The newSpin newsletter, Dec. 31, 2010
By Bill Lewellis
Published Mondays and Thursdays
Diocese of Bethlehem
• A Concise History of Western Civilization ... [Bishop Paul] Father Brian Pavlac's day job is that of the Herve A. LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the History Department at King's College. I have just received a copy of his A Concise Survey of Western Civilization. I have read it in manuscript form, as have a number of our ordination track people, who would join me in saying that it is indeed concise, but also enlightening, well-organized, and not given to the pretense of relativism. That is, the author knows that perception is motivated by many things, and gives us not just data, but an account of human relating. The glossary is extremely useful and is a kind of mini-course in itself. Now that this book is in printed form, we have a textbook for the pre-ordination process that not only meets the canonical requirements but is also a joy to read for everyone! You can find it on Amazon. I think you will enjoy reading it.
• Temporary shelter for the homeless in Bethlehem churches ... A few years ago, Bethlehem area churches took on a mission, to provide temporary shelter for the homeless during the winter months. This year will be no exception. This system began again on December 15 and will continue until March 31. More here, including background on the origin of this ministry.
• Bishop's Day/Night pilgrimage with youth ... With Bishop Paul, January 21-22, St. John the Divine NYC. 50 seats already filled. More here. Questions? Contact Kim Rowles, Youth Missioner, at 610-751-3931 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
• St. George's Hellertown hopes to keep Christmas spirit in Congregants' hearts all year ... [Hellertown-Lower Saucon Patch] Read it here.
• Enjoy a short stack for a tall cause ... A Flapjack Breakfast Fundraiser for the Prennsylvania Avenue Interfaith Food Pantry. At Applebee's, Saturday, Januay 8, from 8 to 10 a.m. View and download a poster here.
• Episcopal Journal begins publication in February as an insert to Diocesan Life. More here.
• Van Cavett, 77, a man who was without guile ... Some of us will remember fondly Caroline and Van Cavett who were members of the Cathedral during the 1990s while Van worked as Editorial Editor for The Morning Call. Both were active in parish and diocesan ministries. Van died this past April. He was in his third year of EFM. More here.
R20 – Risk to Opportunities for Congregations
• Renewal Assembly, Feb. 19, 9:00 to 1:00 ... Registration is now available for the Renewal Assembly, “The Call to Prayer and Discernment.” The Assembly will be held in six locations: Christ Church Towanda, Trinity Carbondale,Trinity West Pittston, Trinity Pottsville, St. Anne’s Trexlertown and the Cathedral Church of the Nativity Bethlehem. Lunch will be provided. Registrants will be assigned to the most appropriate site. More here.
• Bethlehem People, God has chosen you to come to Kajo Keji ... A story with photos by Charlie Barebo of the November mission trip he and Archbishop Stringfellow made to Kajo Keji. Read it here.
• Peace hovers in Sudan, but most soldiers stay armed ... [NYTimes, Josh Kron] With little more than a week to go before a vote on independence for southern Sudan, virtually none of the soldiers have put down their weapons and fully rejoined civilian life. More here.
• News/info/prayers regarding Sudan/Kajo Keji at the newSpin blog.
• 12 Days of Christmas for Kajo Keji ... [World Mission Committee] The first batch of gifts to Kajo Keji from the Diocese of Bethlehem for Christmas 2010 is being transferred. More here.
• An animated video detailing the situation in Sudan and the critical nature of the upcoming referendum is available here, from the Episcopal Church Office of Communication.
• Pray for our young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for their families. Names here.
• Centered by prayer ... Four Christian leaders (Tony Campolo, Richard Land, Phyllis Tickle and Jim Wallis) describe the practices that renew them in the midst of their busy lives. Read here.
The Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion
• Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas sermon ... Here.
• Episcopal News Weekly bulletin inserts ... Bulletin inserts for the Second Sunday after Christmas (Jan. 2) and the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 9) may be downloaded here.
• The ECW eCommuniqué ... Here.
• On getting caught up in experiences ... [David Brooks, NYTimes] "For the past hundred years or so, we have lived in a secular age," writes the New York Times columnist. "That does not mean that people aren't religious. It means there is no shared set of values we all absorb as preconscious assumptions. In our world, individuals have to find or create their own meaning." He examines a new philosophy book by Berkeley's Hubert Dreyfus and Harvard's Sean Dorrance Kelly. The book argues that this lack of universal meaning "has led to a pervasive sadness. Individuals are usually not capable of creating their own lives from the ground up. So modern life is marked by frequent feelings of indecision and anxiety," and we "lack the foundations upon which to make the most important choices." Dreyfus and Kelly wind up deciding that the way to combat this is through "the most real things in life," which "well up and take us over." We shouldn't try to explain the universe but should "live perceptively at the surface, receptive to the moments of transcendent whooshes that we can feel in, say, a concert crowd, or while engaging in a meaningful activity, like making a perfect cup of coffee with a well-crafted pot and cup." Though Brooks has some reservations about this interpretation, he seems attracted by the book's "rejection of the excessive individualism of the past several decades." More here. [H/T The Atlantic Wire]
The Roman Catholic Church
• Truth and the Call to Renewal ... [National Catholic Reporter editorial] "It is fitting that the final years of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ, straddled the two papacies that have been deeply scarred by the ever expanding priest sex abuse crisis: that of John Paul II, the figure who did the most to promote Maciel and his order, and Benedict XVI, the highest-level curial figure to understand the dimensions of the crisis and who, as pope, is left to deal with its consequences. ... Maciel embodied the arrogance, sense of privilege, lack of accountability and rot in the ranks of church leadership of which the abuse crisis is merely the most glaring symptom. ... The myth of Maciel fit John Paul's idea of what church should be — grand, conspicuous, highly regimented, filled with loyal priests who would not question authority, rich in personal heroics, and larded top to bottom with pious practices and rules that helped maintain order. Except that it was an utter sham. Maciel was undoubtedly John Paul's worst personnel mistake, but it was not his only one. The characteristics he treasured — blind loyalty and correct ideology over pastoral acumen or creative leadership — were evident in many of the bishops he appointed, and more than a few of those appointments turned round to haunt him and the wider church." Read the complete editorial here and the companion reports, Part 1 Gambling with history: Benedict and the Legion of Christ and Part 2 George Weigel: Whitewashing history.
• NCR's person of the year ... [An NCR Editorial] The National Catholic Reporter has never named a person of the year, and we might not again in the future. However, as we sent our last print issue to press in the waning days of 2010, we felt the need to single out one American Catholic who showed extraordinary leadership and courage this last year. Read more.
• The top five under-reported Vatican stories of 2010 ... [John Allen, NCR] 5. The Boffo Case, 4. The Scandals at Propaganda Fide and the Vatican Bank, 3. Europe and the Crucifix, 2. The Synod for the Middle East, 1. Christianophobia. More here.
Beyond the Bounds
• Poverty puts Chester into a food desert ... [Philadelphia Inquirer, Alfred Lubrano] Eyeing a potato at Frederick Douglass Christian School in Chester one day in the fall, a first grader called it a "tomato." Another said he wasn't sure he'd ever seen one before. "How do you spell 'nasty?' " asked Ja'Niyah Van, 6, tasting a baked sweet potato for the first time. No one can blame the pupils for not recognizing or appreciating fresh food. There isn't a single supermarket in Chester. A person could travel end to end in the city of 30,000 people and find just two stores that sell potatoes or any other fresh foods. Read more. [H/T Bob House, Grace Allentown administrator, who says it's "a gut-wrenching story that needs to be told. I just wonder how many more Chesters we are creating in this country.]
• No Secrets: Julian Assange's mission for total transparency ... [The New Yorker, Raffi Khatchadourian] WikiLeaks is not quite an organization; it is better described as a media insurgency. It has no paid staff, no copiers, no desks, no voice. Assange does not even have a home. He travels from country to country, staying with supporters, or friends of friends ... He has come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. ... "To be completely impartial," he has said, "is to be an idiot. This would mean that we would have to treat the dust in the street the same as the lives of people who have been killed." More here. [H/T Stephen Lewellis]
• The Sydney Awards ... for the best magazine essays of the year, chosen by NYTimes columnist David Brooks. "Every year it seems I give one to Michael Lewis. It would be more impressive if I was discovering obscure geniuses, but Lewis keeps churning out the masterpieces." Part 1. "The one-man jury is biased against political essays, since politics already gets so much coverage. But the jury is biased in favor of pieces that illuminate the ideas and conditions undergirding political events." Part 2.
• So you think you're middle class? ... [NYTimes] Why do the vast majority of people in the United States identify themselves as middle class? What does the term mean in 2010? Read the discussion
• Days of Auld Lang What? ... [Peggy Noonan, WSJournal] The New Year's song, explains the Wall Street Journal columnist, "was written, or written down, by Robert Burns, lyric poet and Bard of Scotland. In 1788 he sent a copy of the poem to the Scots Musical Museum, with the words: 'The following song, an old song, of the olden times, has never been in print.'" Though he "revised and compressed" the lyrics, apparently "he found the phrase auld lang syne 'exceedingly expressive' and thought whoever first wrote the poem 'heaven inspired.'" Says Noonan: The question it asks is clear: Should those we knew and loved be forgotten and never thought of? Should old times past be forgotten? No, says the song, they shouldn't be. We'll remember those times and those people, we'll toast them now and always, we'll keep them close. "We'll take a cup of kindness yet.". More here. [H/T The Atlantic Wire]
• A 2010 Dictionary ... The Boston Globe has its writers list and explain some of the key terms of the year. Among them: primaried, Snooki, loyalty, refudiate, traumatic brain injury, retweet, bedbugs, "it gets better," Winklevi, and "top kill." Some of the terms, like "it gets better" and "refudiate," are entirely new to this year. The selection of others, like "traumatic brain injury," reflect, in the words of the Globe's Derrick Jackson, that "finally, we've ended the denial over ... the concussive blasts that afflict both the gallant soldiers of war and the gilded heroes of sport." More here.
• Was Harry Potter a good Christian? ... [Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor] In God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom, author Danielle Tumminio asserts Harry Potter is good Christian. Tumminio, an Episcopalian, argues Potter lives a life that lines up with Christian values. More here.
• Narrative and the Grace of God: The new 'True Grit' ... [Stanley Fish, NYTimes] The new “True Grit” is that rare thing — a truly religious movie. In the John Wayne version religiosity is just an occasional flourish not to be taken seriously. In this movie it is everything, not despite but because of its refusal to resolve or soften the dilemmas the narrative delivers up. More here.
•Ten ways to get the most out of technology ... [NYTimes] Your gadgets and computers, your software and sites — they are not working as well as they should. You need to make some tweaks. But the tech industry has given you the impression that making adjustments is difficult and time-consuming. It is not. Read here.
• The Pogies: Best Tech Ideas of the Year ... [David Pogue, NYTimes] The Sixth Annual Pogie Awards go to the best ideas in products, clever twists that make life just a little better. Read here.
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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 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.