Daily Archives: January 28, 2013

Studying X’s, O’s and the Torah

On a dark and cold morning last month, 19-year-old Aaron Liberman woke at his apartment and walked a block and a half to a two-story, redbrick synagogue in West Rogers Park, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in northwest Chicago. Inside, he was met by the hum of worship and a smattering of older men ”” some in black hats, some wrapped in prayer shawls ”” seated at long tables, surrounded by shelves packed with books, Hebrew letters on their spines.

Liberman removed his jacket and unpacked his worn prayer book. He unfurled his tefillin, small boxes holding prayers printed on parchment, and bound them to his left arm and his forehead with black leather straps. Then he prayed.

During the service, a man walked over, politely interrupting Liberman’s meditation, asked how he was, and then, rather proudly, said: “We’re going to get tickets for one of your games. My kids, they are very excited.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Judaism, Men, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sports, Young Adults

(CEN) Andrew Goddard–The legacy of Rowan Williams to the Church of England

On the evening of 4 January, as the BBC News led with a new “civil part- nered bishops” row, Rowan Williams must have powerfully experi enced how different life had become after stepping down as Archbishop of Canter- bury at the end of 2012. For over 10 years such stories were almost always tied to him and his views on sexuality and his leader- ship of the Church. Not any longer. Yet the story illustrates how much “unfinished business” remained as he left office and how fragile Anglican unity is. It therefore raises the question as to his legacy.

For the last six months I’ve attempted to look back over his primacy to offer an ini- tial tentative assessment of his tenure and legacy in Rowan Williams: His Legacy (Lion, 2013). It has been a fascinating and challenging task. I thought I had a fairly good idea of his ministry but quickly realised how little I knew and how wide it has been.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE)

(ACNS) Jerusalem bishop: "Syria sexual violence must end"

Bishop in Jerusalem, Bp Suheil Dawani has spoken out against sexual violence affecting women and children escaping Syria and criticised “archaic attitudes” to women that dominate the region.

In a piece written for ACNS, the Bishop says the crisis in Syria “requires urgent action” and noted that Christians “cannot be silent [witnesses] to the brutal treatment of women and children”.

He wrote: “The UN has reported that 2.5 million people have fled their homes. Many are women and children who are fleeing in fear from the ongoing sexual violence against them. The International Rescue Committee reports that those who finally make it into the refugee camps are also victimized.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Violence, Women

Bishop James Jones of Liverpool Announces his Retirement

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

It is with a sad heart but with a prayerful sense of rightness that I shall be leaving the Diocese on my 65th birthday in August after 15 years as Bishop of Liverpool. The Queen has graciously accepted my resignation.

I have shared these things with my senior colleagues, a number of whom are of a similar age, and this means that by going first I shall be giving my successor the opportunity in due course to form his own leadership team to take the diocese forward. As I made clear in my last Presidential Address leadership is crucial to the church’s future at both a local and diocesan level. A key aspect of leadership is the refreshment of vision and purpose in and for each generation. The next Bishop of Liverpool will be able to shape his leadership team around his vision and priorities for the future….

Read it all and there is a big Liverpool Echo article there also.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

A New Beginning for a Church Where Demolition Once Started

For more than 160 years, St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church has borne witness as transformation after transformation has cascaded through the Lower East Side.

Yet conflict, drama and wrenching change occurred within its walls, too: In the church founded by Irish immigrants who fled the famine of the 1840s, the pews were in turn occupied by Poles, Ukrainians and Puerto Ricans. The church played a role in the clashes in nearby Tompkins Square Park in the late 1980s and in this century was nearly demolished itself before a mystery donor stepped forward with millions of dollars to rescue it.

On Sunday, worshipers, including descendants of some of the original Irish parishioners, gathered as Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan consecrated and dedicated the newly renovated building. After 12 years and nearly $15 million, the church, on Avenue B and Eighth Street, was once again a parish church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Urban/City Life and Issues

American Pastor Saeed Abedini Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison in Iran

The U.S. State Department says an American pastor who has been jailed in Iran since September has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Spokesman Darby Holladay said Sunday that the department is calling on Iran to respect Saeed Abedini’s human rights and release him.

Read it all and also read ACLJ comments there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Lovely NBC Video Piece on Cooking Matters, a group teaching low-cost Healthy Meal Preparation

Watch it all and you can find out more at their website there..

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Theology

More from Our Values–U.S. Churches: Where will our eclectic tastes carry us?

Today, we consider the increase in eclectic beliefs and practices, the long-term effects of which remain to be seen. Over one-third of churchgoers attend services in more than one church. One in four attends services in different faiths, according to another Pew survey. More than one in five Christians believe in astrology, reincarnation, and spiritual energy in trees and nature. Seventeen percent believe in in the “evil eye” (casting curses on others). Over the last twenty years, rising numbers of Americans say they have felt like they were in touch with someone who was dead, according to Gallup data discussed in the Pew report. A rising number also say that they have seen or been in the presence of a ghost.

In some ways, this eclecticism seems quite American””as the nation is a mix of peoples and beliefs, so too are American religions. By the same token, could rising eclecticism erode the religious foundation of the church? Can organized religion co-exist with the mix-and-match tendencies of the American people.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(FT) The U.S. faces the prospect of a fresh financial shock

The $1.2tn in automatic spending cuts that Barack Obama once promised to avert are looking increasingly likely to occur because of entrenched politics in Washington, threatening a shock to confidence in the US economy.

Economists have long assumed that the so-called sequester ”“ a budgetary mechanism passed in 2011 that takes effect on March 1 and slashes the Pentagon’s budget by $600bn over 10 years while cutting discretionary spending for government programmes by another $600bn ”“ would be replaced or reversed by Congress.

Many saw a recent move by Republicans on Capitol Hill to extend the US borrowing authority as a sign of greater co-operation with the White House. But conservative lawmakers have recently made it clear that they were simply gearing up for another fight, and are prepared to take a hard line on the $1.2tn in cuts even amid objections from military hawks.

Read it all (may require subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The U.S. Government

(NPR) Lives Of Praise, Lives In Progress–a new reality TV show on Pastor's Wives

Critics say the show takes reality TV one step too far, exposing personal, intimate and sometimes unflattering details about pastors’ wives. But Domonique Scott, former first lady of The Good Life Ministry church, tells NPR’s David Greene that The Sisterhood was somewhat of a calling for her. “We definitely believe that God told us to do it,” Scott says. “Individually, and together as a group.”

“I think for us, the assignment was to step out,” adds Christina Murray, the first lady of Oasis Family Life Church. “We knew it would probably be a little controversial, but we don’t do anything just for people to understand and give us our approval; we do everything for what God is trying to lead us to do.” But, Murray says, appearing on The Sisterhood was not a decision any of the women made lightly. “Basically, you’re putting your life out there with the control of somebody else.”

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Women

For Thomas Aquinas' Feast Day– Archbishop Michael Miller Speaks on Aquinas and Universities

..fidelity to Thomas also demands that a Catholic university teach theology as a divine science, and not religious studies, a human one dependent on rational inquiry alone. Even though the core beliefs of Christianity are revealed and held by faith, students have to be informed of what they are. Aquinas never suggests that explaining the content of the articles of faith will bring about a response of faith, but he does think that we need to be told them. Theology courses at a Catholic university propose sacra doctrina. They set out what Christ taught in the Gospels, since he “is the first and chief teacher of spiritual doctrine and faith”. Consequently, a Catholic university should be a place in where special attention is given to ensuring that students learn from theologians who propose the teaching of Christ as historical and authoritative.

Authentic Christian faith does not fear reason “but seeks it out and has trust in it”. Faith presupposes reason and perfects it. Nor does human reason lose anything by opening itself to the content of faith. When reason is illumined by faith, it “is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God”. The Holy Father observes that St Thomas thinks that human reason, as it were, “breathes” by moving within a vast horizon open to transcendence. If, instead, “a person reduces himself to thinking only of material objects or those that can be proven, he closes himself to the great questions about life, himself and God and is impoverished”. Such a person has far too summarily divorced reason from faith, rendering asunder the very dynamic of the intellect.

What does this mean for Catholic universities today? Pope Benedict answers in this way: “The Catholic university is [therefore] a vast laboratory where, in accordance with the different disciplines, ever new areas of research are developed in a stimulating confrontation between faith and reason that aims to recover the harmonious synthesis achieved by Thomas Aquinas and other great Christian thinkers”. When firmly grounded in St Thomas’ understanding of faith and reason, Catholic institutions of higher learning can confidently face every new challenge on the horizon, since the truths discovered by any genuine science can never contradict the one Truth, who is God himself.

Read it all from 2010.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Education, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Almighty God, who hast enriched thy Church with the singular learning and holiness of thy servant Thomas Aquinas: Enlighten us more and more, we pray thee, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars, and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Lord Jesus, who in thy tender love didst stretch forth thy hand and touch the leper who came to thee for cleansing: Grant us a like compassion for all who claim our help, and a willingness to identify ourselves with them in their need; for thy sake who wast made sin for us, and who art our righteousness and our salvation, now and for ever.

–Frank Colquhoun (1909-1997)

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

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Blessed is he who considers the poor!
The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
thou dost not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness thou healest all his infirmities.

–Psalm 41:1-3

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Congratulations to Phantom of the Opera on its 25th Anniversary on Broadway

Twelve actors have played the Phantom on Broadway: Michael Crawford, Timothy Nolen, Chris Groenendaal, Steve Barton, Kevin Gray, Mark Jacoby, Marcus Lovett, Davis Gaines, Thomas James O’Leary, Howard McGillin, John Cudia, Jeff Keller, Ted Keegan, Brad Little, Gary Mauer and Hugh Panaro.

I count it a joy that I was able to see it with the whole family. Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Theatre/Drama/Plays

Nigerian Archbishop Okoh Decries Acquisition of Wealth Among Religious Leaders

As the remains of former Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the late Most Revd Abiodun Adetiloye were Friday committed to mother earth at his Odo-Owa country home, Arch Bishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Most Revd Nicholas Okoh decried acquisition of wealth among religious leaders, a development he said had robbed the country of its core values.

Delivering a special sermon during the funeral service for Adetiloye who died on December 14, 2012, held at St Paul’s Millennium Anglican Church, Odo-Owa-Ekiti, Bishop Okoh lamented that corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of religious leaders, who were expected to preach the gospel of Jesus to the people.

Dignitaries who graced the burial include wife of the Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, former Governor of Western State, General Adeyinka Adebayo, his son and first civilian Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, former Governors Ayo Fayose and Segun Oni, and the Director General of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mr Femi Ajayi among others.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Nigeria

(Our Values) U.S. Churches: What do we know about clergy?

MARRIAGE: Pastors in conservative Protestant churches are much more likely to be in their first marriage””85% of all conservative congregations. Fewer, but still a majority, of mainline Protestant pastors (62%) are also in their first marriage. Twenty percent of mainline Protestant pastors are divorced or separated, compared to 10% of Catholic priests.

Marital status differs for men and women among ordained Protestant ministers: While 71% of all men are in their first marriage, 37% of women are in theirs. Women clergy are more likely to have never married (about 12%), compared to men (1%). About one in four women clergy are divorced or separated, compared with 3% of men.

AGE: The median age of all pastors is 55. In 2001, the median age was 51….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(TLS) Freya Johnston reviews three recent historical books on Suicide

As Kelly McGuire points out in Dying To Be English: Suicide narratives and national identity, 1721”“1814, the word has a vexed history. Deploying a pronoun as a prefix in order to describe both an action and a person (a person who is at once victim and perpetrator), it is something of a botched job. The convolutions and impenetrability of the term seem appropriate to a deed which many understand as the consummate rejection ”“ of life, family and community, as of social and religious obligations ”“ although one lesson of all the books under review is that suicides themselves, actual and imagined, tend not to see it that way. Many of the ballads reproduced in The History of Suicide in England, 1650”“1850 depict lovers killing themselves in the confident hope of forgiveness and a place in heaven, as of avoiding shame and misery on earth. And even the most hard-line of religious commentators will hesitate to condemn all suicides to hell: as the Calvinist preacher Thomas Beard wrote in 1631, “the mercie of God is incomprehensible”. Overall, there is much evidence of what John Donne called “a perplexitie and flexibilitie in the doctrine” of suicide.

Gradually replacing more overtly judgemental epithets such as “self-murder”, “suicide” became a familiar word in England in the later eighteenth century. Perhaps the availability of a neutral form of language influenced how people thought about voluntary death; there is a relic of the older way of describing it in current references to “self-harm”. It is sometimes argued that apparently more tolerant and sympathetic attitudes to suicide, as to other infractions of the moral law, developed in the eighteenth century as the result of a progressive secularization. But religious as well as civil sanctions against the act persisted, in Britain and in the American colonies ”“ only in Pennsylvania was voluntary death not criminalized ”“ and those official sanctions are not incompatible with sympathy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Suicide

Home Funerals Grow As Americans Skip The Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care

Each year, 2.5 million Americans die. For the majority, about 70 percent, deaths happen in a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility. What happens afterwards is nearly always the same, with few exceptions for religious traditions: A doctor or nurse will sign a death certificate and the body will be whisked to the funeral home, where it’s washed, embalmed, dressed, and prepared for a viewing and burial. A family usually sees the dead only a few times: when they die, if there’s an open-casket viewing and in the rare case when a casket is opened during burial.

But a small and growing group of Americans are returning to a more hands-on, no-frills experience of death. In the world of “do it yourself” funerals, freezer packs are used in lieu of embalming, unvarnished wooden boxes replace ornate caskets, viewings are in living rooms and, in some cases, burials happen in backyards.

Nobody keeps track of the number of home funerals and advocacy groups, but home funeral organizations have won battles in recent years in states such as Minnesota and Utah that have attempted to ban the practice. Most states have nearly eliminated any requirements that professionals play a role in funerals. It’s now legal in all but eight states to care for one’s own after death. And the growth of community-based, nonprofit home funeral groups and burial grounds that are friendly to the cause point to an increasing demand.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(TNR) Judith Shulventz–How Older Parenthood Will Upend American Society

I looked it up and found that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, learning problems, attention-deficit disorders, autism and related disorders, and developmental delays increased about 17 percent between 1997 and 2008. One in six American children was reported as having a developmental disability between 2006 and 2008. That’s about 1.8 million more children than a decade earlier.

Soon, I learned that medical researchers, sociologists, and demographers were more worried about the proliferation of older parents than my friends and I were. They talked to me at length about a vicious cycle of declining fertility, especially in the industrialized world, and also about the damage caused by assisted-reproductive technologies (ART) that are commonly used on people past their peak childbearing years. This past May, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 8.3 percent of children born with the help of ART had defects, whereas, of those born without it, only 5.8 percent had defects.

A phrase I heard repeatedly during these conversations was “natural experiment.” As in, we’re conducting a vast empirical study upon an unthinkably large population…

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Men, Science & Technology, Women