Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and here is

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Not so many people.  Why?  In part, apparently, because we are doing an increasingly poor job of explaining to the people who come through the doors what it is that we believe, why it makes a difference, and how it differs from what others believe. A recent Pew Research Center report concluded: Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions … [Read more...]

Loving one another

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Years ago I had a life-changing experience in a nursing home.  I was visiting an aging parishioner and, as is so often the case, she was sharing her room with another resident.  Both ladies were out having tests run, so I was left on my own to wait.While I did, I noticed that my parishioner’s roommate had a photo on the dresser.  Given the vintage of the picture, it was clearly a picture of my friend’s roommate, but  what was captivating was the subject matter.  Taken when she was a young woman … [Read more...]

Healing church, hurtful church

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We had dinner with friends last night and we began talking about the emerging church phenomenon — the latest effort to re-boot the church by breaking ties with the long-established denominational structures that have dominated recent Christian history. In passing, one of our friends observed, “Well, I haven’t been hurt by the church, so I find it much harder to turn my back on the day to day reality that we identify as church.” I was really jarred by the observation (though I didn’t say so) … [Read more...]

Did you find what you were looking for

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Last night after a long evening of work I stopped by the grocery for something prepared to eat for dinner.  Regularly the clerks ask, “Did you find what you were looking for?”  It sounds like a casual question, but it isn’t, of course.  If the associates have been properly trained it is a spot inspection, a window into customer satisfaction, and a mission-oriented enquiry. Are we meeting your needs? Getting the job done? Accomplishing our goal? Selling you product? Likely to see you return? It oc … [Read more...]

What do I really believe happens when we die

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I was invited to contribute to a feature at Patheos.com called  “What do I really believe…”  The subject in this first feature is the question, “What do I really believe happens when we die?” It isn’t a trivial question, nor is it purely academic.  The way any story ends decisively shapes what we make of everything that led up to the end; and the same is true of life.  And, while we don’t know in one sense what will happen, nor does anyone know in detail (how could you?), like any other set of ch … [Read more...]

The One

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Someone once said, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Both the former and the latter are inevitably true. Even people who enjoy considerable fame mean very little to most of us.  They may represent or embody some measure of shared longing or common commitments, but as individuals they are strangers; and the attention that their lives receive often deludes us into thinking we know them better than we do.  What we know about them is, in fact, what we are t … [Read more...]

Tom and Brandon

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This morning’s New York Times features a frontpage article that tells the story of Tom and Brandon.  They are cousins who shared in life’s adventures and, in recent months, battled advanced, aggressive forms of melanoma. The standard of care doesn’t work, but a trial drug does — or at a minimum, has promising results.  And in the case of patients with aggressive cancers, a bit of relief or some measure of progress is the most that you can hope to achieve. Tom and Brandon entered a drug tria … [Read more...]

The Teflon Directee

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Surprisingly — or perhaps not so surprisingly — some people seek spiritual direction without ever intending to follow it.  Like some who seek therapy, they prefer to discuss the challenges they face, rather than transcend them.  They seem to be made of Teflon.  Nothing you tell them seems to stick. Behavior of this kind can be willful — the refusal to respond to respond to God’s prompting — but more often than not there are deeper issues: In some cases, the directee has ye … [Read more...]


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