Saturday, December 31, 2016

Facebook puts a freeze on North Pole Santa Claus' page for Christmas

From Alaska-

Prominent North Pole resident Santa Claus says Facebook temporarily locked him out of his account Christmas Day.

On his Facebook page, Claus — also a monk in Anam Cara, a Celtic Anglican order, since the early 2000s — routinely posts a mix of Alaska photography and inspirational quotes to his nearly 300,000 followers.

That routine was interrupted Sunday morning, however, when Claus couldn't log in.

"They initially sent me messages via Facebook saying it looked like someone had gotten into my account via phishing — which I don't believe at all," Claus said. "I have extraordinarily strong passwords on my account and email."

More here-

Churchgoers' efforts aimed at 'stumping' pastor 'a riot'

From Florida-

When Debbie Wieland enters the sanctuary of Epiphany Celebration Anglican Church on New Year's Day, she hopes an item she places on a table by the altar will finally leave her pastor speechless.

If hers doesn't work, the charter member of the Eustis church hopes the 15 to 20 other things placed around it baffle and befuddle the Rev. Dr. Woody Volland into stunned silence.

Welcome to Epiphany's entertaining and adored annual "Stump the Pastor" service during which members bring in an eclectic cache of their Christmas gifts, which Volland must then use to make up an impromptu sermon.

"It's always the Sunday after Christmas and it is always a riot to watch," said Wieland, a pharmaceutical buyer who serves as worship assistant to Volland. "Everyone tries to bring in something that will stump him, but he always manages to pull it off somehow."

More here-

Will Liberal Church Attendance Spike Because of Trump?

From Christian Post-

While the debate continues over the exact fallout that will come from the election of Donald Trump, one group may reap an unexpected benefit: progressive Christians.

At a mid-August campaign stop in Florida, Trump told a group of conservative pastors that they would see higher church attendance if he is elected president. It may be liberal churches, however, that see a boost in attendance.

United Methodist Church attendance was about twice the average the Sunday after the election, Emma Green reported Dec. 11 for The Atlantic.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests other liberal churches from a variety of denominations have been experiencing a similar spike over the past month, with their higher-than-usual levels of attendance staying relatively constant for several weeks," Green wrote.


Voice of God steers growth of human beings

From Texas-

Human beings are not created to live their lives in monologue, speaking only to themselves, obeying only some vague little voice within themselves. We are meant to be addressed, to listened for the address of God summoning us, calling us.

Karl  Barth said that all human history begins in being addressed. "Adam, where are you?" That was God's first question to humankind.

We sometimes enjoy depicting ourselves among the sophisticates who question God. "Do you exist?" "Why do you allow suffering in the world? But it's really the other way around. Our questions are not merely as interesting as God's questions to us. "Adam, where are you?"

Listening for the voice of God so that our hearts may determine his will challenges the reigning ideology of our culture that claims autonomy and freedom from accountability. Life is what we want, what we say. No wonder that loneliness is a major modern affliction.

More here-

Theology on Tap: Locals grab beers and Bibles and join intense theological discussion

From Virginia-

A frothy mug of dark-colored craft beer rested across a table from a like-filled mug of suds. Just down the table, several similarly laden containers awaited consumption.

Meanwhile, and upon the lips of a handful of participants, a discussion of the Bible, God and Christianity poured forth as readily as the brew in their mugs.

Welcome to Theology on Tap. Upon the last Tuesday of every month a group of people gather at The Wood Booger Grill in Norton, Virginia, to discuss wide-ranging topics related to the Bible. The next meeting is slated for Jan. 31. Anyone may attend.

“We want to examine what we are professing,” said William Yearout, 22, a senior at University of Virginia at Wise — and a frequent participant of Theology on Tap. “Theology on Tap is casual, typically featuring all walks of people from all different backgrounds who have come together to talk about life, Christianity, God, heaven, hell.”

More here-

Friday, December 30, 2016

Harris agrees with priest on Holy Innocents toy ban

From Trinidad-

ARCHBISHOP of Port-of- Spain, Joseph Harris, is supporting a decision of one of his priests who said he was no longer blessing toys for the Feast of the Holy Innocents and instead focus on blessing the children.

Asked to comment on the stance taken by Fr Martin Sirju on Thursday, Harris said the Feast of the Holy Innocents calls for a more “dignified” ceremony than one which is focused on toys.

“The Feast of the Holy Innocents is not about toys,” said Harris in a telephone interview with Newsday. “The innocents were killed by Herod because he hated Jesus Christ. He had heard that a new King was born and therefore he wanted to get rid of that King or anybody else who could be a threat to his throne. So Herod went out and killed these children of two years old and under. He killed all who were a threat to his throne.” Harris continued, “In Trinidad and Tobago, the kids who have been killed are no threat to anybody. They are innocent, so that for me, Holy Innocents is about innocent lives that are lost.” For many years, some Roman Catholic and Anglican priests have marked the occasion with the blessing of toys that children received as Christmas presents. Harris said he has only ever seen the tradition practised in Trinidad and Tobago and he does not know when it originated.

More here-,237846.html

Like other old institutions, England’s state religion uses artful adaptation

From The Economist-

THE TIMING may have been a little provocative but some of the proposals are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Britain's National Secular Society, a lobby group whose declared aim is to end religious privilege, chose the Christmas season to issue a wide-ranging report on the public role of faith. It comes with a long list of suggestions for curbing what it regards as the unfair advantages now enjoyed by organisations and office-holders devoted to religion.

The need to affirm secular values is "particularly urgent" today, the report argues, because growing faiths, including Islam, are likely to claim privileges similar to those already enjoyed by the historically powerful, but numerically declining, Church of England. In education, for example, demands for new faith schools are given legitimacy by the fact that the Anglican church is already involved in the teaching of more than 1m English children. 

More here-

The Queen: ‘I follow Christ’s example’

From The Church Times-

THE Queen has spoken of the hope inspired by the acts of goodness of “unsung heroes”.

And she ended her televised message on Christmas Day with an explicitly Christian message, shared by many on social media: “Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching, and find in him the guiding light for their lives.

“I am one of them, because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them, and whatever they themselves believe.”

Prescriptions for fear and uncertainty were offered in other Christmas messages from various bishops. As 2016 drew to a close, people “might be tempted to say ‘Good riddance!’” the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, suggested.

More here-

Why we need the politics of Christmas

From Massachusetts-

After a bruising election season-and an even more bruising post-election reality for those who happen to be undocumented, Muslim, LGBTQ or other minority-it feels like the last thing you'd want to find in Christmas is politics. We could all be forgiven for just wanting the joyful shepherds and wise magi, the darling baby and the holy night. Give me my 12 days of bury-my-head-in-the-snow sweet rest, and only that.

This is why we need the politics of Christmas more than ever.

In the Magnificat in the Gospel of Luke, a young woman named Mary sings God's praises that she will bear the beloved child of God. In the life of this child, she says, God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. God lifts up the lowly and casts the powerful off of their thrones. God does this, Mary says, as God sends Jesus to be with us in this world. She says "yes" to being part of it and glories in the wonder of a God who has chosen her.

More here-

St. Mark's Cathedral: 'We will name racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia as sins'

From Seattle-

Saint Mark's Cathedral is ringing in the new year with a ringing defense of diversity in American life, with a definition of "religious liberty" worlds apart from right-wing evangelists calling for the freedom of believers to discriminate.

The governing vestry of Seattle's Episcopal cathedral adopted a "Statement of Commitment and Action" just before Christmas, laying on the line its definition of what it means to "live the words of Jesus".  And it bluntly identifies what is sin:

"We will reject White Nationalism," says the statement.  "We will name racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia as sins. We believe all people are made in God's image, and we affirm diversity as a gift, blessing and opportunity for our nation."

The statement goes further, saying St. Mark's will put its values on the line in the era of Donald Trump.

More here-

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Robbers attack Anglican Bishop in Delta

From Nigeria-

GUNMEN, Tuesday, stormed the official residence of the Anglican Bishop of the Oleh Diocese, Delta State, Rt. Rev. John Aruakpor, making away with an undisclosed sum of money and valuables.

It was gathered that the hoodlums, numbering five, scaled the fence of Aruakpor’s Bishop’s Court at Oleh, Isoko South Local Government Area of the state at about 1p.m. and forced their way into his apartment. 

Sources said the robbers held the cleric at gunpoint as he was preparing for afternoon prayers, dispossessing him of money, phones, laptops, and iPads. Speaking with news-men on the incident, the cleric thanked God that no life was lost during the operation.

Read more at:

DENIM SPIRIT: The commercialization of immaturity

From Central New York-

Can you feel the dis-ease?

No, not an illness but a dis-ease among us that is an unsettling lull beneath the surface, between waves pushing the storm toward a moment of breaking. Feel it?

One of the marks of maturity, emotional and spiritual, is the ability to hold two opposing perspectives or truths at one and the same time. Conversely, a blanket of categorical thinking, when nearly every decision or circumstance is evaluated as an either-or proposition, reveals an immaturity of mind and spirit. Think about that in regard to our current culture and politics.

All sides across the political spectrum pick on the news media. It is low hanging fruit for social critics. But it is also true in our current commercial culture, the sharper and more intense the divisions among us, the more profitable news becomes. In addition to reporting what is happening, the news media often heightens and enflames our divisions in a way that sells more news. But this nascent immaturity within and among us, while exacerbated and exploited by the commercialization of the news, is not caused by it.

More here-

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


From The Living Church-

This has been a brutal year for children. Exhibit A: Columnist Rick Gladstone’s September article in The New York Times, “Why So Many Children Are Being Killed In Aleppo.” He asserted the following:

Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common.

When the article was written in September of this year only 250,000 people were left in Aleppo — 100,000 of whom were children. God only knows how many are left now, especially after the bombing of a children’s hospital in November forced medical care for such children underground. These events wax and wane, but as an African proverb states, “When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

Roughly two millennia ago, the birth of one child led to the death of many others, and that which would bruise the heel of God broke the hearts of many mothers, including God’s own. Surely she knew some who died (how could she not?), and thereby experienced a type and foretaste of her own loss. The Church remembers this day as the Feast of the Holy Innocents, another day the grass suffered.

More here-

Houses of Worship Poised to Serve as Trump-Era Immigrant Sanctuaries

From The New York Times-

Tucked one floor below the majestic Gothic sanctuary of Arch Street United Methodist Church, Javier Flores Garcia sleeps on a cot in a basement Sunday-school classroom that church members have outfitted with a microwave, a compact refrigerator and a television.

Mr. Flores, an arborist, longs for the open air, but does not dare set foot outside. He was supposed to report to the immigration authorities last month to be deported to his homeland, Mexico, but one day before his report date, he took refuge in the church.

His family is why he is fighting to remain, and when they visited him in the church recently, his 5-year-old son, Javier Jr., parked on his lap. The boy often refuses to leave his father’s side, and has ended up staying for days with him in the church. On Christmas Day, Mr. Flores had been there six weeks.

More here-

Photos of Trump at church: Crossing boundary or capturing history?

From Palm Beach-

As President-elect Donald Trump rose for communion Saturday night at the Christmas Eve service at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a woman rose with him. Not to take communion — but to take a photo of the part-time Palm Beach resident.
To the chagrin of some other parishioners, she held her cellphone at arm’s length, snapping away. Around her in the packed church, perhaps two dozen people joined in, standing quickly during the communion offering to take cellphone photos of Trump and his wife, Melania.

Images of the Trumps attending the service were circulated widely on social media since this past weekend’s Christmas holiday. One video went viral, showing many in the church’s audience giving Trump a standing ovation as he walked to his seat in the third-row pew and waved quickly to the crowd before sitting next to his wife.

More here-

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Obamas play Christmas Eve escape game; Trumps attend late night mass

From Daily Nation-

President Barack Obama and his daughters spent part of the Christmas weekend playing an "escape room" game, while White House successor Donald Trump ushered in the holiday overnight with a visit to church.

According to pool reports, Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia and some friends spent part of Saturday evening playing "Breakout Waikiki" — a live-action game where players are locked in a room with one hour to figure out a series of clues and riddles to escape.

The Obamas are spending the holidays in Hawaii.

Escape room games are all the rage in the United States, after years of popularity in Asia and elsewhere.

More here-

Monday, December 26, 2016


From First Things-

This piece was originally published at the Credenda/Agenda web site in 2009. Being in a Grinchy mood and of a generally Grinchy disposition, I thought it worth re-presenting.

Several years ago, when The Passion of the Christ was making headlines, I realized that N. T. Wright has spoiled every Jesus film. Once you’ve read Wright, you realize that none of the movies get Jesus right. Pharisees and scribes are reduced stock villains with caricatured Jewish features. Pilate has to make an appearance, and Herod, but we are given no sense that first-century Israel was the powder keg that it actually was.

No film ever gives us what Wright says we should be looking for: a “crucifiable” Jesus, a Jesus who does something so provocative to make the Jews murderously hostile. In the movies, Jesus is a hippy peace-child, a delicate flower of a man, a dew-eyed first-century Jewish Gandhi. Why would anyone want to hurt Him? Maybe because He’s so annoyingly precious; but that’s not the story of the gospels.

More here-

Was there really a star of Bethlehem? Yes

From The Idler-

It’s the time of year when newspapers ask whether there really was a star of Bethlehem. “We have seen his star in the East”, the wise men report in the Bible. So is the event historically accurate? The wise men were astrologers, which makes the incident a double target for the debunkers of today. 

Indeed, some quickly consign the story to the rubbish bin of legend. Astronomy tells us that stars do not suddenly appear in the cosmos, they say, but are fixed and unchanging compared to shifts human individuals can detect. Case closed. 

Others go the opposite way. They muster fideistic convictions and insist the star was a miracle. What happened to the wise men is comparable to the incident in the book of Joshua, when the sun stood still in the middle of the sky and did not go down for a whole day. God did it because God can. 

Then, there are those who search for recorded celestial events that might explain away the story. Perhaps the sight refers to Venus rising as the morning star just before sunrise, which might have had significance for astrologers. Or maybe it was a supernova or comet or atmospheric apparition. 

More here-


From The Living Church-

Ten years ago, I was ordained a deacon on June 3, the day the Church commemorates the Ugandan Martyrs, a group of Anglicans and Roman Catholics who were executed in the late 19th century for their faith. I asked the bishop if he would be willing to pray the collect for that day during my ordination. The dean of the cathedral strongly objected. She was disturbed by the collect’s proclamation, à la Tertullian, that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The bishop, however, agreed with me, and so a room full of well-dressed people squirmed a little in their seats as these words were read aloud.

Martyrdom is not usually among the first things we mention about Christianity to prospective converts. “Come and join us! If you do, there is a better than average chance you’ll be killed for it!” Of course, that is not always true, especially in America, where we can practice our Christianity quite comfortably, despite the protestations of some that we are all suffering mightily for not having store clerks wish us a Merry Christmas.

More here-


From Montana-

The music in the malls is always a sign that we’ve hit the holiday season, and people get started making their Christmas preparations. In addition to shopping for the perfect gift, some advance planners go through the process of checking when their neighborhood church is holding its annual Christmas service.

While they might not go regularly, for many those Christmas carols at church are a holiday tradition, so they want to squeeze it in. Sadly, if their neighborhood church is mainline Protestant, they may be surprised to find it’s closed.

Across the English-speaking world the numerical decline of mainline Protestantism is accelerating. The largest mainline Protestant denominations in the United States are the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church. Collectively, membership in these denominations decreases by about 1 million a year, resulting in hundreds of church closures annually.

More here-

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon

From ENS-

The normal processes of life do not stop because we are celebrating Christmas; today 360,000 babies will be born, 151,000 people will die. Life in all its rawness continues to happen to people both far away and close to us, even if news-gathering slackens. 

News does not stop but we choose to put aside those things which trouble us as much as possible. Sometimes we just look away, even from really important things; another series of pictures of barrel bombs in Aleppo, yet more information about killing in the South Sudan, the news from Berlin this week. And we look away. Especially when we want a peaceful and satisfying Christmas, unsullied by grim reality.

We all have a deep longing to be satisfied therefore intuitively we go for security, for the opportunity to focus inwards for a moment, and keep the world at bay. But satisfaction is not met by another gift or some more fine food, and it’s not met by another gathering or technological experience. For security we need true life, glorious life , the life of God welling up and overflowing in glory.

More here-

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas