The Weekend Wanderer: 3 December 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


themangerembed“The Grand Miracle” – C. S. Lewis in Plough: “Supposing you had before you a manuscript of some great work, either a symphony or a novel. There then comes to you a person, saying, ‘Here is a new bit of the manuscript that I found; it is the central passage of that symphony, or the central chapter of that novel. The text is incomplete without it. I have got the missing passage which is really the center of the whole work.’ The only thing you could do would be to put this new piece of the manuscript in that central position, and then see how it reflected on the whole of the rest of the work. If it constantly brought out new meanings from the whole of the rest of the work, if it made you notice things in the rest of the work which you had not noticed before, then I think you would decide that it was authentic. On the other hand, if it failed to do that, then, however attractive it was in itself, you would reject it. Now, what is the missing chapter in this case, the chapter which Christians are offering? The story of the Incarnation – the story of a descent and resurrection. When I say ‘resurrection’ here, I am not referring simply to the first few hours, or the first few weeks of the Resurrection. I am talking of this whole, huge pattern of descent, down, down, and then up again. What we ordinarily call the Resurrection being just, so to speak, the point at which it turns. Think what that descent is. The coming down, not only into humanity, but into those nine months which precede human birth, in which they tell us we all recapitulate strange pre-human, sub-human forms of life, and going lower still into being a corpse, a thing which, if this ascending movement had not begun, would presently have passed out of the organic altogether, and have gone back into the inorganic, as all corpses do. One has a picture of someone going right down and dredging the sea-bottom. One has a picture of a strong man trying to lift a very big, complicated burden. He stoops down and gets himself right under it so that he himself disappears; and then he straightens his back and moves off with the whole thing swaying on his shoulders. Or else one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe. That indeed is a point I cannot go into here, because it would take a whole sermon – this connection between human nature and nature in general. It sounds startling, but I believe it can be fully justified.”


Advent Misconceptions“3 Popular Misconceptions About Advent” – Isabel Ong in Christianity Today: “For liturgy-loving Christians, Advent is a season of anticipation, marked by a posture of hopeful and expectant waiting. But for many evangelicals, it may pass by almost unnoticed and unobserved, whether due to an unfamiliarity with the church’s liturgical calendar or a cynicism toward Catholic practices. Advent means “arrival” or “appearing” and comes from the Latin word adventus. Each year, the season begins four Sundays before Christmas and lasts until December 25. It is divided into a period that focuses on Christ’s second coming and another that focuses on his birth. (Orthodox Christians observe a similar event, the Nativity Fast, from November 15 to December 24 before the Nativity Feast on December 25.) Advent began in fourth- and fifth-century Gaul and Spain as a season intended to prepare believers’ hearts for Epiphany (January 6), not Christmas. Epiphany is a day to commemorate the Magi’s visit after Jesus’ birth (in the West) or Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River (in the East). Today, Advent customs may include reading and praying through an Advent devotional and lighting one of four candles inside an Advent wreath each Sunday, corresponding to four weekly themes: hope, love, joy, and peace. Most wreaths also include a centrally placed candle to symbolize Jesus, the Light of the World.”


j-r-r-tolkien“Tolkien Was Right: Notes on the Respect for Marriage Act and the Post-Boomer Church” – Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy: “Some time after his death, an editor was going through the papers and books in J. R. R. Tolkien’s library when he came across an old copy of C. S. Lewis’s pamphlet ‘Christian Behavior,’ which would later be re-published as one section in Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity. Folded inside the book was a letter Tolkien had written but apparently never sent to his long-time friend and fellow Oxford don. In it, Tolkien took issue with Lewis’s treatment of divorce in the pamphlet. Briefly, Lewis argued for the creation of two separate marriage institutions within the United Kingdom. The former, church marriage, would be handled by the Church of England and defined by Christian conception of marriage while the latter, civil marriage, would be overseen by the state and would be governed by the moral norms in favor with British society. Through this, Lewis thought, British Christians could preserve Christian ideas of marriage, including the prohibition against divorce, while honoring civil laws that were far more permissive regarding divorce. Tolkien objected strongly to the idea and wrote an aggressive letter to his friend saying so. ‘No item of Christian morality,’ Tolkien said, ‘is valid only for Christians.’ In other words, Christian morality is human morality because Christianity is a true account of reality, including the human person. You can’t create bifurcations between a kind of privatized religious morality and the real public morality that governs our common life together.”


6dd45619ca00f6f4fb3cf0a95fd00796“Government legalises 125 churches and places of worship” – Christianity Solidarity Worldwide: “On 14 November the government committee which oversees the legalisation of churches in Egypt granted legal status to 125 churches and places of worship during a meeting chaired by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. The decision brings the number of churches that have been granted legal status since the committee began its mandate in 2017 to 2526, and follows the legalisation of 239 churches and places of worship at a similar meeting which took place in April 2022. In Egypt, churches must apply for legal status for their buildings, which in the past had to be approved by the security agencies. However, under the Church Construction Law (Law No. 80 of 2016), which was approved by the Egyptian Parliament on 30 August 2016, the power to approve the building and renovation of churches was extended to provincial governors. Despite this improvement, the legislation remains discriminatory as the same requirements do not apply to Sunni Muslim houses of worship, and other religious groups, such as the Ahmadi, Baha’i and Shia communities, are not covered by the Law.”


Wirzba Agrarian Spirit“Agrarian Spirit: Cultivating Faith, Community, and the Land – Brian M. Howell reviews Norman Wirzba’s Agrarian Spirit in Christian Scholar’s Review: “There is now a well-developed Christian literature addressing the dualism of mind- body, and the consequences for our health and flourishing when this dualism is taken for granted, ignored, or unchallenged. Theologian Norman Wirzba suggests there is another dualism that similarly threatens our spiritual-physical-social health; this is the dualism between humanity and the rest of creation. This might be thought of as the split between humans and nature, but Wirzba, the son of Canadian farmers who has been profoundly influenced by the life and thought of poet-scholar-farmer-theologian Wendell Berry, does not just want people to get in touch with nature, swarming national parks to vacation off the grid. Rather, Wirzba wants people to get in touch with the created order through the work we undertake in cultivating, harvesting, and consuming that creation. He wants us to live in a deep understanding of our relationship to, and interconnections with, creation in order to flourish in our lives together and with God. This recent book offers his readers the theological and theoretical support for his position, while ushering us into practices and postures that can transform our relationship to creation. Like his other many books, the writing is lucid and compelling, immanent and transcendent, calling Christians to a new understanding of how we can reform our theological imagination to be part of God’s work to bring all things—human and nonhuman—back to a restored order. No book can do everything, and there are elements of Wirzba’s work that may prompt the reader to bring more voices to the conversation, but this is an outstanding place to start for both personal and communal work in the redemption of our earthly call to live fully within God’s creation and live wholly in our creaturely selves.”


Pete Scazzero“Forget Charisma. Look for the Weak and the Slow.” – Interview with Pete Scazzero by Matthew LaPine in Christianity Today: “Pete Scazzero hosts the Emotionally Healthy Leader podcast and is the author of several books, including The Emotionally Healthy Leader and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship. Scazzero founded New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, where he served as senior pastor for 26 years. Matthew LaPine, a Christian minister and writer on mental health, spoke with Scazzero about a pressing challenge pastors are facing today: recruiting and developing leaders in their congregations. ML: Pastors are feeling overstretched and emotionally exhausted, and many have asked CT how to raise up and train leaders in their churches in this moment. Is this the right question to be asking right now? PS: I do think it’s the right question. Every leader needs to be asking that question: How do I develop and raise up leaders? We’re called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. This is a huge task right now. Almost all the churches I have talked to have lost 20 to 40 percent of their people. And the folks who are in the room are new. So you’re starting over as you build relationships with a lot of new people. This takes a lot of time—years actually.”


Music: J.S. Bach, “Schwingt freudig euch empor,” Cantata BWV 36 / Part 1,  John Eliot Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 November 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


Bono on Morning Edition“Bono discusses his new memoir, ‘Surrender,’ and the faith at U2’s core” – Rachel Martin interviews Bono on NPR’s Morning Edition: “It was 1976. An Irish kid named Paul Hewson was trying to figure a lot of things out; his mom had died a couple years earlier, when he was just 14. Bono, as he was known, spent a lot of time at home, in Dublin, arguing with his dad and his older brother. But two goals kept him focused — to win over the heart of a girl named Alison Stewart and to become a rock star. And in the same week, he asked Alison out — (she said yes) — and he ended up in Larry Mullen JR’s kitchen for an audition. Two other guys were there — Adam Clayton and David Evans, also known as The Edge. The four of them would go on to become one of the biggest bands of their time: U2. And he is still married to Alison Stewart 40 years later. Bono writes about these foundational relationships in his new memoir, called Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, releasing Tuesday Nov. 1. In it, he also delves into another core relationship: his spirituality. Though never a Mass-on-Sundays kind of Catholic, from a young age he was fascinated with mysticism and ritual – and Jesus.”


webRNS-Calvin-Butts3Calvin Butts, leader of Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, dies at 73″ – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service: “The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, the senior pastor of New York’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, who followed in the footsteps of prominent Black ministers and paved his own path of leadership in education, health and political circles, died Friday (Oct. 28), his church announced. ‘It is with profound sadness, we announce the passing of our beloved pastor, Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, lll, who peacefully transitioned in the early morning of October 28, 2022,’ the church stated on its website and on Twitter. ‘The Butts Family & entire Abyssinian Baptist Church membership solicit your prayers.’ Butts, 73, succeeded the Rev. Samuel DeWitt Proctor as pastor in 1989 after starting as a minister of the congregation in 1972. He became the church’s 20th pastor, according to the church’s website. ‘When we think about Dr. Butts we know that he served the community of Harlem but he served the wider community as well,’ said the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr., senior minister emeritus of Riverside Church, whose church was about two miles away from Butts’. ‘We have lost a great leader, one who really was a champion of justice and freedom for all.'”


D400-1839-085_Low_res_comp“6 ways to pray for our country during the election” – Katie Taylor at the World Vision blog: “How can we be more Christlike — in word and deed — during the 2022 U.S. election? We know a few things for sure: We’re called to love others (John 15:12). We’re called to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). And we’re called to live in unity (Ephesians 4:3). In an election year, choosing love feels extra challenging when your environment often pushes you to pick one side and shun the other. How can we keep choosing to love rather than burying our heads under our pillows until Nov. 8? God sees our frustration and confusion. And He promises that when we pray, He’ll give us guidance and peace. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). It seems too simple. And sometimes our voices feel too small. But when we pray, we allow God to start growing our capacity to love each other as Jesus does — even people who are the most different from us. As we approach the 2022 midterm election, we’re humbled that God saw our anger, confusion, and prejudice and still loved us enough to send His Son to be our Savior. That perspective calms our frustration and calls us to prayer.”


re-wilding faith“Exodus 3-4: Call and Response” – James Amadon at The Ecological Disciple: “The power and potential of places that are not dominated by humans is especially important in our age. Modern, industrial humanity has been exceptionally good at domesticating almost anything it touches. To ‘civilize’ something, or someone, has been an unquestioned good, and so ‘wild’ places, people, and other creatures have been tamed or destroyed. This civilizing impulse has included religion and religious spaces – we have domesticated God by reducing theology to what serves modern humanity (when was the last time you heard a sermon on the purpose/future of creation?), by confining the divine presence to the built environment (such as churches and other ‘sacred spaces’), and by controlling access to divine presence or approval (think about how religious communities define who is in/out, saved/unsaved, etc.). Moses lived in one of the most civilized societies of his time, yet it was also one of the most brutal – a paradox that, sadly, repeats itself through history. Leaving the civilized world opened Moses to new possibilities for himself and his place in the world, and to an encounter with the wild God of creation, who can never be civilized (just read the bewildering story of Exodus 4:24-26). When I ask people where they feel closest to God, almost everyone says “Nature.” This makes sense because we are fundamentally part of nature, creatures among creatures. It is often the false ideologies of ‘civilization’ that makes us less at home in the world. We need to re-wild our faith, remembering that our relationship to God is connected to our relationship with our local land and waterways, and with the creatures that share our home. This is true whether we live in a condo in the city or a cabin in the mountains. Finding ways to connect with the wildness around us can also connect us to the wildness of God, who tends to show up in surprising ways in these places.”


131335“What Ancient Italian Churches Tell Us About Women in Ministry” – Photo Essay by Radha Vyas in Christianity Today: “The Bible tells us of the important place of women in the early church. Women were the first to reach the empty tomb and to proclaim the Resurrection (Matt. 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 23:55–24:10; John 20:1–2, 11–18). They contended for the gospel alongside Paul (Phil. 4:2–3), taught new converts (Acts 18:24–28), prophesied (Acts 21:9), had churches in their homes (Acts 16:14–15, 40; 1 Cor. 16:19), served the church (Rom. 16:1), delivered Paul’s epistles (v. 2), and were considered ‘outstanding among the apostles’ (v. 7). There is also a lesser-known visual record of women in ministry in Italy’s oldest churches. From around the time of the First Council of Nicaea down to the 12th century, Christians created depictions of women preaching, women marked as clergy, and even one carrying a Communion chalice, with which believers have always recalled Christ’s words ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matt. 26:28). Radha Vyas, a photographer and a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, takes us on a tour of this artistic record of women in ministry.”


jacobs-thomasmerton-2“Thomas Merton, the Monk Who Became a Prophet” – Alan Jacobs in The New Yorker back in 2018: “On December 10, 1941, a young man named Thomas Merton was received as a novice by a monastery in Kentucky, the Abbey of Gethsemani. Precisely twenty-seven years later, he died by accidental electrocution in his room at a retreat center in Bangkok, Thailand. He entered the monastery three days after Pearl Harbor; he died a month after Richard Nixon was elected to his first term as President. It had been an eventful time. Merton was a remarkable man by any measure, but perhaps the most remarkable of his traits was his hypersensitivity to social movements from which, by virtue of his monastic calling, he was supposed to be removed. Intrinsic to Merton’s nature was a propensity for being in the midst of things. If he had continued to live in the world, he might have died not by electrocution but by overstimulation….Merton lived the public world, the world of words and politics, but knew that living in it had killed him. (‘Thomas Merton is dead.’) He sought the peace of pure and silent contemplation, but came to believe that the value of that experience is to send us back into the world that killed us. He is perhaps the proper patron saint of our information-saturated age, of we who live and move and have our being in social media, and then, desperate for peace and rest, withdraw into privacy and silence, only to return. As we always will.”


Music: The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, performing Ralph Vaughan Williams, “For All The Saints” (Sine Nomine), from A Vaughan Williams Hymnal

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 October 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


Heil-001-980x551“The Field Is the World” – John-Paul Heil in Comment: “I kneel down in the dirt and pick up a freshly overturned clod that has fallen out of the post digger. The clod is thick, the size of a small can of soup. At the top is loam, brown and well-hydrated organic matter formed from digested compost. Halfway down, the clod turns a brownish red, the colour of dried blood, as the loam blends into the Penn-channery silt topsoil that makes this place ‘farmland of statewide importance.’ Though it doesn’t look it, this clod came from three years of work regenerating this soil’s nutrients. My volunteer, Teresa (whose name is not really Teresa), a first-grader with thick, Coke-bottle glasses who’s about an inch shorter than her classmates, looks with pride on her work as I hold up the clod to show the rest of her class. Teresa does not know it, but she has dug deep enough with the post digger to expose the wound healing underneath this hard-won good soil. It’s the beginning of summer in the middle of a global pandemic, and I am standing at the end of a crop row helping a group of six-year-olds plant seasonal crops at Good Soil Farm, LLC, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Teresa’s group has eleven, one-third of the students visiting the farm today from a local Catholic school. The second group is on the field’s far side with Stephen McGinley, the farm’s founder, visiting sheep and chickens put out to pasture. His wife, Casey-Mae, the farm’s only other employee, is reading Aesop’s pastoral fables to the third group. Although it’s so near the end of the school year and despite having to wear face masks on a humid, eighty-five-degree day, the children are enthusiastic. They ask questions about farming the entire time I’m with them; some are so insightful that I have difficulty thinking of an answer. Teresa’s teacher remarked earlier that this is their year’s most literal field trip. By summer’s end, over one hundred children will have visited the farm as part of this program.”


nature-of-spiritual-formation“A Roadmap for Spiritual Formation” – Robert Mulholland at The Transforming Center‘s “Beyond Words” blog: “Spiritual formation has become one of the major movements of the late twentieth century. Spiritualities of all varieties have emerged on the landscape of our culture—Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Zen, various Eastern meditation techniques, New Age spirituality and a confusing welter of cults, to say nothing of chemically induced alterations of consciousness. In the face of a radical loss of meaning, value and purpose engendered by a largely materialistic, hedonistic, consumer society, human hearts are hungering for deeper realities in which their fragmented lives can find some measure of wholeness and integrity.  They are seeking deeper experiences with God through which their troubled lives can find meaning, value, purpose and identity. The Christian community, which should have been a clear voice of liberation and wholeness in the wilderness of human bondage and brokenness, has too often been merely an echo of the culture, further confusing those on a wandering and haphazard quest for wholeness. A multitude of Christian ‘gurus’ have emerged who promise their followers life, liberty and the perfection of happiness. Superficial pop spiritualities abound, promising heaven on earth but producing only failure and frustration for those genuinely hungering and thirsting after God. Much contemporary Christian spirituality tends to view the spiritual life as a static possession rather than a dynamic and ever-developing growth toward wholeness in the image of Christ. ”


Disembodied-Worship_BANNER-scaled“Disembodied Worship?: How Posture Impacts Spiritual Experience” – Annelise Jolley at the Templeton Foundation blog: “The past two-plus pandemic years have shifted everything, church included. Churches initially scrambled to live-stream their services, with many now comfortably settled into hybrid formats for the long term. Physical church attendance is down compared to pre-pandemic levels, but many people who formerly sat side-by-side on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays are still joining together to worship—they’re just doing it remotely. A recent Pew report found that as many as 21 percent of worshipers still substitute virtual attendance for in-person worship. The Christian Barna Group reported similar findings: one in five Christian adults primarily tunes in to services online, with one in four mixing online and in-person worship. There are many upsides to the rise of virtual church. At the top of the list: protecting the vulnerable and immune-compromised. Services have become more accessible and therefore more inclusive, particularly for people who have difficulty leaving their homes due to physical, transportation, and time constraints. At the bottom of the list ranks convenience—both a blessing and a curse in our era of instant gratification. On the flip side, something essential is lost when congregants only congregate remotely. Beyond social engagement and deepened relationships, believers miss out on embodied worship: that vital experience of corporate, physical posturing.”


jenson how the world“How the World Lost Its Story” – An article from 1993 by Robert W. Jenson in First Things: “It is the whole mission of the church to speak the gospel. As to what sort of thing “the gospel” may be, too many years ago I tried to explain that in a book with the title Story and Promise, and I still regard these two concepts as the best analytical characterization of the church’s message. It is the church’s constitutive task to tell the biblical narrative to the world in proclamation and to God in worship, and to do so in a fashion appropriate to the content of that narrative, that is, as a promise claimed from God and proclaimed to the world. It is the church’s mission to tell all who will listen, God included, that the God of Israel has raised his servant Jesus from the dead, and to unpack the soteriological and doxological import of that fact. That book, however, was directed to the modern world, a world in which it was presumed that stories and promises make sense. What if these presumptions are losing hold? I will in this essay follow the fashion of referring to the present historical moment as the advent of a “post modern” world, because, as I am increasingly persuaded, the slogan does point to something real, a world that has no story and so cannot entertain promises. Two preliminary clarifications are, however, needed.”


63446b2587b7ea001851dedb“The best microscope photos of 2022 reveal a hidden world of dino-bone crystals, human tongue bacteria, and slime mold” – Morgan McFall-Johnsen in Business Insider: “Nikon’s Small World competition recognizes the best microscope photographs of the year. Microscopy is an art and a science, revealing the alien beauty of the hidden world all around us. Scientists, artists, and enthusiasts from all over the world submit their painstakingly crafted photos of cells, nerves, micro crystals, mold, and tiny creatures like this anemone larva. The 2022 winners include a stack of moth eggs, a flowery sea of colon cells, and bacteria coating a human tongue cell. This year, Grigorii Timin won first place by stitching together hundreds of images to reveal the nerves, bones, tendons, ligaments, and blood cells in the 3-millimeter-wide hand of a gecko embryo.”


Gavin Newsome“When Culture Wars Go Way Too Far” – David French at “The French Press” in The Dispatch: “Last month The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published a fascinating interview with Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid. The entire interview is worth reading—especially if you have interest in Israeli politics and the prospects for Middle East peace—but two sentences from the prime minister stood out as particularly insightful. ‘Everybody is stuck in this left-versus-right traditional dynamic,’ he said. ‘But today, all over the world, it’s centrist versus extremist.’ I wanted to stand up and cheer. Now, to be clear, this is a strange position for me. I’ve always been conservative. In the left versus right context, I’ve always considered myself a man of the right—the Reagan right. But when the extremes grow more extreme, and the classical liberal structure of the American republic is under intellectual and legal attack, suddenly I’m an involuntary moderate.  So, for example, I’m a person who believes in the traditional Christian doctrines of marriage and sexual morality. I don’t believe in sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. I don’t agree that trans men are ‘men’ or that trans women are ‘women,’ and while I strive to treat every person I encounter with dignity and respect, I don’t use preferred pronouns because their use is a form of assent to a system of belief to which I don’t subscribe. That makes me pretty far right, correct? Not when the right gets authoritarian or closes its mind and heart to the legacy of real injustice. I’m apparently the conservative movement’s foremost defender of the civil liberties of drag queens. I’m constantly decried as ‘woke’ in part because I don’t discard all of the relevant insights gained from critical race theory, I strongly oppose efforts to ‘ban’ CRT, and also because I believe in multigenerational institutional responsibility to ameliorate the enduring harm caused by centuries of racial oppression.  The through line is pretty simple. I’m both a traditionally orthodox Christian and a strong believer in classical liberalism, pluralism, and legal equality. I’m a believer in those political values because I’m a traditionally orthodox Christian. I want to create and sustain the kind of republic that was envisioned by George Washington at his best, a place where ‘Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid.'”


Music: Kevin Prosch, “Even So Come” (Live), from A Live Night of Worship

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 October 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


10 Ways Pastors Wellbeing“Ten Ways Pastors Prioritize Wellbeing” – Nilwona Nowlin at the CCDA blog: “The 2022 National Conference is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to start thinking more about our theme, wellbeing. We thought this would be a great opportunity to hear from some of the shepherds among us. I asked a simple question of them-What are 5 ways you prioritize wellbeing? As I collected their responses, I observed an interesting pattern. One person broke down their practices into three categories: mental/emotional wellness, physical wellness, and spiritual wellness. While the others didn’t explicitly mention these categories, their responses easily fell into the boxes.  As I sat with these responses, a passage from the Gospels came to mind: ‘. . . you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30, NRSV). These words are also captured in Luke 10:27 and Matthew 22:37. The original text Jesus is quoting is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, known as the Shema. Some might translate these areas as: heart = emotional, soul = spiritual, and mind/strength = physical. Whichever way you might view the categories, the idea is that we are to love God with our whole, entire selves. It helps to think holistically because there is a lot of overlap between the three areas.”


webRNS-Kuttab-Oped2-100422“Growing pains for Arab evangelical Christians in the Middle East” – Daoud Kuttab at Religion News Service: “It may surprise many who think of the Middle East as an island of Israeli Jews surrounded by Muslims that in many Arab states, evangelical Christians are growing in numbers and power. At the same time, this minority is facing pressure, both from the Muslim majority and from other Christians. A Sept. 26–28 meeting of the Middle East and North Africa Evangelical National Councils, held at the Ajloun Baptist Center north of Jordan’s capital, Amman, was the most representative event since MENA, the newest regional branch of the World Evangelical Alliance, was set up in 2018. Among the delegates were senior leaders serving some 600 million evangelicals from across the region. The World Evangelical Alliance secretary general, Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher, attended from Germany. The news from individual delegates was mixed. Bassem Fekry, a representative of the Egyptian Fellowship, said Christians in his country — about 20 million in all, according to Fekry, of whom it’s estimated about 3 million are evangelicals — have gotten a boost from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has begun a process to officially recognize church buildings as sacred spaces — a designation not all enjoy. Fekry is helping about 1,500 churches make adjustments to receive coveted government recognition.”


fire“The West is homeless:  We’re no longer willing to sacrifice our desires” – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd: “I was chatting to the log man as we unloaded chunks of dried beech into my driveway from his trailer. Usually he brings me ash, but ash is becoming harder to find now that ash dieback disease, imported into Ireland from Europe, is killing many of the nation’s trees. Our little home plantation, laid down five or six years ago, is not yet mature enough to keep us going for the whole winter, and we need help to make up the shortfall. So, beech it is this year. ‘Not easy to get it now though,’ he said to me, as we threw the logs into the growing pile. ‘And there’s a lot of demand this year. Everyone’s worried about the winter.’ Given the likely lack of Russian gas across Europe, people are getting nervous and stockpiling heating fuel before autumn. We’ve been stocking up on winter logs this way for years. But the log man knows that his days of delivering little loads of cut timber to households like ours are probably numbered. ‘I’ll just keep going till they tell me to stop,’ he said. ‘It’ll happen soon enough.’ The Irish government is currently campaigning against households which burn turf or wood, the former on the grounds of CO2 emissions, and the latter on the grounds of air quality. As ever, the campaign is driven from Dublin, and mostly takes Dublin sensibilities into account. Rural households in Ireland have been burning turf and wood forever, with little significant impact on ‘air quality’ — or at least, no impact comparable to that which Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ modernisation has had. Suddenly, though, the media is full of scientists armed with studies demonstrating how getting a fire going in your cottage in winter will lead to cancer and lung disease on a widespread scale. This new tilt against household fireplaces is not just an Irish phenomenon: it is suddenly popping up everywhere.”


chick-fil-a-logo-vector“Blue Laws, Boycotts, and Chick-Fil-A: To our modern (capitalist) eyes, sabbath appears wasteful and inefficient. But perhaps that’s the point.” – Todd Brewer at Mockingbird: “When I worked at a coffee shop chain, we always knew when the ‘JW rush’ would happen. Like clockwork, every Sunday a desolate dining room would instantly transform into the cacophony of a wedding reception. The line of customers clad in suits and ties or dresses and hats would snake out the door as soon as the Kingdom Hall next door emptied. The coffee shop counter only spanned less than three feet, but it created a chasm between two vastly different kinds of people. On the one side were faithful customers; on one side were workers. The saved and the damned. The employees could scarcely cross the counter and convert while still remaining employees. For their part, the Jehovah’s Witnesses did not actually witness where they ate. It was an arrangement of mutual benefit. Food and drinks would be served, money exchanged hands, and one side of the counter would burn in hell for an eternity. Had the well-dressed coffee patrons ventured to the nearest fast-food chicken retailer, they would have been disappointed to find an empty store. Chick-fil-A is known for many things: chicken sandwiches, boycotts, and being closed on Sundays. At the estimated cost of a billion dollars of revenue a year, every store across the company shuts its doors on the first day of the week because, in the words of the company’s founder, ‘Closing our business on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is our way of honoring God and showing our loyalty to Him.” Whatever one may think of the place derisively known by some as ‘Christian Chicken’ (and the holier-than-thou possibilities cannot be denied) their refusal to make their employees break the sabbath is at least admirable.”


Lentz-GettyImages-479623478780x508-1“Christians Love a Comeback Story. Too Often It’s Cheap Grace.” – Katelyn Beaty in Religion & Politics: “For the first time in nearly two years, Carl Lentz, former pastor of Hillsong New York, recently shared an update. ‘It’s been a challenging road but we are alive, we are at peace and thanks to the grace of God we are TOGETHER,’ he posted on social media alongside several family portraits. That day, his wife posted the same photos. Laura Lentz said that the couple has reinvested in their marriage, despite her husband’s affair—and what other church leaders later called ‘moral failures’—that led to Lentz’s firing from Hillsong in 2020. ‘I look forward to sharing our story … and I think it’s going to help a lot of people,’ she wrote. She expressed gratitude that Carl ‘humbled himself’ and ‘has kept quiet’ publicly. Despite increased pressure post-#metoo for public figures to permanently leave the spotlight, it’s surprisingly easy to return to it. Louis CK is currently on another comedy tour. Bill O’Reilly started his own news site shortly after Fox fired him. Kevin Spacey has a couple of smaller films set to release. Bill Clinton never really left the spotlight, nor did Donald Trump. Anthony Wiener is back with a podcast. Barring jailtime, if you have enough fans and financial backing from well-networked friends, you’ll find that the path back to prominence is pretty straight. But disgraced Christian leaders arguably have an even easier time returning to the spotlight than do their mainstream counterparts. That’s because Christians—their primary supporters and audience—believe in grace and forgiveness. That’s kind of their whole thing. Many evangelicals can’t resist a charismatic leader with an amazing redemption story to share or sell.”


rapture anxiety“For some Christians, ‘rapture anxiety’ can take a lifetime to heal” – AJ Willingham at CNN: “Thirteen-year-old April Ajoy had a sense something wasn’t right. It was quiet in her Dallas house. Too quiet. Her brothers were gone. Her parents were gone. On her parents’ bed, a pile of her mother’s clothes signaled something terrifying. Ajoy’s mind began churning, trying to remember, trying to make plans. When was the last time she had sinned? Should she refuse the mark of the beast? At least, she thought, if she was put to the guillotine during the time of tribulation, it would be a quick death. From the moment they are old enough to understand, millions of people raised in certain Christian communities are taught that the rapture is something that can happen at any time. Though there are different schools of thought as to how such an event would go, the basic idea is the same: Righteous Christians ascend into heaven, while the rest are left behind to suffer. However it happens, it is something to be both feared and welcomed, to be prayed about and prepared for every moment of a believer’s life. Ajoy grew up in an evangelical church, surrounded by constant reminders that the rapture was just around the corner. She was taught to never sin, since it could be the very last thing she did before Jesus returned to Earth. Dramatic rapture-themed books and movies, created as fiction, were presented as real glimpses into the end of the world. ‘When i was probably 8 or 9, I remember my brothers and I spending a good 30 minutes looking out into the sky,’ Ajoy tells CNN. ‘We took turns counting down from 10, and in that time, we were convinced Jesus would come back.’ Now 34, Ajoy is one of a growing network of ‘exvangelicals’ who have removed themselves from what they now view as the damaging beliefs of some evangelical, Pentecostal and Baptist churches. She runs a popular TikTok account discussing faith and, among other things, the effects of traumatic religious experiences that can last for years – even a lifetime.”


Music: Andrew Peterson and Friends, “In the Night,” recorded live near Laity Lodge

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 September 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


c3a88de3-3f75-48c8-a590-f64d16f580bd_696x357“Intermission: Last Post for Christian England” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “I spent much of the day, along with several hundred million other people around the world, watching the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth on TV. It was full of remarkable, beautifully choreographed and often moving moments, as you would expect of an event which has been prepared for since the 1960s. A lot of things don’t work very well in Britain anymore, but this kind of pageantry is something we can still do well. We will not see its like again, I don’t think. I say ‘pageantry’, but this is a dismissive word. What happened today was a rolling, dense mat of symbolism, replete with historical meaning, anchored in a very particular nation and time period. What did it symbolise? Above all, I think, it symbolised something that our culture has long stopped believing in, and as such can’t really process effectively, or even perhaps quite comprehend. This was brought home to me by one particular moment in the ceremony.”


Taylor - Silence“In Praise of Silence” – W. David O. Taylor at his blog: “I’m excited to be speaking at the Liturgy Collective conference in Nashville on October 13-14. It’ll be a wonderful opportunity to connect with other musicians, pastors, and liturgists. This year, the theme of the conference is ‘rest,’ which I think is perennially needed, but even more so these days. The topic of my two talks will be on the nature of Silence in Worship, and my basic argument is that we need far more of it than we usually presume. Silence is fundamental to faithful prayer, I suggest, because prayer begins with the act of listening, not talking. God gets the first word—not the pastor, not the musician, not any of us. Silence also is fundamental to faithful singing because in silence, we attune our ears to ‘the chief Conductor of our hymns,’ as John Calvin once put it. We do so in order to be reminded that we were not the first to arrive on the liturgical scene. In humility, we listen first—then we sing. Silence is likewise fundamental to faithful preaching because the preacher must make time for the people of God to inwardly digest the word of God so that it has a fighting chance to take root in our hearts and bear good fruit in our lives.”


HTB“Wanted: Creation Care Coordinator for Major British Evangelical Church” – Ken Chitwood in Christianity Today: “The job ad was a little different than the ones normally posted by London’s largest churches. It wasn’t for a pastor, priest, choir director, or organist. Instead, the large evangelical Anglican congregation wanted an environmental project manager. Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), perhaps best known as the birthplace of the evangelistic Alpha course, has advertised a position for someone who will help ‘oversee the strategy, planning and execution of HTB’s approach to Creation Care.’ The individual will work closely with other lead team members to put an ‘environmental response at the heart of church life.’ Jobs like this at places like HTB are notable, said Jo Chamberlain, national environment policy officer for the Church of England. Such roles, she said, signal a sea change. Evangelical churches in the UK—and perhaps elsewhere—are embracing the critical importance of creation care and environmental stewardship at the congregational level.”


Charles Spurgeon“The Secret to Spurgeon’s Success” – Stephen Story at The Gospel Coalition: “Everyone is a theologian, R. C. Sproul rightly observed. Anyone with ideas or beliefs about God is doing theology. It may be poorly considered, but it’s theology nonetheless. By the same token, it might be said that everyone has an ecclesiology, a doctrine of the church. We all have beliefs or assumptions about what the church is, why it exists, and how it ought to function. Rarely do we pause, though, to think deeply about these things. Even among pastors, the incessant demands of ministry often pull us toward fixing urgent problems while neglecting larger questions. What does healthy pastoral ministry look like? What matters most in the life of my church? Am I shepherding God’s flock in a way that pleases him? In Spurgeon the Pastor: Recovering a Biblical and Theological Vision for Ministry, Geoffrey Chang shows why the 19th-century Baptist expositor should be regarded as more than ‘the Prince of Preachers’—he should be studied as an example of a faithful pastor. Chang—assistant professor of church history and historical theology and curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—contends there’s “no better model of faithful pastoral ministry and commitment to the local church” than Spurgeon (2).”


Wirzba - This Sacred Life“What in the World is the World?: A review of This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World” – Doug Sikkema in Front Porch Review: “In The Myths We Live By, the late Mary Midgley explores how we humans are deeply storied creatures. Myths—the grand narratives that give shape and meaning to our lives—tether us to each other, to time, to place. They tell us who we are, where we came from, how we might live and, possibly, why we are even here at all. One might think myths belong to that benighted classical world of pagan ritual or even that Dark Age of Christendom teeming with its irrational superstitions, but that’s only because, Midgley would argue, we’ve been held captive by another, more potent, set of stories….What is one to do? Perhaps one thing is that we can live by a better myth. Or perhaps recover such a story that’s been ignored and largely forgotten. This is what Norman Wirzba sets out to do in This Sacred Life: Humanity’s Place in a Wounded World. For Wirzba, a possible antidote for our dis-ease in the Anthropocene is to recover some of the essential pieces of the narrative, the lived mythology, of Christianity.”


005“London Goddess Purée: Is the celebration of ancient goddesses female empowerment or rank patriarchy?” – Matthew J. Milliner in Comment: “The British Museum has good reason to put together the exhibition Feminine Power. After all, when girls are actually being advised, with the full endorsement of the psychological and medical establishments, to surgically remove their breasts in an attempt to become male, misogyny has reached a new apogee. (See, for just one example, the harrowing interview recorded here.) Accordingly, any museum’s effort to signal the importance of being female should be welcomed. Clipboard-bearing curators at this show collect viewer responses and display them on a large screen. One of them boldly proclaims, ‘Woman, an adult human female,’ surely indicating this visitor knows that very definition is under baffling new attack. Even so, the subtitle of this particular show at the British Museum suggests problems: Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic. The images here gathered span epoch and geography, their only commonality being ‘profound influence on human lives, both past and present.’ Which is to say, every global goddess within reach has been thrown into the curatorial blender for this exhibition, and—not unlike the $25 smoothie I recently saw advertised and sampled in Los Angeles—the results are less than invigorating. And that may be part of the point.”


Music: The Porter’s Gate ft. Liz Vice, “Brother Sun (Giving Glory),” from Climate Vigil Songs