Informal Musings
Over Coffee

James Rissler

James has served as pastor to Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship since October of 2006 and was ordained in May of 2010. In what seems like a prior life, he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from the University of Notre Dame. So he can be called Rev. Dr. James Rissler, but that sounds ostentatious. The only people who call him that are public officials responding to letters advocating for greater justice for all, which he signs with those titles, hoping they’ll be impressed :-) James is married to Christina, and they have two boys, Andrew and Peter.

James emphasizes the love of God and the importance of loving relationships with God and with all persons. He believes that relationships take precedence over doctrine, and that, almost always, people can find common ground that is wider and deeper than our theological differences. His enduring optimism is grounded in God's creation of us in God's image, a creation that God called very good.

What's in a Name?

Thinking of blogging as inviting conversation over coffee also helps me get over my sense of “Well, why would anyone want to take the time to read what I wrote?”

A few months ago, Cheryl offered to redo Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship’s website. Cheryl is Sarah’s partner (they’re getting married in October). Sarah attends AMF regularly. Cheryl would describe herself as a spiritual agnostic (because of the problem of evil). But she values our community because Sarah values our community, and so she sometimes comes to worship with Sarah, and she very generously made our website lots, lots, lots better.

For better or worse, as she redesigned our website, Cheryl suggested that I start a blog that would appear there. I’ve never blogged, and I don’t particularly like writing. Writing academic papers was the part of academia I liked least in my prior life as a philosopher. Sermons are much shorter, but now I don’t even write them.

So, how could I blog without it feeling onerous? One of the things I enjoy most about pastoring is meeting people for coffee (or another beverage of their choice) and chatting. So, I thought I’d try thinking of my blog posts as akin to those conversations. I’ll post some thoughts on my mind, and hope they find their way into your reflections. If you’re ever moved to engage them with me, by comment or in person, that will be lovely. This is generally how I think of preaching as well, by the way - sharing some thoughts with the hope that we will continue to reflect on them together.

Thinking of blogging as inviting conversation over coffee also helps me get over my sense of “Well, why would anyone want to take the time to read what I wrote?” (I am not a person who regularly reads blogs, though I have some friends who write quite good ones, based on the few times I’ve perused them.) I will not be trying to offer erudite wisdom to the masses of people who are unlikely to read this. Rather, I’ll be thinking of myself as sitting here at Starbucks (usually), wishing that someone would come along and sit down and enjoy some coffee and conversation, about whatever random musings are in my head at the time. Or about whatever musings are in your head - feel free to suggest questions or topics, as you would if you were sitting across from me now.

So we’ll see where this goes. I make no promises about how often I’ll post. I’ll aim for once a week, but whether I succeed may have a lot to do with how many in person conversations I’m having :-) And whether I keep this up will depend a lot on whether any of you sit down with me to carry on conversations, virtually or in person.

May your day be filled with wondering, and enjoyed with good coffee and good company.


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