Lights, Camera… Church: Lifting Up the Prophetic Voice of Film

By Wayne Meisel

When I was a kid, my parents would not let me go to the movies on Sundays.

Even though I didn’t like it or understand it, when I became a parent I tried to enforce the same policy with my own kids. But when they (and their mother!) questioned it, I didn’t have a good answer for why Sunday movies would be banned and the prohibition was lifted.

It’s not like going to the movies was outlawed in our home. My dad took my mom to Tuesday night movies, partly because that was their only date night, and partly because he was looking for sermon illustrations for Sunday morning. And sermon titles were due on Wednesday.

My father provided a prophetic voice in his preaching — sometimes with the help of a tale of heartbreak or redemption he had seen at the movies. At the heart of this, though, was an ability to challenge people to become aware, to become educated and to engage.

That is what many do from the pulpit and it is what many documentary filmmakers are doing now. Some filmmakers see their work as an expression of their faith. Others do not. Regardless, when viewed and studied, a documentary film can:

  • Enlighten acts of courage
  • Challenge realities of oppression
  • Educate about failing systems
  • Call us to live differently, through what we eat, think and do

READ THE REST at Huffington Post. 

Wayne Meisel was a speaker at the 2012 NEXT Church National Gathering in Dallas. He and Macky Alston will be in Charlotte next week for the 2013 gathering. Alston’s film LOVE FREE OR DIE will be screened on Sunday evening at 8 p.m. at Covenant Presbyterian.

The Work of the People, Done Over Coffee: The Liturgy Collective

by Sharon Core

The Busboys and Poets Liturgical Collective takes the Presbyterian belief of connectionalism seriously!  One day, while meeting at Busboys and Poets (Shirlington; Arlington, VA), three Presbyterian ministers wondered why there weren’t more collaborative efforts among churches, especially when it came to planning worship.  These three ministers also acknowledged that as solo pastors, having others to meet and plan with would be a godsend!  The three congregations and their ministers were:  Arlington Presbyterian Church (Sharon Core), Church of the Covenant (Beth Goss) and Clarendon Presbyterian Church (David Ensign).

Working with Advent texts, the collective wrote liturgy that each congregation used during the four Sundays of Advent.  Each congregation took responsibility for a Sunday—choosing hymns, prayers, responsive readings and “practicing the faith” opportunities.  In addition to writing liturgy together, the three congregations shared preachers.  On the first and fourth Sundays of Advent, each minister was in her/his own pulpit and on the second and third Sundays preached in the other two pulpits.

The Collective expanded for Lent, inviting Fairlington Presbyterian Church (Leslianne Braunstein) and NEXT Church director Jessica Tate.  For the Lenten season, the collective is focusing on Lent as a journey as we follow the journey of Jesus.  Again, each congregation/person is taking responsibility for a Sunday, writing the liturgy that each church will share.  In addition to the Sundays of Lent, there are also cooperative efforts for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship.

Future plans include sharing worship during the summer—Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day.

Questions?   Contact any member of the collective:  Leslianne Braunstein (, Sharon Core (, David Ensign (, Susan Graceson (, Beth Goss (, or Jessica Tate (

Sharon Core is pastor of Arlington Presbyterian Church.

“What Really Matters” — Why I Am Attending NEXT

by Chris Chakoian

At a time when many of us feel pressured to grow numerically, find money for budgets, keep the older generation happy but fill the pews with young people, it’s easy to lose sight of the point of being church. NEXT helps me focus on what really matters. Like the gospel, for instance.

And at a time when we’re discouraged by religious trends, it’s easy to focus on disheartening statistics; Pew Research cites 1/3 of young adults among the “nones.”  NEXT reminds me that it’s possible for the church to be creative, young, connected, entrepreneurial, inspired.

And at a time when our society expects everyone to fall into tribal alliances (Republican/Democrat; progressive/conservative; FOX News/MSNBC), it’s easy for church leaders to mimic the culture. NEXT brings together diverse approaches –denominational leaders/inventive outliers;  older/younger; ruling elders/teaching elders/YAVs/deacons/other.

And at a time when we’re used to church meetings being boring, NEXT isn’t. That’s reason enough for me.

– Chris Chakoian, Pastor, Lake Forest Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest IL

The Language of Church

By Mark Thomas

Since New Testament times, the church has been understood to be the body of Christ, an organism made up of many parts, yet one in faith, purpose, and ministry. But most of us have lived through an era in which we have thought of the church a bit differently. We have regarded the church as an institution, as a kind of corporate entity, with budgets, strategic plans, classes, teachers, financial campaigns, officers, and a board of directors. Or we have regarded the church as a family of faith into which we are adopted, in which we have brothers and sisters, children and parents, and in which we share meals together. These two ways of regarding the church have been important, valuable, and efficacious for a long time. Unfortunately, the culture in which the church resides is changing. Institutions are no longer trusted as they once were, and an institutional church suffers in that environment. And families are no longer of one kind, but can be extended, blended, single-parent, divorced, empty-nested, and dispersed, but rarely multi-generational, and even more rarely do they sit down to eat a meal together. To call the church a family anymore can be as confusing as it is edifying.

connecting handsMore and more, I think the future well-being of the church will depend on us embracing again a New Testament understanding of the church as an organism, as the body of Christ, made up of many parts, but singular in faith, purpose, and ministry. But more, that we understand the church as the continuing incarnation of Christ, meaning that the church as Christ’s body strives to reflect Christ’s divinity as well as his humanity. Those outside of the body are quick to recognize how we reflect Christ’s humanity. But those of us in the body can also point to the ways in which the Spirit helps us reflect Christ’s divinity. The glory of Christ is that he is both. When the church reflects both, we reveal the living Christ in our words and deeds. The next generation of believers doesn’t want to join an institution, and they aren’t sure they want to get mixed up in another dysfunctional family. What they want is to meet the Christ, and participate in God’s new creation. It’s up to us to make Christ known.

I think the participants in NEXT are well on their way toward making this subtle, but absolutely critical, transition in our self-understanding, and I think it is a movement of the Holy Spirit. It’s important, however, that our nomenclature reflect this new self-understanding. Bodies, for instance, don’t have strategic plans, boards of directors, or church schools. Body language is more personal, relational, physical, and spiritual. It’s been so long, though, since we have used such metaphors that we have forgotten them. What are the metaphors that describe the body of Christ? What language shall we use to tell people who we are? This, I think, is part of the growing edge of what is NEXT.

Mark P. Thomas, Pastor of Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Missouri.

Get Busy Livin’: Why I Am Attending NEXT

I am attending NEXT Church 2013 because when folks say that the mainline church is in steep decline and that the PC(USA) is “gravely ill,” you can either give up and start planning the funeral, or you can find the places of health and vitality and see what God might be birthing in those spaces. The NEXT conversation is one of those places of vitality in the Presbyterian Church: a place for honest, robust conversation about ministry; a place to share and celebrate the new things Jesus Christ is doing in the church.

I am attending the NEXT conference in Charlotte because the congregation I serve, like many congregations across our denomination, is facing challenges in this new cultural moment. But it is not dying. It is changing… and we need to be connected to other congregational leaders in the midst of this change, leaders who are convinced, as I am, that God is writing a new chapter of the Christian story through us.

-MaryAnn McKibben Dana, pastor, Idylwood Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA

Are YOU attending NEXT? Don’t delay; register here.

Beyond the Hand-Wringing: Why I Am Attending NEXT

I spend a lot of time with church folks who talk about how fast the culture is changing and how inadequate our 20th century forms of church seem to be to meet the challenge of our changing context.  A lot of that talk is accompanied by hand-wringing and anxiety–with a fair bit of that coming from me!  I come to NEXT because there these same conversations are accompanied by curiosity, energy and hope.  I always return ready to engage the struggle again with new vision and the conviction that Christ is indeed at work among his people.

-Karen Sapio, pastor, Claremont Presbyterian Church

Are YOU attending NEXT? Don’t delay; register here.

“What It’s Truly About”: Why I Am Attending NEXT

For the past two years I have gone to the NEXT Church conference because I need it.  In fact, I thirst for it.  As a new pastor, I prioritize going to this particular conference not because it trains me in new skills.  Though it does.  And I don’t go because it is a great networking opportunity.  Though it is.  I go because I always leave excited about serving the church.  I go because it affords me sacred moments to remember what my call is truly about.  I go because it is precious water for a thirsty soul.  If this conference is a reflection of what’s next for the church, I’d say we are in pretty good shape.

Charlene Han Powell
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

Are YOU attending NEXT? Don’t delay; register here.

Why I’m Coming to NEXT–Betsy Ray

Betsy Ray wears multiple hats: she’s a ruling elder at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Western North Carolina, a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte and a teacher at Asheville Middle School. Here’s why she’s coming to the NEXT National Gathering:

I am attending NEXT 2013 because I am interested in hearing about what a variety of people are thinking about as they walk their journeys as Christians in the 21st century.  I have chosen this conference because I have many questions on my mind and in my heart as I develop and live out my own faith both as a church leader and as a public servant (middle school teacher).  I am looking forward to renewing connections, building relationships and being open to new ways in which to answer the call to be community.

Register today!