Justice. Mercy. Faith.
Through The Christian Citizen, we seek to shape a mind among American Baptists and others on matters of public concern by providing a forum for diverse voices living and working at the intersection of faith and politics, discipleship and citizenship.
Following the attack on the Capitol one week ago today, we asked our contributing authors to share a brief reflection or excerpt from what they were planning to say to their congregations in sermons, pastoral letters, and prayers.
As the calendar turns and an extraordinary 2020 concludes, advertisers for gyms and weight loss programs bombard us with some version of, “A New Year, a new you!” The fitness industry’s perennial pursuit of profit based on our short-lived desires for self-improvement is worryingly ingrained into the lifecycle of the American psyche. However, the annual call to honest self-examination is an important challenge that resonates. Nobody needs honest reflection and a “New Year, new you” campaign more than the American church after its response to 2020.
I am uninterested in living into the false image of the flawless pastor. I’d always rather be the authentic pastor, the one who has been to the valley and sits with another individual who is traversing those shadowy passages themselves.
In America today, it is clear that a radicalized minority, with the backing of the President, poses a risk to the republic—one that is perhaps greater than past majorities united by common interest. What then are we to do? Where, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., do we go from here?
Following yesterday’s failed coup at the U.S. Capitol, we decided to republish this 2019 article on the symbolism and sanctity of a building designed to reflect and serve a quasi-religions function—to be nothing short of a civic temple.
If humility means acknowledging when we are wrong, then humility also encompasses politicians accepting the results of elections, even when they cannot believe, or would rather not concede, the choices voters have made.
Responding to COVID-19
Celebrating may seem an odd practice in times where there is much to lament and navigate. I am hopeful congregants will consider offering a word of thanks to their pastors this month. Gratitude and acknowledgment for ministry may be infrequently expressed, but certainly, for your pastor, it will be gratefully received—especially right now.
The current pandemic has altered what we do and how we do it; the practice of communion—during the liturgy and in our daily table fellowship—is no exception. Despite our altered circumstances and the deaths of so many, the spiritual food with which we draw and serve continues to multiply. No pandemic is going to alter that.
This year on World Communion Sunday, I suggest that what unifies Christians is the yearning for communion and the connection that it represents. Strangely, there is perhaps nothing more ecumenical than that unfulfilled desire in the midst of a pandemic, one of many missed points of connection.
Lamentations, arguably, offers an “explanation” which fits one of the dominant frames of the Bible—the Deuteronomic system of blessings and curses—and yet also offers a poetic counter to this theology.
Courage has a context. Bravery flows not from mindless risk-taking, but from compelling reasons to act on behalf of one another. We do not dare God to keep us safe no matter what foolish actions we may take.
When this present moment becomes history, how will people know how your faith community responded? Will they know that many congrega¬tions quickly developed the capacity for online worship services—or even be able to watch our worship from their future position? Will they know which communities continued to supply food banks and provide housing for the home-less? Will you leave records reflecting the shift from pastoral visits to pastoral telephone calls and emails? It all comes down to how well you document these days.
Getting churches to capture this moment in time will be helpful not only for future generations. It will be also a chance for congregants to recall the immediate past and start working out what these challenging times have shown them about their own lives, as well as the inevitable travails and the graceful moments where the resilience of a local church was revealed.
Everything beautiful in its time: COVID-19, mental health, and resilience in the Karen Baptist Churches in the United States
Members of the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar (formerly Burma) are no strangers to conditions that threaten their physical existence or inhibit their ability to think or reason freely. Thousands of Karen people were forced to flee their homes to escape violence, persecution, and war in the 20th century. The freedom they sought in Thai refugee camps left much to be desired, as they experienced degradation, restrictions on working and moving about, and food rations that often left them hungry and malnourished. The opportunity for some to immigrate to America, earlier this century, rekindled hope and dreams of better days. I interviewed 25 pastors in the Karen Baptist Churches in the United States (KBCUSA) to gain a glimpse of the challenges they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CDC resources for community & faith leaders
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has resources to help you plan, prepare and respond to community transmission of coronavirus disease including interim guidance for faith and community leaders.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies resources for congregational response to COVID-19
Information for American Baptists and American Baptist congregations about best practices to help reduce the spread of the virus in general as well as in congregational settings.
ministrElife community for faith leaders
Find resources, share best practices, and stay connected to other ministry professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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