It’s been quite a year here at Bearings Online. A new batch of Regular Contributors wrote compelling essays on topics like guns and empathy, what a classic form of Asian narrative can teach us about Advent, and the need for an environment creed. In addition, we ran a new series on Bearings Online on Clergy in the Media, featuring pop culture priests and crime-fighting nuns. Writing workshop facilitator Mary Lane Potter wrote about a personal experience with interfaith rituals, and two other writers responded to her essay. Susan Sink also interviewed Resident Scholars who stayed at the Collegeville Institute in 2019, most recently speaking with Lucia Greskova, who has used games to promote understanding across religious groups in Slovakia.
As you peruse the lists below, we hope you enjoy looking back at the Bearings Online articles that our readers and staff have most enjoyed this year.
Top 10 articles from 2019*
#1—Finding Words When We Have None by Laura Kelly Fanucci
When her infant daughters were dying in the hospital, Laura Kelly Fanucci spoke Mary Oliver’s poem “In Blackwater Woods” over them like a benediction.
#2— Please Lie to Me by Cynthia Huling Hummel
Many faith traditions teach that it is wrong to lie. Yet one pastor with Alzheimer’s asks: “please lie to me — especially if the truth upsets me.”
#3—A Lament for Rachel Held Evans by Stina Kielsmeier-Cook
It may seem strange to mourn someone you only engaged with on Twitter. But our lives on the internet are as real as other parts of life. Rachel mattered to me.
#4—Loving and Leaving a Church: An Interview with Barbara Melosh by Susan Sink
In her memoir Loving and Leaving a Church, Barbara Melosh explores the challenges of being a mainline pastor in a declining congregation.
#5—Take What You Need by Jen Crow
What would you grab if your house was on fire? Jen Crow recommends that you find a bra. You’re going to be meeting with a lot of people over the next few days.
#6—Disillusionment and the Divine: A Review of The Dangers of Spiritual Practice by Amy Peterson
Over ten years after publishing a best-seller on spiritual practices, Lauren Winner returns to explore their characteristic damage in her latest book.
#7—What May We Hope For? by Vance Morgan
As the 13th century Dominican monk Meister Eckhart provocatively asked: “What good is it for me that Christ was born a thousand years ago in Bethlehem?”
#8—It’s Awkward: Pastor Nina from Kim’s Convenience by Krista Dutt
Pastor Nina brilliantly steps into uncomfortable spaces and shines light on the gawky situations that many pastors will find relatable.
#9—The Sun, the Moon, and Prayer by Vance Morgan
For those gifted with lunar spirituality, the life of faith is not the same from day to day—there are times of light and times of darkness.
#10— Goodbye to Books by Linda Mercandante
When Linda Mercadante moved out of her seminary office, she had to sort through 83 linear feet of books from over three decades of teaching.
Top 5 poems from 2019*
#2—Notice, You by Jen Crow
#4—Repentance by Suzan Phillips
Staff favorites from 2019
We asked several staff members to highlight an article or poem from this year that particularly resonated with them. Below are their responses.
My favorite piece from Bearings Online this year was The Midwest Winter as Spiritual Desert by Susan Yanos.
As I sit at my desk looking out onto the Collegeville snow, Yanos’s insights remind me that winter—and the giving of my heart—need not be so scary. Her closing lines offer a blessing for the year to come: “What I wish for you—and for me—this winter is greater calm and willingness to let the cold do its work in the heart, more compassion for self and others, greater simplicity. Even in bleak days of darkness and loss, may we kiss Emmanuel, the culmination of our longing, the one to whom we give our hearts, the God who was, who is, and will ever be.”
This year I especially liked the series on clergy in the media, both for portrayals of figures I have watched and for new ones I had not known. As my colleagues know, I despise Hollywood’s portrayals of Catholic priests and nuns in the media but this year we had two stellar examples – the hot priest on Fleabag and Sr. Michael on Derry Girls. The big difference between these two characters is that we have seen this priest before—the all too-human Father struggling against temptations of the flesh and toward giving his life to God. But Sr. Michael is unique among all the “clergy” featured in this series and Mary Stimming caught something of her character I did not name myself: she is a wisdom figure, knowing when and how to lead her wiley charges. We need more such wisdom leaders in the church today.
To me, the most striking piece from Bearings Online this year was A Green Pentecost: On Pastoring with Alzheimer’s by Cynthia Huling Hummel. The Pentecost story shared by Hummel is so raw, so real, and so gut-wrenching. I appreciated her honesty. And beyond that, her essay challenged me to seriously reflect on my openness to being used by God in new or unexpected ways.
Laura Kelly Fanucci
I loved Susan Yanos’ essay on The Midwest Winter as Spiritual Desert. Her reflections on the power of silence and God’s absence filled this season of cold and darkness (that I struggle to embrace each year) with possibility I hadn’t considered.
There were many wonderful essays on Bearings Online this year and I enjoyed working with our regular contributing writers. The essay I resonated with the most was Elyse Durham’s Saying Goodbye to Sacred Spaces because it connected with my own questions after my old church was torn down. My favorite book excerpt was You’re Doing Racial Reconciliation Wrong: An Excerpt from I Bring the Voices of My People by Chanequa Walker-Barnes. I learned so much from reading the short excerpt that I went out and bought a copy of her book as well!
Happy New Year from all of us here at the Collegeville Institute.
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