Can Churches Be Vital in These Times?

This week we welcome a new writer to Vital Signs & Statistics, please welcome Rev. L. Gail Irwin! Rev. L. Gail Irwin has served UCC and PCUSA churches as a settled and Intentional Interim Pastor. She is a freelance writer for The Christian Century and author of Toward the Better Country: Church Closure and Resurrection…

On Healing Headaches, Feeling Better and Finding God

Rev. Bobbie McKay, Ph.D., is a UCC  minister, author, and licensed psychologist. Rev. McKay co-created The Spiritual Health Center, NFP and conducted a research study on Spiritual Life in the United Church of Christ. Based on the findings of this study, “Spiritual Life Teams” were born and the study has been extended into the Episcopal Church, the Catholic Church and the…

Co-Belonging During COVID-19: An Opportunity for Churches

This week I’d like to introduce and welcome one of the newest writers to Vital Signs & Statistics, Rev. David A. Kaden! David Kaden is the Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Ithaca, NY, and holds a PhD in the academic study of religion from the University of Toronto. He has taught at Cornell University,…

Say It Isn’t So, Betsy: Since When Has Religious Freedom Come to Mean the Freedom to Proselytize in Public Schools, and to Discriminate on Religious Grounds Against People We Don’t Like?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples about religious practices such as charity and prayer. In contrast with the vulgar display of false piety of the Pharisees and religious teachers of his day, Jesus admonished his followers to practice their religion privately: So when you give to the needy, do not announce…

The American Armed Forces, Militarism, and the Church

It was Sunday, January 5th, and the congregation I serve—Groton Community Church (UCC)—was still basking in holiday good cheer. New Year’s resolutions and counting down the seconds to midnight were fresh in our memories, as were the blaring sounds of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on TV, and the Christmas greetings of peace and…

The Last Pastor

After being the last pastor in a congregation, Reverend Gail Cafferata, wondered “how other pastors and congregations who experienced the closing of a church felt and, particularly, how it affected pastors who, like me, had accepted their call with starry-eyed hopes for renewal.”  Her wondering led Cafferata, an Episcopal priest and sociologist to study, research…

Atomic Bombs, Caesar’s Wife, and a Cautionary Lesson about Seduction, Forgiveness, and Grace for Church Leaders

I just finished reading Kai Bird’s and Martin J. Sherwin’s magisterial American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (New York: Vintage, 2005), and Ray Monk’s equally impressive Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center (New York: Anchor, 2012). Admittedly, these are unlikely readings for a UCC minister who is opposed to American…

The Church Confronts “Okay, Boomer!” Culture

For some time now, there has been intense interest among American business leaders, but also among pastors, church officials, and denominational consultants, in the decline of the Baby Boomer generation (consisting of those born between 1946 and 1964), and the rise of younger generations, including Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and “Generation-Z” (born between…