Some podcast picks
Some podcast picks

podcast picks

Image: Kyle tries to play it cool while introducing NPR’s Sarah Lumbard at e-Formation 2013. Photo by the seemingly indefatigable Tricia Lyons.

I recently returned from the Gathering of Leaders, a networking and renewal event for leaders in the Episcopal Church.

In my reflection on the gathering’s theme of “Freedom, Creativity, and Accountability in the Missionary Church,” I mentioned the CMT’s commitment to learning from “non-churchy” experts in fields relevant to our work in faith formation. As always, I talked about how much I love podcasts, and about what we’ve learned from National Public Radio about how to serve an audience hungry for (often) fun, (sometimes) inspiring, (hopefully) transformational content.

It ended up being, by far, the most commented-upon portion of the talk.

I shared that I’m betting on podcasts as a great medium for helping bring faith formation into our people’s daily lives as patterns of religiosity change. And I talked about our efforts to curate high-quality, theologically moderate podcasts for mainline Christian audiences (there are disappointingly few in, say, the Stitcher Top 100 for Sprituality and Religion).

Since our curation efforts are in their infancy, I wanted to pass on not just a link to our Podcast Resources page (where we currently discuss God Complex Radio and Pray-as-you-go) but also a list of some additional shows that I love (or at least know) but which we haven’t yet had the time to formally review or produce supplementary materials for.

It should go without saying that not all these shows are for everybody. The whole point of this new media endeavor is that it doesn’t require the same production values and mass appeal as Christian broadcasting did/does. On the whole, podcasts are about listening in on interesting and usually fun conversations with people you might not otherwise get to meet. But we won’t always like or agree with what we hear. C’est la vie.

OK, without further ado, here’s a partial look at my “Subscribed To” list:

  • Nomad – Two evangelical Christians from the UK explore “Christian community, mission, and the future of the church.” The format is interviews with Christian leaders followed by brief commentary from the hosts. I particularly enjoyed the episode with John Polkinghorne, one of my heroes. Would love to have a pint with these guys.
  • Grace Cathedral Forum & Sermons – In the year before I went to seminary, I probably listened to a hundred hours of sermon and forum-hour podcasts from this important Episcopal church in San Francisco (my now-wife got me hooked with a link to a particularly fine sermon by the now-retired Alan Jones). I haven’t kept up well in recent years, but I dig their new dean’s thoughtful preaching style and the always-fascinating lineup of forum guests. Full disclosure: my pal Jude Harmonworks there now.
  • Homebrewed Christianity – The mission here is “equipping grassroots theologians,” but don’t let that fool you into thinking the conversation will be watered down. In fact, I tend not to recommend this one to folks who haven’t had at least some theological training—unless they’re game to pick it up as they go along. Which the eager listener will do, in spades.
  • Day 1 – One very polished sermon each week, from sought-after homiletical voices across the mainline Protestant spectrum. Some brief conversation precedes and follows. The only podcast for which I’ve felt underdressed.
  • Walk and Be Well – Produced by the Episcopal clergy wellness initiative CREDO, this podcast taps very effectively the most powerful aspect of the medium: its portability. A limited run program to listen to during a four-week personal walking challenge.
  • On Pop Theology – This podcast is growing in my esteem, mostly for its corrective mission of speaking to “a world full of people taking themselves to seriously.” If you don’t agree with the hosts’ diagnosis, you probably won’t enjoy the prescription.

I hope there’s a little something for everyone (or at least most readers of this blog) in this list. But just for fun, here are three of my non-churchy favorites. And in case you don’t know me personally: nerd alert.

  • Pop Culture Happy Hour – Keep current on movies, music, books, and TV with four very smart NPR off-air contributors
  • Radiolab – A “show about curiosity” edited by some kind of mad genius. Feed has both full radio episodes and podcast-only shorts.
  • Thrilling Adventure Hour – A “new-time podcast in the style of old-time radio.” So so so funny. I did a little dance of joy when I got my tickets to their October live show in Brooklyn.

It’s never been easier to listen to podcasts, especially if you have a smart phone. Trust me: you’re gonna wanna get on board.


Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching.

What podcasts are you listening to, faith-based or otherwise? Let us know in the comments.

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