Monday, September 23, 2013

Summary of Sabbatical conversations - #1 – Wednesday, September 18. I. As we introduced ourselves the question was asked – What brought you to Three Crosses? Below are the responses: • Relationship with someone who was attending • Web site • Looking for a spiritual community • It was affiliated with a denomination of my past: Methodist and UCC • In search of community – yoga, it was in my neighborhood • Open and Affirming • Mission – outreach to the community • Progressive Theology • Spirituality – potential musical group – small groups The question was raised if we are intentionally promoting these “portals” in our ads and web site? It is a good question concerning, are we intentionally declaring who we are? II. What are some of the core values that you would name at Three Crosses? • Welcoming • Progressive theology – non creedal – no one image our idea of God prevails • Human interactions (relationships) are important • The atmosphere is not “churchie” as defined by old models of church – the environment is relaxed and casual, informal • Social Justice is important • We do social action, both as a congregation and support members who are actively engaged in social justice • The environment is celebratory – living into joy, not shame • God is experienced in the relationships we build • Education – about issues impacting our world, God and how we relate to both • No shame theology. The question was then asked about “how would a visitor see these values being lived in the community?” • There was an immediate conversation stirred about the name of Three Crosses and how for people with no religious lingo or experience could find the name very off-putting, scary and never attend to see the community at work. • Fellowship is an important part of our worship life • We are traditional in some elements of our worship, but non-traditional in others – we use inclusive language. • We relay that we are a place that allows people to be on their spiritual quest rather than conform to a particular spirituality • We are Open and Affirming Questions that surface that could use more conversation: Do we boldly and intentionally claim who we are as a community with a progressive theology – does our web site unashamedly proclaim our progressiveness? How much do we interact with our immediate community and invite them into partnerships with us – life the Old Town Triangle Association, Menomonee Club, Deborah’s Place, Clayton Homes, Buddhist Temple, St. Michaels, etc….. How are we intentionally inviting people to come to Three Crosses including our friends, co-workers, and neighbors?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My ponderings on Syria

As I write this blog post, I am aware of the challenging and complicated political issues within Syria. From what I read and hear, there is no question that President Assad’s regime has been brutal to the citizens of Syria and this brutality needs to be addressed by the world community. Standards of respect for human dignity and decency need to be upheld. The killing of citizens needs to end. These horrific actions against humanity cannot be ignored, whether they are done by Assad’s army or the rebels. Syria is a complex and complicated political reality, and of course resolution to this violence involves more than Syria. And yes, the choices the world has in responding are also complicated and complex. As I think about Sunday’s Gospel text (Luke 14: 25-33) I cannot help but think about how complicated and complex following in the ways of God have always been. This text lays out that following in the ways of God are risky and requires pondering deeply, conventional convictions that might seduce us to seeing the world through old patterns of behaving. It seems that the text is saying that there are no easy roads to follow; no pathway that does not include risk, rethinking, courage and imaginative thinking. And yet, we do have choices in how we behave. Bombing Syria as a “first step” in ending the abuse there seems counter intuitive. Have the more difficult pathways of diplomacy been traveled. Will more violence breed more violence? I am holding the world and the United States’ political leaders in my prayers, as they ponder making more war. I pray the peacemakers will emerge that will point toward the pathways toward peace. John

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I am back....

I am back from my sabbatical travels. I am still on the sabbatical journey - still processing the things that I encountered and discovered - but I am physically back in the office, starting today. So far it has been a great journey - and I expect the journey to continue as we talk about your discoveries and experiences while I was away and mix those learning in with my own. Our conversations will begin on Wednesday evenings, September 18 @ 7:00 pm. Too, I am grateful to the congregation for the time away and for all the congregations along the journey that showed Barry and me hospitality when we visited. I am looking forward to this Sunday, where I will give you some glimpse into my journey as we share in a Pot Luck welcome back. This welcome back is not only for me, but a welcome back to all of us – a welcome back to the ebb and flow of the fall. Also it is Communion Sunday - a time to celebrate the kind of community we are called to be, one with an open table for all to share in a taste of the Spirit’s love and mercy. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

a day in the lfe of...

I am getting a good glimpse into the life of young families these days. Up at 3:00 am with a two year old, assuring her that everyone is ok and that it is not yet time to get out of bed. Then up at 5:30 am with a two year old that just cannot sleep any longer no matter how much you try to convince her that it is still dark outside. Breakfast is on the go between getting ready for school, packing lunches and coaxing a two year old that she needs to get out of her PJs and dressed for the day. Everyone is out the door at 7:15 am for work and day care. When everyone gets home at 6:00 pm, there is dinner to prepare for family members who are famished from the day’s work and play. After a few moments over dinner (that came from a cookbook titled, Healthy Meals in 20 Minutes) there is some playtime with Daddy and Mommy, a walk for the dog, then it is bath time and everyone is off to bed to start the day again in the morning. (After writing this I had to go and take a nap, I am exhausted. I did not mention how the mounds of laundry, cutting the grass, cleaning the house finds time to fit into this schedule.) In the midst of this schedule, which I don’t think is unique, I am asking myself; how does the church’s activities best fit into this schedule? How can the church provide a place of rest and give people a place where they can experience the spirit of God in the midst of the day-to-day schedules that capture so much of our energy. This is the reality of today’s world into which the church must find itself offering the healing grace of God’s love. The church should not be asking for people to conform their schedules to the church’s but rather how does the church offer moments of reflections on the things of God that conforms to these busy and often sleep deprived schedules. I also know that all of us have schedule that are often consuming, leaving the church in today's world with the same questions around its relevance in our time. Perhaps Diana Butler Bass is on to something in her contemplation chapter?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Circle of Mercy - a peace church

Diana Butler Bass quotes Parker Palmer in her chapter on healing saying: “The gift we receive on the inner journey is the insight that the universe is working together for good…The structure of reality is not the structure of a battle…harmony is more fundamental than warfare in the nature of reality.” With that quote lodged in my mind, Barry and I will be visiting a “peace church” here in Asheville tomorrow. The service is a 5:30 and is followed by a potluck meal shared by the community. From what I read on their web-site, this church works to embody the reality of God's yearning for peace in the world. Their statement about their commitments is found at their web link: Their statement is a compelling commitment to being agents of healing in the world. It will be interesting to see in person how they live out this counter-cultural witness here in Asheville and who is coming to be a part of this community. In a part of the world that is saturated with guns, their counter witness itself is an act of courage. Circle of Mercy (even the name stirs up imagine of healing) is a congregation that is affiliated with the Alliance of Baptist and the United Church of Christ. Their website is:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What I learned at Seeds of Peace Camp

Last week, one child I encountered was my best teacher. This child was one who I least expected to be excited about the Seeds of Peace Camp at Land of the Sky UCC Church was a rough and tumble, hair in shambles child, who was thin as a rail, but looked as tough as nails. When I first encountered him in music, he popped out of the crowd of kids as a child who I labeled as someone who was not going to enjoy singing our cute little songs. He just did not look the angelic choir child type. It was to my great surprise on the second day of music, he said, “this is really a lot of fun, I love our camp, playing with all my friends, singing and hearing stories about God.” It was at that point that I said to myself; “see John, you cannot, dismiss anyone; everyone is full of possibilities, inquisitivenesses and surprises and each person is unique in their spiritual journey. The week at the camp was filled with amazing energy and as we mixed fun games, cute songs, playtime, craft making and adults providing yummy snacks, the children who attended Seeds of Peace Camp were exposed to the presence of God through these encounters. For this age group there were no attempts to systematically build a theology of God, but to let their experience inform them as to the vast array of emotions and experiences that go into fueling our spiritual pilgrimage and concepts of God. One never knows how this experience will ultimately be integrated into their image of God and life philosophy. But as a fellow traveler, it is not the task of any of us to produce cookie cutter “people of faith” but to let the experience do its own work. And thus in the long run we will all be more authentic in our faith and more invested in its implications for adding meaning to our lives. This is what I learned at Seeds of Peace Camp.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seeds of Peace Camp - day one! Asheville, NC

43 energetic children – arrived this morning – all full of the range of human emotions that make us human. There were those who were so excited to be there; you could see the glow on their faces, while others were clinging to the shadow of their mothers. Music class started things off. It is hard to be bluegrassy at 9:15 am, but I pulled it off. The violin rang out, bouncing off the concrete floors of the fellowship hall. The children sang out with great, robust voices. One mother told me how excited her 5 and 7 year olds were that a violin was there. They both started lessons this year. Great joy filled the room – and I was able to hit all the notes in perfect voice. What fun. About mid-morning, or first boo-boo happened – a 5 year old boy who was on the shy side had just begun to get warmed up to his group. In one of our transition moments, going from story time to arts and crafts, he fell on the sidewalk, putting scratches on both knees. Blood was shed, but not a tear. I was the one who rushed to get the first aid kit and patched up his knees and spirit. As I wiped off the blood, and carefully placed on the band aids, I thought, this is the task of the church in today’s world, offering comfort, healing to folk in times when we are bruised and scratched by life. Because of the knees, he missed most of the craft time, so I asked him if he wanted me to do his craft project – he said yes. I can tell you one thing, he may go home today with scratched knees, but he also goes home with the camp’s best, glitter and sequenced filled tree. None could compare. By the end of the day, he was back to running and playing as if nothing had happened. It is remarkable how the human spirit rebounds with a community that loves, mends and supports each other. Tonight I am headed to “Moral Monday” in Asheville. Thousands are expected to be there to protest North Carolina’s political march to the right. I go to that rally, with tomorrow’s Seeds of Peace Camp songs spinning in my head, one being “We are marching in the light of God, we are marching in the Light of God….”

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Preparing for North Carolina

I am resting - taking vitamins as I prepare to travel to North Carolina. Yesterday I had an on-line chat with the pastor at Land of the Sky UCC church where I will be helping teach their "Seeds of Peace Camp" for the first 4 days next week. Interestingly, I think they call this event by a new name as to avoid the language hangups that could imply that this event is an "old" Vacation Bible School paradigm. It is called "Seeds of Peace Camp." I learned yesterday that they have 42 children under the age of 9 registered to come. All children are related to this new church plant in Asheville. This number reflects the age demographic of the congregation. This congregation continues to be a new progressive church plant, with about 60 to 70 in attendance for Sunday worship, reaching out with a progressive theology. I am excited about these four days. I have been practicing my violin since I will be helping with the music. "This Little Light of Mine" now has a "mountain fiddle" feel and sound to it. So much fun. Also I am taking my clerical collar. There is a Moral Monday rally in Asheville on Monday. I want to be present for that rally, which is an organic push back to the new voter and abortion restriction laws that are being pass by the North Carolina legislators. So I will be enacting in my body: "this little light of mine, I going to let it shine." Will anyone volunteer to post bail if I get arrested?

Things Have Changed

I found this brief article on the UCC website. The discovery was a reminder to me that I (we) should not ignore the denominational resources that are looking into the changing landscape of our spiritual worlds. Some of the best social and religious thinkers continue to be within the "church," thus I should not ignore their critiques as I explore the direction of the emerging church. Link: UCC webpage UMC webpage

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Visit to Holy Trinity Lutheran - Lakeview

This worship experience was perhaps the “highest” church service style I will be visiting on my sabbatical journey. By “high church style” I am using the phrase to reflect the liturgical elements present during the service. While Holy Trinity is rooted in the Lutheran tradition, their service depicts elements one would also find in an Episcopalian or Roman Catholic service – from the processing with the cross, to making the sign of the cross as one enters the sanctuary, to the Communion liturgy. Because of the many elements present during the service, there was a “worship guide” pamphlet that helped guest or those who are not familiar with the tradition understand what was happening. And yet while these ancient elements were present, there was a “freshness” that also was present in the service. The sanctuary was filled with a diversity of ages, with the median age around 40. The worship bulletin was designed with guests in mind, with words of welcome on the bulletin, similar to the UCC slogan – "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." I felt at ease – perhaps because I knew the pastor and a couple of other people in the congregation. And I had no anxiety about the bulletin liturgy because there were helpful “guides” posted throughout the bulletin that instructed visitors on worship behavior. However, the print was obviously designed for a younger age group - 9 point font. The worship began with a lovely piano – viola duet. Actually in the very beginning, a Buddhist bell rang out, which served as a signal that worship was about to begin. The bell called people into a mood of silence as they prepare themselves for worship. While the music during the service was unfamiliar, it was quickly learnable and singable. The organ filled the room and moved one to sing. (Although I did see several people out of the corner of my eye who were not singing.) The sermon was short (10 minutes) since it was only one element of the worship experience. The entire service, which included Communion, was about an hour. There were no visual images projected during the worship. In fact, with the design of the sanctuary, projections would be challenging without invading the space’s design. (1920’s style building) The sanctuary was welcoming (except the hard pews), lovely decorated and well maintained. Much of their bulletin elements reminded me of Three Crosses, including listing of announcements within the bulletin. Holy Trinity’s web site is: Holy Trinity is opening a site up in the South Loop area in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see if the worship style will be different based upon the demographic they are trying to reach.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Barry and I are off to worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church here in Lakeview. It is perhaps the most “traditional” congregation we have visited on this sabbatical journey. This congregation is deeply rooted in its Lutheran tradition, but also has contemporary worship elements. I had lunch with the pastor on Monday and we talked about the intentionality of Holy Trinity as a community. Recently the community went through a strategic planning process and adopted five guiding principles: act with courage, be radically inclusive, cultivate empowering relationships, delight in God's beauty, engage with intention. The congregation was one of the first Lutheran congregations that openly embrace LGBTQ folk in Lakeview and that welcome continues to be an important part of their community ethos. From their web site they say: “Many people today struggle with organized religion and we understand the many reasons a lot of people are done with church. But give Holy Trinity a try. In some ways we do church in very traditional ways. Yet, in other respects, we are not your parents' church!” Holy Trinity is opening a new worship site in the South Loop area soon – working to appeal to the unchurched. Holy Trinity’s web site link:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Urban Village Church - Chicago

Located at a busy intersection, (Milwaukee, Division and Ashland) Urban Village Church is tucked away in the urban landscape that surrounds it. There is no evidence of a church – since it meets in a theater (Chopin Theater) on the edge of Wicker Park. As I walked toward the building, I spotted greeters outside on the sidewalk, welcoming folk and pointing them toward the inside of the building. As I walked in, I was greeted and asked to put on a nametag – and handed a bulletin. That felt churchy. Since I was a bit early, I rambled through the narthex, looking at the eclectic collection of hangings on the wall, from paintings to prints to fabric. As the “sanctuary” opened and I found a comfortable place to sit, I could not help but notice, nothing in the space spoke of “church” in the traditional sense, except one table tucked in the corner of the space with bread and wine setting on it. Also absent was any indication of this being a United Methodist congregation. The band was taking up most of the front of the space – and around the room were stage props set up for the “drama” that was playing at the theater. But the props worked well to relay the feeling of the urban world. If I was guessing what play was being performed at the theater, my guess would be West Side Story. As the service began the first praise song went right over my head – unfamiliar. I was happy when the second praise hymn was Holy, Holy, Holy. I knew the words, but have never sung it to a bass guitar. The rest of the service had traditional elements, sermon, communion, and scripture readings – so the core of the service was familiar. The median age was 30ish (many in their early 20s) – and the sermon was directed toward that age range. The topic of the day - sex. I am sure that the text was not part of the lectionary readings for the day. The sermon’s theme was inviting the congregation to think intentionally about how their sexuality and sexual behaviors fit into a “Christian” sexual ethic. The sermon lasted 35 minutes. After worship I had a warm conversation with 6 members of the congregation. It was obvious from their enthusiasm and their candor, that Urban Village was meeting a deep need within their spiritual life as they tried to live faithfully within their diverse, urban landscape. I appreciated their hospitality, and energy. Urban Village web site is:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Urban Village Church

I am off to Urban Village church this morning. This community is a United Methodist church plant here in Chicago that launched about 5 years ago and now worships in four locations. It is interesting that it is hard to find on their website that they are denominationally related to the UMC. They do declare in a small section of their beliefs page that they are affiliated with the UMC. For me it might indicate that denominationalism is not as important within today's religious world. This is a congregation that has no building, but rents space in all of their locations: South Loop, Wicker Park, Andersonville, and Hyde Park. Urban Village is an intentional church plant, with the Northern Illinois Conference contributing financially to its start up. If you want to check out their web site it is located at:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Any church model?

In the wake of the verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial I am left with a deep sadness and a simmering anger. My sadness arises out of a place of deep woundedness from the senseless loss of life of Trayvon Martin. My simmering anger arises out of seeing both the media and political figures seemingly unwilling to see this moment as a time to pause from “standing their own ground” and showing openness to hearing from the other how the verdict perpetuates the woundedness of violence within our country, on so many levels. Can we get beyond our critical posturing and have a respectful dialogue? As it should, the verdict has stimulated both private and public conversations about race, violence and laws that perpetuate violence in our country and how our strongly held convictions and embedded views often limit our vision and our public debates. It is my hope that any model of “new church” that we review holds deeply to one fundamental core value which will always surface: that God’s way in the world is a way of non-violence and shalom and that “church” should be a place where we value the holiness of human life. “Church” should be a place where our convictions reflect to the world a sacred quest for God’s justice.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Solomon's Porch

We are back from our visit to Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis. Wow – it is a long drive to Minneapolis, but it was a beautiful one. We wanted to experience the community of Solomon’s Porch as depicted in Doug Pagitt’s book Church Re-Imagined. What we experienced with the “flesh” is in fact what one would find described within Doug’s book. The community meets in an old Methodist congregation’s building and when you walk through the doors – you knew this community was reimagining church. The sanctuary pews have been replaced with sofas, armchairs, rocking chairs, tables with seating. It feels like a large coffee house with the art decor on the walls giving a feeling of welcome. There is no pulpit – or central place that symbolizes a concentration of "power." No one seems to be “in charge” although Doug, the founding pastor, spoke and invited everyone to join in the worship. And thus the service was underway. The service begins with a projected call to worship that is read by individuals within the congregation – at random. No one is preselected but join in; when they feel they are called to read, someone speaks up. It symbolized for me that again power and responsibility for the service is dispersed throughout the gathered community and is somewhat organic. After the gathering words are said, people are invited into Communion, with bread and wine or juice placed on tables throughout the sanctuary. The Communion liturgy is a short introduction into community – and then folk go the tables and serve themselves while at the same time chat with those who are gathered around the bread and wine/juice with them. It has a feeling of our passing of the peace only with Communion elements included within the ritual. I will talk more about details of the service, but wanted to say here that Barry and I felt welcomed and included within much of the service. Doug, Barry and I had lunch together after the morning service where we had a much more informative and directed conversation. We attended two services; one at 10:00 am (a summer alternative worship time) with about 25 people in attendance (no children) and a 5:00 pm (their normal worship time) service. The afternoon service had approximately 100 in attendance and lots of active, busy children. Barry and I were the "oldest" people there, with the average age of those attending being between 25 and 35. It was a very interesting day, filling my imagination. Also we met Dan and Lydia’s friends who attend there, which extended the feelings of hospitality by connecting us back to Three Crosses. Web site link:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Journeying to Solomon's Porch

Barry and I are off on our journey to Minneapolis – to visit Solomon’s Porch. I am up early to pack my suitcase. I know that in last week’s story Jesus as he was sending out the disciples, two by two, to other cities, told them “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals…” but I just bought new Teva’s (sandals) and I am packing them! I am aware that my suitcase has at least two outfits per day. One never knows what the world is going to bring, so one has to be ready for it – right? Now seriously, it will be very interesting to witness the life of Solomon’s Porch for one brief day – to see how they embody in the flesh their community.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Friendship Presbyterian Church visit

Yesterday Barry and I attended a Presbyterian Church ( in Norwood Park, which leases space and meets in a Metra train station. Three Crosses shares so much of the same contextual questions as they do. Their place of worship is a challenge as far as their ability of having a neighborhood presence. Who would ever expect a congregation to be meeting in the train station? Yesterday, the worship service was outside – and it was a similar number of folk that one would see at Three Crosses on a given Sunday. Being outside provided a more informal setting – we were even asked to take off our shoes and “leave them behind” as Jesus asked the disciples to not take much with them when they went into the cities. (Yesterday’s lectionary text.) The service was interactive. During the worship service – we “traveled” between conversation partners within the congregation to talk about topics that the pastor set before us. After worship, Barry and I had a great conversation with the pastor. It was reassuring that this congregation was right where COTTC is on our journey of rethinking church. We share some of the same questions around worship, marketing/outreach (evangelism in old model church language) missions and financial viability. I asked my 8 core questions and have logged them into my traveling journal.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Visiting Friendship Presbyterian Church

Barry and I are off to our first church visit – Friendship Presbyterian Church which meets in a Metra Station – except tomorrow – they are having worship outside. Here is their web link: Here is a bit of who they are: At FPC we believe that being a church isn’t about a building, it means seeking to be God’s hands and voice in the world. As a faith community, our mission is to create relationships that transform lives. We do this by welcoming and serving those around us. We also believe that God’s love is bigger than the labels and boxes that often define us but just to be clear, you are welcome to join us on our journey no matter your age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, mental, physical or socio-economic status, we are glad that you are here! We promise that all will be welcomed, accepted, and celebrated as a beloved child of God. We respect and celebrate our differences, delighting in the variety of talents and gifts that result. We utilize the historic Norwood Park Metra Station for weekly worship plus monthly music concerts, community events, art shows and preparing monthly meals for The Night Ministry (a Chicago program that feeds the homeless and hungry and provides them with medical care). We are a transforming community, working on intentionally developing our faith and nurturing spiritual growth as we explore together the endless possibilities in relationship with each other, our community, and with God.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Spirituality as journey

As Barry and I sat still soaking up the July 4 firework's finale - the person standing beside us said to his family in a disappointed tone: "is that all there is - 15 minutes of fireworks and it took us three hours to get here and will take three hours to get home." With the day’s readings from Church Re-Imagined still lingering in my head I thought - folk could often say that about the church worship service if they only see the 11:00 am service as the "primary" moment within their spiritual journey. Did the disappointed spectator see any of his trip to and from the fireworks as moments of joy, did he feel a connection with his family, or did he feel the rumblings of a big city as part of his continuing story of human development? Should the fireworks be more than about the "moment" when streamers of fire are falling from the sky? Church Re-Imagined is helping confirm an intuition that I have been living with for some time. While I was taught in seminary (in the 1980's) that worship was the "primary moment" in the church's weekly activities; the moment when the church had a chance to transform and impact those gathered, I have felt deep within my bones that every relational encounter throughout the week, and the quality of those relational moments are equally or more important that what we say with our lips in that hour of worship. While what we do in worship is a critically important part of articulating publically who we are as a faith community, if it stands along, then I think we could be falling into "a sort of 'patent leather' spiritual formation - a glossy, slick substitute for the real thing [which] involves little vulnerability or self-disclosure. It is easy …to listen to someone talk about spirituality and belief without opening up to its implications. There is a certain ironic comfort to a life that looks the part on the outside while wilting away on the inside. But when a friend tells you about a deep struggle, and the natural response is to enter in to the person's life, whatever the risk - then we find ourselves being transformed into the people of grace and mercy opened for us in the Kindom of God." page 149. Church Re-Imagined

Monday, July 1, 2013

Day 1

It seems a bit odd that I am not headed to the church's office as I routinely do on Monday mornings. I feel a little off kilter, but in many ways that is what this sabbatical is about - opening myself/oursleves to new experiences - feeling a little off kilter so that I/we are in reflective mode and thus intentional about evaluating what we routinely do and perhaps take for granted. During the Pride Parade yesterday, where churches are cheered as we march by - it was a good reminder that "church" may have to hit the streets and take ourselves where people's needs meet the resources we have to offer. I know that the parade had a preset grouping of spectators, the more challenging reality is how to connect in ways when the crowds are gone.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Upcoming Sabbatical summary

The purpose of this renewal/sabbatical program is to re-imagine a mission model for “doing church” that will carry Church of the Three Crosses into the future as a congregation that remains a vibrant and relevant faith community. I plan to visit and observe at least six churches which have broken from traditional church paradigms, and have begun evolving into dynamic and exciting spiritual communities. It is my hope that we can glean from these observations vital ways of being church. At each of the church visits, the same eight, core questions will be asked as a means of maintaining consistency and focusing the discussion: 1) What would the community name as core values vital to its identity? 2) How are these core values expressed in its communal life? 3) What are the overarching theologies that support the community/ 4) How and why was its worship style developed? 5) Who is coming through the doors to visit? 6) How does it do missional outreach? And, 7) How is the community marketing itself? 8) How is your community funding itself? a. Getting Focused: July 1-10 Reading and visiting Friendship Presbyterian Church which meets in a Metra train station. Begin reading Doug Pagitt's book: Church Re-Imagined, 2005 b. July 11 – 15 Drive to Minneapolis, MN (Pam and Dave Clinefelter have invited me to stay with them at their house), and visit Solomon’s Porch Church. Meet with staff and members to explore what they see as “best practices” for this congregation. Ask Church Council members to journal in their reading of the Pagitt's book. c. Return to Chicago: July 15-August 2. Time to rest, reflect and organize information. Utilize the church's blog to interact with a church book group, which will be reading Church Re-Imagined. Begin reading Diana Bulter Bass' Christianity for the Rest of Us. July 21 - worship at Urban Village - Chicago - ask core questions to pastor and key leaders. July 28 - worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church - ask core questions to pastor and key leaders. Blog on the church's blog site. d. August 3 - fly to Asheville, NC. e. Land of the Sky UCC and Circle of Mercy, Asheville, NC: August 3 Travel to Asheville, NC. Visit a new UCC church development, Land of the Sky, which bills itself as an emerging congregation. Attend Worship and meet with the co-pastors, Rev. Sara Wilcox and Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, lay leaders and members. Help lead Vacation Bible School camp at Land of the Sky. August 11 I will attend Circle of Mercy UCC church and meet with the pastoral staff. I will spend the remainder of my time in Asheville to summarize and reflect on all my data and stay with my daughter. Attending all the events of Land of the Sky possible. During August, the second book group will be convened. f. Return to Chicago: September 8 First Sunday back at Church of the Three Crosses will be September 8. Worship celebration and luncheon. Give a brief initial report to congregation. g. Follow-Up Conversations The congregation will meet over the next six Wednesdays (beginning September 18) for conversation and reflections upon what it has learned about its present life and work at imagining its future life. John and others will facilitate these conversations. Here are the web sites of the congregations I will be visiting - check them out: ;Friendship Presbyterian Church: ;Solomon's Porch: ;Urban Village Chicago: ;Holy Trinity Lutheran Church: ;Land of the Sky UCC: ;Circle of Mercy UCC:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We celebrate the courage of Jason Collins and hope that his declaration will provide a pathway for a deeper conversation around sexuality. I pray that the media coverage he is getting does not stimulate negative conversation around dinner tables and locker rooms for gay teen who continue to struggle with their sexuality and coming out.