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Save the Date! February 22-24, 2016

2015_next gathering banner FINAL 2

Faith at the Crossroads

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Meet Our 2015-2016 YAV: Angela Williams

For the second year, NEXT Church is proud to have a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) working with the office. Angela Williams comes to us fresh from a first year serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in the Philippines in 2014-2015.

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ISO: Communications Specialist!

NEXT Church is looking for a church-savvy communications specialist to help us sharpen and deepen our communications presence online and in print. To apply, please send resume and letter of intent to NEXT Church Director, Jessica Tate: We are hoping for a quick turnaround, so let us know soon if you are interested!

Communications Specialist

approximately 10 hours/week
(with recognition that some weeks will require more time and some less)


Reports to: NEXT Church Director

Accountable to: NEXT Church Director and Strategy Team

Status: Independent Contract, 6 months, with possibility of renewal


Job Summary:

The communications specialist will help move NEXT Church into deeper and more effective communications strategy in print and online. S/he will expand and enrich online network and offerings. S/he will help develop and manage the voice of NEXT Church.


Essential Functions:

Develop and manage communication and social media strategy for NEXT Church, including:

  • Increasing our online reach by working with NEXT Church director to schedule blog topics and themes, recruit writers, solicit work, edit and post content, and push to social media.
  • Developing and implementing process and content for MailChimp email blasts with a goal of increasing regularity and usefulness.
  • Implementing website updates (immediate) and redesign (longer-term), including visioning and content development.
  • Supporting the success of regional and national gatherings, including: designing flyers (print and online), publicizing these events through online channels (website, FB, Twitter), highlighting leadership of these events through content on the website prior to the gathering, posting to social media throughout the gathering and/or delegating this responsibility to volunteers, work with on-site AV personnel to ensure livestream of content and seamless transition of recorded content to website. Attendance at the national gathering will be necessary.
  • Providing technical support for webinars and roundtables.
  • Develop and implement strategy for NEXT Church printed materials, including design.
  • Work with NEXT Church director to define, strengthen, and empower a communications team to carry out ongoing work of communications once strategy is set.
  • Monitoring the NEXT Church online presence and mentions by others and respond as appropriate.
  • Recommend to the Strategy Team new strategies in communications and content to make the online NEXT network more robust.

Other Responsibilities

  • Participation in Executive and Strategy Team meetings when requested (in person and via conference call).

Core Competencies

Mission Ownership – Demonstrates understanding and full support of the mission and values of NEXT Church. Consistently embodies beliefs and values of NEXT Church in behavioral choices and online presence.

Initiative – Self-starting and regulating. Enjoys working hard. Sets demanding but achievable objectives.

Attention to Detail and Aesthetic Awareness – tends to small details while keeping larger picture in mind, resolves unanswered questions to address a problem, demonstrates awareness for cleanliness, functionality, and beauty of space, including online and print materials

Theological Maturity – Shows strong personal depth and spiritual grounding in the Reformed tradition. Awareness of issues facing the PC(USA). Ability to articulate consistent theological voice.

Creativity and Innovation – Generates new ideas. Makes new connections among existing ideas to create fresh approaches. Takes acceptable risks in pursuit of innovation and learns from mistakes.

Written Communication – Writes clearly and succinctly, employs correct grammar, punctuation and patterns of speech. Clearly delivers message in a tone appropriate to the context.

Technical Expertise, including:

  • WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Mailchimp,, Google docs, Drop Box, Vimeo, Asana

Hourly fee for service: $17/hour, plus expenses related to travel on behalf of NEXT Church.

Questions? Ask NEXT Director, Jessica Tate —

Contemplation and Social Justice

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During June, Therese Taylor-Stinson is curating a month of blog posts exploring Contemplation and Social Justice, featuring posts by member os the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, Ltd. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

In case you have missed any, here is a master list of  this month’s posts exploring contemplation and social Justice:

Blog curator Therese Taylor-Stinson introduces this month’s topic in “Contemplation and Social Justice: A Month of Blogging by Members of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, Ltd.”

photo credit: DSC_0082 via photopin (license)

photo credit: DSC_0082 via photopin (license)

Second, Leslye Colvin shares a reflection on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in “A Clearer Image: Two at a Well.”

Next, Cynthia Bailey Manns explores the challenge of engaging in meaningful discussions about race, faith, and politics in a two-part post, “Reluctant Companions.” You can read part I here, and part II here.

In “Embracing Diversity,” Therese Taylor-Stinson reflects on Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman’s keynote at the 2015 NEXT Church National Gathering in Chicago.

In Jesus Stripped of His Clothing, Leslye Colvin provides a thoughtful Good Friday Reflection on Racism.

Vikki Montgomery compares the contemplative work of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement with Desmond Tutu’s work to end Apartheid in her post Silence Before Protest.

Rosalie E. Norman-McNaney writes about the importance of breath in her spiritual direction sessions and the violence directed against young black men like Freddie Gray in her post Breathe on Me Lord; I Can’t Breathe.

Elizabeth Leung reflects on Thomas Merton in Racism: A Culture of Malformation.

In For What Shall I Pray?, Martha L. Wharton shares a heart-wrenching prayer on behalf of Baltimore mothers.

Vikki Montgomery reviews Krista Tippet’s On Being Interview with Pico Iyer in Out of Stillness and Silence.

Finally, Lerita Coleman Brown and Jacquelyn Smith-Crooks provide a four part series about Intersectionality. You can read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 here.

2015 National Gathering: Regional Echoes

We are excited to announce a new experiment in the way we connect folks at the National Gathering and at home: Regional Echoes! In previous years, we’ve built in a lunch or dinner by regional context into the National Gathering so that folks would have a chance to connect with people they are more likely to run into a semi-regular basis. This year, we hope that by gathering folks after they’ve returned home, we will allow the conversation to continue, provide opportunities to further develop relationships and local connections, offer an accountability check for commitments folks may have made at the Gathering, and create space for folks who were unable to travel to Chicago but participated by live-streaming to connect to the larger Gathering.


Here are the cities (sorted by alphabetically by state) where Echo conversations will be held in the next few weeks and the names of leaders convening the conversations. To contact these folks for more information, click on their names below:

Birmingham, AL: Leanne Pearce Reed

Claremont, CA: Karen Sapio

Sacramento, CA: Jim Kitchens

Denver, CO: Linda Orosz

New Haven, CT: Adele Crawford

Washington, DC: Therese Taylor-Stinson, Rachel Vaagenes, and Mary Rodgers

Winter Park, FL: Jason Micheli

Atlanta, GA: Betsy Lyles

Cedar Rapids, IA: A.J. Plummer and Chuck Peters

Chicago, IL: Jan Edmiston

Indianapolis, IN: Carol McDonald

Louisville, KY: Matt Bowman and Scott Cervas

Ann Arbor, MI: Kelly Shriver and Fairfax Fair

Grand Rapids, MI: Karen Fitz La Barge

St. Louis, MO: Rob Dyer

Charlotte, NC: Suzanne Davis

Greensboro, NC: Mark Brainerd

Nebraska City, NE: Greg and Heidi Bolt

Princeton, NJ: Kristie Finley and Sharyl Dixon

Albany, NY: Katy Stenta and Eric Fagans

Buffalo, NY: Howard Boswell

New York City, NY: Charlene Han Powell

Cleveland, OH: Eric Dillenbeck

Columbus, OH: Karen Chakoian

Dayton, OH: Margaret Gillespie and Shelley Wiley

Portland, OR: Beth Neel

Philadelphia, PA: David Stipp-Bethune

Mechanicsburg, PA: Kathryn Johnston

Greenville, SC: Al Masters and Andy Casto-Waters

Memphis, TN: Lucy Waechter Webb

Dallas, TX: Nicole Bates

Austin, TX: Kyle Walker

Richmond, VA: Rosy Robson and Owen Gray

Seattle, WA: Leland Seese and Bert Johnson

Madison, WI: Scott Anderson

Milwaukee, WI: Robert Ater

Is your city missing from this list? Contact us if you would like to coordinate an Echo in your area!

Racial Justice, Contemplation, and the Next Church

By Therese Taylor-Stinson

Harriet Tubman said, “I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Her words are still true. Without trivializing the atrocity that slavery was to our ancestors, too many of us today have a false sense of freedom and equality in a country that was founded on white supremacy.

Today’s perpetrators, supporters, and beneficiaries of slavery, colonialism, and oppression suffer from the spiritual disease of racism, whose system enslaves even them and is a web of denial and separation. People who claim that they don’t see color deny their own experience and the experience of those who suffer the effects of racism. That denial prevents true freedom and the dismantling of racist systems that may not be the legalized slavery of history, but mirror those realities today in laws and a culture of white privilege.

For the 21st-century Church, which has always held that contemplation comprises method and inspiration, call and response, our deepest response in God to a suffering world, including the violence and injustice that results from privilege, should come through prayer and responsive acts of love. Frederick Douglass wrote, “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and it never will.” The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted [emphasis mine], shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Slavery was not abolished, however, by this amendment, but reconstituted to the penal system, where it remains today.

During Reconstruction (1865-1877), Black men were elected to Congress and to state legislatures. However, after Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws were instituted in the South. I believe we are witnessing something similar today. Several states have passed laws or attempted to pass laws that require voter identification requirements. In 2013, the Supreme Court weakened protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by deciding that “Preclearance laws for southern states with a history of voter discrimination are unconstitutional.” Lynching is not as prominent, but has happened in some form on occasion in our time, such as the murder in 1998 of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas, after he was dragged behind a pickup truck for 3 miles. The militarization of the police, particularly in disadvantaged communities, heavily populated by people of color, has become prevalent, and states such as Florida have “Stand Your Ground” laws that endanger young black lives such as that of Trayvon Martin’s. The number of black men incarcerated, relegating them to the penal system, particularly for relatively non-violent crime, as well those targeted by police profiling, are grossly disproportionate to the number of white males committing the same crimes.

One of my past colleagues with whom I served in the federal government, a white man, told me that he was not surprised by the resurgence of racism since Obama took office. He observed that civil rights laws had suppressed racist practices but had not ended racism or racist attitudes, and thus, with a black President, racist attitudes that had been suppressed have resurfaced.

Racism is therefore America’s shadow. It is a spiritual disease, operating to maintain white privilege through cognitive dissonance.

Psychologist Leon Festinger wrote, “…cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” Our civil rights laws establish equality without regard to race, gender, age, religion, sexual preference, or ability. Yet, when black people go out into the world, they are immediately challenged to make sense of their lived experience, which is contrary to the laws established to protect them.

Racism affects every area of life: Education, economics, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex, and war. In defining racism during the height of racial tension in the U.S. during the 1960s and ‘70s, Frances C. Welsing, a Washington DC psychiatrist stated, “Racism is a system of advantage based upon race. It doesn’t mean hating or not liking a race. It is White Supremacy.”

Romal Tune is a United Methodist minister. He left the gang life to graduate from college and receive a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. He is the author of God’s Graffiti, and upon hearing about the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, he wrote:

“What most people don’t understand about poor black males on the inner-city streets, I can tell you now, they will not stay off the streets tonight, but it’s not just because they are angry and tired of mistreatment by police. It’s because they are tired of being ignored. Because of this tragic incident, the media has shown up and cameras are rolling. The world is watching! Brothers in the hood finally get noticed. The same brothers who were on the street before the shooting and nobody gave a damn.”

This is cognitive dissonance, where young men live invisible lives to a great extent, except when they break the law. In Ferguson, the young men had a chance to be seen for a good cause, yet were still treated as unwanted and unproductive agitators. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” These young men began rioting, looting, and burning property in their own neighborhoods because the need to be heard in a righteous act of protest, a civil right protected by the law, was met with rejection—cognitive dissonance.

Racism can only be healed from within, through contemplation. Both victims and perpetrators can be healed from the effects of white supremacy and racism. Contemplation is a willingness to be immediately awake to the present as it is—to us, to others, and to a Divine, Life-giving Presence that is always available to us. If racism is recognized as a spiritual disease, a person of contemplation engages both reflection and response. As I heed the words of the desert Ammas and Abbas to “pay attention,” I see people of color disparaged in the U.S. and massacred in Nigeria, while the dominant culture deplored the tragic deaths of fourteen in Paris. When Ebola swept West Africa, I see our concern was overwhelmingly for the Americans affected.

Contemplation is pure, existing before archetypes, and is the essence from which everything else flows. Contemplation needs both method (the pathway) and action (the sacrifice), which dwells within its tradition, to be authentic and effective in overcoming the spiritual diseases of white privilege and racism. The NEXT church, the church of the 21st century, should proclaim with one voice that Black lives do matter, as fully as the lives of all others. Let the healing begin!


Theres Taylor-StinsonTherese Taylor-Stinson is current Vice Moderator for National Capital Presbytery.  She is a spiritual director and Managing Member of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network.

The Multicultural NEXT Church

Graphic reposted from Facts and Trends

Graphic reposted from Facts and Trends

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During April, as we continue to process the 2015 National Gathering, Joe Clifford is curating a month of blog posts exploring multiculturalism in the NEXT Church. Read more

Take Two Minutes to Make a Difference: A Message from Your Co-Chairs

2014 communion table

Dear friends,

As we near the end of 2014, we want to thank you for helping make NEXT Church what it is—a vibrant, creative space where leaders throughout the PC(USA) can dream about the church that is becoming, and help one another make those dreams a reality.

We’ve got big plans for 2015, but we need your help.

We’re thrilled to announce that a group of teaching and ruling elders has come together to offer a challenge gift of $5,000 to the ministry of NEXT Church. Any gifts given between now and the end of the year will be effectively doubled through this matching pledge. Can we raise an additional $5000 between now and December 31? We absolutely can—but we need to hear from you today

If you’re one of the almost 4000 people who’ve joined our four national gatherings, in person or online;
…if you’ve attended one of our sixteen regional gatherings;
…if you’ve been inspired by blog posts, recordings of national gathering presentations, sermons, Church Leaders’ Roundtables, or webinars;
…if you’ve benefited from a resource shared on our Facebook page or Twitter feed;
…or if you haven’t gotten involved yet, but know that 2015 will be “your year,”
let us hear from you now.

Because we’re a grassroots movement, we’ve managed to keep our expenses low. But we simply couldn’t do what we do without the support and coordination of our director, Jessica Tate, a top-notch website (look for a reboot in 2015!), funding for renewal projects such as Paracletos, and the vital support of a Young Adult Volunteer.

The challenge is clear: $5,000 has been pledged to encourage gifts between now and the end of the year. Support NEXT now through a gift online. It’s quick and easy, two minutes, tops. Any amount can make a difference.

If you prefer to pay by check, make checks payable to Village Presbyterian Church with “NEXT” in the memo line and mail to: Village Church, Attn. Tom Are, 6641 Mission Road, Prairie Village, KS 66208.

The leadership of NEXT is on board; are you? There are just a few days left in 2014. Let’s finish strong and help 2015 be our best year ever.

Blessings of Christmastide,

MaryAnn McKibben Dana and Andrew Foster Connors, Co-Chairs, NEXT Church

PCUSA Young Adult Volunteer Joins NEXT Staff

Marranda Major

YAV Marranda Major


The brand new Washington, D.C. Young Adult Volunteer site is up and running, and YAV Marranda Major has officially begun work with NEXT! Marranda grew up in Charleston, West Virginia as a part of the Kanawha United Presbyterian congregation. She graduated from Wellesley College in May 2013 with degrees in Music and Peace Studies that allowed her to focus on the role of the arts in social movements. Marranda spent last year serving as a YAV in Belfast, Northern Ireland where she split her time as a program coordinator at a community trauma center and as a youth worker at a local church. Marranda found her time in Belfast both challenging and rewarding and is very excited to be diving into YAV life again in D.C.!

Marranda is one of five YAVs beginning this week in Washington, D.C. In addition to NEXT Church, volunteers will also be working with Miriam’s Kitchen and Western Presbyterian Church; the Capitol Hill Group Ministry and Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church; and the PCUSA Office of Public Witness. The YAV program connects young adults aged 19–30 with service placements in communities of need in the United States and abroad. During their service, volunteers live in intentional community where they focus on living simply and work with mentors towards vocational discernment. Click here to learn more about the Young Adult Volunteer, or here to connect with the Washington, D.C. site on Facebook!

Want to welcome Marranda to NEXT Church? Email her at While her blog isn’t live yet, she welcomes you to bookmark it for future updates!