Learning from Trials - It's All in the Mind!

Dear Friends:

We began our visiting speaker series at the Church of the Holy City last Sunday with Michael Paxton, Factory Manager with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Leadership Coach via GWU e-Co Leadership program. I found his work with prisoners so authentic, genuine, and Christlike. For many of us, prisoners are something we'd rather not think about, but for Michael, it is who he deals with every day. It was lovely to hear about his "ministry" as a correction officer.

I appreciated his reflections to my tricky question about the recent murder in Memphis by police officers there. His response was very insightful and after the service, we spoke of ways we could work together in that community.

As we celebrate the Black History Month, which begins today, we recognize how much work is yet to be done. What happened in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as the evolving political battles in Florida and Texas around banning diversity and inclusion initiatives, all make me reflect deeper on the political and moral leadership of this country, and the imperative for change.

This is why this week I am especially looking forward to learning from the wisdom of Cheryl Robertson, who will lead us in a conversation on, "Learning from Trials: It's All in the Mind."

Cheryl asks the following questions, "When we are faced with trials, how do we respond? How do we see trials through God's mind?"

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a great discussion!


Photo Above: Ms. Cheryl Robertson (on the far right) smiles for the camera alongside winners of the 2022 Commitment to Excellence Scholarship Program at the DC Housing Authority.

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Readings for The Coming Sunday:

James 1:2-4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Swedenborg Insight - Secrets of Heaven §1690

All trials target the love we feel. The severity of the trial matches the nobility of the love. If love is not the target, there is no trial. To destroy a person’s love is to destroy the core of that person’s life, since love is life. The Lord’s life was love for the whole human race, a love so great and good that it was pure, unalloyed love. He allowed this life of his to be attacked continuously from the dawn of his youth until his final moments in the world. . .

In short, the Lord was attacked by all the hells from early in his youth up to the very end of his life in the world, while he was continually routing, subduing, and vanquishing them. This he did purely out of love for the entire human race. Since his love was not human but divine, and the greater the love the harder the struggle, you can see how fierce his battles were and how savage on the part of the hells.

Last Sunday with Michael Paxton:

Thanks for those who joined our discussion with Michael Paxton.

One memorable quote from the conversation stuck out: "And people were just like, what are we doing here? This is a prison. What are we doing? And I said, well, we're making sure that our, our fellow humans are in a place of mental strength. That's what we're doing. Because life is hard enough.

And if life wasn't hard enough, life incarcerated is definitely hard enough. And if that isn't hard enough for you, life incarcerated and in a COVID pandemic and [given the] social injustice in the environment, in the community is definitely more than any one man should bear."

A link to the recording can be found here and a full transcript can be found here. Enjoy!

Interesting Read: Losing Their Religion -

Why US Churches Are On The Decline

Churches are closing at rapid numbers in the US, researchers say, as congregations dwindle across the country and a younger generation of Americans abandon Christianity altogether – even as faith continues to dominate American politics.

As the US adjusts to an increasingly non-religious population, thousands of churches are closing each year in the country – a figure that experts believe may have accelerated since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The situation means some hard decisions for pastors, who have to decide when a dwindling congregation is no longer sustainable. But it has also created a boom market for those wanting to buy churches, with former houses of worship now finding new life.

About 4,500 Protestant churches closed in 2019, the last year data is available, with about 3,000 new churches opening, according to Lifeway Research. It was the first time the number of churches in the US hadn’t grown since the evangelical firm started studying the topic. With the pandemic speeding up a broader trend of Americans turning away from Christianity, researchers say the closures will only have accelerated.

“The closures, even for a temporary period of time, impacted a lot of churches. People breaking that habit of attending church means a lot of churches had to work hard to get people back to attending again,” said Scott McConnell, executive director at Lifeway Research.

“In the last three years, all signs are pointing to a continued pace of closures probably similar to 2019 or possibly higher, as there’s been a really rapid rise in American individuals who say they’re not religious.”

Protestant pastors reported that typical church attendance is only 85% of pre-pandemic levels, McConnell said, while research by the Survey Center on American Life and the University of Chicago found that in spring 2022 67% of Americans reported attending church at least once a year, compared with 75% before the pandemic.

But while Covid-19 may have accelerated the decline, there is a broader, long-running trend of people moving away from religion. In 2017 Lifeway surveyed young adults aged between 18 and 22 who had attended church regularly, for at least a year during high school. The firm found that seven out of 10 had stopped attending church regularly.

Some of the reasons were “logistical”, McConnell said, as people moved away for college or started jobs which made it difficult to attend church.

“But some of the other answers are not so much logistics. One of the top answers was church members seem to be judgmental or hypocritical,” McConnell said.

“And so the younger generation just doesn’t feel like they’re being accepted in a church environment or some of their choices aren’t being accepted by those at church.”

Continue Reading Here

CHC Speaker Series:

We Look Forward To Hearing Your Ideas

Check out the speaker schedule through March 12th above!

If you have a speaker, you know who would be great for our Sunday Evening Prayers and Dialogue, or you’d like to share a message, let Kateryna Pyatybratova know by emailing katempya@gmail.com

Thought for the Week:

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