COMMENTARY: Isolated in America

(RNS) Few of us go to the extremes of building bombs or carrying assault rifles into schools. But the acid of isolation is still there, eating away at our social fabric.

A Boston Athletic Association painting on the street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Photo courtesy postcardjournal via Flickr (http://flic.kr/p/7uaryk)

COMMENTARY: How to respond to a marathon massacre

(RNS) People filled with hatred and guided by nihilism will always find a way to strike. Our best defense is what I saw in Boston: first-responders rushing toward danger, soldiers in uniform pitching in, strangers joining hands to rush victims to hospitals.

COMMENTARY: Change or die

(RNS) Many church leaders continue to believe that reinvention is a optional choice as they control the pace of change and shape its outcomes. Those attitudes are delusional. The reality is: reinvent or die.

COMMENTARY: ISO leaders who can act like grown-ups

(RNS) I just spent a wonderful and encouraging weekend with a church leadership team from Reisterstown, Md. I came away filled with hope for this congregation and with admiration for their clergy and lay leaders. I wish our weak and tiresome political leaders in Washington and state capitals could visit this church in northern Baltimore County and see how mature adults of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints manage to put the congregation first. They listened, spoke without barbed words and without aggression garbed in niceness. They voiced their dreams, heard their differences and then allowed a consensus dream to emerge.

COMMENTARY: On the inside looking out

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) We did a focus group here, part of a local church’s strategic planning process. Question: if you stood on the edge of your church’s property and looked outward, rather than the usual inward, what would you see?

bubble burst

COMMENTARY: Sorry to burst your bubble

(RNS) The bubble I see bursting is establishment Christianity in America. It is bursting ever-so-slowly, even as millions of people still find life, meaning, safety and structure inside their bubbles. But one failing congregation at a time, the surface of shimmering shape is being breached.

In the Servants' Hall with Joanne Froggatt as Anna, Rob James-Collier as Thomas, Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, Jim Carter as Carson, Siobhan Finneran as Sarah O’Brien, Kevin Doyle as Molesley.  RNS photo courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE.

COMMENTARY: Gospel lessons from ‘Downton Abbey’

(RNS) Monday morning’s New York Times had two articles about the season finale of “Downton Abbey,” and even though I was behind on previous episodes, I couldn’t stop myself from reading them. Finding out how the story ends, however, doesn’t take away its meaning or mystery.

COMMENTARY: Going over to the other side

RNS) I think we scared ourselves in recent years with unbridled intolerance and insane castigation of the other. The politics of exploiting fear and stoking anti-other rage was a sobering reminder of evil days we don’t want to revisit.

COMMENTARY: Emerging from the wilderness

(RNS) Wise leaders spend time in the wilderness. Some choose a sojourn in the desert; most are driven there when their leadership fails. In the desert, beyond their cocoon of comfort and success, they see more about themselves. By Tom Ehrich.

COMMENTARY: Conflict Resolution 101

(RNS) The dysfunction of Congress is just a highly public instance of a typical conflict scenario. I recently compiled some basics of church conflict. See if you agree with me that this playbook applies broadly. By Tom Ehrich.