our tables can be an act of faith.
Tuesday February 08, 2011
I’m writing a lot right now, but I’m underground. I’m putting something together that will emerge in book form some day… but I’m not one of those authors who can put up her thoughts on a blog while formulating a book.
Friday January 21, 2011
I’m like so many moms who are fascinated by Amy Chua’s article comparing Western and Chinese moms. As I read her column, so many thoughts swirled around me. Guilt seems to be my most accessible emotion.
Wednesday January 19, 2011
if you’re a church leader, consider this your invitation to the UnConference. It would be lovely to connect with many of you in real life.
Friday January 07, 2011
I have watched people take different positions when the church betrays them or their family. They can reject the church altogether. Or they can proclaim that they are “spiritual but not religious.”
Tuesday January 04, 2011
I always cringe when I hear progressives say, “Well, they just need more education” when it comes to political, sexual, or theological issues. Why?
Saturday December 18, 2010
“Men are attracted to male leadership. We need more men. We will hire a man so that men will attend our church.” True or false?
Monday December 13, 2010
I don’t think that all marketing principles should be whole-heartedly applied to the church. I think many people get exhausted by continuous marketing, and don’t want our congregations to adopt all of those principles that can leave people feeling manipulated and used.
Wednesday December 08, 2010
"In this time of Advent, as we’re pregnant with expectation and all of these intense emotions swirl about us, as we long to see God’s reign, as we hope for a just and peaceful world, it seems that these messages are still important." Read on...
Friday November 26, 2010
It seems like I have been in the midst of many discussions around diversity issues lately. The contexts have been different: in new church movements, denominational settings, academic discussions, conference planning, and pastoral hiring. The questions and resistance persist.
Tuesday November 23, 2010
Often when churches are reaching out to people in their twenties and thirties, there is a tendency to expect them to become someone they are not before they walk into the door.... we cannot simply expect people to change who they are in order for them to fit in with us. It’s important to meet people where they are.
Tuesday October 26, 2010
As the air becomes crisp, and we see the vibrant falling leaves around us, often people of faith turn their attention toward giving. Even while we get caught in the frenzy of holiday decorating and menu planning, we think about how to share the abundance of the year and how to teach our kids to give.
Friday October 15, 2010
A friend of mine realized that she only had one friend who went to church. As someone who cares deeply about the church, she wondered why it was. And so she began to ask them, “Why don’t you go to church?”
Wednesday October 06, 2010
I often write and speak about the intersection of technology and religion, and so I’m keenly aware of the benefits and the cruelty that can be generated at that crossroads.
Thursday September 16, 2010
"When a church or nonprofit group engages in advocacy, when we need to get the message out about an issue like homelessness in our city, there are many things we can use when we put together a strategy." Read on...
Video by The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt
Tuesday February 08, 2011
The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt sits down with Peter Wallace for a wide ranging interview focused on her church in Washington, DC, her new book, and her view on youth and new media in the church.