How we failed to plant a successful church

Bec Cranford-Smith works at the Gateway Center in Atlanta. She is the site supervisor of  contextual education in partnership with Gateway Center and  Candler School of Theology. She is the pastor of Church of the Misfits.

 How We failed at Successful Church Planting  I sat with middle aged white men in a room decorated by someone infatuated with browns and oranges. The paintings seemed vaguely reminiscent of French vineyards and Italian streets, yet I was closer to crop dust, cotton and Crepe Myrtles in Macon, Georgia. The inquiry began after a couple of jokes and a word of prayer. I crafted my vision of the Church of The Misfits, sharing with conviction about contextualizing Christ to … [Read more...]

Lithium and a Prayer: A Few Thoughts on Mental Illness, Medication, and Spirituality


Two weeks ago spiritually-minded people from across the country flocked to Hot Springs, NC for the 2015 Wild Goose Festival. The Wild Goose Festival is a progressive Christian festival celebrating art, justice, and spirituality.One of the talks was given by Sarah Lund, author of "Blessed Are the Crazy," and David Hosey, Associate Chaplain for the United Methodist Protestant Community at American University in Washington, DC. Their presentation,  entitled "Christ on the Psych Ward," explored … [Read more...]

The Confederate Flag, the History of the South, and the Testimony of our Sisters and Brothers

A few weeks before the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney was killed at Emmanuel AME Church, he spoke on the floor of the South Carolina Senate about Walter Scott. As he spoke of Walter Scott and the video evidence of his slaying, he likened the nation to Thomas, who said he would not believe in the risen Christ until he had seen for himself. Senator Pinckney said that many could not believe that a police officer would shoot someone in the back six, seven, or eight times. But many saw the video. They … [Read more...]

When Life Cannot Go On As Normal

The Sunday after the murders of Clementa Pinckney and his congregation members of Mother Emanuel AME was a difficult Sunday for pastors. There are some church contexts where people would not welcome any kind of reminder that there is a need for justice in the world. I would imagine that those churches would be even less inviting to the thought that they add to and benefit from the injustice that now pervades it. The idea that they may be somehow a part of an unjust kingdom built on a foundation … [Read more...]

Which are the good gifts?


Recently, I wrote about how the Golden Rule doesn't always clarify for people how they should treat people with disabilities The main reason that's true is that people can experience fear and disgust when they encounter people with disabilities. It's not an intentional choice, like name-calling, but rather a reaction that's learned, like slowing down when we encounter yellow traffic signs.The effects of that learned caution on people with disabilities are worth examining closely. One effect … [Read more...]

Room at the Table

I've been around long enough to know that the best parts of a conference don't happen at the conference, but around it.  The meals, the conversations in the hallways, the impromptu meetings in hotel lobbies, the setup, the cleanup, and the sharing of rides to and from the airport.  So several weeks back when the Transform Network was doing their thing in nearby DC, I was disappointed to not be able to attend the whole thing, but I was also resting in the confidence that I'd be able to skim the cr … [Read more...]

Charleston and the Grief of Prophets


Five of us from the Transform Network leadership team were at the Sojourners Summit when we heard about the killing of 9 people at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. I happened to run into two people that next Wednesday morning in the lobby of the Summit that I had only met online and via phone, Lindsay Andreolli-Comstock from the Beatitudes Society and Jacqui Lewis from Middle Collegiate Church. We said our hellos and as they headed off to what looked to be a meeting, I was invited to join. … [Read more...]

Thy Kingdom Come, but how?


When tragedies occur something within us cries out to respond. We want to say something to our fellow human beings — something meaningful, something we hope can temper the feelings of grief and despair one feels in the wake of great loss. But following last Wednesday’s massacre, I am once again painfully reminded of the poverty of language.Like many of you, I felt compelled to share a thought or prayer via social media. This desire was compounded by the fact that Rev. Clementa Pinckney, lead … [Read more...]

When the Golden Rule Fails

The Golden Rule asks us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Sometimes, this fails. Why? What can we do?

Recently, a friend of mine in their wheelchair had a walking person push past them in order to use the accessible stall. My friend showed patience and civility, but still ended up having to wait for the person to finish because that was the only stall they could use. The person who pushed past was probably not a bad person. They probably recycle and give to charity. They can probably recite the contents of Luke 6:31 without skipping a beat. If I just start the line, you’ll know how to finish it. … [Read more...]

Stepping Away from Leadership Voluntarily


I have had, over the years, some interesting and deeply thoughtful conversations with leaders, primarily in the church, on the subject of leadership. Prior to my engagement with church leadership, I had experienced leadership roles in community nonprofit organizations, professional associations, and my career as a commercial banker.I believe that many leadership skills can be taught and enhanced through education and training, especially in workshop and seminar settings with other leaders … [Read more...]