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Inspired by real-life events, For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World (Flyaway) looks at one family’s response to racism and gun violence. (Includes a discussion guide created by the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville , KY).

the colors of culture (InterVarsity) shows the beauty of diverse friendships and the risks inherent in them. Readers are empowered to initiate culturally diverse relationships; learn to treat people with value and worth; and step away from cultural assumptions toward humility.

Encouragement for kindness and growth can also be found in The Mister Rogers Effect: 7 Secrets to Bringing Out the Best in Yourself and Others from America’s Beloved Neighbor (Baker).

Empower your teens to navigate emotions through self-reflection with the simple journal prompts, art project ideas and writing offered in Dream Up Now: The Teen Journal for Creative Self-Discovery (Free Spirit).

Congregational empowerment comes from Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity (Broadleaf), Might from the Margins: The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice (MennoMedia) and Brave Talk: Building Resilient Relationships in the Face of Conflict (Broadleaf).

For a deeper dive in congregational and leadership encouragement, join Presbyterian Outlook for Holy Imagination + Race: How the Church Can Be a Healing Force in America’s Racial Divide, the Damascus Project’s Being a Faith Change Agent, or for a more rest and renewal approach, join The MN Conference (UCC) Outdoor Ministry for three monthly Contemplative Gathering Retreats starting October 17.

Empower and engage all ages with Michelle Gribble-Dates’ Liturgical Yoga series for the month of September: “Choose Love” connects the children’s book Elizabeti’s School to Matthew 21:23-32 (for Sept. 27); “Stepping Into the Unknown” pairs Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach with Exodus 16:2-15 (for Sept. 20); “Live and Let Live” uses The Grumpy Pets to explore Romans 14:1-12 (for Sept. 13) and “Work It Out” used Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to explore Matthew 18:15-20 (Sept. 6).

Inspire your whole community to work toward water-wellness with Growing Green Hearts’ Water Where We Live: Rain Gardens for Churches: Get inspired with Water Story of Rain Gardens at Macalester Plymouth United Church; join their Rain Gardens & Maintenance Workshop with Capitol Region Watershed District; and/or participate in their Rain Gardens for Churches Lunch’N’Learn (contact Emily for the zoom link).

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Ralph De La Rosa’s timely Don’t Tell Me to Relax: Emotional Resilience in the Age of Rage, Feels & Freak-Outs (Penguin Random House) offers “warm, funny, streetwise… tools for coping in contentious times”. Offer a little levity to your younger crowd with:

For a little deeper look at resilience, you might consider Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Christian Struggle with Suffering, Grief and Hope (WJK); or, for more active resilience-building, enjoy Michel Gribble-Dates’ latest offering, Work It Out, which uses Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to “align …Matthew 18:15-20 [Sunday’s RCL Gospel reading] with the healing practice of yoga… to guide people of all ages to experience a deeper embodiment of Christ’s teachings”.

To improve your own alignment (among other things), consider LeaderWise’s Renewing Leadership: A cohort-based group facilitated by certified coaches which includes a 360 assessment and a 1-on-1 coaching session.

Further nurture spirits with The Beatitudes: An Illustrated Curriculum, a highly adaptable, twelve-session, verse-by-verse study of the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew for your entire Sunday school program and the whole family. Also available: The Beatitudes Coloring Posters and The Beatitudes Coloring Pages. AND their Fall Worship Materials are now available:Illustrated Worship Children’s Bundle: Fall 2020; Illustrated Worship Children’s Bulletins: Fall 2020; and/or Bible Story Coloring Pages: Fall 2020.

And if the Beatitudes inspire outreach and hospitality: Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century (Vintage) might open some eyes; Held: Showing up for Each Other’s Mental Health (Skinner) might empower empathy; and Your Hospitality Personality: How to Confidently Create Connection and Community (Revell) might inspire connection-building.

Lest anyone is resting on their laurels, a slough of activist-inspiring books are out, including two from MennoMedia: Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and Might from the Margins: The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice and Penguin offers River of Fire: On Becoming an Activist.

Or, inspire your congregation with the Church Anew Blog, this week featuring posts on Gospel liberty, women’s rights, finding God’s voice in times of chaos, and how Confederate statues as idols skew our social order. Read posts from Greg CareyDr. Ulysses Burley IIIAngela Denker, and Walter Brueggemann.

Illustrated Ministry is also encouraging early orders of their popular Illustrated Nativity Sticker Sheets. That’s right: Christmas! And IM isn’t alone: Augsburg Fortress has two new offerings, Oh, How Joyfully: Carols from Austria and Germany for Flute and Keyboard and A Gentle Christmas: Piano Carols (both of which might translate nicely online) and to that end, Church of the Resurrection shares Worship, Music, and Ritual: Reimagining Advent Church Services and How Will Our Children Cope? Family Resources for Celebrating Christmas and if you’re ready for it, bring the kids along with The Christmas Feast (Eerdmans).

I can’t believe we’re already talking about Christmas!!!

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Leigh Finke has edited two helpful books: one for your teens: Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens (Augsburg Fortress) offers “insight and support from an amazing group of LGBTQ+ professionals, as well as testimonies from young adult queer Christians who’ve recently been exactly where” your questioning teens are; and one for you and other adults/mentors: Welcoming and Affirming: A Guide to Supporting and Working with LGBTQ+ Christian Youth (Broadleaf). Use them both to let your LGBTQ+ teens know they are beloved children of God!

The illustrated, She’s My Dad (Jessica Kingsley Publishers), narrated from a child’s perspective, explains why misgendering is damaging and emphasizes the need to treat trans people with respect (for ages ~3-7); a helpful read for children who have a family member who is transitioning.

As students, teachers and parents transition into what is assuredly the most unusual, anxiety-ridden and complicated school year any of us has seen, Rev. Elsa Cook, from her blog Cooking with Elsa, offers a slough of Backpack Blessings in Coronatide. There are some excellent ideas in here.

On another note: David Zahl’s Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It (Broadleaf) might open some eyes and generate interesting and fruitful discussions.

Speaking of fruitfulness: LeaderWise is offering a September-long, on-line series on Leading in Tumultuous Times: get enriched so you can bear good fruit in your ministry; the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area is offering their 2020-2021 Anti-Racism Spiritual Pilgrimage and Lewis Center for Church Leadership suggests 8 Steps for Moving from Protest Moment to Social Action Movement so leaders can help us all bear the good fruits of justice and equity.

Continuing in our fruit-bearing theme: LCCL also suggests 3 Ways to Reset Your Stewardship Ministry in the Midst of Covid19 and Worship Times chimes in with Online Giving in the Year 2020.

Speaking of fruit: The Ministry Lab is delighted to announce the launch of our new website in early September! (As a result of which, there won’t be much new fruit appearing on our old site.)

We’ll have a “soft launch” September 1. Check out our new logo and get a guided virtual tour of the new site with two “Blue Whirl Webinars”, hosted by Ministry Lab Director Rev. Emily Meyer on Thursdays, September 3 & 10 at 12:00/noon CST.

(Email Emily at ministrylab@unitedseminary.edu for the zoom link).

We’re excited to unveil:

  • new opportunities for sharing resources with one another
  • new opportunities to learn from inspiring voices
  • and new ways to dive deep into a variety of topics via our pre-curated libguides
  • all on a more user-friendly platform.
  • We also look forward to your feedback, so we can tweak anything that isn’t ideal.

We’ll have a full launch on Monday, September 14. Watch for our new url in the last week of August!!

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Happy Primary Election Day! I hope you and yours got out and voted! I’m heading out as soon as this posts.

To lead your congregation in the essential conversations of our time, you might share A House Divided: Engaging the Issues through the Politics of Compassion (Chalice); further discussion can be fueled with Born Again and Again: A Call to Radical Transformation and/or Jesus of the East: Reclaiming the Gospel for the Wounded (both from MennoMedia): sift through the issues, open dialogues and let the conversations become transformational and informative for members and neighbors: expand your community, your mind and your heart with these!!

Engaging in expansion and transformation in a more personally healing vein:

When children learn how to practice mindfulness and focus on thoughts that bring beauty, joy, and calm their lives – and they – are transformed. Catching Thoughts (Beaming) is a gentle introduction to mindfulness practices. [Some adults might find themselves transformed as they read and practice, too!]

Lulu and the Hunger Monster (Free Spirit), a story of how poverty and food insecurity can affect adults and their children, can raise children’s awareness and can be used in group settings to address social justice issues in an accessible and encouraging way.

Equip adults in your community for the work of transformation with Leader Wise’s, Unmasking Discovery: A Journey of Identity, Voice, and Impact, fall 2020, a 16-hour workshop with Okokon Udo on identifying masks which once served a purpose but now hold us back; Dementia & the Church Webinar (from the MN Annual Conf. UMC; Aug. 21, 12:00/noon CST) which offers “Tools for Connecting with People Living with Dementia when Behaviors are Challenging”; and the Damascus Project’s Leadership Skills, which will equip participants to be spiritually grounded, self-aware, faithful and effective lay leaders in local congregations and in their wider communities; and heads-up: Church Anew (see last week) has added Bishop Michael Curry as a Featured Speaker to next week’s free Being Church Today forum.

Finally: Lewis Center for Church Leadership is by no means the only one focusing on Ministering with Families in the Ongoing Pandemic (they’ve also got a nice podcast on The Art of Hospitality and a blog with 3 Ways to Counter Online Fatigue): everyone is touting their online curriculum:

Check out PC(USA) Store’s Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible Curriculum, which has a new Free Guide to assist you in creating At-Home Kits; Dwell Flex is the latest iteration of Faith Alive Christian Resource’s long time favorite (and see the Dwell August Newsletter for some really great ideas on Using Dwell in a Covid-19 World; A Wonderful Way to Help Families Form Faith at Home this Fall; 5 Terrific Tips for Telling God’s Story with Children During Online Worship; and learn How Dwell’s Simplified Session Plans Will Equip Churches This Fall); and MennoMedia’s Shine! curriculum is continuously updated for families and children of all ages, with online supplies available.

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Free Spirit Press’s new releases are designed to empower and equip young people: Shannon Anderson teams up first with Violet Lemay for the teenfocused Mindset Power, then with Jacob Souva, BFA, for Y Is for Yet, both designed to help young people develop a growth mindset that enhances resilience, focus and self-improvement.

In a similar vein (and also from Free Spirit), Gil Hasson invites young ones to Let Go of Jealousy, with activities for kids and advice for adults on helping children recognize jealousy and find positive ways to deal with it; Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (illustrations by Annie Bowler) consider A Very Big Problem (Flyaway) which explores who/what is “best” and therefore who/which God loves more: humans or creation; and Illustrated Ministries knocks it out of the park, again, with their The Beatitudes: An Illustrated Curriculum: an intergenerational 12-session verse by verse study of the Beatitudes that promises to be flexible, adaptable, and formative for your entire Sunday school program and the whole family (and don’t forget about their Compassion Camp, which is still available!).

Looking for ways to empower and prepare youth and adults in your congregation for social change?

To better equip yourself and/or other care-givers with walking with folks through difficult end-of-life conversations and decisions The Conversation Project offers free guides for specific topics, including how to talk with loved ones and or medical professionals about: choosing a healthcare proxy; Alzheimer’s and dementia; a seriously ill child; and COVID-19.

Finally, for a moment of self-renewal, Rev. Julia Seymour of RevGalBlogPals shares a Friday Prayer. It seemed appropriate for many.

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Two rallying cries from Upper Room: editor Britney Winn Lee corralled some great writers to create Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Jesus and Justice while Brenda Salter McNeil encourages us all in Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now.

Dig in to the why’s and wherefores with Jennifer G Brownell‘s Dispatch from Portland and OnBeing’s The Pause (in its entirety – it’s all good!), which focused on the life and work of Rev. John Lewis.

Prepare your congregation for racial justice work – intergenerationally! – with Dismantling Racism Works Web Workbook; inspire your youth, specifically, with the MN Conference UCC’s Youth Lead Now: Equipping Young Leaders for Social Change (August 6); and take direct action by signing the letter to Bureau of Prisons – from Love Resists and the Loved Ones of federal inmates – calling for the prompt release of all imprisoned people in their custody who meet their own standards for COVID-19 humanitarian release.

Support the spiritual well-being of your teens with Sarah E. Bollinger and Angela R. Olsen’s The Awakened Life for High School Students: Finding Stillness in an Anxious World (Upper Room) which includes a Student Guide & Leader’s Guide.

Develop your own resiliency with Rev. Dr. Candace Adams, ACC’s Spiritual Wellness Journey Workshop and/or develop your pastoral skills in Movement Chaplaincy, the work of spiritual accompaniment to justice movements and their leaders, an emerging vocation that brings care, healing, and resilience-building to our struggles for justice.

And to wrap it all up with a pretty bow: share Robin Tanner‘s A BLESSING FOR RISK-TAKERS AND FAILURES: because we all need reminders that we are enough and that all we do is all we can do.

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Forming community can be as simple as this: Read a Book with Me (Beaming) reminds us of the power of stories to bring us together…

…and Antiracist Baby (Kokila) – well, the title and cover image sum it up…

Other community-building and enriching works for young readers: Someday We Will: A Book for Grandparents and Grandchildren (Beaming); You Matter (Atheneum), a picture book about seeing the world from different perspectives; and Carole Lindstrom‘s (author; Anishinabe/Métis) and Michaela Goade‘s (illustrator; Raven moiety and Kiks.ádi Clan) We Are Water Protectors (Roaring Brook).

Tweens, teens and young adults may find inspiration in Brit Barron’s Worth It: Overcome Your Fears and Embrace the Life You Were Made for (Broadleaf), a memoir encouraging folks to embrace their full identity.

Soooo many resources for enriching your faith community:

Emerge | Blessings and Rituals for Unsheltering (Pilgrim/Still Speaking Writers’ Guild); Illustrated Ministry & Virginia Theological Seminary’s Building Faith: Blessing of the Devices; OnBeing’s Navigating Loss without Closure: Krista Tippet w/ Pauline Boss; and Leadership Center for Churches’ 3 Strategies for Doing Church Online all address this time of uncertain transition for congregations.

To deepen, broaden and/or strengthen yours and your leaders’ ministries, consider these fine series: The Damascus Project’s Faith Foundations I and Leadership Skills; Paraclete Press’s Online Summer Retreat Series; Church Anew’s Being Church Today, featuring: Diana Butler Bass, Dr. Joy Moore, Eric D. Barreto, Mihee Kim-Kort, Rozella Haydée White, Ulysses Burley III, Brian McLaren, Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, Emmy Kegler presenting in a short-form format and including voices of local leaders speaking to “how the church can lead in a time like this”; LeaderWise’s numerous leadership training and sustaining offers; and don’t miss Rev. Jia Starr Brown’s Journey to Freedom: Embracing God’s Cultural Mosaic of People (The Ministry Lab and United Theological Seminary are proud sponsors of this one!!).

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Free Spirit offers Together in Our World: a series of four books geared toward 6-10-year-olds on Culture and Diversity; Rights and Equality; Protecting the Planet; and Rules and Responsibilities. Each book has a glossary and additional resources.

In a similar vein, Magination shares Ani’s Light (coping with sadness due to a loved one’s illness); Lulu the One and Only (appreciating challenges faced by multiracial children); and My Maddy (articulating the specialness of non-binary parents); and they’ve released two books to help kids cope with Covid-19 uncertainties: A Kid’s Guide to Coronavirus and Unstuck! 10 Things to Do to Stay Safe and Sane During the Pandemic. Beaming chips in with All About Anxiety, to round out the set for younger readers.

For those looking toward fall faith formation, Faith Inkubators offers Bible Song Cross+GenHead to the Heart Confirmation Curriculum; and Faith Stepping Stones, all updated for 2020/2021 and available online; MennoMedia has updated their Shine! curriculum for a range of ages; and the MN Conf. UCC has partnered with Danger Boat Productions and Doing Good Together to create Family Connections Toolkits.

For engaging the whole family in at-home or on-the-ground social action, check out Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light’s impressive list, including their opportunity to train for getting out the vote in your neck of the woods.

If you serve out in the woods and are concerned about elders living alone, Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center offers Rural Social Isolation and Loneliness: Rates, Importance, and Identifying Risk, session one of a three-part series.

To help yourself or others with spiritual well-being, check out MennoMedia’s Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction; read from global contemplative leaders in Orbis’ The Way of Suffering: Readings for an Enlightened Life, featuring Kate Bowler, Pema Chödrön, Robert Ellsberg, Thich Nhat Hanh, Michael Leach, James Martin, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, and Marianne Williamson, among others; and see GratitudeForgivenessKindness for further enlightenment.

For racial justice-specific inspiration, listen to OnBeing’s second interview in a month with Dr. Resmaa Menakem (My Grandmother’s Hands), joined by Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility) in a “deep dive” into “the calling of our lifetimes“.

And DO NOT MISS Journey to Freedom: Embracing God’s Cultural Mosaic of People. The Ministry Lab is thrilled to partner with United Theological Seminary, First Covenant Church, Minneapolis and a collaboration of churches and organizations for this learning series. Starting on July 18, this six-week series is designed by Rev. Jia Starr Brown and comprised of sermons, discussion, art, and study all of which focus on the theme of Intersectionality. Continuing Ed credit is available through United. Jia is sharing info in a special Co-Lab Webinar Tuesday, July 14 at 2:00 PM CST. Contact Emily Meyer (ministrylab@unitedseminary.edu) for the zoom link to Tuesday’s information, invitational webinar.

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Don and Sondra Samuels (interviewed by Krista Tippet on MPR) invite folks to join in 30 Days of Silent Prayer: Healing the Heart of Our City: “a month-long, African American-led collaborative conceived to add a vital spiritual factor to all the strategic thinking, policy proposals and investments being considered” in and around the Twin Cities, Minnesota, the nation and the world. You can participate from anywhere!

Local inspiration for our on-going anti-racism work can be found in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area’s Rev. Alika Galloway‘s An Invitation to Community; Rolling Stone Magazine’s feature on incredible Healing Justice Practitioners in Minneapolis; and United Theological Seminary’s community-created Social Justice/Social Transformation Resources.

Bring your youth along with the ELCA’s Faith Formation Team’s Racial Awareness: Vetted Resources; engage your Littles with Illustrated Ministries Prayers for Compassion Coloring Pages; and equip your 55+ members to “act powerfully in the transformation of the world” with skills learned in Kaleo Center’s Encore 2020.

Other local, regional and national encouragement for this work can be found in these excellent webinars: Rev. Jia Starr Brown’s amazing Journey to Freedom: Intersectionality is bursting with wisdom, inspiration, and creativity. [Watch for an upcoming Co-Lab Special Feature webinar with Jia inviting you to join the Journey to Freedom series; it’s so good, you will not want to miss this amazing opportunity!]

Or, check out the MN Annual Conference UCC’s Justice Talk to Justice Walk: Building Awareness, Strengthening Our Resolve with its amazing line-up of local leaders on community transformation; or see MennoMedia’s Expanding Our Witness: Equipping Ministry for Anti-Racist Change.

Get sermon/preaching inspiration with RevGalBlogPals’ Rev. Rachel Hackenberg’s commentary on Milcah’s Inheritance or Tim MacBride‘s To Aliens and Exiles: Preaching the New Testament as Minority-Group Rhetoric in a Post-Christendom World (Cascade) and get some personal perspective (which could also be good sermon fodder/to share with others) with Jean Wise’s post Seeing Our Time in Kairos Time: a valuable reminder that a shift in perspective can be the key to resilience and hope.

Inspire your youngsters with Marc Olson’s (author) and Jem Maybank’s (illustrator) The World of the First Christians: A Curious Kid’s Guide to the Early Church (Beaming): its Curious Kids’ Guides “present cool and surprising information about Christian history and beliefs in an entertaining, visually engaging way for kids” and encourage your youth to live into God’s vision for the church with the MN Annual Conference UMC’s STORM @ Home Mission Trip.

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Rev. Jia Starr Brown has put together a stellar group of preachers, artists and authors to bring us Journey to Freedom: Embracing God’s Cultural Mosaic of People. The Ministry Lab is extremely proud to join United Theological Seminary and a host of other churches and organizations in sponsoring this extraordinary opportunity for community growth. DO THIS!! It’s going to be amazing.

Other excellent online and print personal and communal growth opportunities around antiracism, available right now:

MN Annual Conference UCC’s Justice Talk to Justice Walk: Building Awareness, Strengthening Our Resolve kicks off June 30 @ 7:00 PM CST and features Rev. Traci Blackmon (UCC Associate General Minister); Rev. Gary Green & Rev. Justin Tabia-Sanis (both United Theological Seminary faculty); and Samantha Fuentes (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting survivor and March for Our Lives leader).

The MN Conference UCC and other UCC bodies are also offering Youth and Young Adults Connecting for Racial Justice, online gatherings for giving voice to the unrest youth and young adults are experiencing and to support one another in their work for racial justice.

WE CAN’T BREATHE: Virtual Conversations on Systemic Racism: Professor Joe R. Feagin (Texas A&M), along with Minnesota antiracist activists and scholars, hosts two more 90-minute conversations, July 12 & 19 at 2:00 PM CST.

MennoMedia’s Challenging Racism: Youth Curriculum on Dismantling Racism is a four-session, downloadable Bible study that examines racism and challenges students to work at changing systems that oppress people of color.

YA author Jason ReynoldsFortifying Imagination interview on OnBeing (with Kristin Lin) is summarized in The Pause, during which he discusses his new book, written with fellow acclaimed author Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), which includes a free educator guide.

Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky (illustrator) encourage us to take baby steps toward antiracism as we follow Antiracist Baby Board Books (Kokila) nine easy steps for building a more equitable world; and as powerful as it is beautiful, Freedom, We Sing! (Flying Eye) is a picture book designed to inspire readers and invite kids to ask what it means to be free.

Wes Moore and Erica L. Green bring us back to Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (Penguin Random House), which tells the story of the Baltimore uprising through the author’s personal observations and through the eyes of other Baltimoreans.