December 2006
Advent Blessings!

Dear Friends: In this holy season of watching and waiting, many of us are experiencing the expectant journey that leads to the Bethlehem manger within our faith communities. Our worship will be enriched by shepherds in bathrobes, magi in sneakers, as the old, old story is made new once more and we pray fervently for God's renewal of this torn and weary world through the coming of the Christ-child.

We rejoice that although we may be separated by many miles and experience this season in many different church settings, we remain precious friends through Christ. May the hope and peace of this season be with each of you!

John McFadden, newsletter editor

Wirzba on the Sabbath
Living the Sabbath Our featured book this month is Norman Wirzba's Living the Sabbath, the most recent addition to the Ekklesia Project's "Christian Practice of Everyday Life" Series published by Brazos Press. In this provocative volume, Wirzba attempts to lead us into a holistic interpretation of what Sabbath-keeping can mean in our lives today. Wirzba teaches that Sabbath is ultimately about delight in the goodness that God has made - in everything we do, every day of the week.

Is Wirzba convincing? Does his argument succeed? Find out by joining the currently ongoing forum discussion of this interesting book on the EP website.

Meet the EP
Like many endorsers, Jeff Rogers’ wrestling with questions of faithful discipleship has led him to find in The Ekklesia Project a group of “mutually minded followers.” Having studied philosophy at Western Kentucky University and religion at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Jeff was compelled to revisit the work and thought of John Howard Yoder in the wake of September 11th, 2001. In 2004, Jeff and his wife served in the Dominican Republic where Jeff continued to seek out models of radical discipleship, and to explore these ideas with a group of friends after his return to the United States. This journey of reading, discussion, and reflection eventually led him to The Ekklesia Project. He has endorsed EP in the hopes that it will continue to be a context in which he can build relationships and be challenged by fellow disciples of Jesus Christ.

Beth Newman has enjoyed the support and challenge of The Ekklesia Project since its beginnings. She is particularly drawn to EP’s focus on radical discipleship and the unity of the Body of Christ. Having taught theology and ethics for twelve years at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN), she is now a professor at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. She lives in Virginia with her husband, Jon, and their two children, Jessica (8) and Jacob (5). She has recently written on the practice of hospitality and her book, Untamed Hospitality: Welcoming God and Other Strangers will be out in April in our Christian Practice of Everyday Life series (Brazos Press). Beth is a member of the EP Board, and is one of our "Meet EP" writers.

Gathering News
Who comes to EP Gatherings? In 2006, we had 186 registrants, including 59 women and 127 men. Forty came from Illinois, the rest largely from the continental US. We had sizable groups from Grace Fellowship Community Church in San Francisco, Church of the Servant King (Eugene and Portland), Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, and Englewood Christian Church of Indianapolis. A number of participants are currently associated with, or recent graduates of, Milligan College, Duke Divinity School or Baylor (three schools with strong EP endorsers on faculty). But don’t think the Gathering is only religious academics and ‘bookish pastors’—what Steve Long calls the ‘professionally religious.’ We also had (at least) two farmers, an attorney, a physician, a carpenter, an actor, a journalist, a bluegrass fiddler, a librarian, an office manager, a dozen or so book publishers and the best barista west of the Mississippi, not to mention nine traveling troubadors. Conferees ranged from high school students to retired persons, with more folk in their twenties than ever before. We a remarkably diverse group, even before taking note of our amazing variety of church life and denominational background (more on that in a future newsletter).

EP Finances
This month, we would like to give you information on the finances of the Summer Gathering. For summer 2006 we can report the following:

Fees and Scholarship Donations..........$24,107.00
Expenses..........................................$22, 473.00

We have been grateful that the generosity of Gathering attendees enables us to offer reduced or free registration to more than 30 attendees who needed assistance.

We are also pleased that the Summer Gathering continues to be self-supporting. Thank you for helping us to achieve this goal.

As always, we welcome your feedback and, more importantly, your participation. If you have ideas, time, or a willingness to serve, email us.