May 29, 2019

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a celebrated speaker, writer, and activist living in Durham, North Carolina. He is the author, most recently, of Reconstructing the Gospel : Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion. Here are several of my questions to him about his groundbreaking book, and his responses. Mark: For someone devoting your life to overcoming racism, both personally and collectively, what do your practices of prayer look like?  Jonathan: My journey toward freedom from slaveholder religion has been one of unlearning a hyper-individualized piety. Part… Read more

May 22, 2019

Matthew Fox is a prolific writer, from whom creative spirituality passionately pours forth. His two recent offerings are not theological texts in his classic “Original Blessing” or “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ” vein; they are books to help us pray. But they are books that help us pray in the broad, deep, and universal way that Matthew Fox envisions prayer—as a radical response to life itself. In Naming the Unnameable, Fox gives readers a devotional-style, small book of paragraph-length… Read more

May 15, 2019

Last week, my local independent cinema in Williamstown, MA showed a one-time showing of the film Mary Magdalene. Rooney Mara stars exquisitely as Mary, and Joaquin Phoenix performs a beautiful and conflicted Jesus. A good number of community folks turned up for the showing, including a sizable crowd from the Congregational Church where I pastor; I slouched low in my seat, three to four rows from the screen, and wept quietly nearly the whole movie. I’m still unpacking why the… Read more

May 13, 2019

Wonder is a word for a life saturated with praise. Regardless of belief system, we don’t need to be afraid to praise. Praise! Praise God! Praise reality. Praise the cosmos. Praise color. Praise paint. Praise bodies, animal, human and celestial. By whatever name you call the endless depths, the ultimate concern, praise. There are some people who allow wonder and praise to overtake their lives. These are the saints, the prophets, the artists, the mystics. John Muir is one such wonder-filled man…. Read more

May 8, 2019

Note to the reader: This narrative is a summary in my own words of the tale told in A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos, by Dava Sobel. Read The New York Times review here. A man named Rheticus, in the year 1536, takes a job teaching mathematics at the University of Wittenburg. Wittenberg is the hotbed of Lutheran theology that galvanized a movement. The site of the 95 theses. Martin Luther’s colleague Philip Melanchton, a noted scholar in his… Read more

May 1, 2019

I had it all planned out: a stay at a Trappist monastery planned for my summer sabbatical from pastoral ministry. I put down the deposit to secure a room. I steeled myself with intention to make it to 3:30am vigils prayer. I looked forward to the rhythm of Psalm chanting, participating in lectio divina, intensifying my commitment to silence, chewing on small passages of mystical texts, dialoguing with monks in their daily conferences. Then, to my surprise, I received a… Read more

April 25, 2019

Wisdom is a woman. In Proverbs eight, she is a teacher walking the streets. She cries out at city gates, or in analogous city squares today with neon, blinking signs, while we scroll our devices: pay attention! Wisdom’s gleam lasts longer than jewels, she says, her depth cannot be bought or sold. She speaks about justice, laughs with delight, and marvels at the beauty and wonder of the cosmos. Wisdom in Proverbs chapter eight is not something to be studied, or… Read more

April 21, 2019

We grieved this week as Notre Dame Cathedral burned. Many hearts broke while reliving memories from that sacred place: memories of visiting as a young child, or with our young child, or while backpacking Europe with a friend. There she was, whether on our phone’s feeds or on the TV or directly across the river: Our Lady and her timber spire and wooden roof, unimaginably ablaze. The cross and the altar stood surrounded by ash, proclaiming in naked symbol the… Read more

April 14, 2019

I always have an uneasy feeling on Palm Sunday. I enjoy waving palms in church like my six and four year-olds, but I’m always struck by the incongruity between the crowd’s Hosanna shouts and upcoming Friday’s bloody execution and abandonment. If I’m honest, Palm Sunday as a liturgical day feels false. It feels false to me likely because I identify with the crowds. I know how fickle I am. Jesus knows just what he is doing, and never pretends to… Read more

April 10, 2019

The Shakers planted some of their most vital outposts of utopia near where I live, in little towns such as New Lebanon, NY and Hancock, MA. I’ve taken inspiration from them–which is perhaps odd for a Congregationalist pastor, but feels both geographically and spiritually attuned. Their spirituality distinctly branches off from Protestantism, while at the same time locates itself in the long stream of mystical spirituality throughout Christian faith. The Shakers prioritize direct experience of God, and often over-against dogma… Read more

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