Advancing your church in the Digital Age

Flickr image by James at Uni

Many churches are struggling to figure out this whole Internet thing. Does a church need a website? What should be on it? What about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest?

Overwhelmed yet?

On April 10 SpokaneFAVS editor Tracy Simmons will lead a workshop, “Advancing your church in the Digital Age” where she’ll discuss how churches can develop a true Web presence.

A new report by Faith Communities Today shows 69 percent of congregations have websites and 40 percent use Facebook.

“Ministry should be, even must be, a technological hybrid venture in this day and age. But technology is not an end in itself. It has to be employed strategically and intentionally as a component of the overall ministry effort of the congregation. It is not a matter of having a webpage, a Facebook account or projection screens, but of using these to enhance and expand the activities and communal life of the congregation,” said Scott Thumma, author of the FACT study.

Another study, by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, shows 79 percent of Americans belonging to a faith group are active Internet users. Millions of Americans are on Facebook, the average user spending 15 hours and 33 hours a month on the site. Twitter is adding 500,000 users a day, according to the Search Engine Journal.

To stay relevant to today’s digital world, churches need to meet people where they are — online (in lots of places). Find out how at the workshop, which is SpokaneFAVS first fundraiser. It will be at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Cathedral, 127 East 12th Ave. Donations are appreciated.

RSVP on the Advancing your church in the Digital Age Facebook page.

SpokaneFAVS is an online publication that covers faith news in the Spokane area through news stories, multimedia and blogs. Simmons has worked as an online journalist for nearly a decade and has studied social media, multimedia and Web design.

 

Ecumenical Good Friday service celebrates the Easter mystery

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Tenebrae "herse" (candelabrum)/Wikipedia

On Friday evening, the sanctuary at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral will slowly get darker and darker, symbolizing the crucifixion of Jesus and the suspense of his resurrection.

It’s the second year the church has hosted the Ecumenical Tenebrae Prayer Service, which will be celebrated by five of Spokane’s Christian leaders.

“It darkens as Christ moves further and further away from us,” said the Rev. Jeff Lewis, parochial vicar of the cathedral, adding that only a single candle will remain at the end of the service, signifying the unconquerable light of Christ.

The Tenebrae service is a long-time tradition at Our Lady of Lourdes, but in an effort to be more inclusive Bishop Blase Cupich, of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, changed it last year to be an ecumenical service.

About 150 people attended the 2011 program.

This year the service will be led by the Rev. Sheryl Kinder Pyle, transitional executive presbyter of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, Bishop James E. Waggoner, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Bishop Martin Wells, of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastern Washington – Idaho, the Rev. Dale Cockrum, the inland district superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist Church, and Cupich.

Kinder Pyle will deliver the sermon and the other faith leaders will read the accompanying scriptures and Good Friday texts. The Cathedral singers will lead the congregation in traditional chants and songs.

“One of the ways we can really celebrate our commonalities is through these kinds of things,” Lewis said. “It’s really a very subtle, but very unique and prayerful opportunity to reflect upon the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.”

The service will begin at 7 p.m.

Also on Good Friday, at noon, the cathedral will celebrate the Lord’s Passion with the veneration of the cross.

VIEWPOINTS: What’s your favorite scripture and why?

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Last year the most popular scripture on Biblegateway.com was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

We asked our panelists what their favorite passage was.

VIEWPOINTS: What’s your favorite scripture and why?

Dr. Rob Snyder

Matthew 25:31-46. This is one of my favorite scriptural passages in the New Testament. For me the message is very direct and clear. The kingdom of God is not about what you think, what you believe, but the kingdom of God is how do you treat one another. I am not sure why the goats always get the short end of the stick, poor goats.

Those who think they are religious and righteous are the ones who are missing the boat, so to speak. “When you did not do it to the one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” For me, this passage calls one to practice mindfulness. It calls one to “walk their talk” to be authentic and to truly, fully, completely love all people. And not just the good people, not just one’s friends, or not just the one’s you like. But to love the transient person who asks for a handout on the street. To love the alcoholic who is so addicted they are caught in one of the most insidious traps. To love the person whom you politically disagree with vehemently, is the call of the kingdom of God.

It is easy to say you love all people, but what do your actions say. What are the passing thoughts in ones’ mind? Are we aware of our every thought? This passage also speaks to me of the amazing aspect of the divinity living within each person. “When you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Now, personally I do not believe in hell, and I believe in God’s most merciful and compassion nature. I believe the “eternal fire” is a metaphor representing not being in the presence of the divine. If there is a hell, it is of our own making. When Jesus proclaimed the Good News it was not about a new religion or a new faith. The Good News is very simple; The Kingdom of God is here now. Thus, we are not to wait until we are perfect, or wait until we are in heaven, or wait for anything to start treating every person as a unique and wonderful creation of the divine.

Rob Snyder

Diane Kipp

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have quite a few favorite scriptures; possibly some of my favorites are also yours. I Googled John 3:16 and was not completely surprised to learn, at least according to Wikipedia, that it is “one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse. It has also been called the ‘Gospel in a nutshell.’ ”

Another of my favorites might be less familiar to some of you; it is from The Book of Mormon.  Ether 12:27 says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  It gives me great comfort to know that my (many) weaknesses are part of God’s plan and can be made to serve his purposes. It is amazing to think any area where I am weak could potentially become one of my strengths (me, patient? me, brave? me, a morning person?).

My theoretical belief in this scripture is complete but my personal belief is still developing. Over my 58 years, I have indeed  been made aware of my weaknesses (I have four children, so that’s a given) and that has humbled me substantially, though not completely; I’m also still working on the faith/grace aspect. I haven’t become a scriptorian (yet!) and my self-control is often AWOL, but I don’t gossip like I did at 20 and I learned to drive in Barcelona (OK, that one’s not exactly a spiritual strength, but trying in any area helps us improve in others, right?) So I still have hope that eventually I will see this wonderful scripture fulfilled in myself.

Diane Kipp

Pastor Eric Blauer

Romans 11:36. This verse is my life verse because it always grounds me in the truth of God’s sovereignty. This chaotic world gives plenty of reasons to doubt God’s goodness and power.

This passage helps me keep an eternal perspective on what and who this life of mine is all about, especially on the days when I’m struggling to understand what’s going on.

It’s like a small compass that helps me stay on course and navigate this path of life.

Eric Blauer

Lace Williams-Tinajero

Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–13 is famously used in weddings and etched on Christian decor. The more crucial section, the first three verses, are often skipped. These verses are my favorite because they always shift troubling religious conversations.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NRSV).

Some family friends attend a Christian church in Northern Idaho where the pastor teaches that Jews are outsiders to God’s new covenant in Jesus and are unsaved. Over the years, it has been harder to be around this couple. They have acquired a condemning attitude towards people who believe differently and a zeal to sway others to their way of thinking. My parents have been distressed and confused over it. Then one day our conversation turned to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3. A silence filled the space. In that moment I saw in their eyes compassion instead of condemnation, wonder in place of knowledge, love not anger, and being human together rather than being right.

Lace Williams-Tinajero


Note to readers

Dear SpokaneFAVS readers,

Please note the URL for SpokaneFAVS is http://www.spokaneFAVS.com. We ask that you update your browser bookmarks if you’re still going to http://www.religionnewsspokane.wordpress.com.

Also, SpokaneFAVS will not be on WordPress much longer. If you follow us on WordPress I urge you to sign up for our weekly newsletter instead.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Flickr, Pinterest, Foursquare and YouTube.

Thank you for your support,

Tracy Simmons, editor

Palm Sunday, as I have experienced it, seems anemic

By Blogger Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

As I figure it, Palm Sunday was the greatest day Jesus’ disciples experienced.

This day laid claim of their expectations that they were following the sudden king of Jerusalem, Judah, Israel, and the heavens and the earth. Finally, no more wondering what he meant when he was teaching those parables, no more wondering when the day of his kingdom would be announced, no more walking around the whole of the country.

Wikipedia photo

This was a time for sitting on either side of the enthroned King. This was a time for celebration. Even the people were fully on board. No small cutsie parade of kids walking vaguely down the aisle of a sanctuary, this was a full-blown, 1945 end-of-world-war-two-ticker-tape festivity, with people laying down their clothing and huge palm leaves so that the son of God wouldn’t have to humble himself by touching the dirt with his feet (I’m curious: what if instead of the parade of palms we so typically enjoy was replaced with all us adults throwing our jackets and such on the ground and having it trampled by a donkey?  Or shouting “hail to the king” so loudly it broke city ordinance and officials had to come break up the party?).

For the people, their liberator had arrived: for today and forever. And Jesus agreed. This was a day that made it all worth it. In my history, there is nothing that compares to what this day meant to its participants. It’s better than a national championship, any form of graduation, the wrap party after the final show, and even my wedding reception. I would have loved to join this celebration. I wish I could have been there.

Buddhist, Christian holiday fall on same day this year

By Contributor Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

This April 8, while millions (dare I say billions) of Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands (dare I say millions) of Buddhists will be celebrating the birth of Buddha.

In a somewhat infrequent confluence of holy events, Easter Sunday this year corresponds perfectly with the Japanese Buddhist holiday Hanamatsuri.

Hanamatsuri has been on April 8 every year since Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar in the late 19th century.  Hanamatsuri literally translates into ‘flower festival’ and is one of my favorite holidays.

Wikipedia

Hanamatsuri celebrates the folklore surrounding the story of the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. According to versions of the Buddha’s birth, Buddha could walk the moment he was born. He took seven steps with his right hand pointing towards the heavens and his left hand pointing to the earth said, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.” At which point sweet nectar rained from the heavens (or in some versions perfume was poured over the Buddha by two dragon kings). Because of this story Buddhists in Japan and other East Asian countries celebrate the birth of Buddha by pouring sweet tea or sprinkling water over statues of the Buddha and decorating alters with flowers.

I have always enjoyed Hanamatsuri, and have looked forward to the ama-cha (sweet tea) made that year. Regardless of whether you believe the story about the events that transpired during the birth of Buddha, I think anyone can enjoy the beauty behind the ceremony. For Buddhists it is a holiday with traditions stretching back centuries, and it still holds a lot of meaning.

This is a concept that I find refreshing, especially during this season in which many people paint and hide eggs for reasons that are largely unknown by the common practitioner. While the church pews fill and everyone begins the conversation about the transformative power of the resurrection of Christ, temples are also filling with practitioners bearing flowers and tea celebrating the gift of Buddha’s arrival on earth.

I like to celebrate Buddha’s entrance onto this planet and reflect on my own contributions towards greater understanding. I would like to imagine it is not mere coincidence both of these significant events happen to fall on this date in the calendar. It’s nice to think that this time of year is holy to all. As I watch all my Christian friends file out of church this coming Sunday, I’ll smile knowing we share a common reverence for those who came generations before us to give us the gifts that provide spirituality to their children even today.

After Trayvon Martin case, churches say ‘stereotypes cost lives’

Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

Martin/Wikipedia

An umbrella group of Christian denominations committed to combating racism is urging churches to use the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin as a “teachable moment” to speak out against racial stereotypes.

“It is a time to understand the burden that some of us have to live always facing the stereotypes of others and the danger that these stereotypes might cost us our lives,” wrote the 10 leaders of Churches Uniting in Christ in a statement released Wednesday (March 28).

“In humility, we invite the Body of Christ to join in serious self-examination about how our communities by our silence support racial profiling and stereotyping.”

CUIC called on churches to examine laws that may have contributed to the Feb. 26 death of Martin, a 17-year-old African-American who was unarmed. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, admitted shooting Martin in Sanford, Fla., but law enforcement officials have not charged him, citing the state’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

“We cannot remain silent as our country once again struggles with the senseless killing of an unarmed young African-American boy,” the CUIC leaders said. “We write because we cannot remain silent at the continued ‘criminalization’ of black and brown peoples with laws that give license to people to shoot first and ask questions later.”

CUIC is composed of 10 mainline Protestant and historically black denominations, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and others, with a special focus on overcoming racism.

Top leaders of the National Council of Churches also called for the aftermath of Martin’s death to be a time for introspection. “All of us — especially those who are white — must engage in urgent self-examination about the ways we react to persons we regard as ‘other,'” wrote NCC President Kathryn M. Lohre and Interim General Secretary Clare J. Chapman.

Some commentators have questioned whether white clergy took too long to add their voices to discussions about the case.

Although the Florida Council of Churches recently issued a statement about the case, “local white faith leaders have been missing from action in the movement for justice for nearly a month,” former Orlando Sentinel religion writer Mark Pinsky wrote in The Huffington Post.

Everyone is beautiful

By Contributor Ernesto Tinajero

So, it has started.

My son was chosen to be the Guild School poster child. We agreed because we love the Guild School and what they done for my son.

We also are trying to combat what my wife has posted about before, the incessant chatter about my son’s looks. He loves people and many times people shy away.

We know he is beautiful. Seeing the image of God in all people remind us how beautiful everyone is.

We were just told that his commercial will start to run for the next month. Watch it and tell us what you think.