Saturday, December 25, 2010
From New Jersey-
The children, dressed as angels, shepherds and farm animals, gathered around the manger on the altar.
Little did they know they were looking down on someone else’s real-life miracle on Christmas Eve.
Miguel and Suzette Batista, of Maplewood, had lost their two-year-old son, Gabriel, in late 2008. Now their five-month old, Noah, was playing Baby Jesus.
"This Christmas is especially special," said Batista of his son. "Having Noah come to us this year; it really was a miracle."
The 25 to 30 other kids performing in the annual Christmas pageant at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Maplewood may not have had a full grasp that the birth of Jesus Christ is recognized as one of the great pillars of Christian faith; a tenet which the Batistas held on to in their darkest hours. And Noah was oblivious to what was going on around him.
In his traditional Christmas sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, focuses on how the birth of Jesus is but one stage of the fulfilment of God's unchanging promise of support in the struggle for human redemption, how 'the story of Jesus is the story of a God who keeps promises'.
So Christmas is a time of coming to terms with God's all embracing and redemptive love for us, despite the cost and the tragedy involved, the human failures and betrayals. God, he asserts, despite our limitations and the humiliation our weaknesses lay on him, realises " we cannot live without him; and he accepts everything for the sake of our well-being"
In this Christmas context, Dr Williams urges us to first of all contemplate our mutual dependence on our fellow human beings - our need for a spirit of fellowship and loyalty to each other in sharing the burdens of adversity in difficult economic times:
"Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together? How eager are we to find some spot where we feel safe from the pressures that are crippling and terrifying others? As has more than once been said, we can and will as a society bear hardship if we are confident that it is being fairly shared; and we shall have that confidence only if there are signs that everyone is committed to their neighbour, that no-one is just forgotten, that no interest group or pressure group is able to opt out."
And he points to the need for us to work positively together in order to rebuild trust:
Friday, December 24, 2010
In Begat, David Crystal sets out to prove that the King James Bible has contributed more to the English language than any other literary source.
If you've ever "fought the good fight" or chuckled at "what comes out of the mouths of babes," you just might agree with him.
Phrases with roots in the King James Bible are everywhere. Crystal tells NPR's Neal Conan that writing Begat began with his curiosity about a simple question: How many English language idioms come from the King James Bible? When Crystal posed this question to people, they guessed a wide range of answers — anywhere from 50 to 1,000. So he decided he'd better read the Bible and figure it out.
"I went through it and looked for every instance of an expression that I thought was current in modern English," Crystal says. "And then I thought: I'd better read it again, just to make sure I haven't missed any." And after that second reading, he had a figure.
Churchgoers will be urged to fight back against a “brutalised society” in the wake of wide-spread government cuts by Lancashire’s Anglican bishop.
The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn, will tell his congregation that they can fight against job losses and public service cuts made by the coalition Government with a “legitimate Christian protest in the face of continuing injustice.”
The comments will come in his annual Christmas Day sermon at Blackburn Cathedral tomorrow.
He says the annual message will be used to send a message of support to the “broken and disheartened.”
His sermon will say: “Perhaps it will need to be the note of anger in Our Lord’s voice that we hear, and proclaim, in the coming year as we raise legitimate Christian protest on behalf of those losing their jobs, seeing their public services undermined, their hopes for higher education jeopardised, or their fears realised through the creation of what increasingly seems like a less caring, more brutalised society, and where vast bonuses form the contemptuous retort to any mention of restraint, and the black economy of the super-tax dodger is seen as a legitimate moral code.”
From Oklahoma City-
Just how did Mary and Joseph make their famous trip to Bethlehem?
What did an innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph once they reached the city?
The Rev. Joe Alsay, rector of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, asked his congregation these and other questions during the Dec. 19 services at the Oklahoma City church, 14700 N May.
Instead of a traditional sermon, Alsay surprised the church with a “Christmas IQ Quiz.”
The quiz drew some good-natured consternation as folks tried to answer questions about the traditional Christmas story. The short test also drew lots of laughter as Alsay proceeded to answer the questions.
“It certainly caught their attention,” Alsay said. “What it also did is make people wonder. They say ‘I go to church on Christmas I know the story. I hear it every year.’ Well, Scripture itself does not say a lot about these things.”
For instance, Alsay said Scripture does not mention an innkeeper although it may be safe to assume that there was one who spoke to Mary and Joseph about ‘no room in the inn.”
Thursday, December 23, 2010
NOT ALL the gifts for this year are lying under the Christmas tree.
Some of them are delivered at the most unpredictable times--when water is spouting out of the pantry wall or when a peach pit shuts down the dishwasher.
It's at those times when our friend, teacher, hero and, oh, yes, plumber--W.D. Williamson--arrives on the scene. Whether it's the middle of the night or the middle of the morning, W.D. always finds a way to help us out.
My guess is that most people have W.D.s in their lives. You know who they are: the selfless folks who remind us that friendship and kindness are the greatest gifts of all. They're the ones I'll be thinking about tomorrow night as I take in the beauty of our Christmas tree (actually, a living orange tree, with lights).
Here are just a few of the other "gifts" I'm putting on my thank-you list for this Christmas:
Jim Dannals and Gay Rahn, the clergy at St. George's Episcopal Church, who demonstrate every week how joyous the life of faith can be.
Capt. Catie Hanft, Capt. Michael Smith and their staffs, who have opened doors for me to tell the story of my beloved boyhood home--the Dahlgren Navy base.
Church prepares, delivers 1,300 turkey dinners to Eastside needy | St. Thomas Episcopal parishioners don’t let a little snow and ice keep them from an
From Washington State-
Despite the ice and snow prior to Thanksgiving, volunteers from St. Thomas Episcopal Church prepared turkey dinners for more than a thousand needy in Bellevue. It is the sixth year for the feeding program.
Hopelink in Bellevue helped identify those needing help.
“Thanksgiving at St. Thomas” began in 2004 when elementary school teacher and parishioner, Tammy Waddell, thought she and a few fellow volunteers at St. Thomas Episcopal Church should help Eastside people who were coming up short at Thanksgiving.
“I was inspired by a bishop of the Episcopal church to invite less fortunate people to Thanksgiving,” Waddell said. “I thought we could do something like that.”
Her crew bought, cooked and prepared complete turkey dinners for 100 people who had signed up through the Hopelink food bank in Bellevue. On Thanksgiving, they waited for people to show up and have dinner. And they waited. And waited.
A new group of billboards is turning a few heads in Ohio, Cincinnati TV station WLWT reported.
Cincinnati Right to Life has posted five billboards showing an ultrasound image of a fetus representing Jesus with the slogan, "He Came As a Baby ... Christmas Starts with Christ."
The fetus in the billboard has a halo.
"This simple illustration emphasizes that Jesus Christ came to the world both human and divine, and in so doing, sanctified the birth process for every person. Christmas is the message of Christ’s Love for all, no matter our age, race, ability, poverty or wealth, or place or residence," the group said in a news release.
The signs are produced by ChurchAds.net, a coalition of Christian churches, including Church of England, Baptist Union, United Reformed Church, Anglican and Methodist churches. The group and a private donor paid for the Cincinnati billboards.
A growing group of dissident Anglicans who broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada over opposition to same-sex blessings amassed nearly $6 million in donations in the last fiscal year.
And 22 per cent of those donations were made specifically to the Anglican Network in Canada's (ANiC) legal defence fund, to bankroll the dissidents' continuing battle with the Diocese of New Westminster over who owns the church buildings.
According to financial statements filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by the ANiC, the registered charity received $5.9 million in donations in the 2008-09 fiscal year, the most recent data available.
Donors funnelled $1.3 million to the legal defence fund, while the rest of the donations went to the ANiC's general fund and a parish development fund, according to reports The Sun requested from the CRA.
The amounts represent a significant jump over the $1 million in total donations the fledgling organization received the previous year, in 2007-08.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
More from Australia-
THE Anglican diocese of Ballarat is still in turmoil, with Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier writing to all clergy to revoke the sacking of the vicar-general and criticising the retiring Bishop of Ballarat.
Bishop Michael Hough, in his final act before resigning as part of a settlement over bullying complaints, sacked Melbourne Bishop Philip Huggins as vicar-general and replaced him with staunch supporter Arthur Savage.
Bishop Hough returned to work on Saturday after six months of leave to lead a farewell service in the cathedral, during which he dramatically used a hammer to smash a pot made for him by a local artist. On Monday - his last day - an email was sent to all clergy at 10.30pm, telling them that Bishop Huggins had been replaced by Father Savage and making several other appointments. On Tuesday evening, Archbishop Freier, as Metropolitan of Victoria, wrote to all clergy saying that he doubted whether Bishop Hough's actions were legal.
From Catholic News-
Archbishop John Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion has said that about 1,000 Australians are expected to join the Catholic Church through a special jurisdiction created by Pope Benedict XVI.
Catholics, mainstream Anglicans and members of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion established a nine-member committee last week to oversee the transition by June 12, 2011.
The Anglicans believe they will be able to retain their church properties, which removes one obstacle to their entry into the Catholic Church, the Australian newspaper The Age reports.
Archbishop Hepworth said that if Anglican priests and congregations do not resign, they might be able to show “beneficial ownership” and keep their properties. He noted that in England the Archbishop of
Canterbury has allowed departing Anglicans to keep using their properties. The Australian archbishop said he hoped the Australian church would do the same.
From The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A victims' advocacy group Tuesday called for a federal investigation into claims that Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik ordered the destruction of records detailing pedophilia and other forms of sexual abuse by priests in Green Bay, Wis.
Zubik denied the allegations.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests cited a deposition given in November by a high-ranking Catholic Diocese of Green Bay official calling on U.S. Attorney James Santelle to investigate Zubik and Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken.
"Our first concern is the destruction of criminal evidence," Peter Isely, SNAP's Midwest director, said shortly before a news conference yesterday outside the federal courthouse in Green Bay. "We want (Santelle) to order them to stop doing it. We also want him to look for possible criminal charges."
Dean Puschnig, spokesman for Santelle's office, said Santelle has agreed to meet with SNAP after Jan 1. Santelle had not seen the deposition, Puschnig said.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church will play host to its 30th "Don't Spend Christmas Alone" community dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas Day.
The free event will provide a full Christmas dinner and fellowship for anyone who may be alone on this day. St. Luke's members will also visit and deliver meals to homebound individuals so that they can be a part of this community celebration.
Members of other church organizations, social service agencies and individuals will help St. Luke's members in cooking and serving these meals. Fire personnel from the Prescott Fire Department will help deliver meals to the homebound in Prescott, as they have done in the past.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church is located at 2000 Shepherd's Lane off Ruger Road just north of the Prescott Airport. The church will provide shuttle transportation to those who need it. Shuttles will leave from Albertson's in Prescott from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In the long history of this tradition, thousands of people who would have otherwise spent Christmas alone have enjoyed a warm, home-cooked meal on seasonally decorated banquet tables, surrounded by new and old friends. Some were new to the community, others could not be with family members for various reasons, some were homeless and others simply felt alone.
NY Daily News-
A historic Jamaica church is fighting tooth-and-nail to thwart a city landmarks designation that could cost its dwindling congregation thousands of dollars in building maintenance and repairs.
Members of Grace Episcopal Church launched a campaign to persuade local members of the City Council to overturn the city Landmarks Preservation Commission's designation when it comes up for a Council vote next year.
But not a single church member attended the commission's public hearing earlier this year to oppose the plan. The church's Memorial Hall was officially landmarked on Oct. 26.
"We're going to fight the designation," said Grace Episcopal's leader, the Rev. Darryl James. "It siphons off potential funding for ways in which we can really continue to do the work of Jesus Christ."
The congregation's church and cemetery were landmarked in 1967 - and Grace Episcopal has felt the financial pinch of the designations ever since, he said.
The Episcopal Church of the Nativity, which began its life as a congregation two decades ago in a storefront space in Fayetteville, celebrated its 20th anniversary last Sunday.
The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, was on hand to preside at the Eucharist, preach, and administer sacraments of confirmation, and reception of new members. Both he and the Rev. Rita Henault, rector, also officiated at a baptism.
Persons confirmed were Nicole Philips, Ross W. Terry, Kimisha Scarborough, Edward Saha and Shirley Saha. Those received into membership from other churches were Diana Richburg and Gail Kirby. Scarborough’s eight-month-old son, Keymani, was baptized.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
It's hard to gauge just how many Americans feel broke this Christmas.
Those who feel broke don't want to talk about it. Those who sell to the broke are hoping they don't give in to discouragement. And those who brought about this mess are spending lavish bonuses and catering to the rich.
But as far as I can tell, the broke are legion.
Government employment statistics tend to undercount job-related despair.
They don't report those who have given up looking for work; those who need full-time work but have accepted part-time jobs; those who did find work but at far below their last reasonable paycheck; or those who are ready to retire but are clinging to jobs for as long as they can.
By the time we add those categories to the official unemployment figure of nearly 10 percent, I suspect we are looking at one in four, or maybe even one in three, Americans who approach Christmas 2010 with thin wallets and heavy hearts.
Banks seem to have resumed risky practices and are stuffing our mailboxes with credit card offers, as if they owed nothing to 'We the People' for bailing them out.
From The New York Times-
At the school at Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic Church in Bedford Park, the Bronx, the thief came in through the gymnasium window last month.
At St. James Episcopal Church, a landmark Gothic Revival building on Jerome Avenue, the thief got in on Friday by smashing through a Tiffany stained-glass window.
There have been 10 break-ins at churches and parochial schools in the northwest Bronx since Nov. 6. Among the items stolen was money from an alms box and cash set aside for needy students.
On Sunday, a man who has spent the last 20 years in and out of prison on burglary charges was arrested near the school at St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church on the Grand Concourse not long after a burglary. After the man, Nathaniel Linden, 51, of Webb Avenue in the Bronx, was arrested, the police said they had linked him to a second burglary, at Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Fordham on University Avenue on Dec. 13.
The congregation of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Chelsea celebrated the ordination and commissioning of their second generation ministry team on Nov. 20.
The Rev. Wendell Gibbs, the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, ordained David C. Glaser and E. William Stech as priests. Nancy Scott was commissioned for pastoral care and hospitality; Kathy O'Connell was commissioned for Christian education and administration. More than 40 visiting clergy participated, and there was an estimated 190 attendees.
Jan Varady was among the presenters. She was commissioned for pastoral care more than four years ago as part of St. Barnabas' first ministry team. Her two team members, Rev. Doris Case and Rev. Myra Colvin, were ordained as priests at that time, but have both since retired.
Rev. Lew Towler of St. Andrew's in Ann Arbor and Rev. Carol Mader of St. James' in Dexter also presented at the ordination. The two have served the congregation as supply clergy numerous times and have given a great deal of support to the developing team.
Monday, December 20, 2010
From Catholic News-
Three British Anglican nuns have left their community after they expressed interest in joining a personal ordinariate.
The nuns from the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham have began a period of private discernment after they decided that they wanted to join any future English ordinariate, The Catholic Herald reports.
In a joint statement, the nuns explained their situation. They said: “On December 2 2010 Sister Wendy Renate, Sister Jane Louise and Sister Carolyne Joseph left the Priory of Our Lady in Walsingham for a period of discernment with the intention of joining the ordinariate when established. We ask prayers for ourselves and for the Sisters remaining at the Priory of Our Lady.”
The community, which numbered seven nuns belonging to the Society of St Margaret, reportedly voted four to three against joining the ordinariate. The three nuns who left the community are its youngest members. The priory is an autonomous house of the Society of St Margaret and is not linked to the Anglican shrine at Walsingham, which is under the administration of Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin, the former Bishop of Horsham.
Fr Peter Geldard, a former Anglican who has been involved with the ordinariate, said: “Historically Anglican religious are the product of the Anglo-Catholic revival 175 years ago and in the past were very committed to Catholic unity. It has always been a source of surprise to me that so few Anglican religious seem to be interested in Catholic unity or the ordinariate today.
From Brooklyn CT-
Trinity Episcopal Church in Brooklyn is making plans to give a fiery farewell to its former rectory building.
The church gained approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission Dec. 1 to hold a controlled burn on the dilapidated building at the rear of the church property.
“It looks like it’s falling down,” Zoning Enforcement Officer Chuck Dobrowski said.
An architect for the Connecticut Historical Commission has determined the building is beyond repair and has recommended demolition, he said.
Chris Martin, a church member who oversees maintenance on the buildings, said opinions differ on the age of the building. He said some evidence suggests it was standing when Israel Putnam had his inn on the property, but Martin said he has found building material inside, such as Sheetrock, that dates to the 1960s.
“Right now, it’s an eyesore and a health hazard,” Martin said.
He said the church sought a controlled burn for several reasons: It will be cheaper than demolition; it will decrease the amount of material that will end up in a landfill; and it will give the members of the Mortlake Fire Company a chance for training and practice.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
With the Sudan referendum just a few weeks away, church and government groups are working hard to make sure Sudanese refugees in the US are allowed to vote while living outside their homeland and to assure the voting doesn’t lead to catastrophe.
In the US, more than 50 people of all ages, races, and nationalities attended the summit in Phoenix hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona this week. At least 15 dioceses were represented. Attending were the Rev. Angela Ifill, Episcopal Church black ministries officer; the Rev. Anderia Arok, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Sudanese Church in Phoenix; Judith Conley of the Union of Black Episcopalians; Bishop Samuel Peni of Nzara, Sudan; and the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, the Episcopal Church's Africa partnerships officer.Bishop Peni told ENS:
I think we in the last few days have discussed many things. We have deliberated over so many concerns, so many challenges," said Peni. "We have looked at where there have been gaps. Those gaps have been identified and we have put them forward and we will put them to the Episcopal Church to see how these gaps can be filled in. To make the community that lives here welcomed fully and that they can serve God here as well as at home.
From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-
The First Christmas
American Christians have three holiday celebration options. The most obvious is the secular option: The Christmas of Santa and Society. There's no escaping it unless you become a hermit or hide your head in the ground. Like fish in water we are immersed in its delightful sights, sounds and fragrant scents emanating from evergreen and kitchen.
This is the Christmas of mistletoe and holly, of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and stockings hung by the chimney with care. It's the season for eggnog and fruitcakes, office parties and feasting. It's Deck the Halls and dreaming of a White Christmas. It's the time for jingle bells and Silver Bells, for jolly old St. Nick and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Its bottom line is measured mostly by commercial sales and profits. Join the shopping frenzy and you can understand why it sometimes leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. Its upside is that it can be so much fun, especially for little children. Its downside is that it can distract and keep us from something far better. Like a narcotic, it can numb us to our deeper needs and blind us to the season's larger meaning. Sadly, it is the only Christmas some ever know.
The Second Christmas
A second holiday option we can call The Christmas of Faith and Family. This is the Christmas of candlelight, Silent Night and O Holy Night. It's the Christmas of caroling, cantatas and children's charming pageants where everything that can possibly go wrong usually does. It's the Christmas of family gatherings and traditions.