Century Marks

Century Marks

Change or else

Due to declining enrollments and budget crunches, many seminaries are rethinking their future. Katherine M. Douglass and Jason Bruner, doctoral students at Princeton Theological Seminary, think there are other reasons why seminaries need to think fresh thoughts about their role in the churches. One has to do with a changing demographic, which includes more minority and immigrant congregations. Another has to do with the increasing challenge of interfaith relationships and dialogue. Established seminaries could learn from the model of some immigrant churches whose leaders are trained to work in other fields. Seminaries should recruit local immigrant pastors to provide on-the-job training. The old model of apprenticeships is worth another look, too (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 13).

United front

After years of preparation, a new Christian denomination was formed last month in France when two synods met in the eastern town of Belfort, a location historically important in the growth of Protestantism. Called the United Protestant Church of France, the merger is not for economies of scale but to make a more united witness to the gospel. The merger of the Reformed Church of France (ERF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France (EELF) was first proposed in the 1960s but was resisted by Lutherans who feared they might be absorbed. A new proposal was launched in 2001, and the nearly unanimous decision to merge was taken in 2007 (ENInews).

Thinking about death

Chaplain Rob Ruff encourages people to start early in life to prepare for death. Think about your death a moment or two each day, he says, keeping in mind that death is a natural part of life. Don’t give in to the idea that to think about death will somehow make it happen. Make a list of the things you want to do before dying and then check them off. Prepare an advance medical directive, designating who you want to make decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself and what your end-of-life preferences are. Use your prayer life to prepare for death. Finally, say the most important words to the most important people in your life: Forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you (KevinMD.com).

Real spirituality

The Vietnam War underscored for Ismael García the colonial status of Puerto Rico. An inordinate number of Puerto Ricans were drafted to fight that war, even though they couldn’t engage in electing the people who were responsible for it. García was also disappointed in the church at the time, because he thought it ignored social and political realities on the island and focused instead on whether it was appropriate for women to wear slacks and how long men’s hair should be. In time García, who became a Christian ethicist, discovered Christians who modeled a life of social activism and inner spiritual devotion. He identified three traits of these Christians: they view God as sovereign in all spheres of life; they are committed to projects and concerns larger than their own personal interests; and they know that faithful living entails social analysis and cultural interpretation (“On Spirituality,” in A Spiritual Life, edited by Allan Hugh Cole Jr., West­min­ster John Knox).

Sing out

People still sing together in churches and ballparks, but what is absent in America, say Karen Loew, is “community-oriented, community-building, sometimes spontaneous” singing. One obstacle is the lack of a common repertoire of songs. “Since we’re out of practice as a society, the person who dares to begin a song risks having no one join her.” Protest movements have long been known by their music. While the Occupy movement has incorporated some music, it has not generated original music (Atlantic, March).