Daily Archives: March 30, 2010

Michael Liccione–Sermon Review: Saint Thomas Church (New York City)

One of Manhattan’s most illustrious Episcopal congregations, Saint Thomas Church is best known for its glorious liturgical music and the stunning architecture of its 1913 church building, in French High Gothic style, on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Third Street. The church’s choir of men and boys, modeled on that of King’s College, Cambridge, is made up of boys who attend the residential Saint Thomas Choir School and professional adult singers. On Sunday, March 28””Palm Sunday””the musical highlight was Orlandus Lassus’ exquisite Tristis est anima mea, which was sung as the offertory motet.

Because it was Palm Sunday, the 11 a.m. service differed from the norm. It began with an elaborate procession that included children; a gospel reading; and the blessing of palms. And, as the rector, Fr. Andrew Mead, noted in his sermon, the Solemn Eucharist of the Passion that followed omitted the usual bidding prayers””that is, the prayers of intercession””and ended in silence. The purpose of the silence was to signify our need to contemplate Christ’s Passion as Holy Week began.

Fr. Mead’s sermon was shorter than usual because of the unusual length of the service, but his message was as rich in traditional doctrine and practical spirituality as his sermons always are….

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Parishes

E. J. Dionne: The Roman Catholic Church's worldly weakness

The church needs to show it understands the flaws of its own internal culture by examining its own conscience, its own practices, its own reflexes when faced with challenge. As the church rightly teaches, acknowledging the true nature of our sin is the one and only path to redemption and forgiveness.

Of course, this will not be easy. Enemies of the church will use this scandal to discredit the institution no matter what the Vatican does. Many in the hierarchy thought they were doing the right thing, however wrong their decisions were. And the church is not alone in facing problems of this sort.

But defensiveness and institutional self-protection are not Gospel values. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

The church needs to cast aside the lawyers, the PR specialists, and its own worst instincts, which are human instincts. Benedict could go down as one of the greatest popes in history if he were willing to risk all in the name of institutional self-examination, painful but liberating public honesty, and true contrition.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology, Theology

9 Teenagers Accused of Bullying That Led to Suicide

It is not clear what some students at South Hadley High School expected to achieve by subjecting a freshman to the relentless taunting described by a prosecutor and classmates.

Certainly not her suicide. And certainly not the multiple felony indictments announced on Monday against several students at the Massachusetts school.

The prosecutor brought charges Monday against nine teenagers, saying their taunting and physical threats were beyond the pale and led the freshman, Phoebe Prince, to hang herself from a stairwell in January.

The charges were an unusually sharp legal response to the problem of adolescent bullying, which is increasingly conducted in cyberspace as well as in the schoolyard and has drawn growing concern from parents, educators and lawmakers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology, Suicide, Teens / Youth

Time Magazine–Cash Crunch: Why Extreme Thriftiness Stunts Are the Rage

Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard, high school teachers outside San Diego, were griping about the rising cost of groceries when they decided to see what life is like for the billion people on earth who spend $1 a day on food. The couple’s blog took off, and their book, On a Dollar a Day, hit stores in February. They’re part of a growing population of consumers chronicling their efforts to do without, swearing off such things as riding in cars and buying clothes ”” or buying anything new at all. And they’re not making these vows simply to save money. For some, the goal is spiritual cleansing. For others, it’s to raise awareness of big issues like the environment. It’s also a cheap way to gather good material. If a book deal comes out of it, so much the better.

High-profile books like last year’s No Impact Man, which details one New Yorker’s attempt to spend a year without having a negative impact on the environment, may be particularly popular now because of the Great Recession. It is no longer fashionable to flash bling. Today’s monklike experimenters are flaunting what they don’t have.

“It’s like everyone is doing their own version of Lent,” says A.J. Jacobs, the virtuoso of this self-as-guinea-pig genre. He has written about such odd and intermittently enlightening challenges as living strictly according to the Bible for a year, during which he followed the Ten Commandments as well as lesser-known rules like the ones prohibiting the shaving of beards and wearing clothing of mixed fibers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Father Neil McNicholas (Yorkshire Post):The moral evil of child abuse casts a shadow on my Church

I think it’s important to remember that even though instances of abuse continue to surface, it still only involves a very small proportion of priests and that the vast majority in no way deserve to be tarred with the same brush ”“ and yet we find we have to defend and justify ourselves and our ministry all because of the actions of a few bad apples.

Some priests have even experienced being called a child abuser in the street simply because they are a priest. It goes without saying that people have a right to expect better of their priests, a higher moral standard, and that the trust they place in their clergy should be well-founded and hopefully it is.

But it has to be said that we are currently labouring under a cloud of suspicion that we really don’t deserve. When we were first experiencing that cloud, I will always remember the occasion when, at the end of a diocesan celebration, the late Bishop Kevin O’Brien spontaneously spoke up in support of the priests of the diocese. His words, and the priests who were present, received a very moving and prolonged ovation from a packed cathedral. It was just what we needed at the time and it’s probably just we need again now.

It was St Paul who said that we are only earthenware vessels holding the treasure of the gospel, an image that reminds us how vulnerable we are and how easily we are broken. His point was that when we act out of our humanness, our fragility, our imperfection, thankfully it is God who holds things together despite ourselves.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

NPR–Finding A Job Is Hard For Even The Most Educated

Getting a degree in down times can be a liability for some who can’t find jobs and have massive loans.

The conventional wisdom that getting a degree helps your career is not quite panning out for Shana Berenzweig.

The 33-year-old quit her job at the Texas Medical Association to get a master’s in public administration at New York University. She worked part time, graduated nearly two years ago and moved back to Austin, Texas. So far, she hasn’t been able to find a job.

“It’s very scary to be in this position,” says Berenzweig, who is trying to make payments on her six-figure school loans with some assistance from her parents and by cobbling together babysitting gigs.

Caught this one on the morning run, it does a good job at getting inside this tough job market. Listen to or read it all–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Education, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

AP: Health premiums may rise 17% for young adults buying own insurance

Under the health care overhaul, young adults who buy their own insurance will carry a heavier burden of the medical costs of older Americans”” a shift expected to raise insurance premiums for young people when the plan takes full effect.

Beginning in 2014, most Americans will be required to buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. That’s when premiums for young adults seeking coverage on the individual market would likely climb by 17% on average, or roughly $42 a month, according to an analysis of the plan conducted for The Associated Press. The analysis did not factor in tax credits to help offset the increase.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, The 2010 Obama Administration Health Care Bill, Young Adults

Time: Why Britain's Affair with the U.S. Is Over

If anyone still doubts that George W. Bush and Tony Blair were the closest of allies, the text of a July 2002 note from the U.K. Premier to the U.S. President, revealed in a new book, should dispel any lingering skepticism. “You know, George, whatever you decide to do [about Iraq], I’m with you,” Blair assured his friend.

The End of the Party, an account by British political commentator Andrew Rawnsley of how Britain’s Labour government came to squander a huge popular mandate to face possible defeat in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, identifies a multiplicity of contributory factors. Blair’s unwavering determination to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with a martial U.S. is prominent among them.

The damage may be permanent. On March 28 an influential cross-party committee of MPs in Britain weighed in on the wider impact of that policy. “The perception that the British Government was a subservient ‘poodle’ to the U.S. Administration leading up to the period of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath is widespread both among the British public and overseas,” states a report from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. “This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the U.K.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Foreign Relations, History, Iraq War

Archbishop Rowan Williams Preaches about and pays tribute to Oscar Romero

And so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is ‘who do you really speak for?’ But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, ‘who do you really feel with?’ Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of ‘feeling with the Church’ could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ ”“ so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be ‘sad’ if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.

But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, ‘each of you will have to be God’s microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.’ Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole ”“ and the hope and radiance of the whole ”“ has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.

So Romero’s question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero’s day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero’s murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.

Read it all (there is an audio link for those who wish to listen also).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --El Salvador, Archbishop of Canterbury, Central America, History, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Preaching / Homiletics, Roman Catholic

Mouneer H. Anis Writes about a Heartbreaking Dispute in the Middle East

I am aware that several heads of churches in Jerusalem have tried to intervene as concerned leaders between Bishop Riah and the Diocese of Jerusalem, but sadly all such amicable attempts have ended in failure. The Diocese of Jerusalem believes that the only way forward is to wait for the court’s judgment.

This dispute is breaking the heart of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East and has been exceptionally painful to all. We would love to see this conflict ended. I do know that Bishop Suheil and the Diocese of Jerusalem, too, would love to see this ended. I understand that the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Standing Committee is insisting that Bishop Riah has the obligation to return Funds kept in his possession that rightly belong to the Diocese and the return of such funds is a condition to settling this most unfortunate matter. If Bishop Riah does not think that the claims of the Diocese of Jerusalem in regards to these funds are true, he should present the evidence of this.

May I request from all of you to pray that this dispute would come to an end.

Makes the heart sad–read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Theology

Sandeep Jauhar: No Matter What, We Pay for Others’ Bad Habits

“It’s the context of people’s lives that determines their health,” said a World Health Organization report on health disparities. “So blaming individuals for poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate.”

I must admit I often feel like my colleagues who grouse about spending all day treating patients who do not seem to care about their health and then demand a quick fix. I do not relish paying more taxes to treat patients who engage in unhealthy habits. But then I remind myself that we all engage in socially irresponsible behavior that others pay for. I try to eat right and get enough exercise. But then I also sometimes send text messages when I drive.

The whole point of insurance is to reduce risk. When people inveigh against the lack of personal responsibility in health care, they are really demanding a different model, one based on actual risk, not just on spreading costs evenly through society. Sick people, they are really saying, should pay more. Which model we eventually adopt in this country will say a lot about the kind of society we want to live in.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, The 2010 Obama Administration Health Care Bill, Theology

Charisma Magazine: Study Shows Pentecostal Generation Gap

Some 21 percent of all adults””and a quarter of all Christians””consider themselves Pentecostal or charismatic, according to a new Barna Group poll.

The study found that the demographic crosses denominational, geographic and political lines, with 20 percent of Catholics and 26 percent of Protestants stating that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit and operate in at least one charismatic gift, such as tongues, prophecy or healing. Nearly a quarter of Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Independent voters identify themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic.

But the national telephone survey of 1,005 adults found striking generational differences among the group. Baby busters, or those ages 26 to 44, were the most likely to describe themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic, with 29 percent embracing that label. Some 26 percent of Mosaics, or 18- to 25-year-olds, and 25 percent of Christians aged 64 and older described themselves as Pentecostal-charismatic. Only 20 percent of baby boomers, or those between the ages of 45 and 63, described themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Churches, Pentecostal, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

States Look to Tax Services from Head toToe

In the scramble to find something, anything, to generate more revenue, states are considering new taxes on virtually everything: garbage pickup, dating services, bowling night, haircuts, even clowns.

“It’s hard enough doing what we do,” grumbled John Luke, a plumber in the Philadelphia suburbs. His services would, for the first time, come with an added tax if the governor has his way.

Opponents of imposing taxes on services like funerals, legal advice, helicopter rides and dry cleaning argue that this push comes as businesses are barely clinging to life and can ill afford to see customers further put off by new taxes. This is especially true, they say, in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where some of the most sweeping proposals are being considered this spring.

But this is also a period of economic gloom for states. Pension funds are in the red, federal stimulus help will soon vanish, and revenues from traditional sources like income and property taxes are slumping ever lower, with few elected officials willing to risk voter wrath by raising them.

“This is born out of necessity,” said Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat. His proposed budget, being debated in Harrisburg, would tax services including accounting, advertising and data processing.

Read it all from the front page of Sunday’s New York Times.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, State Government, Taxes, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

The Florida Times Union Profiles Episcopal Priest Deborah Jackson

For 25 years, the Rev. Deborah Jackson guided insurers in competing for the hearts and minds of people looking to protect the financial security of their loved ones.

Then she decided that she wanted to guide people toward assuring themselves more fruitful lives.

“I enjoyed doing marketing research,” said Jackson, who spent more than two decades at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. “But for years, when I was still in the insurance industry, I felt that still, small voice from God saying, ‘Do more to make a difference.’ ”

In 2007, Jackson got a chance to heed that voice – in a big way.

She earned a master of divinity degree from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and began her ministry at St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Jacksonville – the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Northeast Florida.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, TEC Parishes

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O LORD, rebuke me not in thy anger, nor chasten me in thy wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is sorely troubled. But thou, O LORD–how long? Turn, O LORD, save my life; deliver me for the sake of thy steadfast love.

–Psalm 6:1-4

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture