Alban Weekly | Tangier Island, the church, and living on the edge

4 months ago

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Tangier Island, the church, and living on the edge
There are no easy answers for the people of Tangier Island, Virginia.
The 740-acre island, located in the Chesapeake Bay, is home to 470 people, but because of sea rise and erosion it gives up 16 feet of its coastline each year. At this rate, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the island will be under water in 50 years and uninhabitable in 20 to 30. Some are predicting that the people of Tangier will be the first "climate-change refugees" in the United States.
To preserve the island, the Army Corps has proposed $30 million worth of interventions, including breakwaters, new sand barriers and imported vegetation to slow the sea's seeming sure advance. The president has told the mayor not to worry about the island's future. Yet whether the government will choose to fund these life-extending -- if not life-saving -- measures for tiny Tangier remains to be determined.
There are no easy answers for the people of Tangier Island as they watch the sea rise: Stay. Leave. Hope. Trust. Worry. Wait.
What would you do if this were your home?
Loren Mead, the late founder of the Alban Institute, told me the story of Tangier the first time we met. He said the church today is like Tangier Island, and then he paused.
In the seconds of his pause, my mind leapt ahead to certain conclusions. I assumed his point was that the church is spending (or will need to spend) a tremendous amount of capital to preserve its life against the unrelenting rise of cultural, societal and environmental forces that challenge its existence. I assumed he was also saying that we have already invested far too much in saving some things that may in the end prove not to be salvageable, and that perhaps we should make our peace with that reality and let them go.
Neither was his point, however.
Read more from Alban Managing Director Nathan Kirkpatrick »
What constitutes a life worth living? And how do you begin to explore that question? 
The Rev. Dr. Matthew Croasmun and his colleagues tackle the issue in a course offered by the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School. In it, students engage with a range of philosophical and religious traditions to form habits of reflection that will equip them for "the life-long process of discerning the good life." 
In his conversation with "Can These Bones" co-host Laura Everett, Croasmun talks about what he has learned from teaching the course, why engaging with other religious traditions is vital to his faith, and why he is one of the faculty advisers for Yale's secular humanist community.
Read or listen to this podcast »
How do I listen to a podcast? » 
The gifts of the small church 
The Gifts of the Small Church is a memoir of writer Jason Byassee's two years in pastoral ministry. He argues that, despite popular discourse, local churches are not the problem. Whatever ails the church today, he says, local churches are part of God's solution.
Read more from Jason Byassee »
The strength and beauty of small churches
In a time of extraordinary transformation, small churches are a resource and a gift to the wider church, says a priest in North Carolina. They are the ones best-prepared to enter the way of revitalization and renewal, and to report back to those who will follow.
Read more from Lisa Fischbeck »
A church isn't a blank slate -- and neither is a pastor
Leading change requires understanding a community's system for relating and behaving -- and understanding your own family system, too.
Read more from Matt Johnson »
From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church
by Bruce Epperly and Daryl Hollinger
Small congregations can have beautiful worship! 
In From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church, an experienced pastor-professor and an experienced church musician provide a model for faithful and excellent worship in congregations that average 75 or fewer people in weekly worship. While the limitations of small congregations are obvious to their members and leaders, the possibilities for creative music and worship are often greater than we can imagine. 
Epperly and Hollinger integrate theology, spiritual formation, and practical guidance for nurturing diverse, inspirational, and transforming worship in small congregations. Grounded in a solid theology of worship, they provide tried-and-true approaches to congregational music and singing, worship planning, liturgies that transform, and healthy partnerships between pastors and church musicians. God is present in small congregations, and the authors help pastors, church musicians, and active laypersons awaken to God's activity in every aspect of worship and music. They illuminate possibilities for opening to God in worship and music through their own stories, the stories of congregations and their pastors, practical counsel, spiritual practices, and theological reflection.
Learn more and order the book »
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