According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ten Essential Skills The Next Generation Of Religious Leaders Will Need




Ten Essential Skills The Next Generation Of Religious Leaders Will Need
http://religioninsights.org/articles/ten-essential-skills-next-generation-religious-leaders-will-need

Some skills are time-tested, such as listening and collaborating, but tomorrow’s religious leaders will also need to be entrepreneurial and communicate in new ways.

The U.S. religious landscape is changing and so too the old ways of doing church. Today’s seminary students will likely need to be far more creative and imaginative than older generations in connecting with members and creating community. Four experts weigh in on the 10 most essential skills the next generation of religious leaders will need. (Surprise: technological skills didn’t make the list!)

The 10 most essential skills:

1. Be entrepreneurial: In the old days, visitors were invited to attend worship services with the hope they would join. Today, clergy have to deploy a whole host of methods — from finding people through online groups to giving talks at local libraries or coffee shops. Being entrepreneurial means taking risks. Some pastors try one new approach and when it doesn’t work they label it a failure and go back to business as usual, says Lawrence Peers, director of learning for the Pastoral Excellence Network. What if they defined the new approach as an experiment and tried to learn from it?

2. Communicate theology effectively: Clergy have to speak to many people with widely diverging needs. Some don’t have a faith background and never attended church. Some are well versed in the popular distillations of recent theological trends. And some are in interfaith marriages and have gained a deep appreciation for other traditions. Speaking to all of these groups requires developing a rich vocabulary, while at the same time communicating core shared values. “The theological framework will have to be deeper and broader,” says Cynthia Woolever, a sociologist and research director of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey.

3. Have the courage of your convictions: New pastors are often afraid of speaking up for fear they may lose standing within their congregation or denomination, says Martha Simmons, president and publisher of The African American Pulpit Journal and the creator of The African American Lectionary. Simmons often sees clergy shirk controversial issues, whether it’s the treatment of women clergy or homosexuality. Her advice? “Say what you believe.” Equally important are strong core convictions rooted in beliefs. Convictions inspire, adds the Rev. Kathy Smith, associate director of theCalvin Institute of Christian Worship.

4. Collaborate: Effective clergy know how to engage their congregants if they want to move forward toward a common vision. Peers, of the Pastoral Excellence Network, quotes a colleague who says, “Clergy need the ability to play jazz, while their seminary teaches them to play from sheet music.”

5. Find mentors: No clergyperson should lead alone. Simmons says pastors often tell her they can’t find the right mentors. Her response? “Take it where you can get it.” Everyone needs a mentor, even older, experienced clergy. She adds: “We’re all going to make mistakes. But there are some mistakes we can’t afford to make. Mentors can help you not fall into ditches and lose time you can’t get back.” The Pastoral Excellence Network exists to support clergy mentoring communities across many denominations.

6. Learn to listen: It may seem obvious, but clergy spend a lot of time learning to speak. They also need to listen. Listening is even more important at a time when society has lost the art of civil conversation, says Smith. Listening well will help clergy avoid pitfalls that come when clergy don’t know the culture of the congregation and fail to honor local traditions, adds Peers.

7. Try humility: Society once accorded clergy a high social standing. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. “Authority is earned over time,” says Peers, referring to clergy. “It takes patience and diligence. Leading is a dance —sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow the leading of others in the congregation.”

8. Develop a spiritual discipline: Simmons says she often gets silent stares when she asks clergy about their spiritual discipline. Everyone says they pray, she says, but Simmons encourages clergy to develop a structured discipline that’s built into their daily lives, whether its meditation, Bible-reading or quiet time.

9. Speak to doubt as well as to faith: Ironically, talking about doubt will help faith seem more relevant, says Peers, who advises clergy to honor honest questioning. “Clergy can create an atmosphere of searching so that people don’t have to leave a congregation necessarily when they experience doubt,” he says.

10. Love the people you serve: Some clergy are so enamored by the vision they have for the congregation, they lose sight of the people. “We sometimes love the dream more than the people,” says Smith, who advises: “Spend the time to get to know and appreciate the people you’re attempting to lead.”


http://religioninsights.org/


The Guardian - Breaking the Cycle of Abuse


Early intervention is vital because signs of violent offending in later life can be identified in children as young as three. Photograph: Alamy

Breaking the cycle of abuse
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/17/breaking-the-cycle-of-abuse

theguardian.com, Tuesday 17 September 2013 02.00 EDT


High-profile cases have put child abuse at the forefront of public debate. Experts believe higher prevention rates depend on support for targeted initiatives replacing moral outrage


Child abuse – which has dominated the headlines over the past year as a result of the Savile inquiry and other high-profile child-cruelty cases, and which is often presented as one of the country's most intractable problems – could be reduced by 70% by the year 2030, delegates to a Guardian debate were told.

Plenty of research exists, and more work is being carried out, that shows what could and would lead to a dramatic reduction in the incidence of maltreatment of children. The biggest difficulty is persuading not only decision-makers, but also the public, that preventing child abuse is possible, given the right steps. 

But what's needed first, participants at the roundtable debate – sponsored by the NSPCC – heard, is a shift in the way the media perceives the problem: too often, one participant remarked, tabloid-newspaper coverage focuses on a witch-hunt and not on the issues that create a culture in which abuse is allowed to continue.

The debate focused on the fact that children who are abused are much more likely to become adults who abuse (between 30% and 40% of people who are abused as children go on to become abusers themselves) – so it is vital to concentrate efforts on families that could be identified as being at greater risk of abuse.

Supporting those families would pay huge dividends in the long term because reducing the incidence of abuse in the short term would have the knock-on effect of reducing the number of adults likely to become abusers in the decades ahead.

Surprising evidence

"When you look at the evidence, what comes as a big surprise is that it's the very start of a child's life that matters most," said one participant. "By the age of three, nurses can identify those children who will go on to become violent offenders. By three, these children are 10-times more aggressive than the most peaceful children.

"As well as being able to identify the children, we can also identify their home circumstances. We know problems stem directly from not having a secure parental attachment; 15% of children in this country have disorganised attachment and they are on a pathway to being disruptive at school and going on to live lives with high levels of aggression."

These children would go on to become society's abusers, so taking the right action now would make a significant difference to levels of abuse in the future.

The problem, delegates were told, was that while Savile and individual, shocking cases of abuse, such as that of murdered four-year-old Daniel Pelka, had led to high levels of public anger about child abuse – the thrust of the reaction was still punitive. "What we're seeing is a great deal of moral outrage, but not so much interest in the targeted work that would make a real difference," one participant noted.

Stoking the flames of this reaction is a lot of the media coverage. "All the tabloids want to do is see offenders crucified," said one contributor. "So the focus of decision-makers gets drawn towards that." Another participant agreed, adding: "The great fear politicians have is of newspapers pointing their fingers [at initiatives designed to ameliorate the problems] and saying 'nanny state'."

But the good news, said another participant, was that research was well on the way to identifying which initiatives could be successful at tackling the root causes of abuse – and a £165m Big Lottery project was about to begin, aimed at pinpointing exactly which early-life interventions could be transformative.

"We don't yet have a blueprint, but we do know a lot more than many people realise about how to make a difference and how to identify people most at risk [of becoming abusers]. We're in a very good place to start working; we're on a learning path," said one contributor.

The NSPCC, which has experienced a huge surge in demand for its services in the wake of the Savile investigation, is also expanding its work in response to the increased awareness of child abuse. Its £20m Now I Know campaign to build a ChildLine Schools Service, will train volunteers to visit primary schools throughout Britain to teach children about abuse. It's about giving children the confidence to talk about abuse and equipping them to protect themselves through simple advice.

What the Savile inquiry has shown is that "stranger danger", on which past campaigns had concentrated, doesn't target the biggest problem, which is people who are trusted and known to children, and who find ways and opportunities to access them (in more than 90% of cases, children are sexually abused by someone known to them). The problem with this message, several delegates pointed out, was that by alerting children to the fact that trusted adults could be abusers, it raised the question of who could a child trust?

One positive reaction to Savile is that many parents have contacted the NSPCC to ask what they ought to tell their children to equip them with the knowledge they need. Parents are certainly looking to play their part – six in 10 report trying to have a conversation with their children about the risks of sexual abuse, although most concentrate on stranger danger, despite knowing that the real risk is closer to home.

The NSPCC's response has been its current campaign on "the underwear rule", which gives parents simple guidelines to explain to children that the parts of their body covered by their underwear are private, and no one should be asking to touch or look at those places.

There was also discussion about what adults who suspected another adult of abuse could do about it: who could they trust with their fears and what assurances could they be given to enable them to disclose their concerns?

"The worry at the moment is that people dismiss their anxieties because no one wants to think it of a trusted colleague or friend," said one participant. "There's a big fear around getting involved: people think, if I give information what will happen next? Do I have to follow it through? And we need to get the message across: 'just tell us'."

Internet safety

Alongside the importance of tackling child abuse at its roots – ie in families with problems that can be easily identified – the roundtable participants heard about a number of key areas and stakeholders who could make a difference in the battle to reduce the problem. These include GPs, especially given the recent changes in the way services are commissioned.

"GPs don't want responsibility for this, so there's a huge cultural job to be done with them to get them to take on the issue," said one participant. "But it would make a huge difference."

Internet companies must also be persuaded to police themselves, so that when a new product or service is developed that is likely to be used by children and young people, it has a safety check to ensure it cannot be misappropriated by an abuser.

The onus has so far been on parents, teachers and law-enforcement agents to ensure that internet products are not abused in this way. But, said one participant, recent investigations into the number of individuals (overwhelmingly men) who were suspected of internet misuse illustrates that society cannot effectively tackle the problem from that end.

"No police force in the country can cope with the number of abuse suspects who have come to their attention via the internet," said one participant. "We're going to have to accept that high-tech companies will have to up their game where child protection is concerned."