How to Wear History

choices for churches

Some churches wear their history like a feathered cape — with the past thrown lightly over the shoulders of the present. The past is color, context, and dramatic flair.

Some churches wear their history like a shroud — with the past draped heavily over the face of the present. The past is silencing, secretive, and corpse-like.

The cape-wearing churches tell stories with many actors, who have many foibles.

The shroud-wearing churches tell stories where one person is to blame.

The cape-wearing churches tell stories that happen all over the place — the sanctuary, but also the retreat setting, the party at so and so’s house, the time we went to Capitol Hill, the homeless shelter, stories told with gusto.

The shroud-wearing churches tell stories that happen in the room where Session meets, or in the parking lot afterward, stories told in whispers.

The cape-wearing churches sometimes organize events by email, or Facebook, and plans can change at the last moment.

The shroud-wearing churches stick to their administrative manual, which is thick. 

The cape-wearing churches are a pain to keep clean, what with the play-doh and streamers.

The shroud-wearing churches are clean, if you don’t mind the slight smell of stagnation.

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Healing Spiritual Wounds

an interview with Carol Howard Merritt

Have you ever been wounded by a church, or do you know someone who has been?

Have you ever wished you had the right book on your shelf, something solid and helpful you could read and pass along?

That book is finally here! It is destined to become a classic.

Carol Howard Merritt’s book is called: Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church.

I am privileged to call Carol a friend. We labored together in a writing group, and I know firsthand that she has mastered her craft. What’s more, she has wisdom, theological depth and ministry experience. I believe her book will help many, so I was thrilled to write an endorsement:


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Church un-Cluttered

Two Church Closets: Before & After

Churches have a unique tendency to become cluttered, as I have blogged about before. But never underestimate the power of energetic volunteers!

The goals: 1) make items accessible;

2) create dedicated space for pulpit robe and worship materials.

BEFORE large closet

BEFORE small closet











AFTER large closet

AFTER small closet

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

a guest post by Rev. Laura Collins

A friend posted this on Facebook, and I thought it should get a wider airing.

Here’s her story:

So today I had a strange and unsettling experience of finding out that there was a traffic court case that has been on my record for three years without my knowledge. But when a 2nd small traffic infraction got added this year (yes, that ticket I did get), my car insurance coverage was halved and the cost was doubled. When I called to find out why this had happened, the insurance company insisted that it was because of my driving record, though I have never in my life been in the County where the first (and more serious) infraction happened.


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Would Jesus Have Marched? Salt & Light

Lectionary Study on Matthew 5:13-20

I have a lectionary essay on the gospel text for February 5, over at Journey with Jesus.

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Church Clutter

New Year, Clean Slate!

Clutter-free spaces communicate hospitality. The hotel industry understands this. Unfortunately, many churches don’t.

I’m on my way to a “Clean Up Day” at my church. I’m still quite new there — since Labor Day — and the church basement is in reasonably good shape. Still, it’s always good to sift through the flotsam and jetsam. Cleaning up is a good way to learn the church’s history, both formal and informal. I’ll take some “before” pictures of closets, although I expect it will be weeks before I have “after” pictures.

Meanwhile, I’ll repost an article I wrote a few years ago — to draw the connection between clutter and hospitality in church settings, and why I prioritize uncluttering. (more…)

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Intentions for 2017

Do you write Resolutions or Intentions for the New Year?

As each old year draws to a close, I like to choose a word or phrase that captures my intention for the new year.

The first year I chose a phrase was 2012. I had quit my church work to focus on writing and felt the need for direction as I sifted through writing projects. I chose the phrase: “Close the Loop.” Surprisingly enough, my focus was on housework. If I started a load of laundry could I actually “close the loop” by getting those items dried and put away? As I became more conscious of open loops, I began to see them everywhere: my piles of papers not dealt with, the unworn clothes in my closet, the projects I had not finished. I became aware that these were open loops that sapped my energy. It’s no surprise that this became a year of purging!

My 2013 phrase was: “Be Lighthearted and Gracious.” My mental image was a fluffy white feather. I had completely immersed myself in one writing project — the work that became my memoir. The phrase was helpful, particularly as I had to spend so much time reliving painful memories and writing about the topic of sexual violence.

My 2014 phrase was “Do the Work.” Now I had so much work in progress that I felt overwhelmed. How would I ever get the writing done? The task seemed impossible. But I wanted to finish, desperately. The work was an open loop I needed to close. I realized I had to just put my nose down and see the work through.

My 2015 phrase was “Love the Work,” as I realized that when one phase of work ended, another appeared. I now envisioned myself as a writer, vocationally, and embraced the writing life as a gift. The opportunity to exercise my creativity would be enough reward, no matter what else might happen.

My 2016 phrase continued the theme, only I embraced both the sweat and the beauty: “Love the Work, Do the Work.” And after 5 years of sustained effort, 2016 became the year that my memoir was published.

Now it is almost 2017! I am still pondering phrases to capture my intention for the year ahead.

What about you? Care to share your phrase in the comments?

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“In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He had created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Miracles: A Preliminary Study