Daily Archives: May 14, 2020

(Guardian) ‘My rabbi’s tools now include a phone’: UK Jewish burials changed by Covid-19

Minutes before the rabbi started intoning funeral prayers over a shrouded coffin, his phone rang. The dead man: 90 years old, a victim of coronavirus, had been lying in a morgue for a couple of weeks while the authorities and his synagogue had tried to trace his relatives.

The man was one of 440 British Jews who had died from coronavirus by Monday, a statistic that belies the impact of the virus on the Jewish community, which has been disproportionately hit by Covid-19. Figures compiled by the Board of Deputies of British Jews suggest that more than 1% of all coronavirus deaths are Jewish, while Jews are only 0.4% of the total UK population.

Now the man’s grandson was on the line from Dubai. Although he had lost touch with his grandfather 30 years ago, he was able to give Rabbi Daniel Epstein valuable biographical information to supplement the man’s name, age and cause of death. Even so, the only people present to witness the coffin being lowered into its grave were the rabbi and staff of Waltham Abbey Jewish cemetery, in Essex, on the edge of London.

In normal times, it is rare to conduct a funeral without mourners, but not now. The number of burials conducted by the United Synagogue Burial Society more than tripled in April, Epstein said. Some rabbis have officiated at three or four funerals a day – and in many cases, relatives and friends were unable to say a last goodbye to their loved one due to self-isolation or restrictions on travel.Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Day from the Church of England

Almighty God,
who in the place of the traitor Judas
chose your faithful servant Matthias
to be of the number of the Twelve:
preserve your Church from false apostles
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers,
keep us steadfast in your truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Soaring Prices, Rotting Crops: Coronavirus Triggers Global Food Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic hit the world at a time of plentiful harvests and ample food reserves. Yet a cascade of protectionist restrictions, transport disruptions and processing breakdowns has dislocated the global food supply and put the planet’s most vulnerable regions in particular peril.

“You can have a food crisis with lots of food. That’s the situation we’re in,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO.

Prices for staples such as rice and wheat have jumped in many cities, in part because of panic buying set off by export restrictions imposed by countries eager to ensure sufficient supplies at home. Trade disruptions and lockdowns are making it harder to move produce from farms to markets, processing plants and ports, leaving some food to rot in the fields.

At the same time, more people around the world are running short of money as economies contract and incomes shrivel or disappear. Currency devaluations in developing nations that depend on tourism or depreciating commodities like oil have compounded those problems, making imported food even less affordable.

“In the past, we have always dealt with either a demand-side crisis, or a supply-side crisis. But this is both—a supply and a demand crisis at the same time, and at a global level,” said Arif Husain, chief economist at the UN’s World Food Program. “This makes it unprecedented and uncharted.”

Read it all.

Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Poverty

(CJ) The Therapeutic Campus–Why are college students seeking mental-health services in record numbers?

“I don’t know anyone [at Yale] who hasn’t had therapy. It’s a big culture on campus,” says a rosy-cheeked undergraduate in a pink sweatshirt. She is nestled in a couch in the subsidized coffee shop adjacent to Yale’s Good Life Center, where students can sip sustainably sourced espresso and $3 tea lattes. “Ninety percent of the people I know have at least tried.” For every 20 of her friends, this sophomore estimates, four have bipolar disorder—as does she, she says.

Another young woman scanning her computer at a sunlit table in the café says that all her friends “struggle with mental health here. We talk a lot about therapy approaches to improve our mental health versus how much is out of your control, like hormonal imbalances.” Yale’s dorm counselors readily refer freshmen to treatment, she says, because most have been in treatment themselves. Indeed, they are selected because they have had an “adversity experience” at Yale, she asserts.

Such voices represent what is universally deemed a mental-health crisis on college campuses. More than one in three students report having a mental-health disorder. Student use of therapy nationally rose almost 40 percent from 2009 to 2015, while enrollment increased by only 5 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University. At smaller colleges, 40 percent or more of the student body has gone for treatment; at Yale, over 50 percent of undergraduates seek therapy.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Young Adults

Mark Tanner named as the 41st Bishop of Chester

The Rt Revd Mark Tanner has been named by Downing Street as the next Bishop of Chester, succeeding the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster who retired in September 2019.

Bishop Mark is currently the Bishop of Berwick in the Diocese of Newcastle, a post he has occupied since 2016.

“It will be hard to say goodbye to the North East,” he says, “however, Lindsay and I are really excited to return to Chester where I was ordained, and both of our children were born.”

Mark says: “It is an honour and a joy to be appointed to the Diocese of Chester at such a key time in the life of our communities, nation, and Church. In Christ, God offers a gift of hope beyond our imagining; there is no greater joy or privilege than enabling others to step into this freedom and life, whether in deeply practical service or beautiful wonder and worship. God is here for all.”

Bishop Mark and his wife, Lindsay, will be introduced to the diocese online via a series of live-streamed events. Members of the public can watch and participate via Facebook and Zoom.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

Frederick Buechner for Easter–‘It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth’

from there:

It is not a major production at all, and the minor attractions we have created around it—the bunnies and baskets and bonnets, the dyed eggs—have so little to do with what it’s all about that they neither add much nor subtract much. It’s not really even much of a story when you come right down to it, and that is of course the power of it. It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth. If the Gospel writers had wanted to tell it in a way to convince the world that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, they would presumably have done it with all the skill and fanfare they could muster. Here there is no skill, no fanfare. They seem to be telling it simply the way it was. The narrative is as fragmented, shadowy, incomplete as life itself. When it comes to just what happened, there can be no certainty. That something unimaginable happened, there can be no doubt.

The symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can’t depict or domesticate emptiness. You can’t make it into pageants and string it with lights. It doesn’t move people to give presents to each other or sing old songs. It ebbs and flows all around us, the Eastertide. Even the great choruses of Handel’s Messiah sound a little like a handful of crickets chirping under the moon.

He rose. A few saw him briefly and talked to him. If it is true, there is nothing left to say. If it is not true, there is nothing left to say. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. For some, neither has death. What is left now is the emptiness. There are those who, like Magdalen, will never stop searching it till they find his face.

Posted in Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

(Sightings) William Lawrence–Pandemic Piety: What is proper piety in the season of COVID-19?

What is the proper piety during a pandemic? Should believers gather for prayer, embrace others in the community of faith, and prophesy to the government that it cannot order people with the religious protections of the First Amendment to quit assembling? Or should believers love their neighbors with such spiritual devotion that they decide to prioritize their health and safety over their own liberty by foregoing assemblies and gatherings for public prayers until it is clear that their neighbors’ lives—especially the most vulnerable among them, the elderly and immunocompromised—will not be jeopardized by the virus?

Methodists, my faith family, have affirmed for nearly three hundred years the “General Rules” that the movement’s founder John Wesley authorized for his disciplined group. The first one of the three General Rules is “Do No Harm.” Its specifications include “avoiding evil” and “avoiding… needless self-indulgence.” The coronavirus cannot be seen without powerful microscopes or heard unless one hears the coughing that it can cause. But it is “evil.” It is a source of suffering and death. For Methodists, then, it is to be avoided. And the best way to avoid it is to limit interpersonal contact and physical proximity. It is a wise word for non-Methodists, too.

People who arrogantly insist on their right to assemble with others who share the religious delusion about spiritual protection from the virus are engaging in needlessly self-indulgent forms of behavior. They are doing harm to themselves and, potentially, to others.

In the Hebrew scriptures, when Elisha was called to help a family with a dying child (2 Kings 4), he went into the house and closed the door. In the New Testament, when Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray (Matthew 6), he told them to go into the room and shut the door. The current pandemic is a good time for people who honor a great prophet or who heed the word of the Lord from Jesus to take their advice. Stop the public gatherings for a while. Go back into the house. And pray.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Doing the Bump With the Belugas in Manitoba

Beneath the waves, two smoldering coals for eyes watched me with an intense, unyielding stare. Pristine white bodies floated up elegantly from the depths, one after another, surrounding my kayak in the open water. Their ghostly pale faces with wide, Joker-esque smiles pushed closer. A long, powerful sound burst up through the air, like a slowly deflating balloon, followed by silence and more expectant staring.

I was having a one-sided conversation with a pod of curious beluga whales. The mouth of Churchill River in northern Manitoba, Canada, was calm and quiet on this chilly, overcast July day, but these bright white whales were not. Belugas, nicknamed “the canaries of the sea” thanks to their song-like sounds, are social, playful and highly communicative. They repeated their shrieks and tunes, floating around me in anticipatory silence. There was only one thing left to do: sing along.

In response, raucous clicks and squeals drifted upward out of the dark water, like someone tapping on a microphone for attention, broken by steady streams of blowhole bubbles. I got the distinct feeling that I was being discussed.

Read it all.

Posted in Animals, Canada

A Prayer to Begin the Day from W. H. Frere

O Lord, who hast called us to fight under the banner of thy cross against the evil of the world, the flesh and the devil: Grant us thy grace, that clothed in purity and equipped with thy heavenly armour, we may follow thee as thou goest forth conquering and to conquer, and steadfast to the last we may share in thy final triumph; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering– since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

–2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

Posted in Theology: Scripture