by Demi Prentiss

Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran pastor and founder of the Church for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, CO, has announced the apocalypse. In a recent post, she reminded readers that  “the apocalypse”

… proclaim[s] a big, hope-filled idea: that dominant powers are not ultimate powers. Empires fall. Tyrants fade. Systems die. God is still around.

An apocalypse is a good thing, and I’m delighted to welcome you to this one.

As Bolz-Weber sees it, the #Me Too and #TimesUp movements represent the comeuppance of a long-time system of organizing the world – around gender inequality and domination. Using Friedrich Schleirmacher’s definition of heresy – “that which preserves the appearance of Christianity, and yet contradicts its essence” – Bolz-Weber calls out a centuries-old practice of Christianity:

The heresy is this: With all the trappings of Christianity behind us, those who seek to justify or maintain dominance over another group of people have historically used the Bible to prove that that domination was not actually an abuse of power at the expense of others, but indeed was part of “God’s plan.” And there you have the appearance of Christianity (Bible verses and God-talk) contradicting its essence (love God, and love your neighbor as yourself).

With the arrival of this apocalypse, we need to see how deep the heresy of domination runs, and then remind one another that dominant powers are not ultimate powers. We Christians need to repent of our original sins, and see where we have embraced the appearance of Christianity only to reject its essence.

This hard work – naming our own heresy and working to surrender the fruit of it – is the essence of daily discipleship – living our theology in daily life. Following Jesus – practicing the life of love – is essential. And, likewise, sharing the story of our journey is equally important. No matter your hashtag – #MeToo, #ChurchToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #daca – standing with those who resist domination and making room for their testimony is one way to live up to your baptismal promises.


Ministry in Doggy Life

by Pam Tinsley

There’s something special about Toby: He’s big and lumbering and has sad brown eyes that have a way of drawing you to him, making you feel comfortable around him, helping you feel safe. Toby frequently visits children’s hospitals and nursing facilities, in and around the South Puget Sound and also in Houston. When he enters a room in a nursing home, he is welcomed with joyful smiles. Children love to nestle in his fur and crawl over him. Oh, yes, by the way, Toby is a 165 pound St. Bernard – a therapy dog with his own Facebook page! Toby’s person Stan has a demanding professional life, yet he makes it a priority to create time to minister to others with Toby.

I think that sometimes we look around and see such tragedy and desperate need in the world that we wonder whether we can make any difference. We might become overwhelmed and even paralyzed. Yet, all it takes to reveal God’s love for the world is to show kindness to just one other person in our daily lives.

Stan and Toby are examples of what we can do if we combine our passion and compassion. In Stan’s case, he combines his love of dogs and his compassion for others into a ministry that touches countless ill children, seniors, families, and healthcare workers by showing them God’s love – in the midst of the ordinary. Although being faithful to Christ is really a small step for Stan, visiting patients together with Toby leads to a profound sense of healing and well-being to those whose lives they touch.

The Ministry?

by Fletcher Lowe

During my sophomore year in college, I got a note from the Dean of Students to come to his office!! UGH!, what had I done to warrant that? So, dutifully and a bit nervously, I came at the appointed time and was ushered in.  The Dean asked me to sit down, and then asked me a question:  Had I ever thought about the Ministry? The Ministry, really?  I answered that it had never occurred to me.  He said that he would like for me to give it some thought and prayer. And then I left.  WOW!  That conversation did percolate in my spirit, eventually leading me to seminary and ordination in the Ministry.

Early on in the Ministry, spending quality time with parishioners where they worked, I began to see that the Ministry was far broader than clergy. My sense of the Ministry opened up to include all the Baptized as they live their daily live on the job, in the community, in the home.

For whatever historical and theological reasons, the Church, however, has been more exclusive than inclusive in its sense of the Ministry.  Mark Gibbs, over 50 years ago put it this way:

The secular laity are not called by God to any lower standard of discipleship than clergy or churchly laity.  They are not limited to any less standard of life and witness. They are indeed, God’s first line of agents in the world. He has placed them and can use them in secular structures where the clergy can seldom penetrate.

So the Dean, not only in his conversation with me, but in the countless other aspects of his work, was exercising the Ministry.  It is the Church’s responsibility to affirm its laity that who they are and what they do constitute the Ministry.

More than ashes

by Demi Prentiss

This week’s calendar oddity of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day falling on the same day was made even more poignant by the horrendous school shooting in Broward County, FL.  A reminder right in our newsfeed of the infinite colliding with the daily, as school personnel and students became heroes in daily life by doing their daily work. What a commentary on our culture, with the students remarking afterward that they knew just what to do because they had practiced so often.

Having ashes smudged on our foreheads at the beginning of Lent reminds us that we’re dust, and to dust we’ll return. For many of us, that’s a stark reminder that we’ll all die – there’s only one way out of this life. Wednesday’s shootings certainly reminded us of that!

But there’s more. Traditionally, the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are what’s left after burning the palms blessed and carried in the previous year’s Palm Sunday’s processions. That liturgy celebrates Jesus’ arrival

in Jerusalem to “Hosannas” from the crowd. Just as they would for an imperial procession, the crowd placed palm branches on the road as symbols of honor, celebration, and victory.

Pillars of Creation, Eagle Nebula

What I remember, when the ashes are placed on my forehead, is not only the palms and the celebrations and Holy Week’s subsequent betrayals. I also remember pictures from the Hubble telescope – stellar clouds of dust and ash. The very stuff we – and the entire universe – are made of. Stardust.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Not only ashes but stardust. We embody both, in every facet of the lives we live in Christ.

Contrasting welcomes

by Pam Tinsley

About a dozen cars were parked near the dark church building as I arrived for an appointment on a rainy afternoon. From the main entrance I could see a woman talking to someone else in an open office across the lobby. Yet all of the doors were locked. I knocked on the window and then noticed a bell. I rang the bell and waited. I knocked on the door and waited. I rang the bell again, and finally the woman opened the door and barely acknowledged me as I followed her to the office. There she resumed her conversation with two others, one of whom was the administrative assistant. I felt completely invisible.

After several minutes, the administrative assistant finally looked up at me. I gave my name, the name of the person I had the appointment with, and that I was a few minutes early.  She hesitated in a way that suggested the person I had the appointment with might not be there, then said curtly, “Yes, you are. Have a seat out there, and I’ll let her know you are here.” I was directed to the dark lobby.

The day before, I had rushed out of the house wearing faded jeans and a rain jacket that had a tattered pocket lining. As I entered the business, I was greeted warmly by several clerks standing behind the counter and directed to an individual who could help me.

The contrast between these two experiences was a clear reminder to me, and I hope to all of us, that treating others with respect and dignity can begin with a simple “hello,” with hospitality that recognizes our shared humanity, whether in church, in business, or in life. It strikes me that this is a step toward living out my baptism in my daily life and toward ministering to others by seeking and serving Christ in all people.

One step further

by Wayne Schwab

As Fletcher Lowe wrote in an earlier blog, when he hears of a person in ministry, he comments, “That is a ministry.” If there is interest, he pursues how it is a ministry. The other is grateful.

I find a simple add-on works, too. You get a sense of how people can see God at work in their lives now.

Alba Campus – One Step Forward….

When I hear a mission (my term for a ministry), I begin with, “Can I ask you some, maybe, personal questions?”

If no, I say: “I won’t. Thanks for being direct.” And I go on with other conversation.

If yes, I ask, “Are you a church member?’

Again, if this answer is yes, I ask, “Do you see God helping you in any way in this mission?” I always get a rich answer!

If the answer is no, I ask, “Does the idea of God work for you in any way?”

If no, I comment something like that’s true for lots of people and go on to other conversation. If yes, I ask, “Do you see God helping you in any way to do this?”

Be amazed, as I always am. I get a rich answer here too.

‘You can’t not do this thing’

by Edward L. Lee, Jr.

David Brooks is one of my favorite writers and commentators. His twice-weekly op-ed articles in the New York Times are a must read for me. He isn’t just an opinion columnist or political observer. In my judgment he’s a serious moral philosopher for our age. I recommend reading his 2015 book, “The Road to Character.” In it he probes for moral depth by blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and humility in the pursuit of a virtuous life with authentic character.

In a 2016 Times column titled “Why America’s Leaders Fail” Brooks got to the heart of the matter when he wrote:

“Over the past few decades, thousands of good people have gone into public service, but they have found themselves enmeshed in a system that drains them of their sense of vocation.


“Let’s start with a refresher on the difference between a vocation and a career. A career is something you choose; a vocation is something you are called to.

“A person choosing a career asks, How can I get the best job or win the most elections? A person summoned by a vocation asks, How can my existing abilities be put in service of the greatest common good?


“A career is a job you do as long as the benefits outweigh the costs; a vocation involves falling in love with something, having a conviction about it and making it a part of your personal identity.


“A vocation involves promises to some ideal, it reveals itself in a sense of enjoyment as you undertake its tasks and it can’t be easily quit when setbacks and humiliations occur. As others have noted, it involves a double negative — you can’t not do this thing. … People with a vocation mind-set have their eyes fixed on the long game. They are willing to throw themselves toward their goals imaginatively, boldly, and remorselessly.”

For the Christian, baptism is a vocation and not a career; a call to serve, not an optional opportunity. It is indeed a part of our personal identity. It’s serious, solemn and yet joyful business. Isn’t that what we mean when after a person is baptized we pray, “Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works”? (Book of Common Prayer, p. 308)

I believe so. Baptism is living and doing God’s mission. It’s a vocation. It’s a holy endeavor we cannot not do.

3 ways for worship to support everyday life

by Demi Prentiss

Do the people in your congregation leave worship each week knowing God loves their daily work, and celebrating how they contribute to what God is doing in the world? Equipping people to be co-creators with God – sowing love and justice in the places they live and work – is a transformative purpose of the church. Too often our focus in worship is on what we do while we’re inside the church building, rather than on how we can be God’s agents of transformation once we leave the church grounds.

Made to Flourish is “a network of pastors who seek to encourage and resource each other to integrate faith, work and economic wisdom for the flourishing of our communities.” One of the ways they do that is to challenge pastors – and their congregations – to make weekly worship a place where people learn the many ways they are sent out into the world.

How’s your congregations doing? Made to Flourish pastor Isaac Wardell offers an audit that examines three areas – practice, pastoral care, and posture.

  • Practice touches on what we do and talk about during worship, and the difference that can make to people’s understanding of their work.
  • Pastoral care looks at some of the ways that some vocations are disrespected in our culture, and how the church might be more intentional in “respecting the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer, Baptismal Covenant, p. 305), especially in their work.
  • Posture deals with how the willingness to become a “learner” opens doors for life-giving relationship with those we pray for and minister to.

Once you’ve discovered an area you might like to work on, Wardell also offers suggestions on small changes that can make a big difference.

Want to go deeper? Take a look at our book Radical Sending for some more stories, suggestions, and strategies.

Claiming the mission

by Fletcher Lowe

Lynn McDonald, registered dental hygienist at the Naval Branch Medical Clinic’s Dental facility, gives a visiting student a ride in the dental chair. Photo by Verda L. Parker

As I sat in the dentist’s chair somewhat anxious (isn’t that what most of us feel!) awaiting the dentist, I began a conversation with the hygienist.  She spoke about how much she loved what she did, how fulfilling it was.  I said, “Sounds like you have a real ministry here.”  She paused and said, “I never thought of it as a ministry.”  I then pressed it a bit as to her strong commitment in using her God-given skills to help others, and she then reflected, “Well, perhaps it is a ministry…. Yes, I think it is.”

Last Sunday after a church service when I was talking with a newcomer, I asked what she did professionally.  She said she worked in a Social Service office.  I commented what a gift she must be to the people with whom she worked.  She responded by saying how much she did like what she did and, for the most part, she enjoyed the clients with whom she worked.  I said, “That is a real ministry.” To which she replied, “I never thought of it in that way. But maybe it is.”

These conversations reflect a couple of things to me:

  1. How isolated the word “ministry” is in many church-going people’s minds – limited to those who are professional “ministers.”
  2. How that isolation reflects on the opportunity the Church has – to acknowledge that chasm by helping people name the name, recognizing that what they are doing with their God-given time and ability is really a God-given ministry.

Christians are engaged in ministry every day in their daily lives, be it at work or in the community or at home.  We just need to help them name it.  In doing so we empower people to see that what they are doing is an expression of what God has called them to do and be.


by Pam Tinsley

As we turn the pages of our calendars to January 2018, perhaps we look with hopeful expectation to the New Year. Perhaps we think of it as a fresh start. And it will indeed be a new year: although our rituals and the seasons lend continuity and a sense of familiarity, each day opens us to a new beginning.

We may even contemplate New Year’s resolutions! Yes, I know: within a week, 25% of resolutions will be history. By year’s end, fewer than 10% will have been fully kept.

As much as I’m not a particularly avid “resolutionist,” a newspaper article[1]  recently caught my eye:  The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions. The author suggests that, if we rely on self-control and willpower, resolutions will fail. Instead, he contends, our emotions — specifically, gratitude, compassion and an authentic sense of pride (not “hubris”, but what I would call “inner joy”) — encourage us to behave in ways that result in self-control. When our values are focused outwardly toward others, rather than inwardly toward ourselves, we are more likely to make meaningful changes in our lives. In short, these qualities – gratitude, compassion and a sense of inner joy – are also the basis for establishing and sustaining relationships.

And, certainly, as followers of Christ, we understand that our values are shaped by Jesus’ values of love, compassion, gratitude and inner joy.

This insight is helping me reframe my own perception of resolutions and to consider how I might take steps to embrace Jesus’ values more fully in my daily life. What about you? How might your New Year unfold if you embrace Jesus’ values of love, compassion, gratitude and inner joy in your daily life?

[1] DeSteno, David. “The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions.” The New York Times, December 29, 2017.