Playing for Love in the Time of COVID

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on June, 18 2020

The world has shifted on its axis since my last article appeared in Progressing Spirit. As I write, the number of COVID-19 deaths has passed 400,000, a number that shrinks from the reality experienced around the globe. As countries attempt to reopen their economies, anti-racism protests are sweeping the globe. Immune to neither challenge, we in Canada are little more than a quiet simmer when compared to the legitimate rage being expressed across America and around the world.

Queen’s Dream

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on February, 13 2020

Of course, it is not just a racial issue that hammers at the foundations of our social order. Or a gender identity or sexuality issue. Or political, social, or familial. It is an issue that is experienced by all of us and that undermines our self-confidence, and our willingness to be vulnerable, our ability to see what is really before us

No, This Isn’t For You

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on October, 3 2019

It is a sad thing to close the doors of a church. Hard as it is for the congregation’s members, however, the event has a far deeper, though often unseen and uncalculated, impact on the health of the community in which that congregation was practicing its increasingly irrelevant faith. As churches age and weaken, their focus necessarily turns toward survival and away from the world outside their doors.

The Future Church: Over to You

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on June, 6 2019

Armed with fifteen years of exposure to critical contemporary Christian scholarship, the congregation’s leaders, rather than fire me, embraced the opportunity to explore what church beyond belief might look like. It has been a bumpy ride at times; there is no doubt about that.  Still, the work was important, and we have proven that a church built on the values of liberal Christianity neither undermines nor requires belief in a supernatural, interventionist, theistic god called God.

Lost in Translation

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on February, 28 2019

For many progressive Christians, our ability to remain in the communities we love is dependent upon our willingness to translate what we hear, sing, and say on Sunday morning. Much of the “content” of a weekly service continues to use the language of traditional Christianity and privilege the very rituals and artifacts which progressives no longer accept literally.

A Conversation with Bishop John Shelby Spong: Part 1 “On Small Minds and Big Ideas”

Column by Rev. David M. Felten on November, 8 2018

The following is taken from an interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong on September 18th, 2018. Recorded at his home in Richmond, Virginia, it has been edited for length and thematic focus.

Jack on Prayer

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on August, 23 2018

It was a delight to be at Chautauqua Institution in June to hear Bishop John Shelby Spong (Jack) explore the theses presented in his latest and last, last book Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today. Over the course of four days, he shared his perspectives on Christianity in a style that is exquisitely his own. Taking questions from dedicated “Women” and “Men” microphones, the integrity with which he approaches his work and those intent on wrestling with it was, as always, apparent. He would not let his audience off the hook. He would not allow them to be content with the easy, well-trod paths up the mountain. His cajoling impatience is his invitation to us to raise our own rallying cry, even if we don’t quite know what to rally around yet. He is content to shake the bejeezus out of our preconceptions and then get out of the way so that we might find our own path.

So what happens now?

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on May, 24 2018

And so, as you know, I eschew the language of traditional Christianity (and liberal, and progressive) and work, instead, to model and inspire others with how it is we might live, loving and celebrating life in its many guises and wrestling with the innumerable challenges that doing so presents. All the while, I remain confident that while it may be the least popular way, it remains the only way to reduce Christianity to its most essential truth – that we must love one another – and tell that story to a new and very precarious world.

What is God?

Column by Fred Plumer on April, 26 2018

A few weeks ago, I recommended to our Progressing Spirit writers that we should all write articles that responded to Bishop Spong’s book, Unbelievable. Then it hit me. I was going to be doing the article this week and as I had suggested to our writers, I would have to start with Spong’s first thesis. “Holy moly,” what was I thinking? For Spong’s first thesis is “God.” Now, I am a student of the Bible. I have been studying it for over forty years. Nearly thirty years ago I came to the dramatic conclusion that the vast majority, if not the entire Bible, was written as metaphor by people who may have been very bright for their time in history but were largely ignorant of the world that inherited this book. We really do not understand the world they lived in, and obviously, they did not understand the world we live in today. Many of their sincere beliefs would be considered, at best, superstitions today. That is one of the reasons it has always amazed me people can argue for an inerrant interpretation of the Bible, using the Bible to “prove” their own interpretation.

Bleeding Edge Practitioners

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on February, 22 2018

Rejecting or reinterpreting traditional religious beliefs has always undermined family relationships, communities of faith, and the general coherence of the public. Many who haven’t crossed the threshold of a religious building in decades (if ever) hold rigidly to the privileges they believe religion provides them. Toy with those beliefs and you are unwittingly challenging the rights of the privileged, rights they too frequently enjoy denying those who do not share their beliefs. And those who do participate in religious communities with regularity are often invested in language and ritual they believe is integral to their experience. “Without reciting the Lord’s Prayer when we gather, how will we remember who we are?” they worry.