CBF Pastors and Leaders Invited to “I’ll Push You” Screening

Great opportunity to be uplifted!


I'll Push You - banner.jpg

I’LL PUSH YOU is the remarkable story of two friends, 500 miles, and one wheelchair, and its messages of friendship, hope, faith, and community are the perfect antidote to the divisive times in which we find ourselves. I’LL PUSH YOU tells the story of Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck, two lifelong best friends. When Justin, who is living with a degenerative muscle disease, expressed interest in making the 500-mile pilgrimage across the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, Patrick simply responded, “I’ll push you.” The film is an intimate portrait of an epic journey and explores the true meaning of friendship, generosity, and vulnerability. It’s a one-of-a-kind documentary chronicling their pilgrimage, which will resonate with viewers craving stories of faith, hope, love, and the power of community.

View a trailer of I’LL PUSH YOU here.

I’LL PUSH YOU will release theatrically on Thursday, November 2nd, at 7:30 p.m. in over 550 theaters across the…

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Merianna Harrelson: On Clinging to Hope


I don’t know how many time I’ve uttered the phrase, “I hope so” in the past, but I know it’s too many to count. But the importance of hope and finding hope didn’t really resonate deeply in my heart and mind until six weeks ago when our family went to see the ultrasound of our second baby, a secret we had been keeping quiet hoping to reveal to our community of faith and family and friends the excitement of new life in the midst of Eastertide when we all need a reminder that new life keeps showing up riding the waves of the resurrection. But what we hoped would be a time of celebration has become a season of grief, a sharp juxtaposition of almost life in the midst of Eastertide.

There was no heartbeat at the ultrasound, which would ultimately lead to our experiencing a miscarriage.

Where were we supposed to put the hope of of celebration? Where were we supposed to put the hope of new life? Where were we supposed to find new hope?

For me, this has been a deeply spiritual journey to discover what hope is. Dickinson’s words took on a new meaning as I realized, “Hope is a thing with feathers,” means that hope can simply float away without any warning rather than something “that perches in the soul.”

“Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.” But did I still have faith in new life? Could I still hope when we wouldn’t see the life we had dreamed and envisioned when we found out we were pregnant?

And suddenly, I understood Sarai standing at the tent listening to strangers telling her what her life would. And certainly, I have laughed just like her.

Hope? Have you read the news? Have you been to the emergency room or noticed the number of people who are jobless, homeless, hungry? Hope? What’s that supposed to do about anything.

But as I’ve walked with this grief, I’ve come to understand that hope isn’t wishful thinking. Hope is a statement of belief of the revolutionary, life-transforming belief that God who has done the impossible will surprise again. God who overcame death and offered new life will revive again. God who created life out of dust will create again.

And I believe.

And I hope.

I don’t believe or hope in any specifics in regards to our family, but that God will still whisper and call me to create alongside of God. I believe and hope my eyes will open to see how pastoring a church named New Hope in the midst of deep grief isn’t just coincidence, but the divine presence walking beside us in the midst of the pain and suffering life brings.

This post originally appeared at merianna.net and is shared with the author’s permission. 

Rev. Merianna Harrelson is  the Interim Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship and Director of Ministrieslab providing tools and resources to churches, clergy, and lay people to meet need. She is  always looking for a good cup of coffee and a great book to read.

Courtney Pace: Hidden Figures and the Light

We’re starting the new year by looking at the intersection of popular culture and our own faith stories. This week, we’re sharing Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace’s reflections on the new movie, Hidden Figures. We welcome your thoughts on the movie and how it impacted you. Thanks, Courtney!


Hidden Figures and the Light

Part of being divorced is that your child(ren) cannot share every holiday with you. This year, I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my son, but it was not my turn for Christmas. So, when you cannot celebrate Christmas with your whole family, you do what you can. For me, this year, that has meant focusing on my writing. I did come up for air today, however, to worship, fellowship, and remember.

In worship this morning, I was reluctant at first. It’s hard to be without your child on a holiday, especially Christmas. My church family was loving and understanding, and after a few minutes of feeling the care of this family of faith, I was singing, joyfully. Every element reminded me that no matter how dark things feel, the light will always shine brighter. Always.

After church, I was delighted to share a Christmas feast with dear friends from church who welcomed me and several other friends to their home. This couple is so full of love, in a way that brings people together. We shared conversation. We were honest, in ways rarely done among people who have just met. It was beautiful. Lunch felt like communion, like the Kingdom of God breaking forth among us.

After lunch, I saw “Hidden Figures.” This is a must see. I laughed. I cried. I remembered. I dreamed. I hoped.

Though I am now a historian and minister, in a previous life, I was an engineer . . .

Keep reading here.

Elizabeth Evans Hagan: Third Week of Advent: Expecting, Yet Not Yet Expecting

Photo courtesy of love sanctuary.com/2015/12/embracing-both-joy-and-sorrow-this-christmas/


Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10


For a woman expecting but not yet expecting a baby, Advent can be a miserable time.

While songs of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” and “joy the world, the Lord has come!” are being blasted on the radio, this time for the wait-ers among us can often feel more like Holy Week than it does Advent.

But it is the holiday season, and most of us want to be happy. We want to be able to put whatever is bothering us aside and rejoice as the scripture exhorts us too. We want joy—even as much as our life circumstances aren’t naturally joyful.

I would love to offer that joy is a formula that can be followed as many preachers offer: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. I’d love to suggest that joy is an emotion of the will that we can just pray harder to make happen. Or, if we force ourselves to sing one more Christmas carol or bake one more sheet of cookies, the joy of the Christmas spirit will find us.

Maybe you’re better at joy than I . . . but it has been my experience that seeking joy in the midst of waiting for children does not come through formulas and cookies. Throughout my journey to become a mother, I’ve waited through some of the darkest days of my life.

Read more here.


Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza. Check out her new book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press.

Elizabeth Evans Hagan: Second Sunday of Advent: Infertility and Waiting on Jesus

Dear Readers,

You’ll notice we’re a week behind this Advent because . . . well, it’s Advent and things are hopping–as in hopping all over us. 😉 We’ll publish Elizabeth’s Third Sunday of Advent offering this Friday.  Thanks again to Elizabeth for bravely sharing her story with us.

Advent Blessings!



“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” II Corinthians 4:1

I was in labor for almost eight years.

There were ultrasounds.

There was blood work.

There was pain: both physical and emotional.

I felt called to motherhood. It’s as strong as the calling I felt to enter the pastorate ten years ago. It’s as strong as the calling that I felt to marry in 2007.

When I first began the journey toward motherhood, I was naïve.

After being married a year, I thought we’d start trying to have kids and then nine months later pop out a beautiful baby. I saw so many of my friends become mothers so easily. My mind and body felt strong. I saw no groaning up ahead. Why would childbirth not happen easily for me?

I had no idea the process of waiting for a baby can extend Advent after Advent, year after year.

To keep reading, click here.



Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza. Check out her new book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press.


Elizabeth Evans Hagan: Advent: Infertility and Waiting on Jesus

Throughout this Advent, we will be sharing Elizabeth Evans Hagan’s blog series from Faith Forward at patheos.com. The series interweaves the stories and symbols of Advent with the journey of infertility, a journey explored in Hagan’s new book, Birthed: Finding Grace through Infertility (Chalice Press). Welcome, Elizabeth, and thanks for sharing your story and reflections with us. We look forward to reading your book and leaning more into ministry and support for all who’ve been on this journey.


This is the first in a weekly series of Advent devotionals reflecting on what an experience of infertility can teach us about waiting for Jesus here at Faith Forward.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61: 2, 7

Some of my favorite Advent texts to preach on come from Isaiah. I mean, who doesn’t love an opportunity to “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” and “people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light” on Christmas Eve?

Two Advents ago, only a week and a half before Christmas, I lingered extra-long in my sermon writing chair one morning with cup of coffee in hand with my Bible opened to that week’s Isaiah lection #61. I’d read the passage numerous times before and even preached a subpar sermon on the text in seminary. But on this cold morning bundled up in a fuzzy blanket, something about the beauty of the phrase “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” caught my attention anew. My eyes could not move on to the next sentence. For it was true: this preacher was still so brokenhearted.

On our sixth, going on seventh year of trying to welcome a child into our family after completing IVF 8 times and 2 failed adoptions already—there was just so much to continue to wonder and weep about.

(click here to continue reading Elizabeth’s post)


Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained American Baptist minister serving churches through intentional interims in the Washington DC area. She blogs about her adventures in non-traditional mothering over at Preacher on the Plaza. Check out her new book Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility recently released through Chalice Press.

Alicia Davis Porterfield: All Saints and the Anniversary Syndrome


Gray November Sky Photo courtesy of touch2touch.wordpress.com

Since childhood, November was one of my least favorite months. Halloween’s candy was long eaten and Christmas felt too far away.The leaves lost their brilliant hues and fell to the ground, leaving bare branches up high and a raking chore waiting below. Gray skies and a gray heart.

In Divinity School, I discovered All Saints Day, which helped start my gray month off with a gild of theological wonder. My favorite image of All Saints was the across-time-and-space unity of the people of God, the sense of a cosmically bigger picture than any human mind could comprehend. That “cloud of witnesses” stretched far and wide and deep, surrounding us all with their stories and faith, weaving us together as one family.

In my time as an eldercare chaplain at a Continuing Care Retirement Facility, our All Saints observance involved lighting candles for each community member who had died  the preceding year. We talked about each light being a reflection of the light of Christ our Savior; how each flame spoke to the life of a person who had touched countless other lives. We shared stories of the light these people had shed in our lives, those memories and moments that we would hold onto for the days to come.

Photo courtesy of http://www.mattoonfirst.com/events/allsaintsday

All Saints became one of my favorite services, full of remembrance and wonder, thanksgiving and grief, shared tears and shared laughter.

Then, my father died last November. We had three weeks between the diagnosis that finally told us what had been happening to him over the past year and his funeral. Those three weeks were priceless and holy and rich–and not nearly long enough. 74 years was not nearly long enough for my father’s light to shine.

(Note: God knows how I feel about this.  And God’s OK with it, according to the Biblical witness of the Psalms, the lived out faith of those who have gone before, and my own prayers. We’re good.)

Grief has been a constant companion this year, an invisible armband on every outfit I wear, taking up room and energy and attention, some days more than others. Sometimes this grief is a silent companion; other times it jerks me out of another conversation or train of thought and unashamedly takes over the space it needs.

I’ve been dreading the anniversary of Daddy’s death since summer. Last year, we were all still stunned and absolutely raw when Thanksgiving rolled by two days after his funeral. We limped through Christmas, grateful for the children in whom Daddy delighted to keep us distracted enough to function.

This year, the shock won’t be there to cushion the reality of his absence.

This year, we’ll be facing the fact that a whole year has passed since we lost Daddy. The world has been racing on as normal, pulling him farther and farther into memory and the past and pushing us forward into life without him and a future where his stories and guidance and laughter are not present.

And it is that framework that I find I cannot bear.


The Anniversary Syndrome wasn’t just going to dredge up all the pain of the original loss–it was going to tell me that I should be somewhere else with my grief, that life had moved on, that I wasn’t keeping up, that a whole year has passed and that’s a mighty long time. 2016 was about to roll into 2017, making our 2015 loss ancient history in a nanosecond world.

I wasn’t just dreading the resurfacing of the deepest grief of Daddy’s death. I was dreading the reality that a whole year has passed without him in our lives. I was dreading the judgment doled out by way we frame time, the calendar’s unspoken but powerful assessment.

But All Saints Day rescued me.

All Saints Day offers a wondrous counterpoint to the peculiar judgment I was dreading on the anniversary of my father’s death. Time doesn’t matter.  At least not the way our world thinks about and measures time. According to Hebrews, that cloud of witnesses we will all join one day binds us together over time and space, death and life, woven by the love of Christ Jesus.

from internetmonk.com

Past, present, future–it’s all God’s time. The cloud of witnesses brings together the earliest followers of God’s call as outlined in Hebrews to those who lived when Hebrews was written to all of us who read Hebrews now to those who have not yet taken their first breaths.

My father is now part of that cloud of witnesses. We are still part of the same grand, cosmic, beyond-human-comprehension story of God. Through the Light the darkness could not overcome, Daddy’s light still shines, in all of us who loved him: in our memories, in the countless kindnesses he offered, in the welcoming space he taught us to create for others, in the childlike curiosity about God’s amazing creation–especially people–that he fostered in us, in the songs he taught us, stories he told . . .

So November looks different for me this year. Never my favorite month, it is now a holy month. Still gray with the loss of an hour of evening light, with the bareness of the trees, with the death of my father.

But now, November is infused with the “substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen.” Things not seen, like the cloud of witnesses that whispers me on, one voice in particular I know by heart.

IMG_1447Alicia casual-1

Alicia Davis Porterfield recently moved to the wilds of West Virginia with her family, where she serves as Associate Pastor for Adult Education at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, Huntington, WV.