"Learning Christ: Congregational Formation for the Long Haul"
Gathering Overview and Workshop
If you haven't yet registered for this summer's
gathering, you'll want to do so soon at our website.
This year's gathering will feature inspiring preaching
from Sharon Huey, Nekeisha Alexis-Baker, and Kyle
Childress, insightful teaching on the book of
Philippians from Steve Fowl, several opportunities to
hear about the work of the Congregational Formation
Initiative that has unfolded over the past three years,
and the four following workshops, all of which center
on issues concerning congregational
"The Formative Power of Congregational
This workshop, led by Fuller Seminary professor and
long-time EP endorser Mark Lau Branson, will focus
on the critical ways in which congregations narrate
their own stories, both in relation to surrounding
cultural stories and in relation to the story of God's
work in the world.
"Forming Young People Through Worship"
How do you form young people to see worship as
central to Christian faith and practice? And how do you
help those same young people to embrace the riches
of their worship heritage? David Butzu and Ben Lee,
ministers at Hopwood Christian Church in
Tennessee, have been doing just that for a number of
years and will share some of their wisdom in this
"Sustaining Congregational Conversations for the
Those of you who attended last year's gathering will
remember the inspiring story shared by the folks from
Englewood Christian Church about their life together.
Two of their members, Michael Bowling and Susan
Adams, will offer a workshop this year on the art of
congregational conversation, a practice at the heart of
all good congregational formation.
"Opening the CFI Toolbox"
For the past two years, several congregations from
around the country have been piloting curricular
materials and a congregational formation process
known as the Congregational Formation Initiative
(CFI). This workshop, led by CFI Project Director Phil
Kenneson and several other CFI participants, will
explore some of these resources and offer
suggestions for their use in local congregations.
The Fear of Beggars
Christian economics will never be the same.
S. Johnson, EP endorser and founding
member, has seen to that in her new book,
Fear of Beggars: Stewardship and Poverty in
Christian Ethics, the first title in
new book series, The
Eerdmans Ekklesia Series
(published by Wm B. Eerdmans
Publishing). Those fortunate enough to read
this book will never again use the tired and
troubled phrase "time, talent, and treasure,"
knowing the theological problems and aberrant
nature of contemporary "stewardship"
language now so common in Christian
discourse. As importantly, though, Johnson
makes a case for the central importance of
voluntary poverty in the ecclesial life of
the church. With St. Francis and Peter
Maurin as her guides, she crafts an account
of Christian economics centered not on the
discourse of classical economics but rather
on charity (in its true theological sense),
humility, and dependence.
Writes Ched Myers: "An elegant treatise,
Johnson's approach defies disciplinary
apartheid, weaving a rich tapestry of
theological and ethical reflection on faith
and economics. Her historical exegesis of
churchly stewardship discourse alone is worth
the freight. And her commendation of
Francis's 'economic unilateral disarmament'
is welcome wisdom in our increasingly
hard-hearted 'agonistic marketplace.'"
(Reviewer M. Therese Lysaught)
Meet the EP
Nanci Hicks, new to the EP, introduces
herself in these words:
I am a United Methodist clergy from North
Georgia who directs a retreat center in
northwestern Oregon. Beginning July 1, 2007
I will also be the part time pastor of a
local congregation here in Oregon. My last
experience in pastoral ministry was as an
associate pastor of a 7200 member church in
metro Atlanta. I can remember sitting in
front of thousands of people on Sunday
mornings with a very real sense that I was
being swung around on the tail of a
theological/ideological/praxis dinosaur. My
greatest fear was that I would be thrown off.
Hallelujah! I was thrown all the way to
Oregon. Now, on the eve of going back into
the pulpit as a "preacher of the Gospel", I
am looking for resources to which I can also
be a contributor that offer the life of the
Gospel for this age and the next. I had
heard of the Ekklesia Project and when I
checked it out, it just made sense. This is
where I need to be. The retreat center here
is getting ready to move into community
ministry offerings which are very exciting,
relevant, and needed. Our team moves into
this new area with fear and trembling but
also with full knowledge that the Hospitality
of God requires us to engage those who live
around us. My husband works with me here at
the center. We have a son in college in
Georgia and a daughter who, after high school
graduation June 2008, will head back to the
Given that this issue reviews Kelly Johnson's
new book on Christian economics, we were
tempted not to include a word on finances.
But we do want to continue to thank those
endorsers who have contributed financially to
the EP this year. Some contribute by check,
some online; some use Entango's automatic
donation function to contribute regularly
(monthly, quarterly); some donations are
small, some are large. Every single one is
greatly appreciated. Thanks!
From the Editor
I was not present for the very first EP
Gathering: I recall being told that there
around a dozen participants. I did make it
for the second, when there were perhaps 35 of
us. While the numbers have increased
remarkably since those initial events,
necessitating a certain degree of order and
organization (never the EP's particular
strong points), the quality of the fellowship
we share has remained as rich as ever, a
reminder that we are above all, as Stanley
Hauerwas and Mike Budde argued in our very
first pamphlet, "a school for subversive
friendships." We gather out of many
different strands of the Christian tradition,
strands that do not always see eye-to-eye on
theological, cultural, or political issues.
No matter: we are fellow members of Christ's
body, friends to one another as we all seek
to grow as friends of God. There are no
strangers at the gathering, no "new kids"
hovering shyly on the periphery: hospitality
is the primary spiritual discipline we
practice together. When I must miss a
Gathering, as I did last year, I grieve being
deprived of the presence of my friends for a
full year. There are many "content rich"
events vying for our limited time, I know.
But the EP Gathering, for me, is in the end
not about content (although the content is
certainly of high quality). It is about
coming home; about being in the company of
dear friends, including dear friends I have
yet to meet. I hope you will be among them
John McFadden, editor