Category : Urban/City Life and Issues

Inspiring Story from the front page of the local paper–Recovering addict gives hundreds of coats, hot meals to needy

Wanda Lopez grew tired of seeing children shivering at the bus stops.

She set aside a couple thousand dollars and purchased hundreds of brand-new coats. With the help of local organizations, she assembled 250 hot meals, 200 turkeys and boxes of canned food, and put it all out on display Friday in a North Charleston parking lot.

Lopez worried the frigid rain would keep people away. But within hours, all of the food and most of the clothes were gone.

“This is blowing my mind,” Lopez said. “So many people need hats, coats, gloves, boxed food. Basic things.”

Read it all.

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

How One Anglican Congregation Asserted its First Amendment Rights amd Effected a Change in City Policy

The city’s policy did not expressly prohibit use of the park for religious activities or by religious groups. Instead, the city’s denial of the application was based on unchecked, arbitrary discretion – which is Constitutionally invalid.

Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, religious expression and speech are protected in traditional public forums such as public parks like that of Old Town Square in Fairfax. City restrictions on such freedoms are heavily scrutinized and must not discriminate against a particular viewpoint. Further, in traditional public forums, state actors cannot censor people or groups based on the content of their speech, except when there is a compelling state purpose and the restriction is both necessary and the wording narrowly tailored to achieve that purpose. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has ruled in other similar cases that in circumstances like these in which the forum is available to others and the event is open to the public, there is no Establishment Clause conflict. Additionally, in order for the state to require permits (i.e. approval) as a prerequisite for individuals or groups to engage in protected speech, it must follow very strict and objective criteria in decision making. To base such permits on vague discretion by officials making the individual decisions may be considered a prior restraint on protected speech and a violation of the First Amendment.

Fairfax City’s denial of Shepherd’s Heart’s application “was classic prior restraint, which is exactly what the Founders wanted to prevent when they drafted the First Amendment,” explained Gorman. “We used the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the city’s park policies. Even though they said it wasn’t allowed, there was nothing in writing to back it up. It was completely arbitrary.”

Gorman, feeling convinced of the Constitutional violation, contacted the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tennessee who took on the case pro-bono.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), City Government, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(WBFO) In Buffalo, NY, Converting Episcopal Church of the Ascension into senior housing becomes confrontational

The fight over converting historic Ascension Church at Linwood Avenue and North Street into senior housing turned into something of a confrontation between Buffalo’s Preservation Board and its Planning Board during Monday’s Planning Board meeting.

The Episcopal Diocese and an affiliate want to convert the century-and-a-half-old church into 28 units of low-income senior housing, wading through regulations on three different levels of government and concern the rules for financing the project might change.

The project has been in the works for more than two years, as various approvals were sought and various design changes were made, shrinking the project and moving a new building.

Charles von Simson said it is still not worth building in his neighborhood and other residents agree.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Housing/Real Estate Market, TEC Parishes, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) At Least 8 Killed in Terror Attack as Truck Careens Down Bike Path in Manhattan

Eight people were killed when a man drove 20 blocks down a bike path beside the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon before he crashed his pickup truck, jumped out with fake guns and was shot by a police officer, the authorities said.

Federal authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and were taking the lead in the investigation, a senior law enforcement official said. Two law enforcement officials said that after the attacker got out of the truck, he was heard yelling, “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference, “Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

Read it all and join us in praying tonight for New York City.

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

(Inquirer) Pew: Almost half of Philadelphia’s 839 sacred spaces have new congregations – or none

Philadelphia has 839 historic sacred spaces — churches, temples, and mosques — or one for every 1,900 residents. That’s a lot of big, beautiful buildings facing uncertain futures.

The Pew Charitable Trusts decided to inventory the city’s current and former houses of worship, and released a report Wednesday on the lay of the laity’s land, looking at the vulnerabilities these structures face — from physical deterioration to changing neighborhoods and shrinking attendance.

“You hear a lot of anecdotes but we didn’t know how many were still standing, what condition they were in, how they were being used, and their impact on civic life,” said Larry Eichel, director of the Philadelphia research initiative at Pew.

Despite dwindling religious participation, most of the city’s sacred spaces — 83 percent — are still used for religious purposes. Nearly half are no longer used by the building’s original congregation.

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

(TLC) At the Episcopal Church’s national Offices at 815, ‘Fear, Mistrust, Resentment’

The Episcopal Church Center has a workplace culture marked by “fear, mistrust and resentment,” according to staff and directors who answered a survey in the wake of a misconduct scandal and two high-level firings.

In the survey, released Sept. 15 at the House of Bishops meeting in Detroit, employees said they face expectations to avoid confrontation, withhold input, and strive to make good impressions, rather than do what’s right. Another theme: staff find it difficult to maintain personal integrity while working for the national church.

“I’m not sure I found a sadder finding, except for the score on people not feeling that they were well-respected,” said the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies.

Consultants from Human Synergistics, a human resources firm, shared the results with bishops gathered for their fall meeting and with members of the House of Deputies, who tuned in via webcast. Presenters laid bare how the workplace culture at 815 Second Avenue in New York City is exactly opposite of the collaborative, constructive one the employees say they want.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Presiding Bishop, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Wa Post) 1 Picture of what happened to 2 people who met at the concert in Las Vegas before the shooting


Up-and-coming country star Luke Combs had just started his set on the smaller of the two festival stages when Kody Robertson, an auto parts salesman from Columbus, Ohio, squeezed in at the end of the bar next to Michelle Vo, an insurance agent from Los Angeles.

The 32-year-olds connected immediately. They joked about their mutual love of golf. He recommended new beers for her to try as she showed him the large floral tattoo covering much of her back. They realized that they were both staying at the Luxor.

A longtime country music fan, Robertson was in Vegas with a group of friends and told Vo about the fun they’d had at last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival. Vo replied that she’d only recently fallen for the genre; this was her first festival. She was here alone. By the time the night’s final act took the main stage, the fast friends had settled into a spot about 20 yards from the right side of the stage, nestled between a few cuddly married couples and a rambunctious bachelorette party.

Then the first shots were fired.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Pray for Las Vegas

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Spirituality/Prayer, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Economist) Reno, Nevada–Anti-vagrancy laws are not the best way to reduce homelessness

As the city’s fortunes have risen, so too have its rents, occupancy rates and house prices. Since 2012 the median price of a home has doubled; the average rental price jumped 17% between 2014 and 2016. In January the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless counted nearly 4,000 people living in weekly motels, up from 2,560 in 2011. Those who cannot afford motels have moved into shelters or onto the street.

If the proposed ordinance to ban sleeping outside passes, Reno’s police officers will be directed to try persuading those living on the streets to move to shelters. If they have no space, the homeless living on the street will be left alone. But if they do, anyone living outside who refuses to move in after a warning might be arrested.

An arrest record makes it harder for a homeless person to find employment or housing in the future. Many studies suggest there are cheaper ways to tackle the problem. The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, a charity, found that the average costs associated with the incarceration and hospitalisation of a chronically homeless person are about triple what it would cost to provide a chronically homeless person with housing. Between 2007 and 2015, New Orleans reduced its homelessness rate by 85%, primarily by providing housing. Reno’s city government should take a look.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Poverty, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Big Issue) Lord Nicholas Henry Bourne of Aberystwyth–Homelessness Happens too Often; Cathedrals Can Help

“People end up homeless for many reasons, but all too often it’s because a single problem has spiralled out of control…”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Stuff) Cathedral means more to Christchurch than to Anglican church, mayor says

The Christ Church Cathedral means more to the city than it does to the Anglican church, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says.

Dalziel made the comment in Cathedral Square during Sunday’s launch of an 8.4 metre-tall model of the People’s Steeple, built by United States master carpenter Marcus Brandt.

Brandt, who has the support of the Restore Christchurch Cathedral Group, wants to rebuild the collapsed Christ Church Cathedral spire in timber and hoist it into place using ropes, pullies and 500 volunteers.

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Posted in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

Very sad local news–one dead, suspect shot by police following hostage situation at downtown Charleston SC restaurant

One person has died and a suspect has been transported to a hospital after holding multiple people hostage for hours inside Virginia’s on King restaurant, according to police.

Police say that the hostages are now free and safe.

Around 2:30 p.m., a loud boom, that did not necessarily sound like a gun shot, rang in the area. A person was transported out of Virginia’s on a stretcher. Shortly after, police began breaking down the perimeters and allowing people closer to the scene.

A shooting was first reported at 12:17 p.m. Thursday.

“This was not an act of terrorism,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “This was not a hate crime. This was a tragic case of a disgruntled employee.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Police/Fire, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Christian Today) Terror experts, politicians and church leaders to debate religious unity in UK cities

Senior politicians, terror experts and Christian leaders will come together for a major two-day conference discussing religious unity in British cities.

The shock of Brexit and the horror of terrorist attacks on London and Manchester have highlighted the need for Christians to take a leading role in transforming UK towns, said event organiser Roger Sutton.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

(Timeout) Things you only know if you’re a London parish priest: a profile of the Rev Niall Weir

The church has got London covered

‘Every inch of the UK has its own parish church and I think that’s rather wonderful. Being a parish priest has taught me the value of longevity. St Paul’s West Hackney has been here since 1824: five years before the first London bobby appeared on the beat, before the NHS, before state schools, and we intend to stay!’

Priests aren’t all po-faced

‘I appeared in drag on a calendar one year that was made by some local sex workers. Each one of them appeared as a female icon and I dressed up as Dame Edna. I think I scrub up rather well, but my children were very embarrassed….’

Read it all.

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

(WmTF) Chris Baker–Dog Collars, Tower Blocks and Nation-building

As the traumatic aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues to unfold, the rawness of the anger and grief of the victims of the disaster remans undimmed in the absence of obvious milestones to justice and restitution. A recent Guardian report has looked at the role of the faith communities in the vicinity of the tower since the very earliest hours of the tragedy. They not only co-ordinated emergency relief and ongoing needs such as bereavement and trauma counselling, but now act as a bridge of communication and outreach between local residents and the local authority. Churches and mosques are trusted as safe spaces to not only kick-start the very delicate task of reconciliation, but also in which to hear and hold the rawness of the pain and anger still swirling within the community. They have also offered quiet spaces where many people have come to simply reflect on what this has meant to them, and to remember in silent thought and prayer those who have died, been injured or made destitute.  They know as well that this is no quick fix response, but that they will need to be doing this for many years to come – they are in it for the long haul, long after the media circus has left. In addition, these churches and mosques have also been platforms for a determined denunciation at the corporate greed and inequality that contributes to the housing crisis on cities like London.

Key to the power of these responses has been the renewed visibility of religion and religious identity (already very strong in the North Kensington area) to the external world, especially the media and politicians. One of the most telling remarks from the Guardian piece came from local Methodist minister Mike Long, who said that until a month ago, he rarely wore a dog collar. However, at 4.30 on the morning of the fire he put it on and has never taken it off at any public engagement since. ‘Now’ he says, ‘my role is much more public and I need to be identifiable’.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues