Our timing was not great. Launching a new endeavor only a few months before a global pandemic was unfortunate. Our central emphasis—forging relationships between church leaders and science professionals as a means of strengthening the church—was difficult in a time of social distancing, remote everything mediated by screens, and communal stresses few of us saw coming. Yet, we launched Science for the Church nearly two years ago and have continued to grow.
The generosity of the John Templeton Foundation, the Bradshaw-Knight Foundation, and others has enabled us to produce this newsletter each week; to collect hundreds of faith and science resources on our website; and to establish many partnerships with church-facing organizations and local congregations as we strive for a day when no one will bat an eye at a church collaborating with a biochemist, cognitive scientist, or astrobiologist. We are thankful to so many folks who have blessed us in so many ways.
Perhaps the greatest blessing week in and week out is you, the reader of these missives. You give freely of one of your most valuable resources: your attention. Your choice to attend to our nerdy reflections on faith and science continues to inspire us.
This Thanksgiving, my family is celebrating the fact that our family will be the beneficiary of a Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Grant. Outside of an abundance of time traveling together next summer, I’m most excited about the opportunity to see my mentor, Wentzel van Huyssteen, in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa. It was with Wentzel that I learned to think theologically about science and to do science-engaged theology. With his guidance, I discerned my call to work at the interface of the church and science. I have not seen him in many years so I can’t wait to thank him in person for first inspiring me to pursue this work.
Still to Come into Being in 2021
As you likely know, Advent, the season of preparation that precedes Christmas, literally means “a coming into being or use.”
This year, like years past, we will be producing resources that engage science for you to consider (and maybe even use) as you and your congregation prepare for Christmas morning. Additionally, this newsletter will feature a series of relevant reflections, devotions, and sermons. We hope preachers and teachers will feel comfortable borrowing ideas and illustrations from them to strengthen how you lead the body of Christ in its preparations for the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us.
- Two of my all-time favorite newsletter titles are “When Jesus Was an Embryo” and “Eight-Pound, Six-Ounce Baby Jesus.” Written by a cell biologist and a cognitive scientist, they are fantastic meditations on the fully human nature of the Christ child.
- We have other newsletters on the Christmas season from a psychologist and expert in trauma; an anthropologist who studies culture; and a second psychologist who looks at positive attributes like wisdom.
- If you and your community are still feeling the weight of the pandemic as we enter a second COVID-19 Christmas, our reflections—mine, Greg’s and David Wang’s—from last year may be of help.
- Access our complete list of Advent and Christmas resources.
Coming New in 2021
We are excited to have several projects in the works for 2022. We will release The Standard Model, a how-to guide to help Christian leaders learn to engage science in ways that will strengthen their communities. Accompanying that guide will be a new series of recorded conversations between scientists and their pastors. These Standard Model videos will allow us to collect and archive successes and failures, lessons learned, and the earned wisdom of Christian leaders and believing scientists as they reflect on their Christian faith and ministry together.
A second offering in the works for next year is a science-themed devotional. We are working with a Christian author who is also a Ph.D. biologist to provide a resource that individuals and small groups can use for spiritual formation.
Finally, we hope to do more in-person programming and consulting. We are planning a workshop for current and future pastors that will be held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary during the school’s Exploring Personhood conference. We are also developing a program on science and race for clergy and congregations in The Synod of the Covenant (details to follow soon). We are in conversation with multiple partners to create and pilot cohorts of clergy/scientist teams within specific regions to walk with them as they implement the Standard Model to increase their ministries’ attention to and understanding of God’s creation by working more intentionally with those who study it.
How Can You Participate
Here are three ways:
- Read and share our content, especially this newsletter. Encourage your peers to sign-up and do the same.
- Invite Science for the Church to help your ministry discover how it can benefit from engaging science.
- Contribute financially. Next year is big for us as our John Templeton Foundation grant ends in early 2023. We must raise at least 50% of our support—something close to $100,000 annually—from other sources in order for Templeton to even consider further investment in this vital work.
Please join us as we give thanks this week and look towards the coming of Christ and a new year of exciting opportunities to strengthen the church by engaging science.