Category : Urban/City Life and Issues

(WSJ) Roman Catholicism, Culture Mix at the Sheen

Like many arts spaces in New York City, the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture offers a varied mix of events, from film screenings to gallery exhibits.

But the nonprofit venue in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood differs in that its mission is exactly that—a religious calling.

The Sheen Center is the cultural home of the Archdiocese of New York. And even as the Roman Catholic Church has contended with a range of issues and scandals in recent years, the center has proved something of a local success story.

Since the Sheen opened in 2015, it has expanded its programming. It now hosts more than 50 events annually that encompass many cultural disciplines, plus talks and lectures. The center’s leadership also says it draws its audience from beyond the base of 2.8 million Catholics throughout the metropolitan New York City area, noting that a local rabbi, Joseph Potasnik, serves on its board.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues

Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin–Two years on since Grenfell, nothing much has changed

We sat with one young mother of three, in her small flat in one of the blocks near the shell of Grenfell Tower. She lives in what is euphemistically called ‘temporary accommodation’ (some in her block had been in such a state for twenty years or more). The block had been without hot water for many weeks. When it was finally fixed, within a week she was then told to move her family to another flat in the block as the owners wanted it back. If she refused, the only options were a flat in Essex miles away from her children’s schools or homelessness. The lock on the door to the ground floor balcony did not work, making the apartment vulnerable to intruders. Doors were hanging loose from kitchen cabinets making them unusable, and mouse droppings were scattered across the floor despite her putting down traps. Because the flat was offered by the Council yet administered by a Housing Association, it was hard to know who to complain to. As a result, repeated calls to the landlord had yielded little change. Talking to tenants in the block, the repeated claim was that they would say ‘we will get back to you’ and never did. Similar stories are found all over north Kensington, people reluctant to complain in case they are branded troublemakers, echoing the story of Chloe Williams, who faced eviction from her one bedroom council flat in Kensington after complaining about rats, mice, cockroaches and bedbugs in her home.

All this is happening in one of the wealthiest boroughs of the country. Many feel our drastically reduced social housing stock has become in the words of one resident a ‘dumping ground of the most vulnerable in our society’. It comes so low down on our list of priorities, that the people who live in it, including many of the most vulnerable, feel abandoned. If a society can be judged on how it treats it poorest and most defenceless people, we are not doing well. The people we met repeatedly feel fobbed off, uncared for, and that the very people who are responsible for their housing don’t seem to care enough to pick up the phone or arrange repairs.

Which brings us back to Grenfell United. The kinds of change GU have been campaigning for – stronger regulation and a change of culture around health & safety standards (including the removal of unsafe cladding) and a proper tenant voice – should not be hard to establish. The financial crash led to tighter regulation of financial institutions so that if a bank mis-sells there are clear penalties. If a school is not run properly there is an inspection system to label it as ‘needs improvement’. Yet tenants with landlords who fail to maintain their property, rendering it unsafe, have no effective remedy, other than repeated attempts to get landlords to listen. And that didn’t stop Grenfell happening.

Two years on since Grenfell, nothing much has changed….

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Police/Fire, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Guardian) Churches in nightclubs and Anglican gyms: can the C of E win back city dwellers?

The Renewal and Reform programme has attracted controversy, in part because it has begun to spend the church’s huge investment fund – not just the return it generates – in order to establish new evangelical churches, often in the heart of cities. More than 100 new churches were announced last year in coastal areas, market towns and urban housing estates – a serious attempt to expand Anglicanism, while about 25 churches are closed each year.

Some, like St Peter’s in Brighton, have modernised the music, decor and ethos of old churches. Others have occupied secular buildings. For a time, the Harbour church in Portsmouth could be found in an old department store. In Swindon, plans are under way to turn a former Great Western Railway building into a large new place of worship. The Fountains in Bradford will soon take over an old nightclub complex, once home to less godly venues called Revolution, Tequila and Vibe. Gas Street is technically “St Luke’s”, but churchy names are falling out of fashion too.

The plan is to attract young people, in part by going to the city centres, where young people can be found. The next round of grants from the church’s Strategic Development Fund, part of the Renewal and Reform programme, will be explicitly devoted to projects that “are targeted on promoting church growth within the largest urban areas; and one or both of younger generations and poorer communities”. In effect, though everyone insists that the church has not forgotten the countryside, it means a focus for the future on the UK’s 75 largest cities and towns.

There are about 150 students at Gas Street on the night I visit. Worship starts at 8pm, before which they socialise over plates of paella from a giant pan. It is early in the term and some of them may be taking their first steps into the church, so the organisers asked me not to talk to people at random. Instead I am introduced to several regulars, including Crystal, who is certainly a fine example of how they can help some young people in need. Right now the church’s own needs are nearly as great, however. If they do not ignite an Anglican revival among young people in the next couple of decades, then these new city-centre ventures will be the last stand of the Church of England.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Chicago Tribune) Nearly 6,000 Chicagoans to get letters this holiday season saying their unpaid medical debt is forgiven. Learn about the group behind the gifts

For Chicagoans struggling to make ends meet, the daily act of checking the mail can be anxiety-inducing. Aside from birthday cards and holiday letters, there isn’t often much good news, but there never seems to be any shortage of bills or debt collection attempts.

Soon, when bright yellow envelopes appear in thousands of mailboxes around Cook County with the words “RIP Medical Debt” on each one, recipients might assume it’s yet another bill. In reality, those envelopes contain the opposite, a potentially life-changing gift.

A network of area churches this summer banded together to take on the debt collection system that profits “on the backs of poor people”; to help restore bad credit marred by medical debt; and to inspire joy, said the organizers, the Rev. Otis Moss III and the Rev. Traci Blackmon. As a result, Moss said they’ve wiped out more than $5.3 million in medical debt, and they soon plan to send letters to nearly 6,000 Cook County residents with a no-strings-attached message: “May you have a beautiful, wonderful holiday. Your debt has been forgiven. Enjoy Thanksgiving.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Bloomberg) Overrun by Tourists, American Cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, Are Taking Aim at Hotels

Developers feel unjustly singled out. Jim Brady is trying to develop a 135-room hotel in Portland, Maine, where city leaders recently required new hotels to pay into an affordable housing fund, arguing that hospitality workers are being priced out. “I recognize that you need to earn a livable wage, and there are sectors that pay lower incomes, and hotels are some of those, but so are food and beverage facilities and retailers,” he says. “It just seemed unfair to say hotels were the cause of the affordable housing crisis.”

In Charleston, a decades-long effort to nurture tourism without spoiling the city’s 350-year-old heritage reached a boiling point recently. Former Mayor Joseph Riley presided over the “Holy City” for 40 years until 2016, and since then the city’s politics have been rife with infighting, locals say. Mayor John Tecklenburg campaigned on a pledge to temporarily halt new hotel construction as a candidate in 2015 and continued the fight upon taking office. Members of the City Council viewed that as alarmist and pushed for less severe restrictions. Councilman Mike Seekings, who’s hoping to unseat Tecklenburg in November’s election, published an op-ed in Charleston’s Post newspaper citing a fundraising email Tecklenburg once sent to supporters that included the line: “Every property that has the possibility of becoming a hotel will become a hotel unless we act.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CJ) Are Cities Going to the Dogs?

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is dog heaven. On sunny Saturday mornings, the park’s open green space, Long Meadow, fills with hundreds of canines frolicking during off-leash hours. The dogs’ owners hover nearby like watchful parents who, when playtime ends, head over to the nearby farmers’ market or go out for brunch. Later in the day, they might make time for doggie yoga or the pet bakery before coming home to their pet-friendly apartment buildings, many featuring dog baths and groomers.

Roughly 600,000 dogs live in New York City, along with half a million cats. About half of U.S. households own a pet, which adds up to at least 77 million dogs and 54 million cats. Generationally, millennials are the most enthusiastic pet owners, with some 70 percent boasting of having at least one pet.

What you’re less likely to see, especially in America’s largest cities, are children. Pets are now more common than kids in many U.S. cities. San Francisco, for example, is home to nearly 150,000 dogs but just 115,000 children under age 18. Farther north, Seattle has more households with cats than with kids. Nationwide, pets outnumber children in apartment buildings. In New York neighborhoods like Long Island City and Williamsburg, wealthy singles have the highest number of pooches per capita.

In a recent Atlantic essay, Derek Thompson wrote about how “America’s urban rebirth is missing a key element: births.” Manhattan’s infant population is projected to halve in 30 years. High-density cities are losing families with children over age six, while growing their populations of college-educated residents without children. Indeed, the share of children under 20 living in big cities has been falling for 40 years.

Young professionals’ four-legged friends have replaced those babies.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance & Investing, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

Kendall Harmon for 9/11: Number 343

On Monday this week, the last of the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th was buried. Because no remains of Michael Ragusa, age 29, of Engine Company 279, were found and identified, his family placed in his coffin a very small vial of his blood, donated years ago to a bone-marrow clinic. At the funeral service Michael’s mother Dee read an excerpt from her son’s diary on the occasion of the death of a colleague. “It is always sad and tragic when a fellow firefighter dies,” Michael Ragusa wrote, “especially when he is young and had everything to live for.” Indeed. And what a sobering reminder of how many died and the awful circumstances in which they perished that it took until this week to bury the last one.

So here is to the clergy, the ministers, rabbis, imams and others, who have done all these burials and sought to help all these grieving families. And here is to the families who lost loved ones and had to cope with burials in which sometimes they didn’t even have remains of the one who died. And here, too, is to the remarkable ministry of the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, who played every single service for all 343 firefighters who lost their lives. The Society chose not to end any service at which they played with an up-tempo march until the last firefighter was buried.

On Monday, in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, the Society therefore played “Garry Owen” and “Atholl Highlander,” for the first time since 9/11 as the last firefighter killed on that day was laid in the earth. On the two year anniversary here is to New York, wounded and more sober, but ever hopeful and still marching.

–First published on this blog September 11, 2003

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Music, Police/Fire, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

The Legacy Website for September 11, 2001

This site is intended as a place to remember and celebrate the lives of those lost on September 11, 2001. It includes Guest Books and profiles for each of those lost.

It is well worth your time to explore it thoroughly today.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

(USA Today) Co-living spaces: How millennials, Gen Z create affordable rent situations in big cities

After years of living alone and a six-month-long apartment hunt in New York City, 27-year-old Jade X found what she called the “holy grail” of living situations – roommates.

For two years, the hotel manager had been renting a $1,200-a-month one-bedroom apartment in a residential section of the Bronx, where she says she didn’t have any friends, felt little sense of community and “there was literally nothing to do.”

“I didn’t feel safe, and it really didn’t fit my vibe,” the free-spirited fashion design enthusiast said. “I liked the price of the apartment, but then again, you get what you pay for.”

After a friend recommended that she look into one of the metro area’s many communal living companies, Jade, who legally changed her last name to X, did some digging and quickly applied. Two weeks later, she moved into her new shared apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, that is operated by Venn, a network of shared homes and spaces in the neighborhood.

“Everyone who moves around New York City has their horror stories; but for the first time in my life, this was not one of them,” Jade said about moving into the two-story duplex. “After everything I’ve been through in New York, it was worth finding this in the end.”

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(Atlantic) Derek Thompson–The Future of the City Is Childless–America’s urban rebirth is missing something key—actual births

Cities were once a place for families of all classes. The “basic custom” of the American city, wrote the urbanist Sam Bass Warner, was a “commitment to familialism.” Today’s cities, however, are decidedly not for children, or for families who want children. As the sociologists Richard Lloyd and Terry Nichols Clark put it, they are “entertainment machines” for the young, rich, and mostly childless. And this development has crucial implications—not only for the future of American cities, but also for the future of the U.S. economy and American politics.

The counties that make up Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia shed a combined 2 million domestic residents from 2010 to 2018. For many years, these cities’ main source of population growth hasn’t been babies or even college graduates; it’s been immigrants. But like an archipelago of Ellis Islands, Manhattan and other wealthy downtown areas have become mere gateways into America and the labor force—“a temporary portal,” in the words of E. J. McMahon, the founder of the Empire Center for Public Policy. “The woman from Slovakia comes to Queens, lives in her second cousin’s basement, gets her feet on the ground, and gets a better apartment in West Orange, New Jersey,” he said. Or a 20-something from North Dakota moves to Chicago after school, works at a consultancy for a few years, finds a partner, and moves to Missoula.

But if big cities are shedding people, they’re growing in other ways—specifically, in wealth and workism. The richest 25 metro areas now account for more than half of the U.S. economy, according to an Axios analysis of government data. Rich cities particularly specialize in the new tech economy: Just five counties account for about half of the nation’s internet and web-portal jobs. Toiling to build this metropolitan wealth are young college graduates, many of them childless or without school-age children; that is, workers who are sufficiently unattached to family life that they can pour their lives into their careers.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Children, Marriage & Family, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Tablet) As the leading targets of hate crimes, Jews are routinely being attacked in the streets of New York City. So why is no one acting like it’s a big deal?

The incidents now pass without much notice, a steady, familiar drumbeat of violence and hate targeting visibly Jewish people in New York City.

Early on the morning of June 15, a Saturday, two men in a white Infiniti drove around Borough Park, a vast, traditional Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Surveillance footage posted on the local website BoroPark24 showed a man jumping out of the car’s passenger side as someone in a shtreimel and long black jacket walked down the sidewalk in their direction. As the car idled, the passenger approached the Jewish stranger, lunged at him in a linebacker-like stutter-step, and then darted to the waiting vehicle, which promptly sped away. Levi Yitzhak Leifer, head of the Borough Park Shmira neighborhood patrol, said there were at least six and as many as nine reported incidents that night involving the same vehicle. Beresch Freilich, a rabbi who serves as a community liaison with the NYPD in Borough Park, said that some of the targeted individuals sensed a violent intent: “The car passed by going back and forth, and they felt it was trying to run them over.”

On a Saturday night in mid-January, Steven, a student and member of the Chabad Hasidic movement in his late teens, was returning to his apartment on Empire Avenue after a trip to the gym. (Nearly all victims interviewed for this piece asked to be identified by first name only, due to their involvement in ongoing legal cases). Steven saw what he described as a “rowdy group” of between six and eight “older teens” gathered on the sidewalk on a poorly lit stretch between Schenectady and Troy avenues. One of the teens sucker punched Steven in the back of the head as he walked past. “At first I honestly thought a car ran into me—it was such a blow.” Steven was then struck in his right cheek and fell to the sidewalk. He realized he was outnumbered but some irrational part of him couldn’t accept the insult.

“I charged towards them like in a frenzy, with blood on my hands and my face, and I started trying to give him a thing or two,” he remembered of his run toward his main attacker. They exchanged a few blows before the entire group fled. The teens made no attempt to rob Steven, and there was no clear motive for the assault. In retrospect, given the force of the first strike against a vulnerable spot on his head, Steven thinks the attack could have gone much worse for him. “I was very, very lucky,” he said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) Pastor’s Exit Exposes Cultural Rifts at a Leading liberal Parish–NYC’s Riverside Church

Dr. Butler’s supporters said she lost her job because she had spoken out about sexual harassment and she had complained in particular about an incident in which a former member of the church’s governing council left a bottle of wine and a T-shirt on her desk, both with labels that read “Sweet Bitch.”

They said she had pursued better treatment for women and minorities, with the aim of fixing a difficult environment that had led some church employees to complain and even quit. Her persistence strained an increasingly fractured relationship between her and the church’s lay leaders, her supporters said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that sexism played a role,” said the Rev. Kevin Wright, who had been recruited by Dr. Butler in 2015 and served as executive minister for programs before leaving last year. “I don’t understand how anyone could think anything different.”

But her opponents said her dismissal was being misconstrued, and pointed to the governing council’s significant misgivings about changes she made to the church staff and programming and spending priorities. Her philosophy and leadership style, they said, collided with a church whose culture remained deeply traditional, despite its politics.

They cited an episode that occurred in May as the final straw.

Dr. Butler was traveling to a conference in Minneapolis with two church employees and a congregant when she brought them to a sex shop during a break, according to two people affiliated with the church.

Read it all and please note there are three stories about this in the New York Post who first broke the story.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(WSJ) American Suburbs Swell Again as a New Generation Escapes the City

APEX, N.C.—This Raleigh, N.C., suburb was declared the best place to live in America by a national magazine in 2015, around the time Lindsay and Terry Mahaffey were drawn by its schools, affordable housing and quaint downtown.

The couple found a sprawling five-bedroom house next to a horse farm for $782,000, half the cost they would have paid in the Seattle suburb they left behind.

Many other families had the same idea. Apex, nicknamed the Millennial Mayberry, is the fastest-growing suburb in the U.S., according to Realtor.com, and the town is struggling to keep pace with all the newcomers.

When Mr. and Mrs. Mahaffey took their eldest daughter for the first day of kindergarten, school officials told them they didn’t have a seat. Too many kids, they said. On weekends, the family thinks twice about going downtown—not enough parking. And the horse farm next door was sold for a subdivision.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(NYT) With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First?

As disaster costs keep rising nationwide, a troubling new debate has become urgent: If there’s not enough money to protect every coastal community from the effects of human-caused global warming, how should we decide which ones to save first?

After three years of brutal flooding and hurricanes in the United States, there is growing consensus among policymakers and scientists that coastal areas will require significant spending to ride out future storms and rising sea levels — not in decades, but now and in the very near future. There is also a growing realization that some communities, even sizable ones, will be left behind.

New research offers one way to look at the enormity of the cost as policymakers consider how to choose winners and losers in the race to adapt to climate change. By 2040, simply providing basic storm-surge protection in the form of sea walls for all coastal cities with more than 25,000 residents will require at least $42 billion, according to new estimates from the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental advocacy group. Expanding the list to include communities smaller than 25,000 people would increase that cost to more than $400 billion.

“Once you get into it, you realize we’re just not going to protect a lot of these places,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the group, which wants oil and gas companies to pay some of the cost of climate adaptation. “This is the next wave of climate denial — denying the costs that we’re all facing.”

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Wired) In a first, San Francisco just banned public agencies, including police, from using facial recognition technology

At the state level, efforts to regulate facial recognition in Washington crumbled after Microsoft and Amazon, among others, opposed a proposed moratorium in favor of a bill with a lighter regulatory touch. In Massachusetts, which is considering an ACLU-backed moratorium on facial recognition until the state can develop regulations including things like minimum accuracy and bias protections, local police departments frequently partner with the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles to identify suspects.

Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts, which is working with Somerville officials on a proposal that would forbid such data-sharing, is optimistic about the potential for cities to lead the way. “I’m not aware of any other example of people really successfully intervening in this very fast-moving train of tech determinism and throwing a democratic wrench in the gears,” Crockford says.

San Francisco’s ban comes amidst a series of proposals that highlight tensions between the city and tech companies that call it home. On Tuesday, the city also unanimously approved a ban on cashless stores, an effort aimed at Amazon’s cashierless Go stores. Waiting in the wings? A so-called “IPO tax,” in response to the endless march of tech companies going public, which would authorize a city-wide vote to raise the tax rate on corporate stock-based compensation.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Highways England give £3.9m grant to make Hull Minster a hub for city’s history, heritage and community

A £3.9m grant to complete the transformation of Hull Minster into a hub for the city’s history, heritage and community has been announced today following funding from Highways England.

The investment comes from a dedicated fund which is designed to protect historic features in areas near to major roads, helping them to be harmonious with their surroundings. The Highways England Environment Designated Fund will safeguard the Minster’s heritage for future generations and create a sustainable future for the church as a magnificent place of worship, focal point for the community and magnet for visitors.

With work set to start this Spring, the majestic Minster can now be restored, renovated and extended to fulfil its rich potential. The grant is linked to the proposed A63 Castle Street scheme, which passes just 100 metres from the church. This major project is designed to improve access between the Port of Hull and the national road network via the city centre.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

([London] Times) Man arrested after gun incident at St Paul’s Cathedral

A suspected gunman attempted to shoot security guards inside St Paul’s Cathedral before being arrested by firearms police as he fled.

The suspect, who has not been identified, is said to have also levelled the weapon at staff and pulled the trigger but no bullets were fired, the BBC reported.

He was spotted by security staff inside the cathedral’s crypt, which has a café and is generally busy with tourists. Elsewhere in the crypt lie the tombs of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed the rebuilt cathedral after the original structure was all but destroyed in the Great Fire.

He fled towards an exit but was intercepted by firearms officers from City of London Police.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(BBC) Manchester Arena attack memorial site revealed

A permanent memorial to the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing will be located close to the scene of the attack, the council has confirmed.

A site between Hunt’s Bank and Deansgate, near the city’s cathedral, has been “earmarked” after consultation with families, a spokesman said.

Prof Malcom Press of the Manchester Memorial Advisory Group said choosing a location was a “significant step”.

He added that the design had not been decided upon and would “not be rushed”.

The location was announced as plans for a “more intimate” commemoration of the second anniversary of the 22 May 2017 attack were revealed.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Parish Ministry, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

St Mary Aldermary–The Gorgeous London Church That’s Also A Coffee Shop

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(DN) Amsterdam’s mayor: ‘prostitutes should not be a tourist attraction’

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has called for changes to the city’s red light district, arguing that turning prostitution into a tourist attraction is ‘humiliating’ and ‘unacceptable’. The mayor, who took office last June, told Het Parool she wanted to consider all options for reforming the area, including the status quo, but gave a clear signal that the current situation was untenable. ‘The circumstances in which women have to do their work have worsened. So I can understand why a lot of Amsterdammers think: this is not the way we want prostitution to be or how it was supposed to be,’ she said. There has been growing concern that the number of tourists flocking to the red light district has made it more difficult for prostitutes to work in the area and compromised their safety. Unlicensed prostitution remains a problem in the city and has been linked to human trafficking.

Read more at DutchNews.nl:

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Sexuality, The Netherlands, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Medium) Tim Keller–How Do We Reach a Global Generation?

On a related note, we at Redeemer City to City aren’t in the business of exporting Hollywood and Western values. Far from it. One of the things the global church has suffered from is America’s role as an amazing economic engine. When Christians in America have a new idea, they churn out books and videos. They send people all around the world to sell their product. If they have an evangelistic method that works in Florida, they think they should give it to everybody. The trouble is, when Americans export their way of doing evangelism to other parts of the world where people are more secular or non-Western, it just doesn’t work.

Even though Americans have produced so much material for the Christian world, America is out of step. It may be ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to packaging and marketing and publishing, but it’s behind the rest of the world when it comes to understanding the cultural moment.

On a positive note, our kids are already connected across cultures. Young people are talking to each other all across the world. This is the sort of communication that church leaders need to reach the next generation — a collaboration across cultural, national, and denominational lines. And when we meet together, like the cultures of the world already are, then we can begin to meet the most important challenges of our day.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelism and Church Growth, Globalization, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NY Times Magazine) How American Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

[Jamie] Tillman told me that she thought she had no choice but to plead guilty — it was unlikely, she believed, that the judge would take her word over that of the arresting officers. “I admit, your honor,” she said. “I just want to get me out of here as soon as possible.” Under Mississippi state law, public intoxication is punishable by a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Ross opted for the maximum fine. Tillman began to cry.

The Federal Reserve Board has estimated that 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough money in their bank accounts to cover an emergency expense of $400. Tillman didn’t even have $10. She couldn’t call her family for help. She was estranged from her father and from her mother, who had custody of Tillman’s two young daughters from a previous relationship.

“I can’t — ” Tillman stammered to Ross. “I can’t — ”

Ross explained the system in his court: For every day a defendant stayed in the Alcorn County jail, $25 was knocked off his or her fine. Tillman had been locked up for five days as she awaited her hearing, meaning she had accumulated a credit of $125 toward the overall fine of $255. (The extra $155 was a processing fee.) Her balance on the fine was now $130. Was Tillman able to produce that or call someone who could?

“I can’t,” Tillman responded, so softly that the court recorder entered her response as “inaudible.” She tried to summon something more coherent, but it was too late: The bailiff was tugging at her sleeve. She would be returned to the jail until Oct. 14, she was informed, at which point Ross would consider the fine paid and the matter settled.

That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

([London] Times) Millennials shun modern liturgy for ‘bells and smells’

Almost everything about services at St Bartholomew the Great church is old-fashioned. Purple-robed choristers process through clouds of pungent incense. The priest, the Rev Marcus Walker, brandishes an ornate golden King James Bible above his head before reading from the 1611 text. The liturgy is a mixture of 16th-century prose and sung Latin. The medieval priory church, which sits a stone’s throw from the central London hospital of the same name, was founded in 1123.

However, the congregation watching on at a recent service were younger than most would expect; at least a quarter were under 35. They had come to observe a handful of men and women, mostly in their late twenties, be baptised into the Anglican faith. Afterwards the millennials gathered inside the stone cloisters to explain why the archaic drama of traditional worship still appealed.

Several said they relished the connection to past generations of believers through reciting the Book of Common Prayer, which English Christians have been using since 1549. Others valued the beauty and history of the choral music and Shakespearean liturgy. They were not simply “young fogeys”, they insisted. Three of the group had separately found their way to St Bartholomew’s after becoming friendly with Walker on Twitter.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

(Atlantic) Beth Kissileff–Pushing Back the Darkness in Pittsburgh

I was walking somewhere I was afraid to go, even though I had been there many times before. But I had not been to a religious service at the Tree of Life synagogue—where my husband is the rabbi of New Light Congregation—in more than 30 days, since a shooter killed 11 people in that spot.

Though it was not quite 6 o’clock on Sunday evening, the first night of Hanukkah, the winter darkness enveloped my neighborhood. I walked past the shopping district, the dry cleaners, my dentist’s office, and the home of my husband’s college roommate. All was familiar, yet I was scared to be outside in the open air with a group of Jews. If we had been targeted inside, where our Torah scrolls and prayer books were and where we were not being public about our faith, wouldn’t this be a provocation, a taunt to anti-Semites, wherever they lurk, to come and get us? A therapist told me to use my rational mind and remember that this was the only event of its kind, the only synagogue shooting that had happened in the United States. That is true, but when it happens at your own place of worship, statistics and rationality take a back seat to raw fear.

As I walked down Shady Avenue, approaching the corner of Wilkins, I saw the police barricades at Northumberland Street, a block before the synagogue. I told a police officer that I was glad to see him, and that I was scared to be here. He told me I did not need to be afraid.

That has been the message I have gotten in so many ways over the past few weeks….

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Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

A Catholic Herald profile piece on Dorothy Day

Dorothy grew up with a secret longing for spiritual truth which she successfully ignored for a number of years in which she had an affair, was deserted by her feckless lover, had an abortion – “the great tragedy of her life” – twice attempted suicide, made a brief unsuccessful marriage and then entered into a common-law relationship which, paradoxically (God can use any circumstance to effect transformation, however seemingly unpropitious) was the direct cause of her conversion.

Living in a beach house on Staten Island during her last relationship, she unexpectedly became pregnant and felt that God had given her a second chance at motherhood. Not yet a Catholic she wanted baptism for her baby daughter, Tamar, while knowing that it would mean the end of her relationship to the anarchist and free spirit, Forster Batterham, with whom she had set up home.

Dorothy wrote later that it only slowly dawned on her that “worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication – these were the noblest acts of which men were capable in this life.” From her earliest years she had had a strong social conscience; now her Catholic faith gave her the spiritual underpinning to live out this deep humanitarian impulse and to love those at the bottom of the social heap for the rest of her life.

For Dorothy the acute question was, was it possible “to promote and live according to the ideas of Catholic Social teaching and philosophy in a way that would serve others and promote the common good?”

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Posted in Church History, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues, Women

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) ‘We will not be broken:’ Emotional vigil held for victims of Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting

To an audience of more than 2,000 inside Soldiers & Sailors Hall and many more gathering in the damp weather outside, after all the dignitaries had spoken, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers told of his night of restlessness, of wrestling with Scripture.

When he has sleepless nights, he said, he often turns to the Psalms. But there was no night like Saturday night, just hours after Rabbi Myers survived the deadly gunman’s attack on his Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

He thought of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

“Well God, I want!” he said, his voice reverberating through the hall during Sunday’s interfaith vigil in honor of 11 victims killed and the six wounded Saturday at the Squirrel Hill synagogue building shared by three congregations.

“What I want you can’t give me,” he continued. “You can’t return these 11 beautiful souls. You can’t rewind the clock.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) Jonathan A. Greenblatt on the Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh Area) Jewish Massacre–When Hate Goes Mainstream

This has been a very difficult 24 hours for the Jewish community — and for America. What started as a normal Sabbath for Jews — a time to be with family and community, celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs, hold baby namings, pray to God — ended with news of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history.

While the horror of this massacre is shocking, it is not entirely surprising.

At the Anti-Defamation League, we have been tracking and fighting anti-Semitism for over a century. And while Jews have enjoyed a degree of acceptance and achievement in the United States perhaps unrivaled in our people’s history, recent trends have been alarming.

While the overall trend in anti-Semitic incidents has been a downward one, last year we saw the largest single-year increase since the A.D.L. began this annual audit in 1979 — a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. These incidents include high-profile ones such as neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Va., chanting “Jews will not replace us,” physical assaults, vandalism and attacks on Jewish institutions.

Part of this sharp rise comes from a large increase in anti-Semitic incidents in grade schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

A Former Sex Trafficking Victim Describes Her Ordeal and Rescue

You need to take the time to watch it all. If you cannot handle it visually please read the transcript there.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Women

(1st Things) Darel Paul–Culture War as Class War

Back when Massachusetts was the only state in the country to recognize ­s­ame-sex marriage, Chai Feldblum, who later served as commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under both Presidents Obama and Trump, observed that religious liberty and LGBT rights were trapped in a “zero-sum game.” In her view, any pretense to mutually beneficial compromise between the two is impossible, and state neutrality between them a charade. As long as religious conservatives hold same-sex sexual behavior to be morally suspect while cultural liberals hold it to be natural and moral, every action and inaction of the state is a choice to recognize one side against the other. While classical liberals may want to wish this conflict away, it cannot be done. Appeals to First Amendment rights to religious liberty run immediately into Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection. And as the great theorist of class struggle Karl Marx himself observed, “between equal rights force decides.”

Culture wars are never strictly cultural. They are always economic and political struggles as well. Elites rule through an interlocking political-­economic-cultural system. The mainstream media certifies whose political ideas are respectable and whose are extremist. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, academia, and white-shoe professional firms are all part of the postindustrial “knowledge economy” that allocates economic rewards. As American elites become increasingly integrated and culturally ­homogenous, they begin to treat their cultural rivals as subordinate classes. The same thing happened nearly a century ago to the rural and small-town Protestants whom H. L. Mencken derided as the “booboisie.” Many would like to see it happen again, this time to anyone who challenges the dogmas of diversity and progressivism that have become suspiciously universal among the richest and most powerful Americans, dominating the elite institutions they control. If cultural traditionalists want to survive, they must not only acknowledge but embrace the class dimensions of the culture war.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Sexuality, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Bp Graham Tomlin–Grenfell’s silent protest sends a loud message

People walk silently, some quietly holding placards, faces serious and taut. Occasionally an arm stretches around a neighbour’s shoulder. A few tears are shed. A line of firefighters stand to attention, helmets at their feet while the crowd shuffles past. The predominant colour is green. Every now and again the march comes to a halt as a road is crossed, or an ambulance rushes past, and slowly, the thousands of people wend their way to the base of Grenfell Tower.

On the 14th day of every month since last June, a remarkable event has taken place around the streets of North Kensington. The Grenfell Silent March was the idea, among others, of a young man called Zeyad Cred.

I met Zeyad for the first time a few days after fire destroyed the tower block, when he was one of a group of local people hastily brought together to meet with the Prime Minister so she could hear the concerns of the immediate community around Grenfell.

I remember him then as articulate and thoughtful, with a controlled anger that occasionally broke out into passionate speech. Today, he and a group of others solemnly and expertly marshal the crowd in hi-vis jackets as it wends its way around the streets, stopping for a minute’s silence to view the ruins of Grenfell Tower, before a few short speeches are made and the crowd disperses.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues