Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ The Pastor’s Almanac: A News Rundown for Tired Reverends
It’s Monday when most clergymembers attempt to hide, read, or decompress. A few with churches large enough to afford a staff prefer post-game analysis on Mondays, parceling out Sabbath follow-up’s and sketching the week ahead. Many pastors enter Monday with a need to refuel – even the extroverts.
And while the calendar reads January 29th, it can feel like a year’s worth of news and activity has already taken place. Here, then, are some big-picture, faith-related news highlights from around the web to soak up as you tend to your locally spent soul.
This winter a new CBS sitcom called “Living Biblically” is premiering on Monday, February 26th. An early preview indicates that the tone will likely be similar to the popular NBC show “The Good Place,” which that network touts as “a comedy about becoming a better person – in the afterlife.”
According to CBS, “Living Biblically” “follows Chip Curry, a modern-day man at a crossroads in his life who decides to live strictly in accordance with the Bible. With the help and support of his non-believing wife Leslie, his co-worker Vince, his boss Ms. Meadows, and his self-proclaimed “God Squad” of Father Gene and Rabbi Gil, Chip will try to navigate the waters of a spiritual journey of biblical proportions.”
Executive Producer Johnny Galecki, known for his role on the hit show “The Big Bang Theory,” noted, “I’ll say there are a number of people involved with the show who are devout in their beliefs, and we do have consultants of the cloth who keep us broadly accurate. And I say ‘broadly,’ because it’s, again, so personal, and very few things mean the same thing to everyone in the Bible.”
Producer Patrick Walsh observed, “I think religious people are not given credit for having a sense of humor, and I think non-believers are not given credit for being curious about religion and wanting to know more about it. We get into some pretty interesting topics on this show, and that is a goal, to serve an underserved audience, I think.”
Facebook is changing its algorithms again, and it will affect engagement between your church page and its followers. While Mark Zuckerberg explains that the social media giant is attempting to support “meaningful interactions,” the move from less news, ads, and videos visible on a user’s newsfeed to more content from friends and family comes after an outcry about the spread of fake news on social media in the past several years. The shift is described in a New York Times article, which notes that the change “would prioritize what [users] friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands.”
The size of the publisher or brand doesn’t matter, however, so content coming from entities ranging from global news corporations to the Baptist church down the street will be “de-emphasized.”
Recently Christianity Today issued a helpful model for addressing this new reality with its recent boosted post to followers. Click here to see how they’re guiding followers through the transition to keep their connection strong.
Speaking of Facebook, The International Social Justice Commission of the Salvation Army is holding a Global Interactive Summit on Refugees and Displaced Peoples today, January 29th, and tomorrow, January 30th. Drop in for the multiple 90-minute sessions scheduled this evening and tomorrow on their Facebook page, which features live streaming and the ability to type questions in real time. Speakers from around the globe are sharing their not insignificant expertise, joining via video from far-flung locations like Australia, London, and Hong Kong.
So far the content has been rich and varied, revolving effortlessly around the theology of migration, pragmatic response, and personal experience.
The phrase “Kesha at the Grammys” isn’t one you’d normally find in a news roundup for pastors, but bear with me. Last night when pastors were waking up from post-preaching afternoon naps, the Grammys aired on CBS. Of the many (hit and miss) performances by musicians, one stood out.
In the wake of the #metoo and #timesup movement, which has seen a cascading avalanche of fallout in every profession (including ministry), the singer’s personal anthem of grieving her experience of sexual assault was charged from the moment she walked on stage. Sometimes a pop culture moment crystallizes the mood of a movement or culture; that’s what happened last night when Kesha was joined by other famous vocalists in a moving rendition of her song “Praying.”
For the many pastors dealing with double or triple the normal number of counseling appointments; for congregations dealing with the loss of clergy leaders who abused their positions; and, most of all, for church members who have carried around hidden trauma for far too long, this is a vital moment.
On a different note, a variety of seminaries, publishers, and pastors have come out swinging after recent remarks by American Calvinist theologian John Piper about women in ministry – and the academy.
Wesley Seminary in Marion, Indiana, Tweeted, “Wesley Seminary celebrates the Lord’s call to vocational ministry on the life of women as well as men. Women are welcome in every program we offer, including our MDiv and DMin, and we embrace women in leadership in all areas including our administration, faculty, and staff.”
Asbury Theological Seminary quickly jumped in as well on Twitter, asserting, “All degrees at Asbury Seminary, including M.Div., are open to men & women. We encourage men & women to live, learn, worship & preach, affirming full participation in pastoral leadership, scholarship, & ministry. Share the female leaders, teachers & pastors who shaped you.”
Missio Alliance has posted Rev. Dennis R. Edwards’ response to Piper’s statements, called “Why I Needed Women Seminary Professors: A Response to John Piper.”
Finally, amid the more explicitly faith-based tv shows emerging on the classic networks, a popular book by a famed Christian thinker and author is making the transition to the big screen this spring. Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” hits theaters March 9th. Directed by “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, the film includes familiar faces cast as the mysterious figures Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who.
You can read Madeleine L’Engle’s reflection on faith and the arts in, “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.”
Now is the time to sit down and read (or re-read) the classic novel for yourself or with kids before the movie comes out.
We’ll conclude our varied, though not exhaustive, lap around the web here.
As you prepare for the awkward juxtaposition of sacred and secular coming up – Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday/April Fool’s, let us know in the comments what creative maneuvers your church is taking this year.