2014 demonstrated that, whatever the significance of Barack Obama’s two terms as our first African American president, we have hardly moved beyond national struggles over race and class. Failures to indict white policemen accused of the unjust killings of black men precipitated protests and online shouting matches about racial inequality, or just how to talk about race. Christians participated in (hopefully) profitable discussions such as the December 16, 2014 “A Time to Speak” event, hosted by Pastor Bryan Lorritts of Fellowship Memphis, at the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum.
December 16 was also the 300th birthday of George Whitefield, the most important evangelist of the Great Awakening of the 18th century.
Visitors to worship at the congregation I serve, Old South, will generally find a warm and friendly group. Most Old South folk are eager to greet new people, to invite them to coffee, and to talk to them about the church. There are a few people in the congregation who are attentive to newcomers during worship as well, making sure they have a bulletin, know which hymnal is which, and to deliver children’s materials to any kids. It’s nice to see.
If you manage to get into the building, you’ll find a nice welcome.
Brian and I are at the Farmer’s Market. I walk up to the vendors, and the wife says, “Oh! You must be Pastor Brian’s wife.”I shake her hand and say, “Yes, I am Brian’s wife. My name is Carol Howard Merritt.” As she introduces me to her husband, I wonder if I should I have added the “Reverend” to my name. I don’t usually use the prefix, but should I have notified them that I’m a pastor too?
Branding is all about claiming distinctiveness. What can your product do that others can’t? What looks or feels better than the others? What tastes stand out? Sometimes we treat faith communities the same way.
At the end of Marilynne Robinson’s latest novel Lila, the title character envisions heaven in an intensely communal way. In light of that communal vision, Century associate editor Amy Frykholm gathered together three avid Robinson readers—Rachel Stone, Peter Boumgarden, and Amber Noel—for a conversation about the novel.
Maybe it’s because I’m a pastor and my social media is flooded with churchy headlines and hashtags, but I’ve grown weary of the Christmas tradition of bemoaning the commercialization of the season and criticizing others (usually referring to non-Christians) for being so materialistic about Christmas.
I mean, I’ve got my own gripes with Black Friday and Xmas music in late September but is there anything more cliché than surveying the wrapping paper debris on the curb and the pine needles on the floor and lamenting that we’ve missed the meaning of Christmas?