Wilderness Time Series


About Wilderness Time

Welcome to the wilderness. Churches didn’t ask to be here. Our navigational devices don’t work. Trends and disruptions we thought were decades off are now on the doorstep. And despite all the talk of reopening church buildings, we aren’t going back to “normal” any time soon. What is God up to here, and what are the holy possibilities, adaptations and challenges we could embrace together?

Stephanie Spellers, Dwight Zscheile and special guests present a digital series that combines Zoom webinar, Facebook Live chat, and podcast to engage the big questions today’s wilderness church must face.

The full series is available as on-demand video and on your favorite podcast platform. 


Session 1: Welcome to the Wilderness
Webinar: June 9 | FB Live: June 11 | Podcast: June 16

Watch the Video

We don’t know how to embrace the wilderness—its uncertainty, suffering, and loss. How might we follow our biblical forebears and trust God’s lead?

The current pandemic is a disorienting and disruptive experience for the church and world. We find ourselves having to navigate unfamiliar terrain without a clear map. There is widespread suffering, loss, and scarcity. Like the people of Israel in its wilderness sojourn, we must learn how to trust and be led by God anew. This episode will explore the biblical wilderness narratives as a framework for the present situation and explore what it means to experience disruption and deliverance through the agency of God. With guest Dr. Michael Chan, assistant professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.


Session 2: The Church Scattered
Webinar: June 16 | FB Live: June 18 | Podcast: June 23

Watch the Video

We know how to go to church (i.e., the building), but we struggle to be the church (i.e., the people of God on the move). How might we rethink church as a network of distributed communities living Jesus’s Way of Love? 

We’ve focused “being church” on gathering in consecrated buildings for rituals led by consecrated people. Now that is disrupted--and will likely be so for some time. What does it mean for the church to be dispersed across our cities, towns, and villages in local neighborhoods and homes? How can we equip and empower people to be church in their homes, local places and daily lives? What might we learn about how to rethink church as a network of distributed micro-communities living Jesus’s Way of Love in relationship with their neighbors? With guests Michael Beck, director of re-missioning for Fresh Expressions US and co-pastor of Wildwood United Methodist Church in Wildwood Florida, and Katie Nakamura Rengers, staff officer for church planting, The Episcopal Church, and former vicar of The Abbey in Birmingham, Alabama.

Session 3: In Solidarity with guest Kelly Brown Douglas
Webinar: June 23 | FB Live: June25 | Podcast: June 30

Watch the Video

We don’t know how to prioritize gifts and leadership from the underside. Especially in a time when the most vulnerable are suffering disproportionately, how might we ensure the church doesn’t get more balkanized around race and class?

As we reckon with COVID-19 and systemic racism - two pandemics that ravage communities of color – mainline churches are struggling with our historic complicity with structures of power and oppression. How can churches and individuals grow in solidarity with suffering communities, and reclaim Christianity’s liberating vocation, so that all of God’s children flourish? With guest Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Theology at Union. An ordained Episcopal priest and popular speaker, she is the author of many articles and five books, including Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God 


Session 4: The Gospel in the Neighborhood
Webinar: June 30 | FB Live: July 2 | Podcast: July 7

Watch the Video

We don’t know how to share and receive the gospel with neighbors who might be discovering God for themselves. How might we speak authentically of faith and listen for God’s voice in surprising people and places?

The COVID pandemic has pushed churches beyond comfort and opened up new relationships with our neighbors online and in person. Many churches are surprised to discover just how few people are familiar with our insider-language. Many others find the real test is learning to listen deeply to our neighbors and not just talk at them. How do we build the bridge and trust that God’s voice shows up in people and places we least expect … including in us? With guests Nancy Frausto, associate rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach, CA, and evangelism consultant to The Episcopal Church; and Stephanie Williams, co-lead pastor of Mill City Church in Minneapolis.

Session 5: In the Face of Death
Webinar: July 7 | FB Live: July 9 | Podcast: July 14

Watch the Video

We shudder in the face of death and loss. How might we lean into the mystery of Christian faith and discover where God is moving … even when it looks like the end?

It’s utterly human to run from death and loss, whether our own death or others, the loss of a community or a tradition. That may be part of why the Christian story is so countercultural: Jesus suffered, died, rose and promised the same resurrection life for us. In a society and culture that want to banish death, how might we follow Jesus in reframing the experiences of death that are so much a part of life? With guest Rolf Jacobson, Professor of Old Testament and the Alvin Rogness Chair in Scripture, Theology and Ministry at Luther Seminary.


Session 6: Worship Beyond the Building
Webinar: July 14 | FB Live: July 16 | Podcast: July 23

Watch the Video

We don’t know how to truly value worship outside of consecrated buildings, especially when it’s online. How might we experience digital and distributed church as real worship?

Liturgical and sacramental traditions find the pandemic particularly challenging when it comes to worship. Can authentic worship happen outside of the building and out of the clergy’s hands? Can the Holy Spirit fully inhabit Christian community across the digital divide? How can we make digital and/or distributed liturgies feel like worship?

With guests Lydia Bucklin, church planter and Canon to the Ordinary for Discipleship and Vitality in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan; and Randolph “Randy” Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, and former rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Va. 

Meet Your Hosts


The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers serves as the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation, helping Episcopalians to follow Jesus’ Way of Love and to grow loving, life-giving and liberating relationships with God, each other and the earth. The author of Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Spirit of Transformation and The Episcopal Way and Companions on the Episcopal Way (with Eric Law), she has directed mission and evangelism work at General Theological Seminary and served as a canon in the Diocese of Long Island. She founded The Crossing, a ground-breaking emerging church within St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston, and has led numerous church-wide renewal efforts. A native of Frankfort, Kentucky, and a graduate of both Episcopal Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, she received an honorary Doctor of Theology from General Theological Seminary. Spellers makes her home today in New York's Harlem neighborhood.


Dwight Zscheile is vice president of innovation and associate professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. An Episcopal priest, he is author of Participating in God’s Mission: A Theological Missiology for the U.S. (with Craig Van Gelder, Eerdmans 2018), The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age (Morehouse Publishing, 2014), People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity (Morehouse Publishing, 2012) and The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation (with Craig Van Gelder, Baker Academic 2011) and editor of Cultivating Sent Communities: Missional Spiritual Formation (Eerdmans, 2012). A graduate of Stanford University (BA), Yale University (MDiv) and Luther Seminary (PhD, Congregational Mission and Leadership), he previously served congregations in Virginia and Connecticut. Dwight’s experience growing up in a secular home in California has shaped his commitment to helping the church cultivate Christian community with new populations and generations in today’s changing world.

[fusebox_full_player url="https://pivotpod.libsyn.com/rss" ]