Saturday, December 12, 2009

I don't know what's best

On Sunday Rev. David Lindrooth gave a talk at the Bryn Athyn Contemporary Family Service that has stuck with me. (I don't know if it was recorded. So far it's not available on newchurchaudio.org but if it ever becomes available it should be here.)

Luckily for you he also posted a summary of it on his blog: "A Church is Dead Without Innocence". He has a list of all the things that the Writings say aren't possible without innocence and then applies this to thinking about a church.
In the light of these statements, look at the church through the lens of innocence. What does the church without innocence look like? How does it operate? What are the risks for a church organization that gives “innocence” short shrift? -no regeneration -no wisdom -no good -no charity -no worship…. The cultivation of innocence is a defining factor in the church. No wonder Jesus said “let the little children come to me for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
The main thing that stuck with me, though, was a passage that he read from Heaven and Hell that talks about the angels' innocence. Most people who've had some New Church education or gone to a New Church congregation for a while could give you the New Church definition of innocence: "a willingness to be led by the Lord" (Heaven and Hell 341. This is a great phrase for summarizing what innocence is all about, but there's also another, more personal one that I got from Dave on Sunday: "I don't know what's best."

In Heaven and Hell 278 (the passage Dave read) it says that angels in a state of innocence
recognize that they themselves do not know what is good for them, the Lord alone knowing this.
How do I work on being innocent? A good place to start is to say "I don't know what's best; the Lord does." This can be applied to all sorts of things—"I don't know what's best for me and my life; the Lord does." "I don't know what's best for this person who's asking me for help; the Lord does." "I don't know what's best for the church organization; the Lord does."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Insights into Life

Stephen Muires, another student (or theolog) at the theological school has a blog (muires.wordpress.com). The tagline of his blog is "Insights into Life." A typical post is only a couple of paragraphs long but usually incorporates a fascinating short quote or two and then a few of Stephen's reflections on them.

If you're into New Age stuff and Swedenborg, this will probably be perfect for you. Stephen brings together quotes from New Age sources and Swedenborg in really interesting ways (e.g. this post and that post).

If you're into Swedenborg (or the New Church, rather) and not so much into New Age stuff, I would still encourage you to give Stephen's blog a chance. He finds lots of interesting quotes from the Writings and I'm guessing that he'll get you to think about even familiar passages in new ways (e.g. this post and that post).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Download PDFs of Pott's Concordance

I've posted before about the advantages of using Pott's Concordance (AKA The Swedenborg Concordance: A Complete Work of References to the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg compiled by Rev. John Faulkner Potts). I've also posted before about how you can read parts of the concordance online.

But Rev. Clark Echols has just sent me even better news: you can download the whole concordance in PDF form. The files are available from the Internet Archive. If you search in their americana collection for John Faulkner Potts you get a list of results which includes links to the volumes of the concordance.

If you click on one of these results you get some information about the book and are given a couple of different options for viewing it. To save you some time I've collected all the links to the PDF versions by volume below. For some of the volumes there are 2 versions. I'd recommend the ones with smaller file sizes.

Volume I (A-C): version 1 (PDF, 57.2 MB), version 2 (PDF, 87.2 MB)
Volume II (D-F): version 1 (PDF, 87 MB)
Volume III (G-J): version 1 (PDF, 97.3 MB)
Volume IV (K-N): version 1 (PDF, 54.8 MB), version 2 (PDF, 98 MB)
Volume V (O-Sq): version 1 (PDF, 52.4 MB), version 2 (PDF, 94 MB)
Volume VI (St-Z): version 1 (PDF, 48 MB), version 2 (PDF, 80 MB)

As you can see these are chunky files so they may take a while to download and may be a little sluggish to navigate through with your PDF viewer but, now you have the entire concordance on your computer whenever you want it and now you can search it electronically.

What I'm guessing you want to do now is take the text version of these scans, clean them up, and build a brilliant little website that has all the references linked so that you can easily read the full passage.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Readings

For the last couple of years (I'm not sure how many) the pastors of the Glenview New Church have put together daily readings to help people get ready for Christmas.

Each year there is a theme to the readings. Here's an excerpt of the description of the theme for this year:
It is said that the Word of the Lord holds within it countless truths of heaven. Each time we read, we can see something new. The "something new" this year is gathered around the theme of the Lord as Savior, and also the process of salvation that He lays before us. (Read the full description.)
This year, in addition to being able to download all the readings in PDF form you can also sign up to receive the readings as daily emails, like the popular Daily Inspiration program.

The readings start December 1st.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pray that the Lord's Kingdom May Come

And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)

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"And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely" signifies that he who knows anything of the Lord's coming, and of the New Heaven and New Church, thus of the Lord's kingdom, should pray that it may come, and that he who desires truths, should pray that the Lord may come with light, and that he who loves truths, will then receive them from the Lord without his own work. ...

The things in this verse have the same signification as these in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done as in heaven so also upon the earth." (Apocalypse Revealed 956)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Spirits Who Are With Us

I was researching what Swedenborg's Writings say about the spirits that are with us and was glad to find a great New Church Life article about it from 1906 (by searching on NewSearch4). In "Our Attendant Spirits" (PDF) Rev. C. Th. Odhner covers a lot of different topics. He talks about ancient ideas of attendant spirits; he makes sense of some seemingly contradictory statements in the Writings about how many spirits are with us and whether or not the spirits with us are angels and devils. He also talks about Deja Vu (or second memory) and guardian angels.

It's not a short article (19 pages at 1.5 spacing as I've formatted it) but it's definitely worth reading and I'm sure you'll learn something new if you do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dave Lindrooth: "We need to love the hell out of people."

I highly recommend that you check out Rev. Dave Lindrooth's blog, Dave Lindrooth's Church Growth Blog: A gathering place for support and mentorship in New Church Evangelism (www.newchurchweblog.org). I haven't had a chance to explore everything on his blog so I can't give you lots of recommendations of what to look at but I recommend that you start by watching the 4 minute video on his most recent post, "Let's Ramp Up the Love in this Church".

Monday, October 19, 2009

Perspective on the Proprium

Just recently I was celebrating the fact that I'm not the only New Church blogger who updates regularly and now it's been almost a month since my last post. Sigh...

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that Rev. Clark Echols has recently posted a bunch of new stuff to his blog, Clark Echols' Swedenborgian Opinions (glendalenewchurch.blogspot.com). I've only had the chance to read one his new posts so far so that's the one I'm going to tell you about.

"Gold and Shadow" is a post about making sense of and dealing with what we have from the Lord and our selfish stuff. "Gold" and "shadow" are both terms from men's work and Clark relates them to the New Church concept of the proprium. (Incidentally, in the passage he quotes, he uses a new translation that uses the word autonomy for proprium; what do you think?)

I really appreciated Clark's perspective on how to deal with our darker, proprial stuff. Here's a teaser:
I realized the emptiness produced by a dilemma. On the one hand, if I label my shadow as a worthless piece of "refuse" (trash) I will have to lie to you in order to hide this part of myself because, of course, I want to look good and and I want you to like me (which you wouldn't if you saw what I was REALLY like). On the other, if I don't lie and show you that I am a worthless piece of refuse, again, I have come to believe, you will see me for what I am and will reject me and not like me.

The way out of the dilemma is to....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some Intriguing Thoughts About Love and God

A couple of weeks ago a person in the congregation here shared some thoughts about love. I disagree with him a bit but I wanted you to get to think about his ideas yourself. I may be misremembering exactly what he said and I'm certainly not expressing it exactly how he did, but here's the gist of it.

He was reacting to a statement about the need to shun the love of self. He said that people need to love themselves before they can work on shunning evils. He said that the problems in the world don't come from people having too much love but too little. People don't slit their wrists because they love themselves too much.

He said that people need to feel loved before they can work on things. He pointed out that God is love and then quoted True Christian Religion 99:2 which says that
love wants to love and be loved.
He stressed that God, as love, loves other people first before He wants to be loved in return and that's a key detail. Someone else pointed out that there seems to be a similar emphasis in John where the Lord says,
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. ... This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (15:9, 12)
(Jumping in with my own thoughts...) The Writings talk about the importance of a person's idea of God. (Divine Love and Wisdom 13 was the first example I found. Please comment with other good passages on the topic.) And I've always been a bit confused by why someone's idea would matter so much. Shouldn't how a person lives matter more? But this line of thinking made me realize that it would make a huge difference in a person's life if he didn't believe that God loved him. Why would you want to obey the teachings of someone who didn't love you and want the best for you?

This is obvious stuff, I know, but it's still pretty profound to me and has made me think that perhaps the first thing we need to communicate to people about God (and about the New Church in general) is that He loves them—and not just in a sacrificial lamb, taking on the sins of the world kind of way but in an ongoing, leading to most possible happiness kind of way.

Glencairn Museum Has a New Web Site

Glencairn Museum has had a web site for a couple of years (www.glencairnmuseum.org) but it was a better-than-nothing site made by one of the staff members who taught himself HTML.

Glencairn now has a new web site. Glencairn generally has a pretty professional look and feel so I'm really glad that they now have a web site that represents them well.

Apparently it's in the plans to build a media-rich, schmancy site for Glencairn in the next couple of years but I'm glad they built this in the meanwhile.

Take a look around. It's not perfect but it is a heck of a lot better.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm not the only New Church blogger!

I don't claim to be the first New Church blogger. (Does anyone know to whom that honor belongs?) But when I started New Church Thought I was one of the only people with a New Church/Swedenborg related blog that updated it at all regularly. As a result I didn't see any particular reason to have a blogroll. Why give people a list of blogs that aren't going to have anything new for them to look at?

But, I'm happy to say that this is no longer the case and, to celebrate the fact that there are now other New Church/Swedenborg related blogs that are regularly updated, I have now added a blogroll. The fancy widget even tells you how recently the blogs were updated. Some of them were updated a couple of months ago but others were updated within hours. Here's to a lively New Church blogosphere!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reflection: Loving Other People

About a month ago I wrote my first longer blog post, "Everyone is a Teacher". (I recommend reading the comments on this post, by the way. Maybe someday I'll get around to responding to them.) Anyway, I'm calling these longer posts reflections and here's another one.

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I've been learning about listening recently, mostly from a marriage group run by John and Lori Odhner of Caring for Marriage. A now well-worn truism of listening in marriage is that women just want to be listened to not have their problem fixed. I find this annoyingly true. Almost every time that my wife tells me about something negative, my first reaction is to start thinking about how to fix it—how to be the knight that rides up to save her with my brilliant solution sword. But, pretty much every time she would rather that I just listen to what she's experiencing and even sometimes just repeat back the words that she's saying. "I'm feeling frustrated that...." "You're feeling frustrated that...." "Yes!" So it's clear that, if I want to be loving, that's what I should do but there's a part of me that would still much rather mentally run off to find my horse and put on my armor than concentrate on really understanding what my princess is dealing with.

Another brilliant way that I often want to respond is by talking about how I'm feeling. "I'm feeling frustrated because...." "I'm also feeling frustrated but I'm frustrated because...." But, again, if I want to really be loving to my wife, I shouldn't get into that.

I know that this is basic stuff but forgive me while I share my realizations about what I think is going on underneath both of these. I think that the fundamental thing that matters to my wife (and to anyone I'm supposedly listening to) is whether I'm focusing on myself or the other person. The shift to focusing on me is pretty obvious when I say "I'm also feeling frustrated...." but it's also what's going on in the fixing scenario. When I start thinking about how to solve my wife's problems I've shifted from focusing on the much less comfortable thing of listening to and trying to relate to someone outside of me to the much more comfortable realm of focusing on how I can save the day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's Grant Schnarr Doing Now?

Have you been wondering what Rev. Grant Schnarr has been up to recently? One thing he's been doing is writing really interesting notes on Facebook telling the story of his life and reflecting on the ups and downs of his evangelization work. He's now started a blog (grantschnarr.wordpress.com) and put them on there too. See "To Be or Not to Be: A Swedenborgian" part one, part two, part three, and part four.

He's also been preaching around Bryn Athyn. He preached at Ivyland New Church a couple of weeks ago. He preached at the Cathedral 2 Sundays ago. And he preached this past Sunday at Bryn Athyn Contemporary service. (There isn't a recording up yet but you should be able to find it here soon.)

The sermon he preached at the Cathedral, "Lifeline", was about the internal meaning of the story of Jeremiah being thrown into cistern and then later raised out (Jeremiah 38:1-13). I've heard a number of people say that it was the best sermon they've heard in a while. I got a lot out of it. Grant is really good at expositional sermons. He goes back and forth between the literal story and the internal meaning in a seemingly effortless and usually compelling way. One of the simple things that he pointed out was that all the characters in the story are part of us, not just Jeremiah. And he talked about how certain parts of us want to push the truth out of sight but that we need to identify with those parts of us that will lift the truth back up into the light.

In that sermon and the one he preached at the contemporary service there was a refreshing, back-to-the-basics feel and focus. We don't always want the truth because the truth can be hard to deal with and because it asks us to change but it's totally worth it. Amen!

Grant is also planning something for the fall. On page 2 of the August 27 Bryn Athyn Post he's asking for help with an independent contemporary service he's going to be during the "Living Courageously" campaign at the Social Hall of the Lord's New Church.

He's also starting another blog sort of thing next Monday.
I wrote a book two years ago called Guardian Angel Diary, about a girl named Nicole who, being diagnosed with brain cancer, began writing to her guardian angel and listening hard, wrote what she heard as a reply in her head. Soon a conversation and a friendship developed which helped her to the end, or perhaps to the beginning. On Monday, September 7th, Nicole will begin her diary for all to see, at nicolebealert.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Evidence of the Need for Variety in Worship

I just watched a video of a talk that Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers, gave at TED. It was about lessons we can learn from the breakthroughs that a food consultant made while helping Prego come up with the best spaghetti sauce. Watch the video and we'll talk afterward.



Being a minister-in-training who thinks far too much about worship services, Gladwell's conclusions got me thinking about variety in worship. In the past I think people approached the Writings in much the same way that food companies used to approach picking their spaghetti sauce formula—"What's the perfect formula for a worship service that will serve all people the best?"—when, in fact, there are lots of passages that say that variety perfects (e.g. Heaven and Hell 56; Arcana Coelestia 2385:5).

That said, I was interested to read an article in an evangelical magazine about the drawbacks of having a different worship service for each age group and the need for finding ways of bringing them together.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What can you know about other people?

Recently I happened to listen to an episode of the radio show This American Life and got into a discussion on Facebook that connected with each other.

The episode is called "Got You Pegged" and it has a couple of stories about the problems with pegging people incorrectly and one story about how we have to peg people in certain circumstances.

The discussion was about how much we can know about someone and how we have to use what we can see. Here are some passages about this.
Whoever does not distinguish the neighbor according to the quality of good and truth in him may be deceived a thousand times, and his charity become confused and at length no charity. A man devil may exclaim, "I am a neighbor: do good to me." And if you do good to him he may kill you or others. You are placing a knife or a sword in his hand. (Doctrine of Charity 51)

The Lord says, "Judge not, that you be not condemned" (Matthew 7:1). This cannot in the least mean judging of someone's moral and civil life in the world, but judging of someone's spiritual and heavenly life. Who does not see that if people were not allowed to judge of the moral life of those dwelling with them in the world, society would collapse.... ... But to judge what the inner mind or soul is like within, thus what a person's spiritual state is and so his fate after death - of this one is not permitted to judge, because it is known to the Lord alone. ...

A general judgment is allowed, such as the following, 'If you are in your inward qualities as you appear in your outward ones, you will be saved or condemned.' But a specific judgment - as for example to say, 'You are of this or that character in your inward qualities, therefore you will be saved or condemned' - is not allowed." (Conjugial Love 523:1-2)

Where charity does not exist self-love is present and consequently hatred towards all who do not show favor to self. As a result they see in the neighbor nothing except his evil. Or if they do see anything good they either perceive it as nothing or else place a bad interpretation on it. It is altogether otherwise with those with whom charity is present. ...[W]ith those who have no charity, a feeling of hatred is manifest in every single thing; they wish to try everyone and indeed to pass judgement on them. Their one desire is to discover what is evil in them, all the time having it in mind to condemn, punish, and torment. But those who have charity hardly notice the evil in another person, but instead notice all the goods and truths that are his; and on his evils and falsities they place a good interpretation. Of such a nature are all angels, it being something they have from the Lord, who bends everything evil into good. (Arcana Coelestia 1079:2)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to the Basics

I haven't posted much recently due to working on finishing the first draft of my dissertation and getting ready to head to Europe in the fall. (Stay tuned for some posts about the New Church in Europe and some more bite-sized bits from my dissertation.)

In my research I ran across an old favorite passage that's been helpful to me in working on my dissertation and is just a great summary of the important, basic points of religion. Enjoy! (Read the whole thing if you have the time.)
The laws of our religion are that one God is to be worshiped; that adulteries, thefts, murders, false witness, must be shunned; thus also frauds, unlawful gains, hatreds, revenge, lies, blasphemies, and many other things that are mentioned not alone in the Decalogue but everywhere else in the Word…. When man shuns these because they are opposed to the Word, and thence opposed to God, and because they are from hell, then man lives according to the laws of his religion, and so far as he lives according to his religion is he led by the Lord…. Moreover, he is daily taught by the Lord what he must do and what he must say, also what he must preach or what he must write; for when evils are removed he is continually under the Lord's guidance and in enlightenment. Yet he is not led and taught immediately by any dictate, or by any perceptible inspiration, but by an influx into his spiritual delight, from which he has perception according to the truths of which his understanding consists. When he acts from this influx, he appears to be acting as if from himself, and yet he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. (Apocalypse Explaine 825:3)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Good Sermon on Wisdom and Marriage

In mid-July I went to lay-led Sunday service at the Glendale New Church. Max Blair was the lay leader for that week and the sermon he picked for us to read was a sermon that Rev. Dan Goodenough preached in 1981 titled "The Rib of Man" (PDF).

As you might guess from the title, it's about the story from Genesis 2 of woman being created out of the rib of man. But it's not so much an exposition of that story as an exploration of some of the teachings about the importance of a husband developing wisdom in marriage.

Talking about the differences between men and women is a difficult thing to do without seeming to denigrate either sex but Goodenough does a good job of it. Here's one example:
Though [a husband's] rational wisdom can and should climb into a light in which his wife is not, she enjoys a wisdom of perception of states which is too deep for him to fathom. Both of these distinctive kinds of wisdom, together with the moral wisdom which husband and wife should share (Conjugial Love 163-168) are necessary for the growth of the church in them. A man's rational insights are no more infallible than a woman's intuitions; neither husband nor wife is in a position superior to the other, so as to instruct or dominate from above.
Here are a couple of other things I like about this sermon:
  • It has a good discussion of what real wisdom is and what it isn't.
  • It doesn't forget about unmarried people, as many sermons about marriage do.
  • It has a funny analogy about waiting for a man's wisdom.
  • It talks about the use of arguing.
  • And I really like the point he ends on.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reflection: Everyone is a Teacher

I'm trying something new. So far I've stuck to telling you about things that other people have written and said and I've tried to stay under 300 words per post. I want to try occasionally sharing some of my thoughts and going way over 300 words. I'm going to call them reflections. Here's the first one; let me know what you think.

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I was recently on the staff for the first time at a church camp. I did a couple of worship services and a talk. As I prepared for the camp before getting there I was thinking about the topic for the week and what sorts of things were important to know about the topic, what sorts of things people might be confused about, etc.

For the first two days of the camp, though, I wasn’t leading anything just attending things. And I started to notice that I was learning things from other people. Believe me, I know that it’s painfully obvious, but I realized that I wasn’t the only person there that the Lord was using to teach people. And it wasn’t just the other ministers there that I was learning from. I was learning from women as well as men, people older than me and people younger than me, people who had probably read the Word more than me and people who had probably read it less. And I realized that the Lord is happy to use anyone and everyone to teach people the truth and lead them to heaven.
The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaimed it (Psalm 68:11).
That was the phrase from scripture that encapsulated this important realization for me. The Lord wants people to know the truth and He’s going to use a great company (or army, more literally) of people to teach it. Just like it says in Divine Providence 172:6,
the Word can only be taught mediately through parents, teachers, preachers, books, and especially through the reading of it. Nevertheless, it is not taught by these, but by the Lord through them.
The Lord teaches people the Word not just through preachers/ministers/priests but also through parents and teachers and books and everyone.

This summer I’ve been working on a dissertation about the use and abuse of the dynamic between priests and lay people. One of the things I’ve been trying to understand is what makes priests necessary. The specific question I have now is, if the Lord uses everyone to teach the truth, what makes the teaching that priests do different from the teaching that everyone else does?

Steve Simons’ perspective is that every believer is a priest.
Setting apart “Holy Men” is not Biblical. ... The Christian priesthood, in copying the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Testament, set itself up as a class of mediators set apart to keep their view of the Divine before the eyes of people. But this feature of religion is now outdated. ...

God calls every individual to walk side by side along the road of life with others, to give counsel and encouragement, to study and teach His Word for those less educated in its message, to worship and praise Him together in communities, to witness important life events such as marriage and death and teach the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and to lead others by means of the gifts of vision, perception, and wisdom to discover more of the blessings that God has in store for all people. These gifts are that set apart the pastors, the preachers, the ministers, and the priests – and these are all roles that any believer can take if that is where they are called by God and gifted to serve.

Man or woman, young or old, every believer is a priest following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who is the only teacher, the only priest, the only mediator, the only God. (See also "You Are a Priest".)
I really like the sound of this. I love the way he describes how God calls all of us to help each other on the road of life and, most of all, I love his point that Jesus Christ is the only teacher, priest, mediator, and God. The only thing I’m not sure about is this idea that it’s not good to have people set apart as priests, except inasmuch as a certain person is particularly gifted in studying, teaching, leading, witnessing, etc.

Here are some of teachings that make me wonder about this.

The most extended treatment of the priesthood and its role that I’m aware of is in New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 311 - 325 / Arcana Coelestia 10789 - 10806.
There are two things which ought to be in order with men, namely, the things which are of heaven, and the things which are of the world. The things which are of heaven are called ecclesiastical, and those which are of the world are called civil. (311)

Governors over those things with men which relate to heaven, or over ecclesiastical affairs, are called priests, and their office is called the priesthood. (314)

He who believes otherwise than the priest, and makes no disturbance, ought to be left in peace; but he who makes disturbance, ought to be separated; for this also is of order, for the sake of which the priesthood is established. (318)

As priests are appointed to administer those things which relate to the Divine law and worship, so kings and magistrates are appointed to administer those things which relate to civil law and judgment. (319)
If priests are meant to be overseers who are “appointed to administer those things which relate to the Divine law and worship” and who separate people who believe otherwise than the priest, then it sounds like not everyone can be a priest.

Along these lines, consider this passage from Arcana Coelestia.
Good can be instilled into another by anyone in his country, but not truth, except by those who are teaching ministers; if others do this, heresies arise, and the church is disturbed and rent asunder. ... Everyone must first obtain for himself truth from the doctrine of the church, and afterward from the Word of the Lord; this must be the truth of his faith. (6822)
Are priests what are meant by “teaching ministers”? Again there’s this emphasis on the importance of avoiding disturbances in the church. In this case disturbances are avoided, not by separating people, but by having only certain people teach.

But is this really what the Lord wants? A church where only certain people are allowed to teach others. A church where a group of overseers determines what can be said and what cannot be said? It sounds awfully authoritarian and not nearly as appealing as the picture of a classless church that Steve painted. And yet, if we are going to use the Writings to form our understanding of what the church should look like, we need to integrate these teachings into our thinking about it.

Here’s my attempt at making sense of it. Think of a priest as a professional doctor. He’s been to med school, by the time he opens his own practice he’s put in hundreds of hours as an intern, he’s under some form of supervision by the medical board, he stays up to date on recent developments in understanding diseases and treatments, and he talks with other doctors about different cases. For all of these reasons you would listen to what he teaches you about your health differently than you would your friend who just read some article online and has an opinion about it.

You still learn about health from your friends, and parents, and P.E. and biology teachers in school, and from your own reading of books and articles, and from just paying attention to how your body reacts to various things but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have doctors around anymore. You need someone whose job it is to spend more time than you do studying and thinking about health. And you need the medical community to speak out against new health or treatment practices that they don’t consider safe.

Now, the medical community can be wrong. I haven’t researched it at all (apart from glancing at a Wikipedia article about it), but my impression is that, a couple of decades ago, doctors typically looked askance at chiropractic treatment and may have recommended against it to their patients. These days, it seems that most doctors would advise their patients to get chiropractic treatment, at least for the treatment of back pain. So the medical community was wrong to speak against it and people would have benefitted from receiving treatment but that doesn’t mean that, in general, people would be better off without the medical community and professional doctors. Even though they can be wrong, the protection that comes from having them around is useful.

You may find that your particular professional doctor is not very good. He doesn’t stay up-to-date, he over-prescribes, you don’t agree with his medical philosophy, whatever. And you find that your aunt Betty, on the other hand, though she’s not formally trained in medicine, has lots of good, useful advice for you about your health. That doesn’t mean that you’d be better off relying on your aunt Betty and your own research for all your medical decisions: it just means that you need to find a new doctor, in addition to listening to your aunt Betty and doing your own research.

Does the analogy work for you?

There are lots of other issues that I chose not to get into like who gets to decide who gets to be a professional priest and what exactly does separating someone who makes a disturbance look like. But mostly what I wanted to share with you is my realization that everyone has something important to teach other people and that there still is a need for a professional priesthood. As I continue to work on my dissertation about the dynamics between clergy and laity I hope to gain a clearer picture of how laity and clergy can interact together in a healthy and supportive way where everyone can learn from each other and from the Word together.

I want to end with a cool passage from Apocalypse Explained that reminds us that really it is the Lord doing the teaching.
“‘One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4:37-38) [means that] it is the Lord who teaches, thus who collects and gathers, and not themselves (for it was the Lord, by means of the angels, that is, by means of Divine truths from the Word, who prepared for reception those whom the disciples converted to the church). (911:16)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Get More Out of the Minor Prophets

Have you ever tried to read the prophets? They can be pretty dark, impenetrable reading at first. But, with patience and some help, they can become intriguing and uplifting reading.

In the last couple of months I wrote a sermon on Habakkuk and a children's talk on Haggai and now get a lot out of those books. In both cases I drew significantly on Rev. George McCurdy's minor prophets study guides. So far McCurdy has produced study guides for 10 of the 12 minor prophets. He just made his study guide for Micah available online so I figured it was a good opportunity to make sure that all of you were aware of this incredible tool.

Here's McCurdy's description of his guides:
These prophet study guides contain the information needed to undertake a verse-by-verse study of the Minor Prophet books of the Word. Within the study guide the reader will find a comprehensive presentation of the passages from the Heavenly Doctrine that have direct reference to the text, the passages from the Writings that the author has identified as possibly providing insights into the spiritual sense of the verse, and questions to stimulate reflection and insights.
You can get McCurdy's study guides from the New Church Online Store. Just search for George McCurdy. (Here's the one for Zepheniah.) You can also get them all for free online at dovepress.org. (Here's the one for Zepheniah.)

McCurdy's research, careful reading, and selection of relevant teachings is really helpful in beginning to see the internal sense of the minor prophets. But, even more than that, the humble and yet eager-to-learn attitude that comes across in McCurdy's reflections and questions, is an inspiring example of how to approach the Word.

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I also recommend this sermon by McCurdy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Interview with Jonathan Rose about Swedenborg

I found an interesting interview with Rev. Dr. Jonathan Rose about Swedenborg on YouTube. The interview was recorded in 2000 by Andy Nesky, the president of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Theosophical Society, as part of his "Science and the Outer Streams" series.
[T]he show and its content were exceptional. Andrew Nesky's unique knowledge of subject matter coupled with an amazing guest list created a format that could objectively and intelligently address esoteric and non-traditional areas of human thought. Guests came from all over the world and represented diverse and important perspectives on philosophy, religion, spirituality and the paranormal.
(See Nesky's web site, esotericgateway.com, or his YouTube channel for more information.)

The interview is about 50 minute long. Like any unedited interview it rambles around a bit but it provides an interesting overview of Swedenborg's life and key teachings, with the interviewer providing some interesting context from other thinkers. I've embedded the first video below. If you don't have the time to watch the full thing, use the links and notes below to jump in where it looks interesting.



Part 1
- Introduction
- Summary of Swedenborg's life

Part 2
- Summary of Swedenborg's life
- Swedenborg's claim about talking with angels
- Should people try to duplicate Swedenborg's experience?

Part 3
- Different stages of spiritual awareness

Part 4
- The deaths and struggles necessary for growth
- Swedenborg didn't try to start a church organization
- Ornaments and poetry in Swedenborg's works

Part 5
- Disagreements with other Christian groups about the trinity and the books of Paul
- Gnostic gospels

Part 6
- Rules that Swedenborg used in approaching scripture
- The need to see things for yourself
- How to interpret scripture truly

Part 7
- The need to interpret all laws
- The establishment of New Church organizations

Part 8
- Conjugial Love and other works
- Wrap up

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mac Frazier's Reflections on the Ocean and the Word

I've posted about a couple of things by Rev. Mac Frazier recently (his prayer challenge and his new blog) so maybe I shouldn't again for a while but I recently read a new post on his blog and I wanted to tell you about it. It's called "The Ocean" and is some short reflections about the ocean and the Word. Here's an excerpt from it. If you want to read more of my thoughts about it read the comments after the post.
I was standing on the edge of the surf, looking out at the waves, and beyond them at the seemingly infinite horizon. My four-year-old son’s little hand was gripping my right hand, and he stood there with me. Occasionally he would get a little more adventuresome and take another step deeper into the water, and I’d step with him. Sometimes he’d back out a few quick steps, and I’d calmly retreat with him. However deep he wanted to go, I would go, and no deeper. And holding my hand, he felt totally free to explore safely. And I got to thinking. ...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Church LIVE So Far

Here's my understanding of where things are at this point and what you can find online.

Last Sunday they finished their first 4 week series, "Creation Works." You can watch the first 3 weeks of it online. They have a YouTube channel and a Vimeo channel. You might think that you might as well stick with YouTube because that's what you're familiar with, but Vimeo is actually better. Vimeo allows them to upload longer videos so you can watch a whole week's message in one video instead of in a series of 3 or 4 videos on YouTube. They have organized their YouTube videos into playlists now, which makes it easier, but Vimeo is still better because you don't have to watch through (or skip through) a minute of graphics at the beginning of each of the "Creation Works" videos. Also, because they don't have to chop things up they seem to put things up on Vimeo first.

Here's what you can currently watch online:
Their new series, "A Tale of 3 Cities," started today.

That's about all I know. If you want regular updates follow them on Twitter (twitter.com/NewChurchLive) or check out their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/NewChurchLive).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's the point of preaching?

I was just browsing around the Washington New Church's new web site (www.washingtonnewchurch.org) and found a great little article by their new pastor (Rev. Mike Gladish) about the point of preaching and coming to church. It's on the first couple of pages of their summer newsletter (PDF). Here's an excerpt:
I like preaching, and I hope you can enjoy listening to someone preach, especially when the message being delivered is from the Word. But really, what’s the point? Why would you come and listen to me or anyone else “preach” when you can go to the Word for yourselves and learn all that you need to know in order to live well and prepare for heaven?

One answer is painfully simple: I get paid to study the Word and you don’t. Therefore I have an advantage (one that YOU provide for me) in that I am specially trained and can take more time than you can, as needed, to consider the context of the teachings, their meaning, the implications, and so on. In that respect I’m no different than a plumber or an architect: I’m a specialist. And like most specialists I have no authority to tell you what to do, but I can tell you what the code requires. Besides, if you didn’t come to church would you really spend that time reading the Word instead?

Which brings me to the main point. ...
I also liked Rev. Mike Ferrell's article about the use of vacation (pp4-5 under "From the Assistant").

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Road to Emmaus and Church Growth

A couple of Sundays ago I heard Rev. Stephen Cole preach at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. His sermon, "Burning Hearts," was about the story of the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)—particularly the part where the disciples say to each other, "Did not our heart burn within us, while He spoke to us in the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32). (To skip the music click on "Lessons & Sermon Only" and then click the play button.)

He talked about how the disciples were so excited that they walked all the way back to Jerusalem and said,
This kind of infectious enthusiasm fired up the early converts to Christianity and spread the gospel of the Lord’s Advent. This kind of infectious enthusiasm can inspire us as well in spreading the gospel of the Lord’s Second Coming.
He tied this story in with the teachings about why the New Church will only be with a few people at first in Apocalypse Explained 732.

Why I liked this sermon:
  • I feel like there's a perception out there that conservative ministers aren't interested in the church growing but here's Stephen Cole, a conservative minister, talking about how the church will grow.
  • He makes an interesting point about how to understand Apocalypse Explained 732. You'll have to listen to the sermon, though, if you want to know what it is. :P
  • I also liked his explanation of what it is to have our hearts burn within us and what we can do to make progress in having that experience.
You can read a summary of the sermon on page 9 of the July 2nd Bryn Athyn Post (PDF).

See May Our Hearts Burn Within Us for another great recent sermon on the road to Emmaus.

A Facebook Group for Swedenborgian Project News and Support

I just ran across a new Swedenborgian Facebook group, Swedenborgian Christian Project News and Support. It was started by Mike Weber. The purpose of the group looks pretty cool.
To get out news about books and other writing, translation efforts, videos, events, marketing, outreach efforts, web activities, and other projects within and about Swedenborgian Christianity. To encourage, motivate, and inspire each other and lend expertise. To enable us to meet and communicate about our projects during and after development. To enable new collaborations to develop among us.
My experience with Swedenborg-related Facebook groups (and Facebook groups in general) is that I join them and then forget to ever go back. Here's hoping that this one will be different.

If you're interested, here are a couple of other Swedenborg-related Facebook groups: New Church, Swedenborgians are the bomb diggity, Take it Easy, and A Holy Conversation (read a post about this group).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How Many People Can Earth Sustain?

This spring I ran into the idea that Earth can only support a certain number of people and that, going at the rate the population is increasing, we might reach that number in the next hundred years. An intriguing thought. I haven't researched it at all. Here's one post that talks about different projections for the maximum population the earth could sustain. Let me know if you've found better discussions of this issue.

Anyhow, I thought of this issue when I ran across this passage today about spirits from Jupiter. It supports the idea that a planet can only sustain a certain number of people and talks about how the attitude of the people on the planet significantly affects how many people it can sustain.
[The spirits from Jupiter] declared that the region of the planet where they had lived was inhabited by a large multitude of people, as large as the planet could feed, and that it was fertile, producing an abundance of everything. They also declared that the inhabitants there desired nothing in excess of the necessities of life, and that this was why the multitude of people was so large. (Arcana Coelestia 8116)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Neuroscience and Correspondences

In May I posted about a neuropsychologist's reflections on perception. I just read another intriguing post by that same neuropsychologist.

The post is titled "Quick! Where is Heaven?" and is an exploration of how neuroscience might support the idea that there are universal, underlying correspondences in everything.
One of the primary things Swedenborg talks about with respect to reading and understanding the scriptures is the idea of a “spiritual sense” and correspondences between things spiritual and things natural.

Certainly, from the beginning this idea was probably the most intriguing to me about Swedenborg’s Writings — the notion that embedded in the words of the Bible is a deeper meaning.

And that we “detect” that meaning in some way as we read, whether we know it or not.

But how could that be? Don’t different people use “symbols” and metaphors differently? And how can reading have an impact if we don’t consciously “get” the meaning?
She gets into a study of people's association of certain concepts with the directions up and down and into her own study of how people learn to do things based on underlying patterns that they can't explain. Fun stuff.

Follow Swedenborg on Twitter (sort of)

If you want a sort of Daily Inspiration-like* quote of the day in your Twitter feed you might like to follow SwedenborgToday.

I'm not sure who set this up. Maybe it's the same person who's Swedenborg on Facebook.

* Daily Inspiration provides daily short quotes from the Writings. Subscribe for free in the bottom left corner of www.newchurch.org's homepage.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mac Frazier is Blogging Again

Rev. Mac Frazier (photo) has started blogging again at MacFrazier.com. The tagline of his blog is "The personal opinions of a New Christian pastor entrepreneur geek punk."

His blog has a little bit of everything—his Twitter feed (mcfrazier), a video of a song he's working on, a page he's created to support Iranian liberty.

The things that most interested me, though, are the posts in the philosophy and church planting sections. Under philosophy Mac explains why he loves Edward Hopper's "The Nighthawks".
In short, I see my work in this painting. This is the church. This is the world. This is evangelism.
Under church planting Mac explains his life's purpose.
In a year and twenty days, I am moving to Austin, Texas. I am going to launch a church.

I have been praying, dreaming, planning, talking, thinking, and researching this move for years. This is where my life has been headed since the beginning. ...

Anyway, I was working on my plan this morning when it occurred to me that it might be useful for me to share on my blog the high level what, why and how of my dream. I started to outline something between a proposal and a manifesto, when I realized that maybe the best way to do it was as an FAQ list. So that’s what I’m starting. This is just the preamble; each question will be handled in its own blog post, over time as I get to them. For now, here are the articles I will probably write: ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Buddhist Sounding Passage from Spiritual Experiences

Certain spirits, out of an ingrained curiosity, were eager to learn still more of the matters revealed to me, but they had found out that if they longed to learn them, they were not allowed to. ...

I told them that they... should be without desire, and then it would be left to the Lord to give in His good pleasure. This they did attempt, but they were trying to do so from their own power....

When they asked how they should go about it, they were told that they should not do anything from their own power, but act without introspection. But because they were unable to do this, they tried to be devoid of all effort, abandoning all will power so as to passively await [activation]. But when they tried to do this, again they were told that it was not genuine to abandon themselves to effortlessness, so they said that they could not possibly learn how to behave, for whatever they do in accordance with what has been commanded, is still not genuine. The reason is that then they are not being led by the Lord, but wanting to lead themselves, and wanting to endeavor, or will, and to act from their own power. Therefore, they should know that all their effort should be the Lord's, so that nothing is theirs. ...

To be guided and to live from the Lord is therefore something that neither man nor spirit is aware of, so they suppose such a life is not life, when yet it is the real life. While one should not endeavor from one's own power, neither should one let oneself give up all effort. These are very inward matters, which are so difficult to believe, because they are neither understood, nor perceived. (Spiritual Experiences 1628)

Documentary About the Bright Future of the New Church in Africa

In the summer of 2008 Ron Schnarr and Caleb Schnarr traveled to West Africa to film a documentary on the New Church in Ghana and Togo. You can now watch the documentary they made, "Bright Future - A Documentary about the New Church in West Africa," online. They posted the videos to a Facebook group with the same name as the documentary. Whether you're on Facebook or not you can view the group by following that link. You can also go straight to the videos using the links below.

The documentary is 25 minutes long and has been broken up into 4 videos: video 1, video 2, video 3, and video 4. (Once you view video 1 you can click the Next button just above the top right corner of the video to see the next video.)

If you are inspired by the documentary, there's something you can do.
Want to support the New Church in Africa? You can start by buying our movie at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral book room or by writing us with a request for a copy. All proceeds will go to projects in West Africa such as a clinic and a vocational school. Send all donations and requests to:

Yes Africa Bright Future Documentary
Box 277
Bryn Athyn, PA 19009

Thanks for supporting Africa!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Largest New Church Organization You've Probably Never Heard of

Do you know what country has more New Church people than any other country in the world? It's not the United States. If the figures are correct, South Africa has over ten thousand more New Church people in it than the United States and Canada put together. Surprised? I was. I even lived in South Africa for 7 years and didn't have a clue there were so many other New Church people in the country. Here's the trick: I was only aware of General Church and Nova Hierosolyma societies but there's actually another whole New Church organization in South Africa.
That's the beginning of an article I wrote about the New Church of Southern Africa (NCSA) in the February 2007 issue (PDF) of BACON Bits (7-8).

I find the story of the NCSA fascinating. You can read a short version of it in my article or a longer version of it in Dr. Jane Williams-Hogan's article "Examples of Internationalization: The New Church in Africa" in Scribe of Heaven: Swedenborg's Life Work and Impact (317-335).

You can also read about the history of the NCSA in the August 2007 issue (PDF) of New Church Lifeline (9-11). The article also includes a description of what's happened in the organization in more recent years, a description of a number of events that took place while Rev. Ian Arnold (the author of the article) was there, and a number of photographs.

You can see a couple of photos and some wobbly footage of the headquarters of the NCSA from when I visited there in 2007 in the video below. The first part of the video shows footage of the Diepkloof New Church and preschool. The part about the NCSA starts at about 2:30.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Homosexuality from a New Church Perspective

I've noticed that it's hard to find New Church perspectives on homosexuality online so I've decided to provide links to the best articles on the topic that I'm aware of.

To be clear, I'm not interested in starting a debate on this topic. There are other venues for that. I want to provide resources to people who are looking for perspectives on homosexuality from people who believe, to differing degrees, in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

Different New Church organizations have different positions on homosexuality. The positions of 3 of the organizations are briefly described in a "List of Christian denominational positions on homosexuality" on Wikipedia.

The majority of the articles here are by members of the General Church of the New Jerusalem. There are also a few articles by members of the Swedenborgian Church of North America. You can find a statement of the position of the General Conference of the New Church in the June 2009 issue of New Church Lifeline (PDF). (I found the PDF hard to read because it's formatted for printing so I copied the relevant portions into this extract.)

I don't have any articles by members of the Lord's New Church which is Nova Hierosalyma, the Church of Truth, the New Church of Southern Africa, or the New Church in Australia. Please let me know if you find any information about these other organizations' positions.

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"What do the Writings say about Homosexuality?" (PDF) by Rev. Jeremy Simons
Do the Writings talk about homosexuality? Simons, a pastor in the General Church, addresses this question, discusses the various passages that seem to be talking about it, and compares the phrases that Swedenborg seems to use for homosexuality with phrases used by his contemporaries.

"What the Word Says Directly on Homosexuality" by Rev. Grant Odhner
Odhner, a pastor in the General Church, has collected these notes on homosexuality. They include an overview of how the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Writings treat of homosexuality directly and they also include some thoughts about causes of homosexual feelings and behavior, differing degrees of the seriousness of homosexuality, and some principles from the Writings about how to deal with homosexuals.

"Notes on Homosexuality" by Rev. Mark Pendleton
In these 18 pages of notes, Pendleton, a General Church pastor, includes passages on love, marriage, adultery, and judging others. He also includes portions of Rev. Jeremy Simons' research and references to a study by Rev. Willard Heinrichs.

"The Worst Adultery" (PDF) by Rev. John Odhner (New Church Life 1993: 453-463.)
In the explanation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) the phrase "worst form of adultery" is used (Arcana Coelestia 2220). Odhner, a pastor in the General Church, addresses the question of whether homosexuality is the worst form of adultery, in the light of other teachings about adultery.

"A Theology of Sexuality" by Rev. Alain Nicolier - Part 1 (PDF) and Part 2 (PDF) (scroll down to 356-364). (New Church Life 2008: 318-328, 356-364.)
Nicolier, a pastor in the General Church, discusses theories, "myths," and negative influences (particularly from parents) that may cause people to identify themselves as homosexual.

"More on Understanding Homosexuality" by Rev. Grant Odhner (New Church Canadian Fall 1992.)
This is a letter that Odhner wrote in response to an article by Rev. Glenn Alden, "Understanding Homosexuals," in the February 1992 issue of New Church Canadian. He discusses the theological origins of homosexuality, compares homosexuality with polygamy and concubinage, and ends by discussing human responsibility and repentance. He writes, "in summary, I think we need to see homosexuality as an evil, as something people are ultimately responsible for, as something that can change through sensitive education and repentance."

"Risking on the Side of Compassion" by Rev. James Lawrence (The Messenger Nov. 1996.)
In this article, Lawrence, a pastor in the Swedenborgian Church, explains why he decided to bless homosexual unions.

"What is True Conjugial Union?" by Duane V. Beougher (The Messenger Nov. 1996.)
In this response to Lawrence's article, Beougher, a member of the Swedenborgian Church, argues that the Writings are clear that homosexual relations cannot constitute a true conjugial union and that the term marriage should only be applied where that possibility exists.

"Letter to the Editor" by Dr. Reuben P. Bell (The Messenger Jan. 1997.)
In this letter to the editor in response to Lawrence's article, Bell, a former pastor of the Swedenborgian Church and then the General Church, explains why he sees Lawrence's position to be a profane, dangerous, and harmful abuse of the truth.

"Further Thoughts in Response to Gay Marriage Commentary" by Rev. James Lawrence (The Messenger June 1997.)
Here Lawrence responds to people's reactions to his article by saying that he does not look to the Writings as the ultimate determinant for his theological position on the nature of homosexuality but instead seeks "a new theological framework" and that he believes that "gay love... is profaned or made sacred by the integrity of the individuals involved."

"Homosexuality" by Rev. Coleman Glenn
In this blog post, Glenn, a recently ordained pastor in the General Church, explains how it’s possible for someone to think that homosexuality is a disorder and still approach homosexuals with love, and why he thinks of homosexuality in the same way that he think of brother-sister incest. I recommend reading the comments that follow the post.

"Homosexuality" by Brian Smith
In this blog post, Smith, a theological school student in the General Church, explains why he believes that a person can oppose the practice of homosexuality from love, why he thinks the practice of homosexuality is harmful, and why he seeks to help people who have that struggle see that there is a path out. There is a lot of discussion in the comments that follow the post, mostly between members of the General Church and people who grew up in the General Church but no longer associate themselves with it.

Discussion on BeliefNet
This is a long discussion on BeliefNet of homosexuality from the perspective of Swedenborg's theological works. I read and skimmed the first fifth of the entries. I would guess that the contributors include members of the Swedenborgian Church and General Church and people not affiliated with any organization.

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I know that there are other articles and posts that have been written on this topic. (For example, a number of articles come up if you search for homosexuality in New Church Life on HeavenlyDoctrines.org.) If you find an article or post that you think should be included here, leave a comment with a link and a short description of the content of the piece.

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UPDATE: Since I first posted this on June 4th 2009 I have received a number of additional articles. I have added a link to an article expressing the position of the General Conference of the New Church, a study and an article by Rev. Grant Odhner, and some notes by Rev. Mark Pendleton.

I have also changed the link for the discussion on BeliefNet. Rev. Jeremy Simons pointed out that only half of the discussion was available at the old link. He recommends the end of the full discussion.

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2017 UPDATE:
I'm adding some new resources that I've received more recently. I'm putting them at the end of the post here to make it easier to find them.

"Responding to Homosexuality" (audio sermon) by Rev. Derrick Lumsden
Here's the blurb that Lumsden wrote about this sermon he preached in 2013: "One of the hot topics in our culture today are issues around homosexuality. There are issues of prejudice, justice, sexual morality, spirituality, compassion, desire, and Biblical interpretation all rolled up in this issue. In this sermon we talk about how we as the New Church can respond to homosexuality."

"Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity" by Rev. Lee Woofenden
This is one of two posts that Woofenden wrote about homosexuality in 2015. He says that this first one is "aimed at a general Christian audience. It goes into detail on the Biblical basis of the homosexuality debate."

"What does Emanuel Swedenborg Say about Homosexuality?" by Rev. Lee Woofenden
Woofenden says that this post "takes up many of the issues about Swedenborg and homosexuality that are discussed in articles [on this page]."

"Four Myths: How well do we understand the impact of same-sex marriage?" (PDF) by Rev. Jeremy Simons
This paper was written by Simons for the 2017 General Church Council of the Clergy meetings. The four myths that Simons critiques are (1) "Homosexuality springs from the fact that some people experience same-sex attraction, this being the opposite of heterosexual attraction." (2) "Homosexuality is genetically determined." (3) "Homosexuality is an orientation that is common to a relatively fixed proportion of the population, so it is not contagious and therefore does not threaten heterosexual relationships." (4) "A homosexual lifestyle can be stable, happy and fulfilling."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Church LIVE Coming Soon

A couple weeks ago I mentioned a couple of ways that you can keep up to date with New Church LIVE.

On Sunday they had a preview event called "The Road Ahead". They described some of the things that they're hoping to do, asked for volunteers, and announced that they're going to be starting having regular services starting on June 21st and that their first series is called "Creation Works". Unfortunately for those that weren't able to attend the event on Sunday, it looks as though nothing of what happened on Sunday is currently available online. (That may be because the crew is taking a break after all the work that must have gone into preparing for the first event.)

The only new thing that I've found online is that there's now the first beginnings of a web site at NewChurchLIVE.tv and a goofy, under construction video.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Prayer Challenge

Rev. Mac Frazier started a Facebook group called "A Holy Conversation" with this description:
John Burke of Gateway Church came up with an idea: pause to connect with God every 60 waking minutes for 60 days. It's been bouncing around in my head to try this, and this past week I decided to just jump in. ... I'm trying to make prayer in my life less like a ritual and more like a conversation. I want to get to know the Lord, the Divine Human, in a way I don't feel I currently do. In Secrets of Heaven it says that prayer is speech with God. I want to start having a conversation. ...

Here's how it works: Create reminders for yourself--sticky notes, pop-up reminders on your computer, hourly beeps on your watch, alarms on your cell phone, or whatever works for you--so that you are regularly... reminded to pray.

Now, the way I'm doing it, I'm not necessarily praying FOR anything, and I'm not "saying a prayer". Every hour, what I do is say silently to myself, "The Lord is always with me," and then taking a second to reflect on my current thoughts, feelings and behavior. I share with the Lord whatever's going on with me, no matter how silly, embarrassing, painful, wonderful--whatever--it is. And then I LISTEN. I still my mind and wait a bit.

That's how I'm doing it. You can do it any way you like! AND, if you like, you can use this FaceBook group to share reflections, experiences, joys, discoveries, etc., with others who are doing this experiment.
Mac talked about this at contemporary service yesterday. I decided to take the challenge after that.

UPDATE: Mac's talk is now available online. You can listen to it here. Jump to 13:46 for the talk itself.

Also, I've discovered that you don't have to have a Facebook account to view Facebook groups so I added a link to the group. Click on "A Holy Conversation" here or above.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Good Explanation of the Reason for Having a Priesthood

At the ordination service this past Sunday, Rev. Andy Dibb, dean of the Academy of the New Church Theological School, gave a great sermon about the priesthood. Why are priests necessary? What can they do? What can they not do?

I really liked the readings he chose from Malachi 2, Matthew 10, and Divine Providence 154 and 171. And, in the sermon, I thought he did a good job of explaining the background information necessary for understanding why priests are needed.

Listen to the sermon, "The Salvation of Souls", online at the new New Church Audio web site or download it from there and listen to it on your MP3 player.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wayfarer's Chapel Appears in Sprint Commercial

The Wayfarer's Chapel (www.wayfarerschapel.org), which belongs to the Swedenborgian Church (swedenborg.org), was used in a Sprint commercial, "What if film crews ran the world?"

Web Sites for New Church Summer Camps

There are a bunch of New Church camps that happen during the summer. The new NewChurch.org has a Camps & Retreats page that has information about a lot of them and links to their various web sites.

The camps happening this summer include Laurel Family Camp (www.laurelcamp.org), Jacob's Creek Family Camp (www.geocities.com/jcfamilycamp/index.html), British Academy Summer School (www.newchurchuk.org/bass/bass.php), and several others.

This page only includes information about General Church camps. Is anyone aware of any information online about other New Church camps?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cool Stuff Having to Do with Arcana Coelestia

When Swedenborg published volume 1 of Arcana Coelestia it was listed in the Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer. This was the first advertisement for any book of the Writings. There's an online archive of the Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer or London Magazine, as it was later called. You can see the first listing of Arcana Coelestia here. I know that other advertisements and letters about Swedenborg and his works were also published in this magazine; let me know if you find any of them.

Volume 1 didn't sell well (see Spiritual Experiences 4422). So Swedenborg decided to publish volume 2 of it, chapter by chapter, in English and in Latin.

When the first chapter of volume 2 was published, Swedenborg's English publisher, John Lewis, wrote a fascinating letter about it to be published in the Daily Advertiser. You can read this letter on pp492-497 of Documents Concerning the Life and Character of Emanuel Swedenborg by R.L. Tafel, which can be found online in Google Book Search.

You can download a PDF of a scan of the 1750 English translation of chapter 16 of Arcana Coelestia—a 100dpi version (6MB) or a 200dpi version (12MB). This translation was by John Marchant, who later also translated Brief Exposition. It's fun to look at this translation to see how it was laid out and how the Latin was translated back then. Rev. Jonathan Rose, series editor of the New Century Edition and translator of True Christian Religion, told me that he thinks the translation is good—"lively and in real English." (The PDF is provided by the Lord's New Church (www.thelordsnewchurch.com). They have other Free Swedenborg Books Online on their web site, in English, Dutch, Croatian, and Latin.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New New Church Audio Web Site

The new New Church Audio site (www.newchurchaudio.org) launched yesterday. Like the new Vineyard site it has a bunch of categories to pick from, right on the homepage. If you're just looking for sermons on a given topic, click the "Worship Services Only" check box on the search results page to filter out weddings, funerals etc.

There's a form on the upper left corner of the page to help you find recordings. You can now filter by topic and can also say that you want results recorded before or after a certain date, or between certain dates.

Some of the recordings now have descriptions (for example) and better cross linking so that when you're listening to one sermon it just takes one click to find more sermons by that minister or preached in that location.

Because the site is brand new there are a couple of things that still need to be ironed out.
  • The "Request this event be made available for sale." link doesn't work.
  • Though on the About page it says that many of the recordings are available for downloading, there is no obvious way to do this.
  • Certain recordings are separated into separate tracks for hymns, lessons, and sermon (for example). Currently, clicking on a later track does not play that later track.
I also have 2 suggestions/hopes for the site (which they may be working on implementing or have chosen not to do).
  • It would be awesome if it would be possible to download/subscribe to different sermon feeds (by minister or location) as podcasts.
  • It would be cool if there were a "Share this sermon" link or button to make it easy for people to recommend a sermon to their friends by email or on Facebook.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Keep Up to Date with New Church Live

If you're wondering what New Church Live is or what they're doing these days, there are a couple of new ways to get information.

They have a Facebook profile. You can access that here if you don't have a Facebook account. There are 3 videos there—a welcome video from the new pastor, Rev. Chuck Blair and 2 promos/advertisements. There are also details about an upcoming event on May 31st and you can ask any questions you have by posting them on the Wall.

You can also follow New Church Live on Twitter.

New Web Site for the Swedenborg Foundation

The Swedenborg Foundation (swedenborg.com) has a new web site. I'm not sure when it launched but the new site is much lighter, better looking, and easier to navigate than the old one.

On their site you can, of course, find their bookstore; but you can also find their mission statement, annual report (PDF), and an archive of their newsletter, Logos, back to 2001. They also have a news page which currently includes a short piece about the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature winner voicing his admiration for Swedenborg.

New Web Site for the Sunday Night Thing

The Sunday Night Thing now has a web site, sundaynightthing.org. What is the Sunday Night Thing? Ah, well you can now read about it on the About page. The most exciting thing, though, is that you can also listen to some past services now on the Audio page.

Just this morning I put up recordings of Rev. Eric Carswell's talk about different responses we can have to evil and Rev. Lou Synnestvedt's talk about worry. Eric talked about trying to integrate statements like "I will fear no evil; for You are with me...." (Psalm 23), on the one hand, and teachings like "Everyone is regenerated by abstaining from sinful evils, and shunning them as anyone would on seeing the hordes of hell seeking with torches in their hands to attack him and to throw him upon a pyre" (True Christian Religion 510), on the other. And Lou talked about understanding feelings of worry as the influence of the spirits that are with us and dealing with worry by working on believing in the visible God (see True Christian Religion 339:3). Good stuff.