Congregations gone wild ... [New York Times] The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. More here. [H/T to Leadership Education at Duke Divinity]
Consumers or Shareholders? ... [Marius Bressoud, a shareholder at Trinity Bethlehem] "I've been thinking lately about two kinds of Christian church members, those who take the role of consumers and those who assume the role of shareholders." Read more.
The Pride in the Park Festival will take place Sunday, August 15, at Cedar Beach Park, Allentown, noon to 6:00 p.m. Admission $4, children ages 12 and under free. Episcopal parishes in the Lehigh Valley and the Diocese of Bethlehem support this annual event. More here.
The caregiver next door ... [NYTimes] Paula Span heard a tap at the door of her father's apartment and then a voice: "Murray?" It was his neighbor, Jo Ann, who walked in juggling several containers of food. A virtual one-woman senior service operation and unpaid social worker, Jo Ann keeps an eye on her elderly neighbors, dispensing soup and giving rides, Span writes at the New York Times. Why does she do it? "They need help," she said of her neighbors. "So if I can do it, I help." [H/T to Leadership Education at Duke Divinity]
Calendar of Parish and Diocesan Events ... Updated August 11. Download it here in Word format.
The Rigor of Love ... [Simon Critchley, NYTimes] Can the experience of faith be shared by those unable to believe in the existence of a transcendent God? Might there be a faith of the faithless? For a non-Christian, such as myself, but one out of sympathy with the triumphal evangelical atheism of the age, the core commandment of Christian faith has always been a source of both fascinated intrigue and perplexity. What is the status and force of that deceptively simple five-word command: “you shall love your neighbor”? With Gary Gutting’s wise counsel on the relation between philosophy and faith still ringing in our ears, I’d like to explore the possible meaning of these words through a reflection on a hugely important and influential philosopher not yet even mentioned so far in The Stone: Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55). Read more.
ECW Summer Gathering and Tea ... On Wednesday August 18, the Diocesan Episcopal Church Women are hosting a gathering at Nativity Cathedral which will include a tour of the Sanctuary, Holy Eucharist and closing with a Tea and treats. "Hats optional" More here.
Education for Ministry, (EfM) is a four-year theology course designed for lay people that includes study of the Old Testament, New Testament, Church History and Theological Choices. Every baptized person is called to ministry. This program, through study, discussion, guided reflection, prayer, worship and fellowship, helps Christians to carry out that ministry. Participants register for one year at a time, meet weekly in groups of 6-12, and are led by a trained mentor. Day, evening and online groups are forming now. More info: Cathy Bailey, email@example.com, 610-261-1106.
Pray for our young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for their families. More here.
Cathedral hosts first ever "Jazz" Eucharist" at Musikfest ... Sunday - August 15, 10:00 a.m., at Plaza Tropical, between Main and Spring streets, under the Hill-to-Hill Bridge.
Pope Benedict XVI's 30-year campaign to reassert conservative Catholicism ... [Christian Science Monitor] Some believe Pope Benedict XVI is 'the greatest scholar to rule the church since [Pope] Innocent III," in the 13th century. Child-abuse scandals have marred his tenure. ... Pedophilia cases started mounting in Vatican files in the 1980s. But now, as head of church discipline, Ratzinger was primarily focused on silencing priests or liberation theologians, such as the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, who tried to empower farmers and peasants. The 1990s brought strictures against abortion, gay rights, same-sex marriage, contraception, and promotion of abstinence and celibacy – just as US bishops were reporting hundreds of child abuse cases, but getting little clarity on how to handle them. Most heads of the church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) serve two terms, or 10 years. Ratzinger served 24, then became pope. In recent years, a Vatican focus on ecumenical outreach has given way to evangelical outreach. In June, a new pontifical office to "evangelize" areas of the world that have suffered "an eclipse of the sense of God" was announced. The church has rebuffed Protestants and drawn sharp lines on Islam. But Rome has improved ties to Eastern Orthodox churches. On July 21, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praised the pope for holding firm against women priests and not succumbing to "sinful elements of the world" that have entered Protestant churches via gays and female clergy, and offered to work with the pope on world issues. Today, after his 30-year quest to reshape the church, the sex scandal may be a sizable legacy. It is unclear where the pope is headed. In the past month, there's been some shift in tone and attention. In late July the church extended to 20 years the period that victims' claims can be investigated. But the key question of whether offending priests should be reported to civil authorities is undecided in Rome. Beyond his few pronouncements, the pope's views on the sex scandal are an enigma. Vatican sources say the pontiff spends time writing books and only sees two church officials regularly. "Even bishops now wait two weeks or more for a meeting," says a church official who is concerned about the pope's isolation. Read more.
Christ Church Philadelphia ask newly restored Bishop Charles Bennison to resign ... You have the right to return as Bishop of Pennsylvania, but is it right to do so? More here.
How Puritans turned capitalist ... [The New York Times] When Boston's dour Puritan preachers embraced markets as a moral good , it was a watershed in the formation of the American economy and the national character. More here. [H/T to Leadership Education at Duke Divinity]
Why I support Anne Rice but am still a Christian ... [Brian McLaren] Novelist Anne Rice recently made an important announcement: She has "quit Christianity." Her choice and the reasoning behind it are far too interesting to simply be praised or blamed, agreed with or quarreled with. Read more.
Popes of the 20th Century ... [Richard McBrien, NCR] Catholics assumed that, soon after his death, Pope Pius XII would be canonized a saint, so deeply ingrained by then was the intimate connection between the papacy and sanctity. We knew nothing, of course, of the strong influence that Sister Pascalina played in Pius XII's pontificate, so strong, in fact, that she had cardinals quaking in their watered silk, so strong indeed that she earned the nickname, La Popessa. And so resented was her influence that, immediately after Pius XII's death, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Domenico Tardini, expelled Sister Pascalina from the papal apartment and sent her into the piazza to hail a taxi. We also knew nothing of the controversy that would becloud the memory of Pius XII and remove him, at least for now, from consideration for eventual canonization, namely, his alleged silence during the Holocaust of the Second World War period when six million Jews were sent to their deaths by the Nazis. At the same time, we sensed that Pius XII prepared the way for Pope John XXIII and Vatican II with his two encyclicals in 1943, Divino afflante Spiritu, on the renewal of Catholic biblical studies, and Mystici Corporis, on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, and in 1947, Mediator Dei, which promoted liturgical renewal. Read more.A Party to Die For: To attract customers, cemeteries hold fun events ... [WSJournal] Because more Americans are opting for cremation, demand for burial plots has been slack. To attract more customers, cemetery superintendents say they must lighten up their image. ... People tend to go to places they're familiar with. "That's why McDonald's has Happy Meals," Mr. Katuin said. "You start out there as a kid, you have a happy memory of the place, and then when you're an adult, you keep coming back." Standing outside the mortuary, Mr. Katuin looked at the couples strolling through the darkening graveyard to hear jazz. "Maybe this," he says, "is their Happy Meal." Read more. [H/T to Deacon Larry Holman]
Spiritual tourism rant ... The (London) Independent: The exploitation of one of the most personal elements of people's lives is truly nauseating, writes Emer O'Kelly. Read more. [H/T to Leadership Education at Duke Divinity]
Losing focus? Studies say meditation may help ... [Time.com] The idea that meditation is good for you is certainly not new, but scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why meditating so reliably improves mental and physical health. One old theory is that meditation is just like exercise: it trains the brain as if gray matter were a bundle of muscles. You work those muscles and they get stronger. Read more.
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About the newSpin newsletter ... Composed at least weekly (usually twice a week) by Bill Lewellis, the newSpin newsletter appears as a post within the newSpin blog, but newsletter and blog are not identical. The newsletter currently goes to some 1,000 email addresses on a separate list. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor, but the views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments may be addressed to Bill.