Religious Diversity in the US

religiously diverse

While I often hear people state as fact the idea that the United States is a land of considerable religious diversity, it is important to note that such claims are simply untrue.  According to a new Pew Research Center study, the United States is nowhere near making the list as one of the world's most diverse countries or territories (we ranked #68). So What? Just how diverse are we?  The research shows that only 1 out of every 20 people living in America is an adherent to a religion other Read More …

Christian Youth: Learning and Living the Faith

confirmation

Princeton Theological Seminary was recently awarded a $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund a study that will "provide church leaders with strategies to help children connect with their religion."  This study of confirmation in five denominations - United Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal - will include two elements: : (1) a survey of youth and parents about their beliefs, and  (2) research that will involve visiting churches Read More …

Is Christianity Bad for Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship

A new study by economists Travis Wiseman (Mississippi State University) and Andrew Young (West Virginia University), found that the "measure of total Christian adherents is robustly and positively correlated with states’ unproductive entrepreneurship scores.” Put more simply: the more Christians in a given state the more likely that state is less successful in entrepreneurial endeavors.  Additionally, the study found that atheism and agnosticism positively impact Read More …

Labyrinth Dedication

dedication

Two days ago, on a beautiful sunny 80 degree afternoon, the outdoor labyrinth at the Naples United Church of Christ was dedicated in a simple but moving service. In keeping with the intentionally public always welcoming placement of this new labyrinth the service was open to all and concluded with an invitation to linger and walk. So What? The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, founder of Veriditas and the world's foremost expert on the labyrinth, was present to lead an all day workshop prior to the Read More …

Sermon: Thirsting for More

spiritual hunger and thirst

Sermon Text: John 4:5-15, 19-26, 39-42 Sermon Excerpt This morning I want to offer a history lesson: a lesson in the shifting nature of American spirituality since the 1950s.  Don’t worry. This isn’t a doom and gloom account of the decline of Christianity or an attempt to idealize an earlier era.  Instead, it is an effort to help give names to changes almost everyone here has lived through. Robert Wuthnow, an esteemed sociologist who has taught for many years at Princeton where he also Read More …

Progressive Identity

Old South

Many people think of the United Church of Christ as a progressive Protestant denomination.  Since it is a congregational tradition, it is important to note that this tradition features congregations and members with views all across the theological continuum.  Individual congregations that claim progressive as a core part of their identity should be intentional in communicating that message. Recently I encountered an exemplary example of how to tell the progressive story well on the website Read More …

$90M Church Building Campaign

78M

Last year I shared the $130 million dollar modernization plans for First Baptist Church of Dallas, which at the time were believed to be the largest church building campaign ever undertaken. For that sum the church planned a total re-creation, rather than a renovation of the then existing campus including a sanctuary seating 3,000, a 4-story family center, a parking garage and sky bridge, and community space for use by the whole city. Last month, The United Methodist Church of the Read More …

New Educational Inequality

College-Costs

The ongoing rapid rise in the cost of a college education has been troubling for some time.  The increasing costs are troubling for graduates and the economy. For current college students a new reality is making an already challenging situation more difficult for those from families with the lowest household incomes.  More specifically,  the Hechinger Report considered the net price change students experienced from the 2008-09 school year to the 2011-12 year.  This data shows that students Read More …

A Unique Lenten Discipline

40 Days in Orange

Last year I shared the story of an unusual Lenten discipline: Shawnthea Monroe, senior minister of Plymouth Church, chose to wear a collar for Lent.  This year, I encountered an even more unique Lenten discipline: wearing orange prison jumpsuit. Kent McKeever, a Baptist youth minister at Seventh and James Baptist Church and an attorney who represents indigent clients through Mission Waco, is wearing the orange jumpsuit throughout Lent "to draw attention to disparities in the sentencing of the Read More …

Living in Happy Land

Top cities

I often tell people I live in paradise.  It appears that many experts agree with my assessment.  The latest statistic to support my claim about Naples (and Marco Island), FL comes from a Gallup study on the wellbeing of American communities.  It ranks Naples-Marco Island as 7th highest level of wellbeing among the nearly 200 metro areas considered. A few years ago I shared Naples rank as the #2 happiest seaside town.  Earlier this year, Marco Island was named the #1 island by Trip Read More …