Jan 2000 – Y2K–a time for seeing clearly

2000 has been publicized and feared as the beginning of a new millennium. What will it bring? Founders of The Christian Century magazine chose its name because they expected Christianity to become the world’s majority religion in the 20th century, but that didn’t happen. A current author says the 21st will be the century of religion. In this Connections I suggest what I think needs to be born in the church as the new millennium begins, and what needs to die.

Feb 2000 – Thinking about prisons and prisoners

Recent newspaper reports about an 11-year-old murderer and an imprisoned terrorist who now seems to be strictly a nonviolent doer of good works, plus continuing discussions about the death penalty, raise questions about what our prisons need to accomplish, and whether they are accomplishing it.

Mar 2000 – The insider-outsider gap

The blank looks and questions I got from longtime United Methodists when I said I was going to an out-of-town meeting of a UMC general-church agency reminded me that I’ve become a church insider and that many church members know little of what’s happening in their church beyond their own local congregation. In this Connections I suggest ways in which insiders could help to close the gap between local churchgoers and the wider church.

Apr 2000 – Hearing all the voices

With a quadrennial meeting of the top UMC governing body approaching, questions about how to achieve needed diversity in church decision-making bodies while also ensuring competence and dealing fairly with cultural differences become increasingly urgent.

May 2000 – Letting our lives speak

In Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer tells how he gradually saw the need to listen to his heart instead of trying to imitate anyone or conform to a list of values that weren’t his. In In Search of Stones, Scott Peck writes about feeling driven as well as called. How do we recognize a calling, and how should we respond?

June 2000 – Choosing bishops–whom shall we send?

The approach of quadrennial elections of UMC bishops raises questions about what qualifications top church leaders need, and about how to get the needed people into the top positions. We too often get virtually meaningless church jargon and platitudes when we need information about job requirements and qualifications.

July 2000 – Sharing spiritual family trees

Members of my Sunday School class shared their personal stories using genograms, the diagrams that are sometimes used by counselors to show how certain characteristics appear in several generations of a family. The experience brought us closer to each other, helped us see some reasons for our having the religious beliefs, habits, and attitudes that we now have, and helped us understand why we’re not all alike.

Aug 2000 – Seeing how faith grows

Recognizing our spiritual ancestry can help us grow as individuals and can also help our churches. Sharing our stories in a group is most helpful, but even looking at our spiritual journey alone can be eye-opening and helpful.

Sept 2000 – Money talk–taboo for churches but not for God

Jesus apparently said a lot about how to use money, but it’s a taboo subject in most churches. We may hear pleas for money during annual church fund-raising efforts, but we very rarely hear anything about how Christians should spend their money otherwise.

Oct 2000 – What to do with money–an easy question or a hard one?

The question of what to do with money, especially if we are fortunate enough to have more money than we need for necessities, is hard to answer, even though it probably seems easy to those who aren’t confronted with it. Richard J. Foster gives some advice to Christians in The Challenge of the Disciplined Life, but our church leaders and groups rarely risk giving such advice.

Nov 2000 – Journeys, physical and spiritual

Many characteristics of physical travel apply also to the spiritual journey.

Dec 2000 – What would Jesus do?

We don’t know everything that Jesus did and said, and we have no way of knowing what he would do about situations in our world that didn’t exist in his. But trying to think what he would do in the situations we face can be helpful, especially at Christmastime when everything around us seems to focus on the cute baby Jesus rather than on the radical actions and teaching of the grown-up Jesus. Those are what we most need to wonder about.