How Many Piercings Can a Docent Have?: Wondering About Church at the American Civil War Museum

How many piercings can a museum docent have? It was a question Christy Coleman didn’t know she’d have to struggle with when she became the CEO of the American Civil War Center in 2013. But when that museum merged with the Museum of the Confederacy and built a brand new facility around the old Tredegar […]

Good God, What Happened to the Heartland?: Laughing and Lamenting with Lyz Lenz

Lyz Lenz is so funny sometimes that you can forget that she has written a hard book. As, for instance, when she’s surveying the physical layout of cookie-cutter megachurches and says that “the decor looks like a Hobby Lobby vomited all over the place.” (115) That’s the vibrant Lyz that you want giving you the […]

Can We Talk Here? Recovering Conversation in the Church with C. Christopher Smith

Every pastor knows the scenario. An issue has arisen. Relationships are frayed. People are more than willing to talk it out with the pastor, but with each other? Not so much. C. Christopher Smith, editor of the Englewood Review of Books, has been an advocate for the spiritual practice of conversation based on the long-running […]

The Origin of the Incompatibility Clause (and Whitefield’s Knuckle): An Interview with Ashley Boggan Dreff

I talked to Dr. Ashley Boggan Dreff two days after the St. Louis General Conference ended. As the Director of United Methodist Studies at Hood Seminary and author of Entangled: A History of American Methodism, Politics, and Sexuality, she made a great conversation partner for trying to put what had just happened in some perspective. […]

What You Need to Know to Care for Your Clergyperson (Even if That’s You)

Some of the advice that Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Jason Byassee have for clergy is very straightforward. “If you’re really tired and wondering whether you should work more or go to bed, don’t wonder—just go to bed!” (157) Excellent tip. Back from my nap now, I’ll go on to say that other advice in Faithful […]

Race, Virginia, and Jesus’ Circle of Favor

It has been a disturbing week in Virginia government. Once again, we are struggling with how we address questions of race and racism. This time Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring are both confronted with incidents from their past involving appearances in blackface, a remnant of minstrel shows where the entertainment came […]

The Parable of Stuckey’s: A Story of Church?

Despite the fact that one of my most traumatic childhood episodes happened in a New Mexico Stuckey’s, I have always been in the thrall of the teal blue roofs that promise Mexican blankets, cheap sandwiches, and lots of pecan-themed candies.  The trauma came as a result of Stuckey’s time-honored practice of placing fragile novelty knick-knacks […]

How to Hunker Down for Advent: A Review of Fleming Rutledge’s New Book

It’s Advent! In liturgically-oriented churches, tables and pulpits are draped in purple. (Or perhaps a dark shade of blue, which to my mind is a nefarious invention of the liturgical-industrial complex.) Four-candled wreaths tick off the Sundays before Christmas. In homes, Advent calendars adorn walls. And yet so much is missing. “I have never seen […]

How are You Going to Tell the Story of Your Ministry? 3 Questions

“How are you going to tell the story of what God is doing in your ministry?” It’s often the forgotten question in planning, but it may be one of the most crucial. Failing to tell the story in a compelling way often leads to confusion about the mission, apathy, financial struggles, dispirited volunteers, and gingivitis. […]