The Ekklesia Project

   January 2011 Epiphany 



In This Issue:


New on bLOGOs

Update on Congregational Formation Initiatve

 Meet the EP: Michael Iafrate

The Practice of Fasting in the EP

 EP Board Meeting

Gathering 2011




New on bLOGOS


Repent: The Kingdom is Near good shepherd

by Janice Love

It is important, however, to do some reflection together on what seasons we emphasize, the obvious example being the excessive celebration of Christmas and the too moderate celebration of the Resurrection. In hosting the texts this last week for the upcoming third Sunday in Epiphany, I have been struck with the conviction that the church would do well to accentuate this day with a high holy feast.  We could call it 'The Feast of the Unforeseen Way.'  This is the day the Revised Common Lectionary marks the beginning of Jesus' human/divine ministry here on earth and there are surprising turns taken and rather astonishing decisions made throughout the text.

Read the Full Essay. 


Truth Dazzles Gradually 

by Kyle Childress 

However, there is no substitute for the slow, sometimes painful growth that comes through disciplined habits of practice shaped by the crucified and risen Christ.  One does not become an excellent piano player, painter, dancer, carpenter, or baseball player overnight; neither does one learn to become a Christian overnight.  We can't know Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, in five quick easy lessons accompanied by an inspirational DVD.  One needs teachers and mentors and a community of friends, and one needs to practice over a long period of time. 

Read the Full Essay.


Update: Congregational Formation Initiative


For the last several years, EP has been developing and piloting some modest resources and processes for nurturing congregation formation. (In case you're wondering, that's the curious little "CFI" tab on the front page of the EP website.)  For the last several months, we have been developing a number of different ways for congregations to engage with these materials.  We'd like to encourage you to take a look at these resources and see if one of the three different ways of engaging them might suit well your congregational setting. To be clear, while some entire congregations have used some of these resources, they are usually used by smaller study groups within the congregation, which then function (we hope!) as leaven within the larger batch of dough.


            If you have questions about CFI, such as which of the three partnerships might be best for your congregational situation, would like to be in contact with a church leader who has engaged in this process, or would simply like to discuss congregational formation with other EP friends, please contact the CFI support team and we will be in contact with you as soon as possible.  We would also be happy to receive applications for our next cohort of congregations engaging in CFI, which we plan to launch this fall.


Meet the  EP : Michael Iafrate
Michael Iafrate
Michael J. Iafrate, 34, is a West Virginia native working on a doctorate in theology at the University of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto. Michael developed a personal and academic interest in the relationship of faith and politics as an undergraduate at Wheeling Jesuit University and was drawn into Ekklesia Project circles when Mike Budde visited WJU to give a lecture on politics and discipleship. Michael finished his master's in theology and spent a few years working in campus ministry, focusing on projects that helped students make the link between spirituality and social justice, especially the movement to close the School of the Americas.

In 2006 he began a doctorate in Toronto, pursuing studies in liberationist and post/decolonial theologies, ecclesiologies, Catholic social thought and peace traditions, and social movements in Appalachia. After over three years in Toronto, he and his wife Emily and Canadian-born daughter Hazel made their way back to their home of West Virginia where Michael is now doing research toward a dissertation on Roman Catholic and ecumenical grassroots movements and social change in Appalachia. He has participated in the 2005, 2008, and 2009 EP gatherings.

Michael is also an independent musician, having played semi-professionally in various projects over the past 15-20 years. His latest is the band M Iafrate & The Priesthood whose forthcoming album "Christian Burial" is expected in late 2011. The intersection of his theological and musical passions naturally led him to hook up with Liturgical Press' Rock and Theology project where he contributes regularly to the project's blog and will contribute to an edited collection of essays.

You can find Michael on the web at and In real life, you can find him playing with his daughter Hazel and learning clawhammer banjo.

The Practice of Fasting in the EP


The "principles" section of our Invitation and Declaration includes the following paragraph:

  1. We seek to embody these principles through an ongoing critical conversation about the Christian life. We expect this to include regular gatherings and retreats at the local, regional, and national levels; a wide variety of publications, in both paper and electronic form, for a variety of audiences (academic, ecclesial, and popular); and through an ongoing network of communication (including a regular newsletter). Additionally, the members of The Ekklesia Project pledge that they will maintain vital prayer lives, participate in the worship life of their local churches, perform the traditional works of mercy (e.g., feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, welcoming the stranger, instructing the uneducated), and observe a daytime fast every Friday as a form of prayerful resistance to the idolatrous practices of our culture. We will hold one another responsible for these covenantal practices and those that the Spirit may lead us to accept at a later time.

Not all Christians are able to practice fasting for health reasons, but in years past a fair number of EPers observed this practice, both to deepen their walk with God and to share a sense of Christian community with one another across time and distance.  We are wondering how many of us still keep this fast, and whether there are persons newer to the EP who would wish to adopt it.  Please drop a note to John McFadden or Heather Carlson to share your experiences with this practice.  We would like to share these experiences through the newsletter, using names only if you give permission to do so (this practice is NOT about "competition for righteousness"!). 

EP Board Meeting


In just a few days (the first weekend of February) the EP Board of Directors will gather in Clinton, Mississippi, continuing the tradition of holding the winter meeting in an EP-affiliated congregation. Northside Baptist Church, pastored by Stan Wilson, will host the group, providing meeting space, meals, sleeping accomodations, and opportunities for forming and renewing friendships. Following Friday and Saturday's business sessions, the board will worship with Northside on Sunday morning. The board asks for your prayers as they travel and as they meet to address the concerns of the Project. If you have questions, comments, insights, or suggestions you'd like to share, the board welcomes them.Please send them here   

Gathering 2011 will think together about Neighbors

Gathering 2011 will be held July 14-16, Thursday noon through Saturday noon, on the campus of DePaul University in Chicago. Plenary Speakers are Beth Newman (former EP board member), who has written on hospitality; Danny Carroll (a new friend who teaches Bible at Denver Seminary), who has written on immigration and borders; and Craig Wong (longtime EP endorser) who directs Grace Urban Ministries and works on immigration reform. Mark Lau Branson will lead us in lectio divina on Luke 10.   Erin Martin, pastor of Wesley UMC (one of our CFI congregations) will be one of our preachers. Our workshop leaders are being lined up. We will announce those in next month's email.