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The Afterlife- Is there a Heaven and Hell?

Different Perspectives on what happens when we die and how that affects how we live. 

In This Issue
To Hell with Hell
Eternal Life
Everlasting Life
Heaven Within
Death, Resurrection, and Eternal Life
Reflections on Wendell Berry's Reflections on the Afterlife
A Joyful Path

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A Joyful Path,  

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We have exciting news! We have just been offered an extremely generous donation to begin work on A Joyful Path, Year 2, children's curriculum, for ages 6-10.


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Q and A  

With Bishop Spong

 Bishop Spong

Q: "A common poem found in the Announcements/
Obituary section of most (if not all) newspapers is titled "The Plan of the Master Weaver."....    

I personally find this brings more discomfort than comfort.  It was written, I'm sure, with good intentions but a person has to ask: does it really bring a grieving family any comfort to know (for example) that their child was killed as part of God's plan?  I have to believe that someone (somewhere) has put together some better words of comfort.  Something that does not throw us all together into a basket of weaves within the Master Weaver's plan.  What message or words would you suggest to help bring healing and comfort to those who have lost a very dear friend, a colleague, an acquaintance or a family member?


READ Bishop Spong's personal answer HERE

Pluralism Sunday  

May 2011

world religions

Haven't we all wished that there was a Progressive Christian event nearer to our house?  Isn't it frustrating to have all the good stuff happen "somewhere else"?  Well, here's an opportunity that is as close as your own church or community.


May 1, 2011 is Pluralism Sunday, and we invite all of you to get involved in this special event!

Pluralism Sunday was created as a celebration of our interfaith world.  Churches around the world have entered into this spirit by dedicating their worship service to the rich diversity of other faith traditions.  We encourage each of you to get your church involved - learn something new, include a different group, reach out beyond where you are comfortable and experience a deeper compassion for those around you. 



Quick Quote

 "For me, afterlife - including its variants of heaven and hell - are peripheral to my faith and practice. I tend to focus on life here and now as the original blessing, and to see my brief individual existence as a temporary expression of a larger reality that was there in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. If by afterlife we mean some continuing presence in the cosmos for each unique conscious life form (and why would we restrict that to our own species?) then that adds depth and complexity to the future, but such a continuing presence would surely need to be in a "form" other than physical."  

~Greg Jenks, Australia


This was quite a fun eBulletin for me to pull together. It is a topic that has been on my mind lately mostly because a good friend of mine recently told me that he was worried that I was going to burn in hell for all eternity because I don't believe what he believes.  Then he got upset with me when I told him that he was closed minded. He said, "I can't believe you would call me that!" So I responded with, "Well, let me ask you this then.  Do you believe that there is any possibility, however small, that you could be wrong?" My old friend looked at me straight in the eyes, full force, and he said, "Absolutely not." "Sorry to say it," I replied, "but I am pretty sure that is the definition of a closed mind."  We are still able to be close friends. We had agreed to disagree on religion many years ago. But ever since that conversation, I have marveled at his blatant arrogance. The part that gets me the most is his conviction that just because it says in the book he touts that it is the word of God, then it must be.  If only my friend could understand that every book ever written is the word of God, that we are the word of god and that nothing is separate- not him and I for sure.  On that note, I asked some of my favorite authors to weigh in on their perspective on Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife...or maybe just about where we find all of that right here in the "Presentlife". Hope you enjoy!

~Deshna Ubeda
Article Headline
Fred Kayaking

By: Fred Plumer

I remember a strange encounter I had with a young man in one of the last years of my ministry in the local church. He was probably in his late thirties and had been attending our church in Irvine, California for several months by himself.  Although he always sat in the very back of the church near an aisle, as if ready to make a dash, he always made certain to take the time to say hello to me before he left the facilities. One day as he went out the door, he asked if he could make an appointment to speak to me privately.  I said certainly, and we set up a time...


We had a very long chat about progressive Christianity and Jesus as a prophet and a teacher. He told me that he appreciated the fact that our church had a Jewish congregation and a Mosque holding weekly services there. He told me that he had been listening to my messages very carefully and he liked the idea that Jesus was talking about compassion as a path to an experience of the Holy or Sacred.


But then he got to the point. He said that it seemed that I believed that God did not punish people or send them to hell if they were not believers who followed the rules.  He wanted to know if that was really what I was saying.  "Don't you believe in hell?" he asked with a bit of desperation.



Eternal Life

By: John Churcher

Orthodox Christianity is certain that it needs a physically resurrected Jesus as clearly and unambiguously stated in its creeds and doctrines. The teaching is that because Jesus was physically raised from the dead so all who believe in Jesus [and can say the 'magic' words of repentance] will live forever in an eternity praising God. However, many followers of the Jesus Way have no need of a bodily raised Jesus. A physical resurrection is irrelevant to our discipleship.


Since my book 'Setting Jesus Free' was published I have been asked many times, "Well, do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus and of eternal life for believers? Yes or no?"


Everlasting Life: A Progressive Perspective


By: Bruce Epperly 



Progressive Christians are typically humble about the afterlife.  As progressives, we are clear about what we don't believe. We critique the following traditional images of the afterlife, identified with popular and conservative forms of Christianity: 1) the traditional dualism of heaven and hell, 2) eternal punishment in hell for finite sins, 3) a heaven that excludes anyone who doesn't confess the traditional tenets of Christianity and doesn't accept Jesus as their savior or receive the sacraments in the correct way, 4) the use of the afterlife as a fear technique and evangelistic tool, and 5) spiritual and theological visions that are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good! 


For the most part, we accept the Marxist critique of the afterlife as a way of encouraging people to accept the unjust status quo to focus on eternal life.  We know what we don't believe and the good news is that such disbelief has liberated many people from superstitious, supernatural, and shame-based theologies.  Our disbelief has freed people from fear of hell so we they can focus on social transformation and planetary well-being.   



Heaven Within

By: Ian Lawton


There are many theories about the afterlife. Some of them are literal and specific. Some of them are poetic and general. ALL of them are speculative and subjective. I see no conclusive evidence for an afterlife, nor does the idea of a literal afterlife solve any of the existential dilemas I ponder. Having said that, I find enormous meaning and power in the metaphor of heaven and feel very motivated by the many ways we can manifest heaven both in this life and beyond our life.


Death, Resurrection, and Eternal Life
to heaven

By: Jim Burklo

Jesus was not talking about an afterlife so much as he was describing a future life that would happen as more and more people became "subjects" of God alone, in their hearts and through their actions.


Buck had been a big, fat, bearded biker and dope dealer. Now he was a skinny guy with a beatific smile. In the dying process his ego passed away, leaving only the love that is Christ to shine through. In the months before his death, he was reunited with many members of his family, reconciling with them years after his own bad choices had estranged them from him.  One after another AIDS-related disorder weakened him. An hour or two before he died, Jeanne, sitting at his bedside, recorded his last words uttered in a semiconscious state:

"Let me go.

Let it go.

Let me go.

Let me know...



Reflections on Wendell Berry's Reflections on the Afterlife

By: Chuck Queen
a fresh perspective   


Wendell Berry's novel, "A World Lost," is the story about a family coping with the death of one of their own. In the final chapter, Berry reflects on the manner of man he was. This meditation gives way to a reflection on death as a pathway into the light of a more advanced spiritual realm.

If we could grasp Berry's vision, then our biblical images of judgment would not be terrifying, tormenting images to be feared, but purifying images to be welcomed, invested with new meaning.



A Joyful Path
Progressive Christian Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds
awareness For use in congregations, small groups and the home


"You may appreciate my sigh of relief when I opened the new offering from the Centre for Progressive Christianity, A Joyful Path - Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds.  Here is an engaging, beautifully presented opportunity for young people and their teachers to share an exploration of ideas of God, the world, the richness of our human existence and the wonderful gift that is life. The overwhelming sense is one of intelligent awareness - of the potential of humanity to embrace each other and the natural world...of what it means to be human in complex societies...of the richness we experience when we open our minds to listen. This is a positive Christian offering and one that celebrates the diversity within the worldwide Christian Church, and the universal nature of the Spirit..."


Click here for more info 

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Of course, no one knows the answers to what happens when we die...but one thing we can know for sure is what happens in this life.  What happens when we open our hearts to the abundance of love that is available to us? What happens when we recognize that there is infinite love within each of us, that we are not empty and needing to be filled by something or someone?  There is much suffering in this world. And we must take some amount of responsibility for that, for we are co-creators.  Are we co-creating the Heaven and the Hell within in our own lives?  Or are we learning and growing in this life, so that we can continue to evolve in the next life? All I know, is that I look around me and I see that we have everything we need right within reach to live in paradise. Now, if only the humans would stop getting in the way of that!   

Thank you for taking this journey with us!  



Fred Plumer and the Team at
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