Church

Finding Church Amid An Endless Winter

Courtesy Holy Redeemer Church

Courtesy Holy Redeemer Church

It seems like an eternal winter here in Detroit. The Associated Press, citing a National Weather Service analysis, reports Detroit is experiencing the most extreme winter of any city in the country. I don't know about that, but this winter is "getting real up in here."

At Holy Redeemer, the church just north of Detroit where I serve as pastor, the weather has impacted 9 of 12 Sundays since Dec. 15. It's hindered our ability to gather for worship, dented budgets, and made it hard to maintain community.

You can set your watch by the storms that arrive late on Saturday night and clear by Sunday afternoon.

Yet, time and again the congregation at Holy Redeemer manages to surpass my wildest expectations of faithfulness.

Is Social Justice 'Sexy'?

IT WAS AN average afternoon in the college town of Northampton, Mass. I was sitting at a local coffee shop sipping a latte when I overheard the conversation between two students comparing laptop decals.

“I’m really into the whole child soldier thing. This sticker is about that,” explained one young woman. The other pointed to an emblem on her laptop, remarking, “I’m more interested in the issue of sex trafficking, but I guess everyone is.”

“Yeah,” the other girl responded, “It’s kind of the sexy social justice issue.”

An intense interest in social justice has been a hallmark of the Millennial generation thus far. Within the church, there has been a clear departure from the traditional emphasis on evangelism alone to a broadening conversation about the necessity of addressing physical needs and human rights. Millennials have made great strides in engaging some of the world’s most pressing issues, but is the popularity of social justice a completely good phenomenon?

The Good
As a result of globalization, my generation is more aware than ever about the plight of those Jesus refers to as our “neighbors.” This awareness has heightened funding for NGOs, mobilized willing volunteers, and built pressure for better public policy. We have more knowledge regarding the injustices that people face all across the globe, and we’re often not content to simply cross to the other side of the road. It’s trendy to know and talk about justice issues, and this popularity has often led to action.

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Wounded Souls

WHEN CHIEF MASTER Sergeant Harry Marsters returned in 2008 from his time in Iraq, he knew something wasn’t right. At 54, the 32-year veteran of the Air Force—with 27 years full time in the military and the remainder as a reservist with the Air National Guard—felt that as one of the “older folks” he knew what to expect upon return from his assignment with the communications squad at the Kirkuk Regional Air Base in northern Iraq.

Marsters’ squadron trained Iraqi forces in the operation and maintenance of aerial surveillance equipment on the base, which housed 1,000 Air Force and 2,500 Army troops. As first sergeant he acted as a liaison to the Air Force troops and ensured the well-being of those stationed there. It was a job he relished, pouring care into building connections with the airmen and women, spending time with the chaplains, and coordinating recreation and morale-building activities.

Though Air Force personnel never left the base, they were subjected to the ever-present threat of randomly timed mortar rounds launched by insurgents. They also took part in nighttime “patriot details” in which Air Force personnel and soldiers lined the base’s runway as the bodies of fallen soldiers were loaded onto planes for transport back to the United States. But Marsters says he was most upset by what he felt was harsh treatment of the Iraqi nationals who came to work on the base.

“They were treated like criminals,” he says of the extensive searches and intimidation Iraqis received when going through base security. “Everyone in Iraq is not evil, bad, and nasty. It’s a very small group of people who are raising hell and trying to hurt the country. The average person is just trying to make some money and take care of his or her family.”

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GRAPHIC: Hipster Faith

Like the following graphic may attest, Nadia Bolz-Weber's church, House for All Sinners and Saints, is not your typical Lutheran church. Instead "House," as the community refers to itself, combines ancient liturgy, Eastern Orthodox iconography, and traditional hymns with a pierced and heavily tattooed hipster pastor, events like the annual "Blessing of the Bicycles," and a "queer-inclusive" congregation.

You can read more about Nadia Bolz-Weber and the House for All Sinners and Saints in Jason Byassee's April 2014 Sojourners cover article "Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy." The article highlights Nadia's unconventional faith journey and introduces readers to the church that is reimagining traditional practices for the Millennial generation.  

Created by Kara Lofton for Sojourners

Kara Lofton is editorial/online assistant at Sojourners.

Images from Shutterstock.com (from top left to right): Praying hands in black background, Jesus Cervantes; Church with the Holy Spirit and water, Irisska; Rock with cross abstract grunge image, jcjgphotography; Smiling female friends with dog on old loading dock, CREATISTA; Bicycle, onairda; A Catholic nun wears a crucifix, Ryan Rodrick Beiler; Catholic liturgy and prayer beads, Marijus Auruskevicius; Denver, Colorado skyline, Teri Virbickis; Young bearded hipster man, Anchiy; Handsome young man with tattoo, Halfpoint; Stained glass church window, joroma; Byzantine 11th century painting, Brigida Soriano; Burning candle in a church, Nykonchuk Oleksii; Ancient Orthodox icon, Oleg Golovnev; Happy hipster girl, Alliance; Handsome young African-American man, Malyugin; Portrait of two hipster girls, Dragon Images

 

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VIDEO: "Pastrix" Nadia Bolz-Weber

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the pastor of the House of All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colo., and is featured in "Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy" in the April 2014 cover story of Sojourners. Although Nadia uses traditional liturgy and Eastern Orthodox iconography in her services, this 6'1 tattooed preacher is hardly called conventional. In a December 2013 interview with CNN Denver, she talks about her new memoir Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint and about her 180-member downtown church. 

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Immigration Activists Arrested in Civil Disobedience Outside White House

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the United Methodist Church in front of the White House Monday. Photo: Kara Lofton

This President’s Day, about 20 church leaders, sympathizers, and undocumented immigrants were arrested in front of the White House as part of an act of civil disobedience to protest the nearly 2 million people who have been deported under President Obama.

The core group and about 40 supporters gathered around 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon in Lafayette Park in front of the White House. They held signs that said, “Praying for Relief” and “#Not1moredeportation,” and sang hymns in between short megaphoned speeches that told personal stories. They called for immigration reform. “Not one more, not one more,” they chanted together in both English and Spanish.

The event was organized by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the United Methodist Church, who was the first Hispanic woman to be elected to her position.

Dialogues with Harlem Heritage: A Church’s Prophetic Voice in the Context of Diversity

Beloved community illustration, urtcan / Shutterstock.com

Beloved community illustration, urtcan / Shutterstock.com

I stepped off the elevator and was greeted by three men with hoodies in church yesterday. My shoulders tensed for a few moments. Growing up in New York City, I’ve been groomed in paranoia and 20/20 peripheral eyesight. Yet after taking a second look, I smiled as I admired the theater props: Three hooded figures containing the faces of Hillary Clinton, Jay Z, and Trayvon Martin, with a caption reading, “We are Trayvon Martin.”

Metro Hope Church meets weekly at Harlem’s National Black Theater, so our church gatherings can often be a dance in improvisation as we’re frequently welcomed by new sets. One summer we were greeted by a gigantic “tree” protruding from center stage. It made this preacher’s imagination run vivid with all sorts of sermon possibilities.

But the hooded figures that greeted me last Sunday were a tribute to Trayvon Martin called, Facing our Truth: 10 Minute Plays on Race and Privilege. This month also happens to be the month that Trayvon Martin was born, and a month for celebration of Black History. These convergences do not escape me, nor does the distinct mission of our church in Harlem.

No stranger to dialogue on race and privilege, our church will often reflect on Dr. King who once lamented, “We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America … 11:00 on Sunday morning …we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”

Why Does Anyone Go To Church?

Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock

What I think we need is a rhetoric about how it's entirely fine that people don't go to church. Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock

Tomorrow is Sunday. You know, the day when most Christians who bother to go to church with any regularity will get up on a perfectly good non-working morning and give their time to an institution that may or may not do them any favors. Catholics may have already gone to Mass on Friday or Saturday. The same with some people at Willow Creek.

The great thing about belonging to a Catholic Parish or a Mega-church is not having to go to church on Sunday. Okay, maybe there are other great things, but I think it's pretty swell.

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