On this page I'll share a selection of writings. Some have been published while others have been used in Bible studies or worship services.
"Lets Re-envision Normal"
A piece on challenging pastors and congregations to not simply return to "business as usual" after the pandemic. Published by Faith and Leadership at Duke Divinity School.
I miss our congregation. I miss our life together and our particular embodiment of the church in our little corner of the universe. But the thought of a return to pre-pandemic “life as we knew it” doesn’t hold the same appeal to me as it might have when this began.
At the onset of COVID-19, many congregations -- including mine -- were simply reacting. We were reaching for short-term fixes as our government and medical systems got a handle on things.
But temporary solutions soon became full-fledged adaptations, stretching from weeks into months into seasons. And as we gave ourselves over to our new life together, some beautiful things began to emerge. [CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING]
"Leading from the Middle"
A piece on navigating the dynamic between senior and associate pastor/s. Originally published by Faith and Leadership at Duke Divinity School.
“Thanks, Alex. I know you understand this in a way that [the senior pastor] doesn’t.”
As an associate pastor, I admit that it can feel good to hear such comments. They provide moments of pastoral visibility in a role that is often seen as the “backup minister” -- or worse, the “minister-in-training.”
However, to take the personal compliment without acknowledging the unfair critique of my colleague would be to undermine the critical relationship between senior and associate on which our congregation depends.
To help us maintain a strong relationship in moments like these, my senior colleague and I have built our partnership on a simple philosophy: she treats me as a co-pastor, and I treat her as the senior pastor. [CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING]
Release: A 2020 Lenten Devotional
For the 2020 Lenten season, I wrote an 11-part devotional book on the theme of "Release." Here is a selection from Release for Shrove Tuesday. You can download and read the whole devotional series by clicking here.
You may be surprised to learn that all the partying New Orleans is famous for on Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras is actually all thanks to the season of Lent. In its origin, Fat Tuesday was the day in which you would use up all the butter, sugar, and fat in your home - all the things you would not have again until Easter. (Everything else that happens on Mardi Gras is another story.)
However, in the Protestant tradition (of which we are a part), it is also common to refer to that final day as Shrove Tuesday. On this day, Christians would confess their sins, receive absolution, and do penance - thus being "shriven" before the start of Lent. This Lent we're focusing on the theme of "Release." This idea that in order for us to fully welcome life-changing, reorienting, world shaking Good News of Easter, there are likely things we have to first release.
Maybe it's a particular story we tell ourselves - about us not being good enough, smart enough, worthy enough. Maybe it's something we keep blaming ourselves for - some mistake or misstep from our past. Maybe it's our skepticism or cynicism - while it served to protect us for a time, now it's just holding us back.
In order to do something new, we often have to leave something else behind. What is it that you need to release this Lenten season? What is it that you need to lay down before God, either before Lent, or through the Season of Lent, in order to pick up something new on the other side?
Newcomer and Welcoming Guide
After years of reinventing the wheel each newcomers class, I wrote a booklet to help our Welcoming Team and newcomers feel comfortable at church. Here is a bit from the section about "membership." You can read the full guide by clicking here.
In today's world, you can be a member of nearly anything and everything: Amazon, Netflix, Soul Cycle, AARP - the list goes on and on. It can be confusing then to talk about church membership. While you definitely get something in return for being a member, we don't charge an annual fee. At South Church, membership has both practical and faithful components.
Practically speaking, South Church is a registered non-profit with the state of Massachusetts. In that capacity, we occasionally vote to make decisions about how to spend our donations and who to hire as our pastors. Only members of South Church get the chance to vote when those moments arise. However, the heart of membership has more to do with your faith journey than voting privileges.
Choosing to become a member is like making a grace-filled promise with the church and God, declaring that you want to walk with us in spiritual growth, fellowship, and service in such a way that we might know you by name. In a world that can so easily discard everything from clothes to relationships, membership is a small way of saying we're going to stick it out with one another even when - especially when - it's hard.
Some folks visit South Church and want to join right away; others need even a few years before they're ready. Take your time; it's a personal decision. You may have to be a member to vote, but you don't have to be a member to participate in the life of the church. Wherever you are on life's journey, you're welcome here.
Pastoral Response to the Border Crisis
From an email sent to our congregation.
As the weeks go on, it is becoming increasingly clear that we, as a nation, are witnessing a humanitarian crisis on our southern border. Thousands of children of God are seeking entry into our country to flee violence and poverty. News outlets have provided harrowing accounts of disturbing facility conditions for children as young as babies in diapers. While we do not have policy suggestions for our leaders, we do have scripture to guide our response. [CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING]
A Brief Easter Prayer
"Do they know, Holy One? Have they heard that the stone has been rolled away? That the burial wraps have best cast aside? Have they seen the angel and heard the good news? For us, oh God, Good Friday has come and gone. The dark night of despair has been replaced by the bright morning of love. But how many of our brothers and sisters in this world remain trapped in Good Friday? How many of our brothers and sisters still attempt to control and order the world through death? We pray today that endless night might be broken by Easter’s dawn, that the light of the world might grow as bright as the noon day sun. So that no matter where your children gather, they might see your light as a beacon of hope. All throughout the world, oh God, may this be the Easter we live into our highest calling to love one another as you love us. So send us this day, oh God, out into your world. Might we too run from the tomb, not in fear, but in anticipation of sharing the Good News of resurrection for all of God’s people. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen."