The newSpin newsletter, Nov. 28, 2011
By Bill Lewellis
Published Monday, occasionally also on Thursday
We often talk about God's church having a mission. The truth is that God's mission has a church.
• Flood Relief in West Pittston ... [Janine Ungvarsky, FLOODCare Coordinator] Last Wednesday was moving day. More here. And furniture distribution here. Monetary donations are the best method of helping so that gift cards can be purchased for food and household goods. You may send checks payable to The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, memo line: Flood Relief. 333 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA 18015.
• The Presiding Bishop on Occupy(ing Churches) ... From a recent sermon: What does Jesus tell his band of wanderers? He sends the 70 out two by two to every city where he plans to go himself. He SENDS them OUT. That’s where our word “mission” comes from. When they arrive in the mission field, they’re supposed to find some place that’s interested in hearing what they have to say, and then stay long enough to build some community and have an effective conversation. They’re supposed to start with good news of peace, and then share food, heal the sick, and tell about the coming reign of God. Our fall-back habits are rather different. For centuries we’ve depended on an established pattern of building beautiful churches and expecting that people will know where to find good news. That’s not quite the same as what Jesus told those 70 missionaries. Nor is the news that’s always proclaimed. We’ve often heard supposed Christians start out with words of damnation rather than peace – listen up, believe right, or you’re going to hell! And most of us still tend to think that a bit of bread and a sip of wine is the only meal that’s really needed, and that an hour on Sunday morning is enough to build the reign of God. Well it is and it isn’t. More here.
• Assorted Advent inspiration ... At Episcopal Café. Also see Expectant in Behlehem, Canon Anne Kitch's daily meditations. Find today's (Monday) and instructions on how to subscribe here. Finally, Observing Advent 'IRL' and Online by Dan Webster, here.
• Share your thoughts and observe Advent and Christmas through Episcopal Church social media ... Here.
• B16 to Africa's RC bishops ... [Andrew Brown, The Guardian] To make your message credible, see to it that your dioceses become models in the conduct of personnel, in transparency and good financial management. Do not hesitate to seek help from experts in auditing, so as to give a good example to the faithful and to society at large. More here.
• B16's version of liberation theology ... See below, under Roman Catholic.
• Radical thoughts from the first sermon of the new Bishop of Durham ... [Durham City News] ‘The idols of our age have fallen.” That was the inescapable message of the Right Reverend Justin Portal Welby’s first sermon as Bishop of Durham. The 55-year-old used the phrase from Durham Cathedral’s pulpit at least three times. Political and economic idols had been toppled, all the great institutions which people had trusted – including the church – had been left flatfooted and anyone who claimed authority seemed hollow, he thundered. Britain had moved from a nation state to a market state – and the switch had not worked, he continued. More here.
• Flood Relief in West Pittston ... See above, under TopSpin.
• Expectant in Bethlehem ... Canon Anne Kitch writes daily Advent meditations. Find today's (Monday) and instructions on how to subscribe here.
• Creating a Culture of Peace training ... Dec. 2-4 at Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church. Here. Registration has been extended to Wednesday afternoon, November 30.
• Diocesan Life, December/January ... available here.
• Calendar of Events ... Updated Nov. 11. Here.
• Jubilate: Advent (Nov. 27) through Epiphany (Feb. 19) ... Hymnody for Advent to last Sunday of Epiphany (November 27, 2011 to February 19, 2012), published by the Diocese of Bethlehem for our diocesan community and for free distribution to the world, may be downloaded below as an Acrobat or MSWord file. Jubilate is a service of our Liturgy and Music Commission, specifically Canon Cliff Carr who has been doing this for more than 30 years. Here.
• Grace in the Theatre ... Out of five people in the family of Merce and Mike Fegley (Grace Allentown members), four of them play Cratchits in the Allentown Civic Theatre's A Christmas Carol. Oakes is Tiny Tim, August is an older daughter, Merce is Mrs. Cratchit, and Mike is Mr. Cratchit. Julia Reed, daughter of Jeff and Grace rector Beth Reed) is a singing urchin. Performances run from Dec. 2 through Dec. 17.
• Music at St. Stephen's Wilkes-Barre ... Nov/Dec, Here.
• Yuletide Revels at Trinity Bethlehem, with motley olden music, dance and storytelling ... Dec. 3, Here.
• The Baltimore Consort in concert at Trinity Bethlehem ... Dec. 14, Here.
• Holiday Gift Shoppe at St. Brigid's ... Dec. 10. Here.
• St. Nicholas Faire and Cookie Festival ... Dec. 10 at Grace Honesdale. Here.
• You know it's almost Christmas when St. Paul's Montrose makes its wreaths ... Here.
• Weekly Parish eNewsletters ... I have been publishing links to the weekly electronic newsletters of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Grace Allentown, Prince of Peace Dallas, and Trinity Easton because these seem to me to be attractive, newsy, helpful and user friendly. The Cathedral's newsletter is created with ChurchPost that, through a diocesan contract, is available free to all parishes. There may be other weekly electronic newsletters, besides these four, that might be looked at. Please let me know. Cathedral Nov. 23, here. Grace Allentown, Nov. 25, here. Trinity Easton, Nov. 25, here. Prince of Peace Dallas, Nov. 25, here.
• Episcopal News Weekly bulletin inserts ... Download inserts here.
• Public news and info lists ... At the Diobeth website , enter your name and email in the "Get Connected" box on the right hand side. You are welcome to subscribe to any or all of these. "Bakery" is our diocesan interactive list.
• The Life Reports ... [David Brooks, NYTimes, Nov. 24] A few weeks ago I asked people over 70 to send me “Life Reports” — little essays in which they evaluate their own lives. A few thousand people have written in, and I’ve been posting an essay a day on my blog. More here. [h/t Deacon Larry Holman]
• The Facturing of Pennsylvania ... [NYTimes Sunday Magazine, Eliza Griswold] There are more than 4,000 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania, with projections ranging from 2,500 new wells a year to a total of more than 100,000 over the next few decades. Here. [The author is the daughter of former Presiding Bishop Frank and Phoebe Griswold.]
• Sunday routine ... [NYTimes] Eating, sleeping, praying and writing all about it. Here.
• You have lived to see the day on which the commander of the U. S. Marine Corps sounds more irenic about the future of LGBT people within his organization that the Archbishop of Canterbury does about the future of LGBT people within his. More here.
• The enduring cult of Kennedy ... [NYTimes Op-Ed, Ross Douthat] The cult of John F. Kennedy has the resilience of a horror-movie villain. No matter how many times the myths of Camelot are seemingly interred by history, they always come shambling back to life — in another television special, another Vanity Fair cover story, another hardcover hagiography. False premises of the Kennedy cult: (1) that Kennedy was a very good president, and might have been a great one if he’d lived. (2) that Kennedy would have kept us out of Vietnam. (3) that Kennedy was a martyr to right-wing unreason. The J.F.K. cult matters because its myths still shape how we interpret politics today. We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement. We find convenient scapegoats for national tragedies, and let our personal icons escape the blame. And we imagine that the worst evils can be blamed exclusively on subterranean demons, rather than on the follies that often flow from fine words and high ideals. More here.
• The Jewish story of the New Testament ... [NYTimes, Mark Oppenheimer, Nov. 25] Devout Jew, leading New Testament scholar, Amy-Jill Levine is co-editor of an unusual scholarly experiment: a New Testament edited entirely by Jews. More here.
• Ugly churches ... A new Vatican commission will soon be established to crack down on the building of ugly churches. "Good luck with that," Canon Gerns wrote to me. He reminded me also of the old joke told by some of my former RC colleagues, that the Blessed Virgin appeared at the completed National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC and said, "Build me a church on this spot." More here.
• Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend ... The Hardwired (AT&T/Bell System/Western Electric) Telephone. Here.
• Praying the News is a blog by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Here.
• The Daily Office ... with the Mission St. Clare. Now available for iPhone and iPad.
• With The Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• For our young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for their families ... Check the newSpin blog for an update. Better still, at the "Get Connected" box on the right side of our diocesan website, fill in your name and email address, and click on "My Groups." In the next window, check "Pray for." Then, you will receive the weekly update by email.
• In-Formation in Bethlehem ... Canon Ann Kitch's newsletter of lifelong Christian formation resources for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Here.
• Coping with grief during the holidays ... View the entire GriefNet library here. [h/t Diana Marshall]
• Topography of faith ... This map gives you the percentage of Christians and all faiths in each state. [h/t Earl Trygar]
• FactCheck.org ...We are already well into the season of political deceptions and lies. FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. FactCheck.org monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding. FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.
• The harsh truth of the City on the Hill ... [James Carroll, Boston Globe] Newt Gingrich has revived a prominent political catch phrase, "the city on the hill," evoked by John Winthrop in a 1630 sermon, and since taken up by Kennedy, Reagan, and Sarah Palin. "Yet in evoking Winthrop's image over and over, neither Reagan nor his followers considered what the City on a Hill of the Puritan forebears actually was. In fact, it was anything but an experiment in democratic liberalism or political freedom," Carroll writes. John Winthrop's Puritanism used God as justification to war with natives, to banish ideological diversity, and to infuse government with religion. Though later users of the phrase also evoke God and discuss American exceptionalism, our exceptional contributions to ideas of freedom and democracy came after Winthrop. "[T]his nation's genius arose not as a gift from God, but as a challenge to those cloaking totalitarian impulses in appeals to God. Not a city on a hill, but a nation down to earth," Carroll writes. More here. [h/t The Atlantic Wire]
• Should we chill on decrying folks who sought Black Friday and early Advent sales? ... [Episcopal Café, Nick Knisely] You're probably seeing calls for a simpler Christmas. The Advent Conspiracy is leading the charge asking people to refrain from buying too much as way of keeping Christmas. The secular media is picking up on the idea too; someone from a TV station called me last night looking for a quote decrying the latest Black Friday mayhem. But, Diana Butler Bass points out that the luxury of conscious minimalism is really an upper class problem. Some of the people in line on Black Friday are there because they can't afford to buy what they need at full price, and these teaser sales are incredibly helpful to them. She asks us to look at just who it is standing in line on Black Friday. It's not the wealthy or the well off. It's the working class and the poor. The same people who tend to attend Church week in and week out. More here.
• eCommuniqué ... The newsletter of The Episcopal Church Women. Here.
• Episcopal Church website ... Episcopal Church on Twitter ... Episcopal News Service ... ENS on Twitter ... NewsLine ... News & Notices ... Infoline ... Episcopal Church on Facebook ... Episcopal Church on YouTube ... Anglican Communion website ... Anglican Communion News Service. ... Anglican Communion News Service on Facebook.
• NEPA Synod E-News ... Nov. 23, here. NEPA Synod website ... Here. ELCA website ... Here. ELCA News Service ... Here. ELCA's blogs may be found here. See especially "Web and Multimedia Development."
• UMC website Here. News Service Here. Communication Resources Start here. Communication newsletter (tips and tools) Here. Eastern PA Conference website Here. Facebook Here. Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.
• Making do with a faulty translation ... [A National Catholic Reporter Editorial] In the big tent we like to believe the church is, we recognize that tensions exist, that viewpoints differ and that different groups approach the Gospel imperative from different sets of priorities. Tensions exist within any big family, and disagreements too are part of family life. In the best of circumstances disagreements can be learning experiences, chances to grow as a family. Because of our belief in one family in this big tent, we are loath to characterize disagreements as battles. Battles have winners and losers, and no one in the family should be known as a loser. (Historically, losers in church battles have been called schismatics and that is not a nice word to use among family.) Yet this Sunday, Nov. 27, the first Sunday in Advent, when we are gathered around the eucharistic table -- what should be the greatest sign of our unity -- many of us will feel depressed. We will feel like losers when we hear not the words that Jesus’ blood “will be shed for you and for all” but that Jesus’ blood “will be shed for you and for many.” More here.
• B16's version of liberation theology ... [John Allen, NCR] Benedict's two Africa trips have occasioned some of his sharpest social commentary. Both in 2009 and this time, the pontiff decried poverty and injustice, denounced corruption, and clearly aligned the church with hopes for political change. (His most biting sound bite came Friday in Benin, when he rejected "unconditional surrender to the laws of the market and finance.") At the same time, he's also told local clergy to stay out of politics and insisted that the church has no political solutions to propose. What renders those two positions coherent is that Benedict is operating out of his own version of liberation theology. (That's a reference to the theological movement pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s and '70s, which sought to place the church on the side of the poor.) Benedict's twist on liberation theology is rooted in three basic convictions: (1) The supernatural realm is the deepest and most "real" level of existence. Material forms of reality, including economic and political structures, are fundamentally conditioned by the quality of humanity's relationship with God. (2) Individual transformation must precede social transformation. Systems and structures cannot be liberated if the individual human heart doesn't change first. (3) Attempts by the church to dictate concrete political solutions end in disaster, among other things performing a disservice to the poor by reducing the social appetite for God. Anyone as preoccupied with secularism as Benedict XVI can't help but realize that the widespread rejection of religious faith in parts of the West today is , at least in part, a reaction against centuries of theocracy and clerical privilege.
Add it up, and what you get is this: Benedict XVI is genuinely scandalized by poverty and injustice, and he wants the church to be a change agent. In terms of how the church promotes transformation, however, it's not by lobbying or electoral strategy, but by inviting people into relationship with Christ -- the Christ whose "preferential love for the poor" Benedict has repeatedly confirmed. If the old slogan was, "If you want peace, work for justice," Benedict's version might be "If you want justice, go to church." This doesn't mean, of course, that new political solutions aren't urgently necessary. What it means is that the particular contribution of the church is to lay the spiritual and moral foundations for those solutions by forming people of real faith and moral conviction, and constantly speaking out when the realities of the world don't correspond to the vision of the gospel. I call this a "lonely" position because in some ways it doesn't fully satisfy anybody. It doesn't embrace the zeal of the Catholic left for direct political activism, nor does it reflect the laissez-faire ideological instincts of at least part of the Catholic right. To what extent this "Benedictine" version of liberation theology will penetrate the African church -- and to what extent it might then transform the social and political life of the continent -- is unclear. If you're looking for something to chew on from the Benin journey, however, there it is. More here.
• Diocese of Allentown ... Here. Diocese of Scranton ... Here. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here. Catholic News Service ... Here. Vatican website ... Here. Vatican Information Service blog ... Here. Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.
• Two Brains Running ... In the conflict between intuitive and rational decision-making, which side wins? [NYTimes Sunday Book Review, Jim Holt] Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching, especially when Kahneman is recounting his collaboration with Tversky. (“The pleasure we found in working together made us exceptionally patient; it is much easier to strive for perfection when you are never bored.”) So impressive is its vision of flawed human reason that the New York Times columnist David Brooks recently declared that Kahneman and Tversky’s work “will be remembered hundreds of years from now,” and that it is “a crucial pivot point in the way we see ourselves.” They are, Brooks said, “like the Lewis and Clark of the mind.” ... By the time I got to the end of Thinking, Fast and Slow, my skeptical frown had long since given way to a grin of intellectual satisfaction. Appraising the book by the peak-end rule, I overconfidently urge everyone to buy and read it. But for those who are merely interested in Kahneman’s takeaway on the Malcolm Gladwell question it is this: If you’ve had 10,000 hours of training in a predictable, rapid-feedback environment — chess, firefighting, anesthesiology — then blink. In all other cases, think. More here.
• Wired for Sound ... [NYTimes Sunday Book Review, John Schwartz] I've gotten used to the Look. When I talk with one friend or another about books we’ve both read, I often have to admit that I read the particular work in audio form. Although I’m not especially perceptive, it’s pretty easy to translate my interlocutor’s expression. It’s a blend of surprise, condescension and an unmistakable dash of “that’s cheating.” More here.
• The Daily Office from MissionStClare. Now available for iPhone and iPad.
• The Lectionary Page ... Here. This is a new URL. Update your bookmarks or favorites.
• The Lectionary ... Here.
• Oremus Bible Browser ... Here.
• Revised Common Lectionary ... Vanderbilt.
• Jan. 6 ... Ordination, St. Stephen's, Wilkes-Barre 7:00 p.m.
• Jan. 21 ... Bishop's Day with Youth, grades 6-12.
• March 24 ... Diocesan Training Day, St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre 9:00 to 3:00.
• March 29 ... Chrism Mass, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem 11:00 a.m.
• April 20-22 ... Christophany Retreat, grades 6-12, at Pocono Plateau Retreat, Cresco.
• May 16 ... Episcopal Church Women Annual Meeting, Kirby House 9:00 to 2:30.
• May 20 ... St. Matthew's Society Gathering, Lehigh Country Club, Allentown 3:00 p.m.
• June 1-3 ... Vocare Retreat for Young Adults, Kirkridge Retreat Center.
• June 30 ... Bishop's Day with Kids
• July 5-12 ... 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Indianapolis.
• July 28 ... Bishop's Day with Kids
• Summer ... Senior High Mission Trip. Dates and destination TBA.
• The Diocese of Bethlehem on Twitter and Facebook ... http://twitter.com/#!/Diobeth ... https://www.facebook.com/DioceseOfBethlehem
• Kat Lehman on Twitter ... http://twitter.com/#!/KatLehman
• Episcopal News Service on Twitter ... http://twitter.com/#!/episcopal_news
Additional sources of news/info/commentary
• Religion News Service Daily Roundup ... here.
• Faith in Public Life ... here.
(1) The Lead, Episcopal Cafe
(2) Daily Episcopalian, Episcopal Cafe
(4) AnglicansOnline News Centre.
You are reading the newSpin newsletter. The newSpin blog, which includes the newsletter and other items, is available here. When the newsletter is completed on Mondays and occasionally, more often than not, on Thursdays as well, it is published immediately to the blog and on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,000 addresses. Many recipients forward it to many more. Bakery and the blog are interactive. The ChurchPost list is not. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. 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. If you're wondering why you haven't seen something related to your parish or agency here, it's probably because no one has sent relevant info. Regarding items about your parish or agency as well as feedback on any other items ... send email to Bill.
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998)
Blog , Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]