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The "In Search of the Emerging Church" series has not been submerged, just sidelined for a while. I was diverted to help with coverage of the expanding sexual abuse scandal and by a move East.

Previews of coming stories

In coming weeks I’ll be reporting on Dr. Susan Nagele, a physician from Illinois who was honored in January for her 25 years (and still ongoing) service as a Maryknoll lay missioner in several countries in Africa. As the U.S. church tries to fill the ranks of a diminishing priesthood with priests from other countries -- too often from developing countries with far worse ratios of priests to people than we experience here -- Nagele and others like her show the face of the future. If the U.S. church is to have a meaningful mission presence in the future, it will occur because of dedicated lay people who perceive a vocation to serve.

I’ll also be reporting on three days I spent in New Mexico in April attending a workshop and a conference put together by Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr and his Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. The topic of the weekend was “Emerging Christianity: How We Get There Determines Where We Arrive.” Ponder that one a bit.

Speakers included Rohr, Suzanne Stabile, Brian McLaren, Cynthia Bourgeault and Shane Claiborne. I’ll try to explain in future pieces what was said and how new approaches to spirituality and belief are leaping denominational boundaries without diminishing the best that the various traditions have to offer. All of it has a lot to do with adopting a “non-dualistic” view of things.

While I was attending the conference I received a number of calls from news outlets wanting comment on the sex abuse crisis as it was spreading through Europe. I was reminded, as I had been repeatedly in prior months while reporting on aspects of the local church, of the growing breach within the community. It was quite strange to be asked amid the conversation at the conference, which was forward looking and in many respects deeply compassionate, to comment on the growing tale of abuse and betrayal. We are in an odd time and one that I think makes the emerging church more significant than ever.

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A note on moving: My wife, Sally, and I are in the midst of a move to the D.C. area, where she has taken a new job as a hospice supervisor, work that she has been doing for the past 10 years. I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing for NCR. Our move from the Midwest -- which involves a bit of a road trip to see our married children on the East Cast -- is bitter sweet. We look forward to being back within driving distance of family and grandchildren. There was something of a homecoming feel as we made our way through a swatch of Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. But we leave behind in the Kansas City, Mo., area deep and rich friendships; communities of people who have been about the works of mercy and justice for the long haul; a rich tradition of really smart and engaged Catholicism; and a city far more beautiful and interesting than our East Coast bias would permit us to imagine when we made our way there 16 years ago.

It’ll be another week before I can unpack my office and get back to some serious work.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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