About jbrockway

Director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Sending Out His Word

2015 COVER

Psalm 107:17-22

Question:

What situation in life causes you to feel less than hopeful? Invite God to change your perspective on this situation and thus begin to heal you.

Prayer:

God of hope, who transforms our doubts and insecurities into opportunities for growth, forgive us for the times when we have unintentionally reduced your power to our understanding of what is possible. Thank you for sending your word in the example of Jesus, and inspire us to share your hopeful word with others. Amen.

~ Becky Ullom Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Cry to the Lord

2015 COVER

Psalm 107:17-22

Question:

What is the most significant cause of your distress these days? How do you want God to help you in this situation?

Prayer:

Merciful God, who promises to be with us even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, incline you ear to my plea. Break into my life with your presence as the sun breaks through the clouds! Amen.

~ Becky Ullom Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Speak Up!

2015 COVER

Psalm 107:1-3

Question:

What would it be like for you to consistently share about the way the Holy Spirit has been active in your life on a day-to-day basis? You might share with a spouse, housemate, work colleague, or child.


Prayer:

Eloquent God, whose wisdom and graciousness is transmitted to us in many ways, strengthen our timid hearts and cause us to tell others about the small and grand ways you move in our lives. Amen.

~ Becky Ullom Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Believers Math

2015 COVER

Psalm 84:8-12

Question:

How might you fix your eyes upon God today? Try to name one concrete action that will put your heart and mind in a position to be able to sense God’s presence with you.


Prayer:

Magnificent God, whose presence with us provides a peace that passes all understanding, inspire us with the desire to focus on you today. As we wander through the wilderness of Lent, remind us of our spiritual home with you. Amen.

 

~ Becky Ullom Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

One For All

2015 COVER

I Peter 3:18-22
Prayer: God for us, we confess that we work as if all depends on us. We confess that all too often we seek our own salvation. As we journey towards the resurrection of your Son, forgive us the temptations of such pride and reveal to us how you are with us, reconciling all the world. For you alone are our savior. Amen
Question: When are you most tempted to do something on your own?

~ Joshua Brockway, Director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Happiness

2015 COVER

Psalm 32
Prayer: Holy God, we look to so many things for our happiness. We give into the images of peace and joy paraded before us on screens billboards. Yet, we know that nothing compares to the joy of your grace. In the distracted state of our lives we lose sight of your forgiveness. Open our hearts that we might celebrate the joy of the forgiveness that comes even before the words are on our lips. Amen
Question: What keeps you from the true joy of God’s forgiveness?

~ Joshua Brockway, Director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Let Your Face Shine

2015 COVER

Daniel 9:15-25a

Prayer: God of the Kingdom to come, we too often look to the peace of our past rather than the hope of your reign. Instead of living into your continuing restoration of our world, we long for days gone by, trusting in relics rather than your provision for the day. Let your face shine, showing us the next steps of our journey of faith, trusting in your ever unfolding peace. Amen
Question: What signs of the past do you clench so tightly that you cannot receive what is yet to come?

~ Joshua Brockway, Director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Teach Me

2015 COVER

 

Psalm 25:1-10

Prayer: Merciful God, we admit that all to often our ways are not your ways. In the midst of fear, anxiety, and loss we take matters into our own hands. We fail to trust what we know from scripture and the great cloud of witnesses. As we prepare for the redemption of your Son, call us back to your truth and remind us of the faith that has nurtured us beyond our merit. Amen
Question: What makes you anxious?

~ Joshua Brockway, Director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive for the Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Craig’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Sound the Alarm

2015 COVER

Joel2:1-2, 12-17

Prayer: O God, in the busyness of our days we lose our attention. In this season of waiting preparation call our minds and hearts back to your presence. As we let go of what seems like only a little part of our daily lives, teach us your ways that we might keep our attention on you. Amen
Practice: Set an alarm on your computer, smart phone, or watch that will call you to prayer each day in this season.

~ Joshua Brockway, Director for Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lent Devotional written by Craig H. Smith, district executive of Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren and ordained minister. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Sandy’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

An Anabaptist Family Meeting

In the world of theological conversations it seems that everyone is talking about us. Brian McClaren named Anabaptists as part of the composition of his Generous Orthodoxy. Stuart Murray outlined the markers of a Naked Anabaptist. Greg Boyd and others continue to trumpet the peace testimony and challenge imperialist theologies, even to the point of losing members from their congregations in doing so. Funny thing is that in talking about us, these pastor theologians rarely get the opportunity to talk with us. Even more striking is the fact that those of us in the Anabaptist family rarely have the chance to talk together.

Thanks to Missio Alliance and a number of co-sponsors, including the Church of the Brethren, we finally got the chance to have a family meeting. On September 19 and 20 nearly 400 people met in Carlisle Pennsylvania to explore the intersections between Evangelicalism and Anabaptism. Historic Anabaptist groups such as the Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Church USA, and the Church of the Brethren all provided speakers. Emerging Anabaptist leaders such as Greg Boyd, Brian Zahnd, Bruxy Cavey, Kurt Willems also shared in the main sessions. Many noted from the stage and in the hallways that such a gathering of these groups is rare, and thus the opportunities are vast.

In a culture where Evangelicalism is increasingly identified with stripes of Calvinism and Reformed theology, the space opened by Missio Alliance and these Anabaptists revealed a depth to North American Evangelicalism. To be sure, Anabaptists and Evangelicals are not antithetical. Both strains of Free Church theology share the conviction that the Christian life is marked by conversion and adult baptism. We also have a high regard for the Bible as the church’s scriptures and a Christ centered vision of the Christian life. There are also significant markers of difference, but in this gathering one of the common points of conversation focused on a shared welcome of the end of Christendom thinking. That shared connection takes many forms, but the general idea that North American Christianity has been dominated by theologies that link empire building and the church was one that many rejected.

In the course of the gathering it was clear that we still needed to identify what we meant by “Anabaptist.” Some clearly understood it in a thick way, including communal interpretation of scripture and the desire to simply do what Jesus said we should be doing. Still others used Anabaptism as short hand for a non-violent ethic of discipleship. Yet, given the range of Anabaptist traditions and the many strains of influence in what is becoming called Neo-Anabaptist theology, we missed an opportunity to gain some understanding of this breadth and thus the possibilities for an engagement of Anabaptist thought in the wider theological conversations. Frank James of Biblical Seminary, while recounting the history of Anabaptism, also invited us to look at a larger dialog between Reformed and Anabaptist strains of Evangelicalism. The nature of this gathering, however, made it feel more like a family meeting than an opportunity to explore the range of Evangelicalism. To some, it felt like a gathering where many of us congratulated ourselves on being “Anabaptists.”

The format of the gathering also revealed an interesting contrast between historic Anabaptism and more culturally attuned Evangelicals. A number of noted Neo-Anabaptists were recruited as speakers, and it was clear that these were names intended to draw an audience. Many of us welcomed hearing and engaging these writers and pastors, yet for many historic Anabaptists, the celebrity culture of the North American Church was a clear hurdle. While Missio Alliance is framed as an organization that is trying to make space within the fissures of the North American church for important and integrative conversations, the conference still had an air of bringing in the celebrities to talk to a crowd. While several historic Anabaptists were part of the plenary schedule, it was quite clear that there was not much conversation to be had. Instead, the task of synthesizing the various ideas was placed on those in the audience.

Part of that reality was due to the schedule. In recruiting so many plenary speakers we crammed 3-4 presentations into a two hour sessions. When, as inevitably happens, speakers went over time the result was a question and answer time that was often limited to one question and a short response from (hopefully) each presenter. Rather than having a conversation, the end result was a collage of ideas that the leaders in the room had to assemble for themselves. This inundation of speakers also was a taxing schedule for all those who attended. There was simply too much to synthesize and keep track of, without much space created for processing the information. I wonder if the low attendance on the second day was in part due to exhaustion.

There certainly are, especially for those interested in Anabaptism, better ways of structuring a conference to reflect conversation and communal discernment than packing the sessions with so many speakers. I wonder if we could have had two or three short presentations from church and congregational leaders and had those celebrity pastors respond and be in conversation with those presenters.

The breakout sessions were clearly intended to be the space for conversation. Yet, we also leaned heavily on presenters who offered more content than on facilitators. I wonder if we could have tried not having set sessions and identified key concepts from the plenaries and offered space for those interested in talking together about critical topics that emerged from the presentations. This may still sound like what was intended by the planners, but we could have done this on a more ad hoc basis. Rather than ask people to prepare a session with more content and a little space for conversation, these sessions could have been more tactical and responsive to the issues arising in the large group sessions.

All that aside, this was surely a unique gathering. It offered a place for pastors and leaders who frequently feel alone and taxed to meet with others who are thinking in similar directions. As a staff person for the CoB who worked on the planning team, it was worth the effort seeing pastors engage a range of people talking about our tradition. It gave us the opportunity to network with other CoB pastors as well as connect to other leaders.

At the end, it was clear to me that this was just one conference that offers us future opportunities. In the plenaries a number of critical questions were raised that could easily bring us together again. Rather than try to narrate those questions, I will simply list a few that filled my own notes.

1) The mono-cultural problems with historic Anabaptists- Is our Germanic heritage an asset or a hurdle to sharing the unique emphases within our traditions?

2) Structural racism in our society and our churches- How can a tradition whose very beginnings were rooted in marginalization by the wider Christendom structures rethink our own complicity in the continued marginalization of others in our town and our churches?

3) The need for more women voices- The balance of presenters were men, yet the struggle seems that opening space for women isn’t the real issue. What changes in the Anabaptist conversations when the voices of the women who are clearly engaged are heard on their own terms, and not because they speak from the male dominated language and expectations?