Daily Archives: December 24, 2012

In Russia an Anglican Church Holds a Service After a Century of Silence

About 50 people gathered for a traditional Christmas carol service held by the Anglican Chaplaincy of St. Petersburg in the Anglican church on 56 Angliiskaya Naberezhnaya last Tuesday night.

It was the first time an Anglican Christmas service had taken place in the building for nearly 100 years.

The congregation included British people who live and work in St. Petersburg, including British Consul General in St. Petersburg Gareth Ward, as well as many Russians.

“It was very important to hold this service exactly in this church that once used to be the center of the British community for more than 200 years,” Ward said. “And it is very important for the British community to have access to this church again,” he added.

Read more: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/arts_n_ideas/article/church-holds-service-after-century-of-silence/473578.html#ixzz2Fzqfqpqu
The Moscow Times

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Russia

(ITV) An Interview with the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury

At the end of 2012 Dr Rowan Williams steps down after almost a decade as Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

He is the 104th Archbishop and has been in office at a time when the church faces internal problems and society comes to terms with global terrorism and recession….

Watch it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

(RNS) Jesus and Santa ”” can they coexist?

When the Rev. John McCausland crafted his Christmas Eve sermon at his Episcopal church in Weare, N.H., he always followed a basic formula.

There had to be a brother and a sister in the story. Jesus and the holy family played a prominent role. And there was always an appearance from Santa.

“If we never mention Santa Claus, then you create a parallel universe,” said McCausland, who retired in June. “What I try to do in this story is to tie the two together, but not make Santa Claus primary.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(Washington Post) Atheist parents comfort children about death without talk of God or heaven

For Julie Drizin, being an atheist parent means being deliberate. She rewrote the words to “Silent Night” when her daughters were babies to remove words like “holy,” found a secular Sunday school where the children light candles “of understanding,” and selects gifts carefully to promote science, art and wonder at nature.

So when she pulled her 9- and 13-year-olds together this week in their Takoma Park home to tell them about the slaughter of 20 elementary school students in Newtown, Conn., her words were plain: Something horrible happened, and we feel sad about it, and you are safe.

And that was it.
“I’ve explained to them [in the past] that some people believe God is waiting for them, but I don’t believe that. I believe when you die, it’s over and you live on in the memory of people you love and who love you,” she said this week. “I can’t offer them the comfort of a better place. Despite all the evils and problems in the world, this is the heaven ”” we’re living in the heaven and it’s the one we work to make. It’s not a paradise.”

This is what facing death and suffering looks like in an atheist home.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Atheism, Children, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

In the beginning was the Word–Rowan Williams encourages reading St John’s Gospel this Christmas

It’s a slightly strange way to start a Gospel you might think. We expect something a bit more like the beginning of the other Gospels: the story of Jesus’s birth perhaps or his ancestry, or the story of Jesus’s arrival on the public scene. But at the beginning of St John’s Gospel what St John does is to frame his whole story against an eternal background. And what he’s saying there is this: as you read this Gospel, as you read the stories about what Jesus does, be aware that whatever he does in the stories you’re about to read is something that’s going on eternally, not just something that happens to be going on in Palestine at a particular date. So when Jesus brings an overflow of joy at a wedding, when Jesus reaches out to a foreign woman to speak words of forgiveness and reconciliation to her, when Jesus opens the eyes of a blind man or raises the dead, all of this is part of something that is going on forever. The welcome of God, the joy of God, the light of God, the life of God – all of this is eternal. What Jesus is showing on Earth is somehow mysteriously part of what is always true about God….

Read it all or watch the video.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Our Christian Earth: The astounding reach of the world’s largest religion, in charts and maps

Christmas is an official government holiday in the United States, one that coincides with a smaller and informal but well-known tradition: debating whether or not there is a “war on Christmas.” In this thinking, American Christians are obligated to ”stand up and fight against this secular progressivism that wants to diminish the Christmas holiday,” as prominent Fox News host Bill O’Reilly recently argued. “We have to start to fight back against these people.” This is often portrayed as a global fight; O’Reilly, in one of his books, suggested that the “war on Christmas” is part of an effort to “mold [the U.S.] in the image of Western Europe.”

This movement to defend one of Christianity’s most important holiday can sometimes seem to begin from the assumption that Christianity itself is on the defensive in the world, a besieged minority or at least under threat of being made one.

A very different picture emerges from a just-out Pew report, “The Global Religious Landscape.” There are a number of fascinating trends and details in the study, but it’s worth examining what it indicates about the place of Christianity in the world. And, based on this data, the world’s largest religion seems to be doing just fine.

Read it all and follow the link to the full Pew report.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church History, Globalization, History, Religion & Culture

(Tennesseean) St. Andrew's Parish in Nashville to bid home sad farewell

Members of St. Andrew’s Parish in Nashville will split their time this week between preparing for Christmas and packing up their church’s possessions.

The congregation will hold worship services on Sunday and Christmas Day and then say goodbye to the property that has been its home for more than 50 years.

“There’s a lot of grieving going on here,” said the Rev. James Guill, pastor of St. Andrew’s.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Tennessee

The Bishop of London's 2012 Christmas Letter

I look back on the events of last week through the prism of her Christian life. On Monday and Tuesday the House of Bishops struggled to find the thread which would lead us through the Synodical Labyrinth. A committee of sixty, seated “cabaret-style” around tables, able ”” as one bishop remarked ”” to speak about once in every hour and a half is perhaps not the ideal forum in which to make decisions. The synodical work has to be done efficiently, but there was a reiterated sense that the Church at the national level needs a profound culture change.

I am proud to be a part of a church which I believe to be massively credible locally in our Diocese, through the work of saints like Sister Capel and those who have been recognised by Stuart Lipton’s report on Tottenham for their contribution to creating community in the borough. There are so many examples and, at a national level, it seems to me that the story this Christmas should be that the Church has recognised the plight of the thousands of children who need foster care, and is moving heaven and earth to meet their need. This is not an idea plucked out of thin air. A host of Christians are already involved, and I am aware of three clergy families who have recently volunteered themselves for this kind of front-line service. Kris Kandia of the Evangelical Alliance is also working on a wider initiative. The pressures of fostering are very great, so the potential of Christian communities in supporting families who decide to foster could be significant.

What would it take for this to be the story of our Church this Christmas? We should have to look and act more like a campaigning charity like Save the Children and less like a department of State.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Advent, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Sunday Telegraph Letters) The Government is forgetting the primary purpose of marriage

Read them all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Church/State Matters, England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(Telegraph) Jake Wallis Simons–I don't believe in God, but I believe in the Church of England

Predictably, the Prime Minister’s brouhaha over gay marriage is having a knock-on effect. The fracas between atheist agitators and the Church of England ”“ which had lulled since Christopher Hitchens died and the novelty of Professor Dawkins wore off ”“ has sprung back into newsprint.

Last week, a pair of heavyweight commentators attacked via a pincer movement in the pages of the Guardian and Observer. Polly Toynbee argued that the rows over gay marriage and women bishops revealed a ruling elite that is out of touch with public opinion. “With overwhelming popular support for both,” she wrote, “how can abstruse theology and unpleasant prejudice cause such agitation at Westminster and in the Right-wing press? Politics looks even more out of touch when obscure doctrine holds a disproportionate place in national life.”

Nick Cohen took up her baton, citing various polls and figures to illustrate the decline in religious observance in Britain. The number of people with no religion has risen from 15 per cent to 25 per cent over ten years, he said; the remaining 75 per cent “are not faithful to their creeds, or not in any sense that the believers of the past would have recognised”. Just 11 per cent of Catholics agree with the church on abortion, he added, and four per cent on contraception. Most strikingly of all, just 1.8 per cent of the population regularly attends church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

([London] Times Leader) Surprised by Joy–The Church should rediscover its liberality of spirit

The noun “crisis” may be a journalistic cliché but it aptly describes the state of the Church of England. When Justin Welby is enthroned in March as Archbishop of Canterbury, he will command respect for his personal and spiritual qualities, and the loyalty of 85 million Anglicans worldwide. But he has a huge task in healing a divided Church.
We wish him well in it, knowing his deep understanding of the significance of faith in an age of scepticism. The message that he and other servants of the Gospel will proclaim from the pulpit tomorrow is that Christianity is bound up with history ”” that in ancient Palestine 2,000 years ago, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Contemporary mythologies had accounts of divine and miraculous births; but Christianity declares Jesus to be God incarnate. Through all the rigours of ecclesiastical politics ”” and the traumas of religious persecution in such countries as Zimbabwe, Iran and Pakistan ”” Christians affirm that God is concerned with the stuff of human life, for, in a particular time and place, He became human.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, England / UK, Religion & Culture

A Suspicious Fire Chars Part of a Brooklyn Episcopal Church

A fire badly damaged a Romanesque Episcopal church in Brooklyn early Sunday, and investigators were looking into the possibility that the blaze was the work of an arsonist.

Flames and heavy smoke erupted around 4 a.m. at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, which is nestled between brownstones on Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill.

The Rev. Christopher Ballard, the church’s curate, said the flames had caused “significant damage,” burning the wooden doors of two entrances and charring the foyer. The sanctuary, he said, remained largely unscathed. No one was injured.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire

William Murchison–The Problem of Evil

Could it not be ”” maybe? conceivably? ”” that politics and consolatory speeches and clever laws need a foundation of realism, one which acknowledges human affairs as the huge mess they are: too big, too inexplicable for the combined power of president and Congress to “change”?

Just a few days lie between Christmas and us. It was around this time, we hear, that the Son of God came to our rescue ”” not to perfect everything at that precise moment, but to invite repentance and amendment of life, before offering his own life as a sacrifice. Don’t believe a word of it? The alternative is to believe another act of Congress will bring us finally to that gun-controlled paradise where the evil, the murderous and the frankly loony embrace the pure of heart. It might happen in heaven. I wouldn’t count too much on watching as politicians throw open the gates.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who didst promise that thy glory should be revealed, and that all flesh should see it together: Stir up our hearts, we beseech thee, to prepare the way of thine only begotten Son; and pour out upon us thy loving kindness, that we who are afflicted by reason of our sins may be refreshed by the coming of our Saviour, and may behold his glory; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth one God, world without end.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Advent, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes,that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and every one who loves and practices falsehood.

“I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let him who hears say, “Come.” And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.

–Revelation 22:12-17

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Post-Gazette) Steelers' playoff hopes end with 13-10 loss to Bengals

The Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention today when Cincinnati beat them 13-10 on Josh Brown’s 43-yard field goal with four seconds left.
Cincinnati clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
The field goal was made possible when safety Reggie Nelson intercepted Ben Roethlisberger’s pass and returned it 10 yards to the Steelers’ 46 with 14 seconds left in the game.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Men, Sports

(Toronto Star) Cathal Kelly–Lionel Messi’s greatness cannot be measured

In assessing the greatness of Lionel Messi, Arsene Wenger, usually the world’s most insightful soccer manager, once said a trite thing: “When you look at the numbers, you have to kneel down and say they are fantastic.”

Wenger was referencing the 2010-11 season, in which Messi scored 53 goals in all competitions.

On Saturday, in his last game before the Christmas break, Messi scored his 91st goal of 2012. So Messi not only crushed the 40-year-old calendar-year scoring record held by German Gerd Muller (85), he reversed over it a few times.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Europe, History, Men, Spain, Sports

PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Looking Back on the top stories of 2012

BOB ABERNETHY, host: Welcome. I’m Bob Abernethy and this is our annual look back at the top religion and ethics news of the year. Religion & Ethics managing editor Kim Lawton is here, and so are Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, and E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, professor at Georgetown University, and columnist for The Washington Post. Welcome to you all. Kim has put together a short video reminder of what happened in 2012.

KIM LAWTON: A wave of mass shootings renewed age-old theological discussions about evil, suffering and tragedy. Especially after the massacre at the Connecticut elementary school, many religious leaders repeated calls for stricter gun control measures. Some called it a pro-life issue. One of the mass shootings took place in a house of worship. In August, six people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Once again, religion played an important role in the presidential election. For the first time ever, there were no white Protestants on either ticket. Although there wasn’t a lot of God-talk from President Obama or Mitt Romney, grassroots religious groups were active on both sides. Evangelical voters were divided during the primary season, but in the end they rallied around Romney, despite some concerns about voting for a Mormon candidate. Still, their support didn’t put him over the top. Obama narrowly won the Catholic vote, thanks to a strong showing among Latino Catholics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

(Sunday Telegraph) It wouldn’t be Britain without the Church

Christmas is the season when even people of only vestigial religious faith are to be found in church. The carol services, much-loved tunes, beautiful church buildings and the feeling of rebirth and happiness bring comfort to millions. The Church of England continues, less obtrusively, throughout the year to carry that message of hope to those in most need of it, as detailed today in Cole Moreton’s extensive report. For one reason or another, 85 per cent of the population visit a church at least once a year and, although the latest Census reveals a decline in belief, nearly two thirds of people in England and Wales still describe themselves as Christian.

The Church is an institution that is often taken for granted; but if it disappeared it would be sadly missed, not least by those who benefit from the £50 million Anglicans donate yearly to charity, and from the Church’s night shelters, food banks and other good works. Every month, Anglicans contribute 22.3 million hours to voluntary work, and other denominations are similarly generous. Yet it is also true that Christians are under unprecedented assault, even in Britain. The ugly phenomenon of “Christianophobia”, analysed in a report we carry today from the think tank Civitas, shows the lethal persecution faced by Christians around the world. In the UK, a low-level hostility to Christianity exists, in which believers find their faith sidelined by a secular state.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(NY Times) Molly Worthen–One Nation Under God?

The idea of Protestant civil religion sounds strange in a country that prides itself on secularism and religious tolerance. However, America’s religious free market has never been entirely free. The founding fathers prized freedom of conscience, but they did not intend to purge society of Protestant influence (they had deep suspicions of Catholicism). Most believed that churches helped to restrain the excesses of mob democracy. Since then, theology has shaped American laws regarding marriage, public oaths and the bounds of free speech. For most of our history, the loudest defenders of the separation of church and state were not rogue atheists, but Protestants worried about Catholics seeking financing for parochial schools or scheming their way into public office to take orders only from mitered masters in Rome.

Activists on both the left and the right tend to forget this irony of the First Amendment: it has been as much a weapon of religious oppression as a safeguard for liberty. In the 19th and early 20th century, when public school teachers read from a Protestant translation of the Bible in class, many Americans saw benign reinforcement of American values. If Catholic parents complained, officials told them that their Roman dogma was their own private concern. The underlying logic here was not religious neutrality.

The Protestant bias of the American public sphere has mellowed over time, but it still depends on “Christian secularism,” said Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, a political scientist at Northwestern University.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Religion & Culture