Sunday, April 19, 2015

Uganda Mission Trip 2015

WorldHope Corps Mission Team and Friends 2014
Dear Friends of WorldHope Corps:

I  invite you to join us this year on a mission with Uganda in June, or support our mission there.  

Every year since 2005, I've led a service trip to Africa.  We go to communities to which we have been invited, to share in mutual ministry and joint projects; and we find that we gain so much more than what we give.  Henri Nouwen calls this "reverse mission" (See Gracias by Henri Nouwen).

This year we're returning to Uganda on June 22.  

Our ministry partners, Pastor Baaumu Moses (leader of Shalom Coffee Collective in Jinja) and Br. Julius Kasaija (leader of SARS Shalom near Hoima) invited members of WorldHope Corps and Communities of Shalom to come and see, enjoy and celebrate, the good things God is doing in Uganda in the lives of Christians, Muslim and Jews. 

Imam follows two Shalom leaders who lead the Shalom graduates of 2014

Together, we will participate in Five Great Community Events:

Shalom Tree where ShalomZone Training takes place near Jinja
Shalom Graduation Ceremony in Jinja:  Since 2010, a total of 470 coffee farmers, teachers, tailors and community workers, have gone through Shalom Training in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) sponsored by Communities of Shalom.  This year the next class of 200 "shalomers" expect to receive a Certificate of Completion (on how to move from subsistence level survival to sustainable economic development and shared prosperity in the community).   We also hope to participate in the shalom coffee harvest to sell to Thanksgiving Coffee Company (their direct-trade boutique coffee roasting partner in California). Pastor Baamu Moses is our dear friend, faithful partner and splendid host in Jinja at the Source of the Nile. 

"Games for the Goal" Soccer Tournament:  Four years ago, Pastor Moses and actor Gaius Charles (Friday Night Lights, Grey's Anatomy) started a youth empowerment program connecting kids love for the game of soccer with their need to get tested for HIV/AIDS. Once or twice a year, a thousand kids play in the 2-day tournament for "Baamu's Goat" and learn how to stay healthy.  In the process, they get an HIV test, meet caring doctors, counselors and spiritual leaders, make friends for life, and hear motivational speakers and role models like Gaius Charles share how to "step up to the next level" of good success and spiritual growth.  This is the fourth annual Games for the Goal event sponsored by WorldHope Corps.  We are still seeking sponsors for this year's event. 

Shalom Graduation Ceremony and Cultural Exchange in Mbale:  We will visit the Delicious Peace Coffee Cooperative in the mountains of Mbale and meet Jewish, Muslim and Christian farmers who have found a way to work together.  Shalom Zone Training with 115 participants began in Mbale in January, and if they are ready to graduate, we will witness and celebrate this multicultural event.  As time allows, we plan to drive through beautiful Mt. Elgon National Park with its rugged slopes, spectacular waterfalls, hidden caves, hot springs, mountain vegetation, and an extinct volcano on the border with Kenya.    

Shalom Training in Hoima:   Since 2007, WorldHope Corps has supported St George Hope Health Centre and SARS Shalom Zone in Western Uganda. We celebrated with over 100 community leaders who completed Shalom Training in 2014. This year, we plan to celebrate with another 100+ "shalomers" who will have completed the training by the end of June.  Fr. Paul Bigirwa and Br. Julius Kasaija  are an impressive team of Catholic brothers who know how to fight the good fight against AIDS, lack of clean water, and extreme poverty; and develop a healthy and beloved community of Shalom.  

Installation of Water Filtration System:  Our big project this year is to organize the community to install a complete water sanitation system and community water store in the remote Katikara Trading Centre.  In partnership with Healing Waters International, we plan to deliver cutting-edge technology, purification equipment, and training for the SARS Shalom team.  The goal is for SARS to sustain its community health projects by running a community-based Water Store to provide clean, safe water at an affordable price for 3,000+ villagers.  The scope and scale of this project in Uganda goes beyond the 60+ individual village wells we've drilled in Malawi since 2006, and we need to raise another $15,000 to complete this project.   

I hope you will consider joining us on this mission of hope, and/or support our collaborative work with a generous donation.    WorldHope Corps 

We leave on June 22 for one, two or three weeks depending on individual schedules.   

For more information, please contact me at WorldHopeCorps@gmail.com 

Prayerfully count the cost and consider joining us.

It will change your life and make a difference in the world!


Here's a link to make a donation online:  WorldHope Corps

or send a gift to the address below.





Again, thank you for being a friend and supporter of this mission!


Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
PO Box 7688
San Diego, CA 92167

Monday, March 02, 2015

Shalom Church--Time Has Come

What's happening to Church?


I’m certain that God is in the future, but wonder if the church has a future.”--Leonard Sweet

"The future of the Church is Shalom for All--the people of God, seeking the shalom of the community to where they have been sent into exile (Jeremiah 29:7)."--Michael J. Christensen




Three Questions:

  • What do we mean by ‘church’?   
  • What is the future of the Church in North America in light of declining church attendance, increasing secularism, growth of the NONES (no religious affiliation), rise of the DONES (I’m done with church), and closing of churches?
  • How can we “do church” differently to help us love God and our neighbor (and even our enemy) as we love ourselves?
Disequilibrium

Decline in Attendance[i]

  • What researchers forecast for decades now is undeniably true: traditional church attendance continues to decline (Gallup, Pew, Barna)
  • Although more than 40 percent of people “say” they go to church every week, statistics show that fewer than 20 percent actually attend regularly. 
  • In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on Sundays.
Growth of the Nones[ii]

  • People claiming no religious affiliation rose from 15% in 2007 to 20% in 2012, pointing to the growth of the “Nones” (None of the Above)—who may believe in God, may be spiritual, but not religious (Pew Research 2012). 
  • Nearly two-fifths of the nation’s adult population (38%) now qualifies as post-Christian (as measured by 15 different variables related to people’s identity, beliefs and behaviors) (Barna).[iii]
  • If current trends continue, Christians will become minority in a post-Christian secular culture.
Rise of the “Dones”[iv]

Newly reported Rise of the “Dones” (Done with Church). [Who often are key lay leaders in local churches and national Christian leaders (who are not pastoring churches).  E.g. Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, wrote about Why I left Church.  Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, confessed on his blog:  “I don’t go to church very often…and most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church…I also believe the church is all around us, not to be confined by a specific tribe.”

Christians leaving traditional churches say they’re still spiritual, but church no longer meets their needs. They become unaffiliated believers who may sometimes go to church, but they’re done with church commitments, congregational conflict, and cultural Christianity.[v]
If less than 20 percent actually attend church regularly, where do they go to church?

About 70% attend traditional churches and 30% participate in alternative forms of church today, according to Graham Cooke, author of Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century.  But these percentages will reverse themselves within the next 10-15 years.

“Followers of Jesus in the US who do not attend a local traditional church will grow from 30% to approximately 70%,” says Cooke. One third will still attend traditional churches, one third will meet to worship God in alternative structures (homes, schools, restaurants, pubs, parks, theaters, hotels and shopping malls. “And one third will live out their faith in the fields of media, arts, and culture.”

In other words, increasing numbers of those who follow Jesus are not following him into a classic church building.  And the remaining remnant can’t afford a pastor or sustain an annual church budget.

Close of Classic Churches

So what will happen to classic church buildings in the next 20 years?

Classic church buildings will close their doors. 


  • Hartford Institute estimates there are approximately 350,000 religious congregations in the United States.
  • Only 2,000 or so show signs of steady growth (mostly mega churches)
  • As many as 200,000 will close in the next 20 years, currently at a rate of 4,000-7,000 per year (c.f. approximately 1,000 new church plants annually)
Some classic churches, of course, will remain open, survive and thrive, thank God!

Others will become legacy churches as long as their endowments last.

Sadly, most will close and the property sold to the highest bidder; they will be torn down or converted to condos, community centers, museums, restaurants and even night clubs.

 
Examples: 
  • Former Roman Catholic Church in Newark is now a Jazz club and restaurant called The Sanctuary.
  • Washington Square United Methodist Church in NYC is now luxury condos
  • Berkeley Church of Nazarene is now a Buddhist Monastery

The Good News

Change is blowing in the wind, creating new opportunities for church redevelopment and fresh expressions of ecclesia. It’s time to ‘do church differently.’

We can watch with cynicism, resist the changing tide…
OR, we can do church differently in the Third Millennium of Christianity. 

Once unsustainable churches close,
new ecclesial life can emerge.

Falling church attendance does not mean a decline in the practice of Christian faith. Rather, the Church is morphing as believers look for alternative ways to worship God and love their neighbor as oneself.

Congregational life is migrating to small groups for intentional community, simple worship and vital mission in the world.

The structures of the local church and perceived boundaries of the traditional parish are shifting and transforming into a more fluid organism and inclusive community of faith.

Church is manifesting in communities, organically, and missionally.

Emerging Alternative Church Structures

Jesus said: “you cannot pour new wine into old wineskins…” (Luke 5:37-38), but you can create new wineskins for new wine. A new old story of “God so loved the world…” has been emerging and the people of God are learning how to tell the old story in new ways.

Essential Elements of Ecclesia

Ecclesia=called out ones.  Out of the world and into community, to worship God and to participate in God’s mission in the world.

  • Acts 2:42-47  ecclesia (gathered), koinonia (fellowship), didache (teaching), eucharist (thanksgiving), diaconia (service)--expressed in mutual dependency, generosity, sharing and numerical growth
  • “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am, right there, among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
  • “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…” (Hebrews 10:25)
  • Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens….” (Galatians 6:2) 
What are some fresh expressions of ecclesia?

       Church Online                                                                                    Missional Church                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Emergent/Emerging
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Organic Church  
                                                                                                        
                
Border Church at the California/Mexico Border, San Diego
       House Church                                                                                        Shalom Church



Permission Granted to Do Church Differently
  
  • Re-think Church. 
  • Re-imagine Faith.  
  • Envision ecclesia as community centers
  • Adapt Shalom strategies of Asset Based Community to re-purposing church buildings for the common good 

Conclusion

Eccesia is essential; structures change.

The Church has a future…if we re-purpose church buildings and re-form eccesia 
  • Time for church as the people of God to leave the temple and be the tabernacle in the world.
  • Time to get out of the church building and into the community.
  • Time to start Shalom Churches.
“Be the Church you want to see in the world.” 

mjc




[i] Hartford Institute of Religion Research (2012). Hartford Institute estimates there are roughly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States, mostly Protestant.  Average attendance: 186 (factoring in mega church attendance)
[iii] Barna Group conducted a major study on the U.S. unchurched population in 2014.
[v] Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore by Thom Schultz and Joani Schutz
[vi]Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century by Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell (2010)
[vii] http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html  This estimate relies on the RCMS 2010 religious congregation’s census. Of those, about 314,000 are Protestant and other Christian churches, and 24,000 are Catholic and Orthodox churches.  Non-Christian religious congregations are estimated at about 12,000.
[viii] Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore by Thom Schultz and Joani Schutz
[ix] Mega Churches will continue to increase, absorb smaller churches, start or take over seminaries and replace denominational structures. http://thomrainer.com/2014/01/04/fourteen-predictions-for-american-churches-for-2014-part-two/

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Update on Hope Scholarship House Malawi















From Rev. Copeland Nkhata, Mzuzu, Malawi:

Rev Michael,

This is the first team to benefit from revenue of the Hope Scholarship House built by WorldHope Corps and Mzuzu UMC.  

And it’s a great celebration that the house has now began to bear its desired fruit---school fees for our boys and girls for higher education. 




The picture above depict three boys and two girls in an accounting class at the UMC HOPE SCHOLARSHIP CENTRE MZUZU.

The boys are:
1.       Ganizan Nkhambule
2.       Jonathan Nzimah
3.       Joshua Walin-ase Nkhata

The girls are:
4.       Alice Mkandawire
5.       Eness Makamo

Please join me in this holy jubilee. I am proud of the awesome works of God and your untiring support in this regard.

The house now generates MWK 210 000.00 per quarter of a year [approx  $500], and that is what we paid for exam fees for five students to write exams with the Institute Of Chartered Accountants of Malawi for the December 2014 diet. (But we had to raise an extra amount for their registration.)

Pray that the vision grows so that we can educate many more young Malawians for the leadership of the church and for God’s Kingdom.


Love and regards.

Copeland Nkhata, Pastor
Mzuzu Circuit UMC


Sunday, September 14, 2014

ISIS on my mind, Lifting high the Cross

Went to bed last night and woke up this morning with ISIS on my mind. After another beheading, who can doubt that there is real Evil in the world? 

"Our warfare is not against human beings but principalities and powers..." (Ephesians 6:12)

Headed to Church at St Vincent Martyr in Madison, hoping for a prophetic word of peace.  Fr. Jose, who turned 35 this week, after the Processional Hymn--"Lift High the Cross"--announced that today was for Adoration of the Cross. 

The Cross of Christ, he said, "is a symbol of cruel torture, pain and suffering.  But it is also a symbol of Love."  He encouraged us to let the sign of the cross be a daily reminder of our connection to the suffering of Christ and the world, to let it be a feature of our life of prayer, of sacrifice and letting go, and the promise of peace, liberation and victory.

After partaking of the body and blood of Christ, we prayed together this prayer for peace through St Michael, the Archangel: 
"...be our protection against all evil.  Send your holy angels to protect and guide all those who suffer persecution. Strengthen their faith and enliven their hope.  Deliver them speedily from all danger...inspire world leaders to work effectively for peace in our day.  With your divine assistance, may we overcome violence with compassion, war with peace, and thus establish your law of love and justice on this earth. Amen!"


Liberation Spirituality: Henri Nouwen and Gustavo Gutierrez in Dialogue

Liberation Spirituality: Henri Nouwen and Gustavo Gutierrez in Dialogue







Lecture Notes:

Presented by Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Practice of Spirituality and Ministry, Drew University;  and International Director, Communities of Shalom, The United Methodist Church


Introduction

“There is a little man in Peru, a man without any power, who lives in a barrio with poor people and who wrote a book.  In this book he simply reclaimed the basic Christian truth that God became human to bring good news to the poor, new light to the blind, and liberty to the captives.  Then years later this book and movement it started is considered a danger by [the USA, or Rome], the greatest power on earth.  When I look at this little man, Gustavo, and think about [the President of the US, or the Pope], I see David standing before Goliath, again with no more weapon than a little stone, a stone called A Theology of Liberation (Henri Nouwen, Gracias!,1983, pp. 174-75)

This seminar draws water and wisdom from Gustavo Gutierrez, the “Father of Liberation Theology”, and one his most famous students, Henri Nouwen, acclaimed writer on the spiritual life, as they engage and reflect together on an emerging “liberation spirituality” for the people of God.  

Here are three Notions of Spirituality:

1.     “’Everyone has to drink from his own well’, observed St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who inspired many monastic orders.  Simply stated, each one of us must find our own well and drink the water of life that is right for us, both inside and outside the Cloister.

.     2. ’Everyone has to drink from his own well’… Yet no one drinks alone,” writes Henri Nouwen. “We all have drunk from wells we did not dig and enjoyed fresh water that is not entirely our own.”  Hence the need for community (Henri Nouwen, Discernment).  Simply stated: spirituality is not essentially personal, private or the product of individual pursuit and practice; rather, authentic spirituality is corporate and connected to all the people of God and practiced in community and compassionate ministry.

3.     “Spirituality is like living water that springs up in the very depths of the experience of faith,” writes Gustavo Gutierrez.  “To drink from your own well is to live your own life in the Spirit of Jesus as you have encountered him in your concrete historical reality.” (Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells).  Simply stated: spirituality is not essentially personal, private, individualistic, or even the expression of community life; rather, authentic spirituality emerges from the struggle of the people of God and from the particular social context of that struggle for liberation.

So, how do we draw water and wisdom from our own personal experience of God, and our community of faith, and from the larger struggle of the people of God in the world as we seek the liberation of all?

Gustavo Gutierrez emerged as a popular theologian in Latin America in the late 1960’s, and represented Christianity as a “preferential option for the poor.” He became known as the “Father of Liberation Theology”--a practical theology and active faith born out of solidarity with common people and their struggles.  His books and courses became prophetic in liberation theology movements in Latin America and around the world.

Henri Nouwen attended one of Gustavo’s popular courses in Lima, Peru, in 1982. “I remember this course as one of the most significant experiences of my six-month stay in Latin America,” Nouwen writes in his journal.  What he learned from Gustavo was that “liberating spirituality” must be rooted in an active and reflective faith, and not a passive, private or privileged contemplative experience.

Although Nouwen remained critical of some aspects of Liberation Theology, what impressed him most was how Gustavo Gutierrez integrated mysticism and activism, the struggle for spiritual growth with the struggle for political freedom.  Although Gustavo remained critical of a purely personal, private, individualistic spirituality, he centered his own activist faith in a deeper spiritual and theological reflection. In the dialectic of Gustavo’s more activist faith and Henri’s more contemplative spirituality and, a new kind of liberationist spirituality was articulated which is reflected in Gustavo’s We Drink from Our Own Wells and Henri’s Foreword to the book.

Together, these two priests offer the world fresh perspectives on the “primordial waters of spiritual experience”–from oral tales and written texts, concrete lives and communities of faith–in the common struggle for freedom. “By dipping deeply into the well of our own lives [as the people of God], we can discern the movements of God’s Spirit in our lives,” writes Nouwen in Discernment (p. 170)

Liberation Spirituality is experienced in the creative tension, the life-giving dialectic, the quest for balance of praxis and theoria, action and contemplation.  
In a nutshell, that’s my seminar!  But it will take more time to crack that walnut.



PRESENTATION: Liberation Spirituality
by Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D.

Introduction

Check in

Part One:  We Drink from Our Own Wells

STORY  (Discernment:  pp 171-172)

Social Analysis and Biblical Reflection  (Exo 3)

PPT:  7 Elements of Liberation Spirituality

PART TWO   Discerning Vocation

Vocational Choices
  • What’s your Spiritual Type? 
  • Where are you on your journey?

Rule of One:  Action—Contemplation Continuum

Rule of Two:  Action Or Contemplation Dualism

Rule of Three:  Action-And-Contemplation Dynamic
  • ·      Contemplative Action
  • ·      Committed Contemplation


Conclusion:  Micah 6:8