Saturday, December 27, 2008


Boxing Day was yesterday. here's Time Magazine reflecting on its possible origin.

King Wencelas didn't start Boxing Day, but the Church of England might have. During Advent, Anglican parishes displayed a box into which churchgoers donated money. On the day after Christmas, the boxes were broken open and their contents distributed among the poor, thus giving rise to the term "Boxing Day." Maybe.

But wait: there's another possible story about the holiday's origin. The day after Christmas was also the traditional day on which the aristocracy distributed presents (boxes) to servants and employees — a sort of institutionalized Christmas bonus party. The servents returned home, opened their boxes, and had a second Christmas on what became known as Boxing Day.

So which version is correct? Well, both. Or neither. No one, it seems, is really sure. Both the church boxes and the servant presents definitely existed, although historians disagree on which practice inspired the holiday. But Boxing Day's origins aren't especially important to modern day Brits — Britain isn't known for its religious fervor and few people can afford to have servants anymore, anyway. Today's Boxing Day festivities have very little to do with charity — instead, they revolve around food, football (soccer), visits from friends, food and drinking at the pub.,8599,1868711,00.html?imw=Y

Religion's Big and Unprecedented Role in '08 Politics

From the Washington Post-

Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, and John McCain turned to Sarah Palin, but in the end the most sought-after running mate in the 2008 campaign never appeared on a single ballot.

God, it seems, couldn't be entirely wooed by either party.

The unprecedented and extraordinary prominence of religion in the 2008 election was easily the year's top religion story. Both parties battled hard for religious voters, and both were forced to distance themselves from outspoken clergy whose fiery rhetoric threatened to become a political liability.

In the end, the top prize went to Obama, the son of a Muslim-born father and an atheist mother, who spent much of the campaign fighting off persistent -- and untrue -- rumors that he was a closet Muslim. His party, after years of consistently losing churchgoers to Republicans, decisively won Catholics, Jews and black Protestants, and made small but significant inroads among some evangelicals.

Literary seminary professor found spiritual insight in Walker Percy

This is the area I did my Doctoral Studies in, although I used short stories instead of novels. I used Percy's reflections on writing in my thesis. If you haven't read Walker Percy you should. The Thantos Syndrome is probably his best.

I first encountered the Rev. Charlie Cook as a teacher. I had signed up for a night class on theology and the novels of the late Walker Percy at the Seminary of the Southwest. As someone who majored in English and minored in philosophy, this would be an ideal continuing-education course for me. And I had always meant to read Percy.

But it was like no English or philosophy class I had taken before. Cook, a longtime pastoral theology professor at the Episcopal seminary just north of the University of Texas, explored unexpected theological depths, pulling back the curtain on Percy's own spiritual struggle alongside an analysis of the various stages and ultimate "leap of faith" Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard argues is essential to accepting Christianity.

The class consisted mostly of gray-haired ladies from local Episcopal parishes, and Cook also challenged us to examine our own spiritual lives in light of Percy and his existentialist philosophy. I might not be able quote Percy or Kierkegaard, but I can tell you I knew a lot more about myself after completing that course.

Grace Episcopal leader steps down as trial approaches

Further developments in the Grace Church Colorado Springs saga.

If ever a church needed a strong leader, it was Grace & St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

The congregation had been exiled from its home in the majestic stone structure on North Tejon Street, after a conservative faction that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado remained in the building.

On Oct. 5, 2007, the diocese tapped the Rev. Michael O'Donnell to be priest in charge of a church that had no permanent home. His Episcopalian flock found a temporary place to hold services, first at Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus, and then at First Christian Church downtown.
Everything seemed to be going fine, and then, without warning, O'Donnell resigned in October.

There's nothing sinister going on. O'Donnell told me he wants to try something else, though he's not sure what that might be.


A social conservative, O'Donnell learned a lot leading a predominantly liberal Episcopal parish.

"It's easy to love people who are like you, but not so easy to love those who are against what you hold dear," O'Donnell said. "That would have derailed me before in a relationship. But I learned that different views are actually a good thing."

The Episcopal Church still united

Reflection on the state of the church from the warden at St. Mark's Chapel in Beaufort South Carolina. He puts things in perspective.

Since I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church as a pre-teen, I have followed the problems and progress of my denomination and seen firsthand when a group disagrees with and leaves the organized national church. Despite the occasional disagreements, I always have been proud to be a member of this fellowship that follows scripture, tradition and reason as doctrinal foundation.

The Gazette reported about the current disagreement on the front page of its Faith section Dec. 13: "The Episcopal Church divided? Despite divisions nationally, local split unlikely." The article could leave the impression that there are many more malcontents than actually exist, and does not mention that although four bishops have left the national Episcopal Church, the vast majority of about 100 bishops remain. Even in South Carolina, there are two dioceses, not just one as the article implies: the Diocese of South Carolina, essentially south of Columbia, under Bishop Mark Lawrence, and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, Columbia and north.

To my knowledge, there is no move afoot within the upper diocese to hold discussions with the break-away group attempting to form a new Anglican province. Your article suggests, however, that our bishop has participated in such discussions even though Lawrence said he has no plans to leave. The quote from the rector of St. Helena's Episcopal Church that "there have been no plans to leave" also was encouraging. However, he does point out that there are "a lot of issues" on which there is disagreement with the national Episcopal Church.

Episcopal bishop visits Pentagon, 9/11 memorial

From USA Today-

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori paid her first visit to the Pentagon on Tuesday, leading services with fellow Episcopalians and praying at the new memorial for those killed there in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"It's powerful," she said of the memorial to 184 people who died when terrorists flew an airliner into the west side of the Pentagon. "It's a remarkable design that speaks about new life in the midst of death."

Jefferts Schori, who was an oceanographer before she pursued ordained ministry, particularly admired the trees and the running water that are part of the memorial's design. Maple trees are planted amid memorial stainless-steel benches that are inscribed with the names of each of the victims.

The presiding bishop recited a prayer from the church's Prayer Book for the Armed Services, which also was used by Episcopal chaplains in New York after terrorists struck the World Trade Center.

After visiting the memorial, Jefferts Schori led services for members of the Episcopal Church who work at the Pentagon. Prior to the service, Jefferts Schori said she would speak about John the Baptist and "how we use our voices."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Passings 2008

What do Bo Diddley, William Buckley, Charleston Heston, and Bettie Page have in Common?

Christmas carol had its origin in a Phila. church

There is a Christmas story that every new member of the Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square learns soon after joining.

It is about two friends in 1868 - a rector and his organist - and the inspiration that grew from procrastination.

Yesterday afternoon, as church volunteers arranged sprays of red flowers around the altar and children put on costumes for the Christmas pageant, the story of the carol that put the 150-year-old church on the Christmas map was recalled by members.

"It's our claim to fame," said Soozung Rankin, a member for three years, whose 10-week-old son, Robert, was about to debut as Baby Jesus in the manger tableau.

The story begins with a trip to the Holy Land by the church's vicar, the Rev. Phillips Brooks. It was 1865, and Brooks was so moved by what he saw that he penned a poem.

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie.

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by.

Division Weakens the Body of Christ

The Dean of the National Cathedral reflects on the damage being done with the recent schism in the Episcopal Church.

"Should conservative Episcopalians who disagree with U.S. church leaders about homosexuality, women's ordination, biblical literalism and other issues leave and form a separate denomination?"

It's a sad thing to behold--that within a community of Christians called by their Lord to love each other, a group would consider leaving to form a separate denomination, or, as is currently happening, would seek to create a separate province of the theologically like-minded within the Anglican Communion. We in the Episcopal Church have been disagreeing deeply for some time--about human sexuality and about how we read scripture. And an array of cultural and global forces have been at work driving a wedge between the sides.

But unity is at the core of what it means to be Christian. We are members all of one Body, St. Paul wrote. We are part of an interdependent community that needs all its parts. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you, nor the head to the feet, I have no need of you,'' Paul argued. All the parts need each other, even when they may at the moment be alienated. Liberals need conservatives to keep them rooted in the ancient teaching; conservatives need liberals to keep them looking for the new things God is doing in the world. God's truth is bigger than any one part can claim.

That is why the endless divisions within the Christian church through the centuries have been so tragic. The church has held to a set of core beliefs articulated most clearly in its creeds. When serious conflicts have arisen, many have persisted in the church out of the conviction that it is better to stay together and bear witness to the truth than to leave for the sake of theological purity. Schism, they believed, is worse than heresy because it undermines the essential Christian call to love one another. As Jesus said, the night before he was killed, "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Christ himself saw our capacity to love across our differences as the surest sign of God's purpose for our world and something essential we have to give.

There have been actions and words on both sides that have been arrogant and dismissive. And as in any long-term marriage, both sides can point to hurtful things said and done. But the decision to form a new province, or perhaps even to leave the denomination, diminishes all Episcopalians and Anglicans and tragically weakens the one gift the world most needs from the church - a vision of a love that is deeper than all the issues that divide the human race.

Reach out to someone

The Bishop of Barbados reflects on Christmas. (It's overcast and 3o degrees here. Barbados is looking pretty good right now!)

We see in all of this all the traces of what it is to be human. We can identify with all the characters in the story. They are like us; frail mortal and human.

It is this acknowledgment that helps us to understand Christmas as God's greatest act of reaching out to humanity. And the mixture of human characteristics reflected in the Christmas story does not scare God away.

He becomes all wrapped up in our humanity with all its elements of frailty.

Christmas is a celebration of God's response to these difficult and sometimes frustrating human challenges. We too with His grace, can respond to all the challenges that we may be facing at this time in our lives.

But most of all let us reach out and help someone who may be dealing with a difficult challenge in their life at this time. Reach out and help. This may be the greatest gift you can offer them this Christmas. May God grant you a blessed Christmas and may His grace be with you each and every day of the coming year.

Church leaders offer comfort but little joy in lessons on economy

From the London Telegraph. Christmas messages from the Pope, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Queen. (Hang on to your hat, like she doesn't have another one.)

Christian leaders used their pulpits this Christmas to draw moral lessons from the economic downturn, preaching traditional values of helping the poor and attempting to offer spiritual solace at a time of material crisis.

The Queen also began her traditional Christmas message with reference to the economy. “Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more sombre occasion for many,” she said.

She, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury all emphasised how in such a climate salvation could be found through helping others. The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, said: “Over the years those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives; the kind of people who are generous with their talents or their time.”

Good Stuff in TEC: Tennessee

Thriving Thistle Farms helps women recove

Cynthia Foster thought prostitution and shoplifting were the closest she'd come to a legitimate job, years ago when she was in the grips of addiction.

Now she earns her living by carefully measuring out sea salt and oils, and supervising the floor where 20 women make handmade bath and body products. She's part of a nonprofit company called Thistle Farms, where sales are growing and the brand is thriving despite a recession.

That success could mean more women recovering from lives of addiction and prostitution have a place to detox, grow spiritually and earn an income. The Thistle Farms products support the operation of the nonprofit Magdalene House, a two-year residential recovery program where women come from hundreds of miles to get a second chance, and being part of Thistle Farms helps the women gain job skills.

And the products allow their message to spread throughout the country: that prostitution leaves a trail of victims. Thistle Farms is in the process of setting up a contract with Whole Foods Body stores, a retailer that could help them double their reach and give jobs to several more women.

"We have graduates who have made their way, got other jobs and lost them," said Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest who runs the Magdalene House. "We have a work force that's dying to work, and we have the product in place."

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Soggy Church Vestibule Cleaned in Time for Christmas Eve Services

Gid was a seminary classmate. God really does redeem disasters.

One of the most prominent and historic churches in the Washington region went through a trial by water yesterday before it managed to open for Christmas Eve services.

Water from a break in a fire-suppression system cascaded from the steeple of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis on Tuesday night and rose in a vestibule.

"We had a waterfall," said the Rev. Gid Montjoy, the priest at St. Anne's, which traces its origins to the 1690s.

The current building, which is 149 years old, is the church's third on its site in the center of historic Annapolis. And when the water began to gush, so did the dirt and soot that had built up in the steeple since 1859, Montjoy said.

We need peace urgently, say Holy Land leaders

CHRISTIAN LEADERS in the Holy Land have asked for worldwide prayers for peace in the Middle East. In particular, they ask for international assistance in finding a solution to the crisis in the Holy Land itself.

In a Christmas message, 13 Patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem — including the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani — speak of there being even more than the usual “darkness, conflict, and despair in the world around us”.

They say that they needed “the light of Christ to shine on this land to enable us to work more realistically for a two-state solution which would end the burden of restrictions arising out of [Israeli] occupation”.

The Jerusalem church dignitaries add that they were praying that the US President-elect, Barack Obama, and other heads of state and other world leaders would “see the urgent need for peace in the Middle East, and not least in this land”.

The 13 signatories also call the world’s attention to the Gaza Strip, where one-and-a-half million Palestinians have been living under an Israeli blockade for many weeks. Christians, the church leaders say, need “to see the situation in which many are suffering” in Gaza, and make “a determined effort to bring them urgent relief”.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 1But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Changing the world starts close to home: Anglican leader

Report on Rowan's Christmas message. Apparently he is not to be outdone in the Christmas hat department.

The world's ills will not be solved by "larger-than-life heroes" but by people making small gestures to help those in distress, the archbishop of Canterbury will say in his Christmas message.

In his sermon on Thursday, Rowan Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican church, will say that people's ability to make a difference to those around them is particularly important during an economic downturn.
"The gospel tells us something hard to hear -- that there is not going to be a single charismatic leader or a dedicated political campaign or a war to end all wars that will bring the golden age," he will say at Canterbury Cathedral according to remarks released in advance.

But Williams says Christians can emulate Jesus through "small and local gestures, the unique difference made in some particular corner of the world."

He cites a community theatre project run by local churches in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, which was "working to deepen the confidence and the hope of those living in the middle of some of the worst destitution even Zimbabwe can show."

In times of economic difficulty, believers could also put Jesus' teachings into effect by helping those around them who are struggling.

"In the months ahead it will mean in our own country asking repeatedly what is asked of us locally to care for those who bear the heaviest burdens in the wake of our economic crisis -- without waiting for the magical solution, let alone the return of the good times," Williams will say.

Pope's remarks on sexuality 'will widen Anglican rift'

From the Guardian. With that hat it looks like he's working Santa's side of the street!

To the fury of homosexual groups the Pontiff said that the defence of heterosexual relationships was as important to humanity as preventing the destruction of rainforests.

In a Christmas address to prelates in the Vatican the Pope, known as God's rottweiler because of his hardline views, said that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself". He urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman".

As homosexual groups condemned the Pope, his remarks drew applause from conservative Anglican groups in Britain. They welcomed the "clarity" of the Pope's thinking which they contrasted with Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams is battling to prevent a schism in the Anglican church as many of his own clergy are in openly gay relationships in defiance of church policy.

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".

Episcopal property dispute may head to Va. Supreme Court

A long-awaited property- settlement decision in Fairfax Circuit Court apparently will not be the end of a two-year-long conflict between a minority group of conservative congregations in the Episcopal Church that broke away from the church to join the Anglican District of Virginia.
On Dec. 19, Fairfax Judge Randy Bellows upheld the long-debated Division Statute, which was the backbone of the Anglican Church's case.

The break-away congregations include several from Fairfax and Loudoun counties. They decided to break off from the Episcopal Church after determining that church leadership was not following a proper reading of Scripture, particularly on the issue of homosexuality.
The Civil-War-era Division Statute is the key factor in determining the legal ownership of the breakaway churches, including Truro and The Falls Church.

An appeal of Bellow's decision to the Virginia Supreme Court is being prepared by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

Both sides have already spent about $2 million each in court costs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Whole Bird Christianity"

An interesting piece by E.J. Dionne about how the face of evangelicalism is changing from single issues and theological purity to a more integrated engagement with the world. He uses Rick Warren and the inaugural as the spring board.

Mr. Warren wouldn't back down and offered ABC News a delightful explanation for his political apostasy. "I'm a pastor, not a politician," he said. "People always say, 'Rick, are you right wing or left wing?' I say 'I'm for the whole bird.' "

Many liberals hope -- and a lot of conservative fear -- that the rise of "whole bird" Christianity will break up right-wing dominance in the white evangelical community.

Mr. Obama never forgot what Mr. Warren did for him and brought the episode up last week in explaining why he had asked the pastor to pray at his inauguration. "A couple of years ago," Mr. Obama recalled, "I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion."

One need not be too pious about any of this. Both Mr. Warren and Mr. Obama are shrewd leaders who sense where the political winds are blowing.

Mr. Warren understands that a new generation of evangelicals has tired of an excessively partisan approach to religion. Evangelical Christianity's reach will be limited if the tradition is seen as little more than an extension of the politics of George Bush, Karl Rove and Sarah Palin.

An opening to Mr. Obama is the right move for this moment, and Mr. Warren appears to be genuinely interested in broadening evangelical Christianity's public agenda.

In Hard Times, Houses of God Turn to Chapter 11 in Book of Bankruptcy

This is from the Wall Street Journal and focuses on a Conservative break away Anglican Congregation which after 17 years of struggling finally had to file for bankruptcy. The first link below is to the article the second to the church's web site. I can't tell if they are affiliated with one of the Common Cause partners or not.

St. Andrew, the recently auctioned Maryland church, opened 17 years ago in a former sporting-goods store in downtown Easton. The town of historic colonial mansions and sprawling farms was once home to Frederick Douglass. More recently, the town has become a retreat for Washington's elite.

Bats in the Belfry
The rector of St. Andrew, Bishop Johnson, attracted like-minded conservatives who disliked Episcopal innovations, such as ordaining female priests. In 2005, the church borrowed $850,000 to buy a much larger space that had once belonged to a Roman Catholic parish.

The 1868 Gothic revival structure was large for Bishop Johnson's congregation of 50 people. But the gregarious Midwesterner, who once raised money for a ballet troupe and orchestra, said he was confident his ministry and donations would grow. "I'm well liked, I'm a lucky man," he says he felt at the time. He wooed real-estate agents, bankers and well-heeled locals -- some of whom didn't even attend the church -- and received pledges worth $200,000.

Food Pantry
Some donors said they were impressed with the bishop's generous food pantry and help given to local Hispanics. For a time, Bishop Johnson said Mass in Spanish on Friday nights for workers at a crabmeat processor, and the parish also offered English classes.

"He served a part of this community that often times does not get served well," says Lee Denny, president of the local General Motors dealership. Mr. Denny, an elder in Easton's Presbyterian Church, donated $10,000.

But expenses mounted. There were mice in the basement and bats in the belfry. It cost about $45,000 to stanch creeping black mold. Once the local Catholic parish began saying Mass in Spanish, it drew off most of St. Andrew's immigrant members. Weekly donations dropped to about $600 from $1,425 three years ago, says Bishop Johnson. And many of those who had pledged $200,000 toward the mortgage payments told the bishop they needed to delay their gifts, saying their stock portfolios were down.

The rest is here-

St. Andrew's web site here.

Good Stuff in TEC: Ohio

Church to Explore questions about Christianity

LEBANON — St. Patrick's Episcopal church, located on the corner of East and Main Streets in Lebanon, invites residents to explore questions about Christianity through four evenings of non-threatening conversation and hospitality.

The evenings will include a light supper, a short video and follow up round table discussion. All people need to bring is an interest in learning how the Episcopal Church understands life's spiritual questions. The meetings will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings from Jan. 7-28. Those who would like to join or the video and discussion only, come at 7 p.m. There is no cost and attendance at all four sessions is not required. For more information or to make reservations, call (513) 932-7691.

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Good Stuff in TEC: North Carolina

Area residents package 15,000 meals for families around the world

One Wilmington family gathered together with loved ones on Monday evening to help and make a difference in the world this Christmas.

Instead of a normal holiday party this year, the Whitesides and their party guests packed the St. James Episcopal Church and packaged 15,000 meals for hungry families in other countries.

From measuring rice to sealing bags, over 100 people helped put together the packages together.

"It's easy to get caught up in all the going and the shopping...but we want to get caught up in the giving and the sharing," explains hostess Barbara Whitesides.

Barbara and her husband Ed Whitesides say the party was the best Christmas gift they've ever given or received.

"We hoped that this could be a way that we could spend time with people we really care about and do something good," says Barbara Whitesides.

With a lot of hard work and a whole lot of hands it only took about an hour to package all the meals.

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

The 25 top Religion stories of 2008

The top Religious News Stories as determined by Religion News Service. The Schism in The Episcopal Church is #6. Top three below the rest are at the link.

These are the year's top 25 religion events, in order based on

1. Controversial sermons delivered in recent years by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright surface, resulting in pressure on Barack Obama, who eventually withdraws his membership in his church, Trinity UCC, Chicago. Meanwhile, John McCain rejects the endorsements of evangelists John Hagee, a critic of Catholicism, and Rod Parsley.

2. Democrats, especially Barack Obama, make a conscious effort to woo faith-based voters. Obama participates in a faith-based debate with John McCain moderated by California mega-church pastor Rick Warren. Unusual attention is paid to evangelicals at the Democratic National Convention.

3. Sarah Palin's nomination as Republican vice president leads many evangelicals, who had planned to sit out the election, to support the GOP ticket. The choice causes a dilemma for some religious conservatives who oppose women in leadership roles.

Good Stuff in TEC: Bethlehem (PA)

Episcopal churches get social grants

Three area Episcopal churches – two in Wilkes-Barre and one in Scranton – are among six in Northeastern Pennsylvania that will receive social outreach grants totaling nearly $100,000.

This distribution by the Diocese of Bethlehem – the Episcopal Church in 14 counties of eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania – marks the first of five years of grant awards for local social ministry projects that will be made from $1.1 million in New Hope campaign funds.

The largest award – $40,000 – will go to Good Shepherd Church on Washington Avenue in Scranton toward the establishment of a men’s shelter.

The multi-year plan, for which $200,000 will be awarded over five years, includes preparing for use of the undercroft of the church as a emergency shelter on winter nights and on occasions when families in the community are displaced from their homes.

The shelter project is an expansion of the Seasons of Love program that serves healthcare needs of the homeless and working poor, said Canon Bill Lewellis, diocese spokesman.

You can see all of the Good Stuff posts by clicking on Good Stuff in the labels below.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mockingbird Director Robert Mulligan Dies at 83

The director of my favorite movie has died. "Miss Jean Louise, Miss Jean Louise. Stand up you're father's passing".

The obit headlines have it right. For all of Robert Mulligan's impressive credentials in his 40-year career as a director of television and movie dramas, his signature achievement was the 1962 film version of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The picture — which won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck, and earned Mulligan his only Oscar nomination — had an immediate and lasting impact.

Back then it provided a Hollywood echo of the civil rights agitation that had roiled the South and seized the nation. But Peck's role as Atticus Finch, a crusading attorney who is also a gentle single dad to his two young kids, had staying power. In 2003 the American Film Institute chose Atticus as the top hero in U.S. movie history. (See TIME's All-Time 100 Best Movies.)

Mulligan, who died Saturday at 83 of heart disease, had been Finch's gentle shepherd, and deserved at least a share of Peck's Oscar both for casting him and for eliciting the actor's best work. But the director's heart, here as in so many of his films, was with the Finch children. If Mulligan had an abiding interest, it was troubled youngsters on the cusp of discovering themselves by confronting the world around them.

This theme occupied him from his first feature film to his last. The 1957 Fear Strikes Out gave Anthony Perkins his first lead role as Boston Red Sox star Jim Piersall, reduced to bipolar rage by a domineering parent (sort of a Psycho in Center Field). In The Man in the Moon, Mulligan's swan song in 1991, Reese Witherspoon made her film debut as a 14-year-old wracked with first love for a 17-year-old boy who covets her older sister.,8599,1868089,00.html

Science proves Anglicans smartest

From The Guardian and a candidate for the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department.

OK, it's a naughty headline, but no less true than the one put on this survey at the aggressively atheist Sandwalk blog, which said "Atheists are smarter than agnostics". Both readings are justified. A large-scale analysis of the religious allegiance and measured IQ of a representative sample of 3,742 American adolescents found a clear trend: the more fundamentalist denominations had the more stupid believers, so that the bottom four places were occupied, from the bottom, by Pentecostalists, Baptists, Holiness churches and "Personal Philosophy", which I presume means a new-age-ish syncretism, while the top four places, again in ascending order, were taken by agnostics, atheists, Jews, and Episcopalians (Anglicans). So, atheists are smarter than agnostics, Jews are smarter than atheists, and Anglicans the smartest of the lot ...

But we should always be careful about science which tells us what we think we already know.

It's all here-

Bishop translated 'Silent Night' poem into a song

Here's an interesting piece of Christmas trivia. The second Bishop of Florida translated "Silent Night" into English. Well some Christmases are more silent than others (Right Buddy?)

You may not know the name John Freeman Young, but it's possible you've been singing or humming a song he translated from German into English way back in 1859: Silent Night.

Episcopalians may know Young (1820-1885) as the second bishop of the Jacksonville-based Diocese of Florida. Becoming spiritual leader of the diocese in 1867 - when it still covered the entire state - he worked to establish religious and educational freedoms for freed slaves in the post-Civil War era, diocesan historian Mike Strock said.

But he was more widely known as the man who translated the popular Christmas tune that was already internationally popular, said Shannon Palmer, executive director of the Cemetery Recovery and Preservation Trust of Jacksonville.

"Apparently one of his hobbies was collecting European hymns and translating them into English," Palmer said.

The rest is here-

Good Stuff in TEC: Bethlehem (PA)

Giving help to homeless goal of area groups

On any given day there may be close to 100 homeless people in Luzerne County, according to advocates for those with no place to call their own. Of that number, 75 may be housed in shelters but the remainder refuse help, said Bill Jones from the Wilkes-Barre Volunteers of America.

To reach out to them, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Procathedral and the Luzerne County Homeless Coalition in Wilkes-Barre conducted the third annual “Homeless Persons’ Memorial” service on Sunday, the day of the winter solstice.

It was part of the National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day commemorated in 90 communities across North America, according to organizers.

The reason some homeless don’t want help is because they don’t “trust” the agencies trying to help them, Jones said. “They don’t want to be part of the system,” he said.

Charitable organizations along with county government agencies try to assist the homeless, he said.

Homelessness is not necessarily an economic issue, said Jim Davis, community volunteer. Often the homeless are mentally ill, suffer from substance addictions or are victims of abuse, he added.

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Good Stuff in TEC: North Carolina


Christ Episcopal Church ( has announced that the second annual Run for Young event will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 11 at Christ Episcopal Church, located at 120 E. Edenton St. Run for Young is an event to raise community awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. The race honors the memory of Sadiki Young, who was a member of Christ Church and a senior at Wakefield High School when he lost his life as a passenger in a drunk driving accident last year. All proceeds from the race will go toward the Christ Church Youth endowment Fund, set up in Sadiki’s memory, and the Wakefield High School Just Think First Program. For more information or to register for the event, visit or call (919) 834-6259.

Between 1995 and 2007, more than two-thirds of all accidental deaths of Wake County Public School System students were traffic related and more than half of the fatal accidents that happened when teens were driving were the result of unsafe driving behaviors. According to a 2007 report released by Students Against Destructive Decisions, SADD, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among youth ages 15-20. In 2005, there were 7,460 youth motor vehicle deaths, including both drivers and passengers, and 28 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking.

“Last year’s inaugural Run for Young filled the street with people remembering our dear friend Sadiki Young, tragically killed in an automobile accident in 2007,” said Rev. Winston Charles, current rector of Christ Church. “Our participation as runners and walkers on this beautiful day helped young people make good life decisions so that they and others will not know the pain of loss but rather the joy of fullness of life. Please join us again this year for a day of fun in the sun celebrating the precious gift of life.”

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Recession in mind, church keeps eye on budget & tithes

From East Tennessee, a report on how churches are reordering priorities in light of the economic climate.

As Christmas draws near, churches in East Tennessee are adding greenery to their sanctuaries in preparation for Christmas Eve services. But there's another kind of green on their minds.

Service at St. James Episcopal Church this Sunday followed the normal routine: singing, praying, preaching, and the offering.

But these days, the small silver plates hold some uncertainty.

"We haven't seen any big impact yet but I think we will," said St. James Interim Rector Rev. David Hackett.

It's a concern that's entering into future plans for the church.

"We're in the throes of setting up the budget and it's very flexible at this point," Rev. Hackett said.

They may have to cut some programs in order to maintain priorities like their annual Christmas food pantry, which saw an increase of more than a 30% increase in applicants this year.

"We're going to have more and more folks showing up on our doorstep, needing help. We're willing to make some adjustments in our priorities to see that [that need] is met."

Good Stuff in TEC: Wyomng

Sargent Foundation grants

The Episcopal Foundation for Wyoming has announced that more than $550,000 in grants have been awarded to support projects across the state. These Sargent Foundation for Episcopal

Ministry grants are the result of the generosity and vision of the late Newell Sargent, a well-known philanthropist and businessman from Worland.

"Newell was a true Christian who ministered to the poor, the needy, the sick and the afflicted; always tried to help others help themselves. Like the biblical Abraham, Newell was blessed, but, more importantly, was a blessing to others," said Charles W. Smith, president of the Sargent Foundation.

John Masters, executive director of the Episcopal Foundation of Wyoming, noted that Sargent had given his foundation broad discretion in its funding policies, which enabled the board of directors to approve a wide variety of applications. The 2009 grants total $114,420 to individual parishes and $440,000 to Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming programs supporting youth and local parishes statewide.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gordon, Overlooked Yankee, Gets His Due

Missed this earlier in the month. For you soccer fans out there, the veterans committee considers players for the Hall of Fame whom they feel the sportswriters have overlooked.

When baseball’s Hall of Fame announced last Monday that a veterans committee had elected Joe Gordon, an All-Star second baseman for the Yankees during the Joe DiMaggio era, elderly fans who consider their gray hairs to be pinstripes nodded knowingly. But younger Yankees followers might have wondered, Joe Who?

Nearly 60 years since Gordon last played, he had been pretty much forgotten if not ignored, even by the Yankees. His name seldom appeared except when a Yankee was voted the American League’s most valuable player. Gordon earned that award in 1942 with a .322 average, 18 homers, 103 runs batted in and a dazzling glove for a pennant-winning team, even though Ted Williams won batting’s Triple Crown that season.

DiMaggio endured as the Yankee of that era, but Gordon once prompted his manager, Joe McCarthy, to say, “The greatest all-around player I ever saw, and I don’t bar any of them, is Joe Gordon.”

"Drama of the Eucharist"

From the Telegraph in London. Rowan has a new book - sort of.

The Lent book is not by Dr Rowan Williams, but by the well-known writer Timothy Radcliffe, who used to be in charge of all the Dominican friars in the world. His book is called Why Go to Church? (Continuum, £9.99). The theme is in the subtitle, "The Drama of the Eucharist".

"It may seem an odd topic for a Roman Catholic to choose when commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury," he writes, for Anglicans and Roman Catholics do not share Communion with each other. He hopes that "if we can understand one another's faith, hope and charity better, then we will, with the grace of God, come to share the Eucharist too".

The engagingly expressed thesis of the book is that the Eucharist is a drama in three acts, linked to faith, hope and charity (love), each of which is a sharing in God's life.

In Act I, by listening to the word of God we grow in faith and become ready to say the Creed. In Act II, during the Eucharistic prayer, in touch with the death of Jesus, we hear the words, "This is my body, given for you." So, "faced with failure, violence and death", we are given hope. In Act III, hope culminates in love as we prepare for Communion.

This is not merely a big subject, it is the central point of Christianity, since Jesus commanded his followers to "do this" – perform the Eucharist – in memory of him. Timothy Radcliffe rightly connects this drama of the Eucharist with the whole of life outside church.

Nick Willhite dies at 67; former pitcher for the Dodgers and Angels

Journeyman pitcher Nick Willhite dies. He pitched a shutout in his first major league appearance! For you soccer fans out there, a shutout is when you don't allow the other team to score a run.

Nick Willhite, 67, a left-handed pitcher whose five-year baseball career was highlighted by the shutout he threw in his debut with the Dodgers in 1963, died of cancer Sunday at a son's home in Alpine, Utah.

Willhite was born Jan. 27, 1941, in Tulsa, Okla., and grew up in Denver, where he starred in baseball and football in high school. He was signed by the Dodgers in 1959, earning a $50,000 bonus, and called up in June 1963.

A 6-foot-2, 195-pound starter and relief pitcher, Willhite was shipped to the Washington Senators after the 1964 season but was reacquired by the Dodgers early in the 1965 season. The Dodgers won the World Series that year, but he did not make an appearance in the series against the Minnesota Twins. After the 1966 season the Dodgers again traded him, to the Angels, who then traded him during the 1967 season to the New York Mets. He was out of baseball by age 26, with an overall record of 6-12 and a 4.55 earned-run average.,0,2251309.story

More people to shop online on Christmas Day than go to a church service

So what will you be doing Christmas day? From the London Telegraph.

Some 5.24 million people will log on to shop for bargains over the internet on Christmas Day, according to the online retail trade group IMRG. It calculates that people will spend a total of £104 million, averaging nearly £20 per person.
This compares to an estimated 4.5 million people who attend an Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist or Pentecostal church service on Christmas Day.

The figures are the most conclusive proof yet that consumers are going to great lengths to track down bargains in the economic downturn. It is also evidence, analysts said, of the increasing power of online retailers over their high street peers.

However, the figures have alarmed senior Church figures, who said Christmas Day should be a day for people to think about their families, not about shopping.

The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the Church of England's Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, said: "It does seem to me very sad that at the time when people should be focusing on relationships and family life, they get caught up in the chase for a bargain as if somehow this will bring them greater happiness.

"I would have thought this is at least one day in the year when the focus should be on people, not goods."

Good Stuff in TEC: Virginia

Helping Culpeper’s homeless

A month into a new program in which Culpeper churches are opening their doors overnight to the homeless, local faith leaders say it’s been a success.

But more churches are needed to keep the program of the Culpeper Ministerial Association going year-round.

For the past three weeks, the parish hall at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church downtown has served as the physical and support location for housing the homeless, with members of various other churches — City On A Hill and Mountain View Community — also providing overnight volunteers and support.

One night, as many as 13 homeless people took shelter in the historic St. Stephen’s, said the Rev. Chad Whaley, pastor at New Salem Baptist.

His church on Sperryville Pike lodged guests during the program’s first week, providing meals and a warm place to sleep for seven people every night during the week of Thanksgiving.

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Good Stuff in TEC: Northern Indiana

A report about a church service and repentance. My good friend Ed Little Bishop of Northern Indiana is featured.

The church also welcomed the Rev. Edward Little, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana, who did a fine job weaving ancient scripture and modern scenarios to help bridge 2,000 years.

First, he confessed his "unholy fascination" with the popular TV show "Deal or No Deal," explaining that it illustrates human greed at its worst. He weaved this pop culture epiphany into our primal instinct of wondering "what's next?" in our lives. He also hemmed it into the Christian season of Advent, wryly wondering, "What does Jesus have in his briefcase for all of us?"

Little then confessed about a heated e-mail exchange he recently had with a fellow bishop, leading to one last angry e-mail that he later regretted sending. In the middle of the night, Little was awoken by guilt and compelled to send another e-mail apologizing for his cyberspace outburst.

But, for some reason, the angry-outburst e-mail never reached the other bishop, he was told, sort of absolving him of his cyber-sin.

"It proves that God wipes the slate clean, even on the Internet," he joked, prompting laughs from the three dozen parishioners in attendance.

Little also explained the definition of "repent," meaning to change your mind or change your direction about something.

"Repent has since come to mean something else, but that's not true," Little told us.,davich.article

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Answering God's call: Bishop Urban

Here's a splinter group I've never heard of, although I have met Ruth at some point. I guess they won't be a part of the "new province" where women bishops are forbidden.

Urban will be consecrated as a bishop at Holy Apostles Anglican Church (which meets inside Northeast Christian Church) in Madison today at 1:30 p.m. The event, which is open to the public, marks the first time a woman has been ordained as a bishop in the conservative breakaway churches of the Anglican religion.

Urban, along with her husband, John, are now priests at Holy Apostles, a congregation they established in 2004 that is now under the umbrella of All Nation's Anglican Church in Amarillo, Texas. The couple plans to move to Texas next year so that Urban may fulfill her duties as bishop. The Rev. Larry L. Bain, a priest who currently serves with the Urbans, will lead Holy Apostles, and others may be appointed to join him.

When Ruth Urban assumes her new position, she will have a nongeographic missionary diocese and responsibilities that include creating new churches and ministering across multiracial and multiethnic lines. She will also mentor clergy and continue a healing ministry.

Ruth Urban explained that the Anglican Communion International has 38 provinces that are under the See (seat of authority) of Canterbury. The Episcopal Church is one, and there are breakaway churches that are not under the see, like the Urbans' Holy Apostles church that is affiliated with the Texas-based All Nation's Anglican Church.