May 28, 2020

Ep. 29 Steve Ekerberg (The Pandemic Session)

Steve Ekerberg is a deacon in the Episcopal Church, a flight attendant and union organizer.

Steve's union work is with The Association of Flight Attendants and the organizing campaign with Delta Flight Attendants.  He serves the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire at St. Paul's Church.

In this episode, we talk about the Poor People's Campaign, and their June 20, 2020 Digital Action.

I also mentioned Iona School for Ministry in the Diocese of Texas.

Music for A New Thing was created by Adam Powell of Best Friends Creative.

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May 27, 2020

He Died Unable To Breathe

George Floyd ... Ahmaud Arbery ... When will we learn? When will it stop?

My heart is heavy and so I will share with you something I wrote in 2014. How sad that it remains applicable to the treatment of black men in America, such as George Floyd:
He was a young man.

He was not a part of the dominant, privileged culture.

He came from a poor, under-educated class.

He was presumed not to be innocent.

He was wrongly accused and killed.

He died with his hands up [bound].

He died unable to breathe.

If we fail to see the suffering of the marginalized in our culture in light of the suffering of our Savior, then we fail to fully appreciate the vastness of His redemptive work.

Listen well, share your story, make friends, resist violence and learn.
A couple books to recommend as a good place to start: Willie James Jenning's commentary on Acts and Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink.

May 26, 2020

Brevity + Intimacy

I wrote back in March (It's not March anymore?!), encouraging Christian leaders to really think about what they were trying to accomplish online. At that point, some faith communities were thinking about going online for the first time. I've been impressed with how resilient and scrappy so many congregations have been when it comes to pivoting to online worship gatherings. Since then, my observations have led me to think about two things: brevity and intimacy. I alluded to intimacy in the other post in March but brevity is equally important.

First, let's talk about the importance of brevity.

Generally speaking, people have a shorter attention span online. Folks tend to watch only a portion of streaming/recorded services. This means that we need to be succinct and capture what needs to be said as crisply as possible. Even as communities begin to consider gradually going back to meeting in person, I wonder if it is worth considering "mini" online services. In fact, it may be important that our online gatherings reflect that brevity needed for in-person gatherings when those start to happen. There's evidence that length of exposure is a factor.

I'm talking about doing something different than streaming your pre-pandemic, regular services. I'm asking you to consider something different, that is more conducive to the online environment. To consider what works in this online context, one has to look at more than "views" of what you've been posting over the last couple of months. "Engagement" is more important here. Things like comments, 'likes,' emojis, etc. Determining what people are interacting with will give you a hint as to what is important to include for an online service.

Are they commenting on your sermon? What would this tell you? Could it be that briefer sermons that are more conversational should be considered?

Are they participating in the call-and-response aspects of liturgies? What would this tell you? Could it be that folks are pining for participation in worship, rather than simply consuming worship?

Are they greeting each other and chatting it up in the comments? What would this tell you? Could it be that what participants are truly hungry for is interpersonal connection and fellowship?

Now for a bit more on intimacy ...

Whatever format you use, your setting matters too. It's important to remember that for most Christian communities, members have weekly left their homes to enter into a church building. The opposite is now occurring. The church is inviting itself into the privacy of people's homes. My friend, Les talked about this on one of our Lunch + Learn's. Streaming a wide shot from a large vacuous worship space does not convey what you hope. Most will simply read that visual cue as,  "Oh, look: another dying church." A close up shot, possibly with the person leading worship sitting at a desk or table, conveys to the viewer, "Thanks for inviting us into your home. We're here with you."

This does go back to intentions. What are you trying to accomplish?

May 22, 2020

Ep. 28 Jack Gordon (The Pandemic Sessions)

Jack Gordon is a husband, father, documentary film maker, podcaster and interfaith community organizer. He is a co-founder of DDC International, organizer of the Interfaith Leadership Summit in Washington, DC and host of Interfaith-ish. On this episode, Jack and I talk about how households and faith communities across the religious spectrum are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic around the globe.

Church planters, I highly recommend checking out episode 19 of Interfaith-ish in which Jack talks to Jewish and Muslim leaders about starting new faith communities. And it was my privilege to be Jack's guest on episode 57.

Music for A New Thing was created by Adam Powell of Best Friends Creative.

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May 20, 2020

Discipleship During COVID-19

As the nation begins to open back up, so begin the conversations within faith communities about opening back up. What I have noticed is the heightened anxiousness and frustration that quickly enters these planning conversations. In many–if not most–instances this has reflected how much our political leanings influence decisions.

It seems important to note that in the midst of our plans regarding going back to in-person gatherings–as slow and pro-longed as they may be–there is a discipleship opportunity.

Popular culture, the market and the state will do what they will. The church ought to make disciples of Christ. We don't make decisions based on our own self-interest but on how we might best care for our neighbor and love God with every fiber of our being. As Jesus told us, everything hinges on those two postures. This is yet another opportunity to shape people in the way of Jesus; modeling our lives after his in gratitude for the self-sacrificial love he demonstrated for us. Sacrifice not for the markets. Sacrifice not for the state. Sacrifice for the sake of God's love for all of us.

As you make plans for your community ask yourself, In what way do these decisions reflect our interest in the well being of our neighbor?