newSpin, the newsletter
March 25, 2014
Published weekly, usually by Tuesday
• Diocesan Training Day For Ministry ... April 5 at St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral Wilkes-Barre. Find all you need to know here. Registration deadline: Saturday, March 29.
• Obama and Francis to meet on Thursday ... [RNS] Can Pope Francis help 'reset' frayed ties between Obama and the Catholic bishops? Read on. With the meeting in mind, the NYTimes published a story on the Catholic roots of Obama's activism.
• Fed studies Occupy Sandy movement ... [ENS, Mary Frances Schjonberg, March 18] Some participants worry about how the study will be used. ... The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New York, in the Diocese of Long Island, quickly became the second major Occupy Sandy supply-distribution and volunteer-training hub. The activity at St. Luke and St. Matthew complemented the work begun a few days earlier at St. Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. “In the days, weeks, and months that followed, ‘Occupy Sandy’ became one of the leading humanitarian groups providing relief to survivors across New York City and New Jersey,” the report notes. “At its peak, it had grown to an estimated 60,000 volunteers – more than four times the number deployed by the American Red Cross. Unlike traditional disaster response organizations, there were no appointed leaders, no bureaucracy, no regulations to follow, no pre-defined mission, charter, or strategic plan. There was just relief.” That relief effort out of St. Luke and St. Matthew continued even after an arson fire two days before Christmas 2012 caused major damage. Read on.
• New Hope in Pictures/Updated ... Archdeacon Stringfellow is blogging “New Hope in Pictures” chronicling our shared mission with the South Sudanese.
• Five theses on faith and atheism ... [Tomas Halik, Australian Broadcasting Corporation] Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists have one thing in common: they don't believe in gods. Indeed, as Cardinal Tomas Spidlik liked to say, "Christians were atheists for the first 400 years." What he meant was that, for the Roman and Greek pagans, the Jews and the Christians of the first centuries were pagans. They had no God whose name others recognized. They were "without" gods. Even now, we Christians may seem like atheists in the eyes of people of other religions. It is very important to recognize that our God is not merely one exemplar of a group of beings called "gods." He is a great Mystery. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with atheists when they say there is no God, if by that they mean there is not a God who is "a thing among other things." In this they are correct. That is why I like to begin my dialogues with atheists with the question, "What does this God, in whom you do not believe, look like?" and sometimes, after my partner in dialogue tells me about his image of God - as a heavenly policeman or a big daddy behind the scenes of our world - I say, "Thank God you do not believe in such a God! I don't believe in such a God either." Read on.
• Level the SAT playing field with Khan Academy ... [Elizabeth from Khan Academy] By spring 2015, you’ll have access to state-of-the-art, interactive learning tools that give you deep practice and help you diagnose your gaps. All of this will be created through a close collaboration with the College Board specifically for the redesigned SAT. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you are taking the SAT in 2014/15, you can start practicing today with hundreds of previously unreleased Math, Reading, and Writing questions from real SATs and more than 200 videos that show step-by-step solutions to each question. Our goal is nothing short of leveling the playing field for every student taking the SAT, so please help us reach as many people as possible. Read on. [Bill] If you haven't seen the offerings of the completely free Khan Academy, you'll be amazed. I promise.
• Supreme Court ... By the time you read this, the Supreme Court will have heard arguments for two cases involving faith-based business owners challenging Obamacare’s mandate that businesses provide its employees with free birth control. Here’s a primer from RNS and a quick 5 Q/A from Pew. Here's Cathy Grossman’s piece about the Christian family behind the craft store chain. Then, at WaPo, there are the vocally religious justices. The New York Times editorial board said Hobby Lobby is “crying wolf over religious liberty.” [h/t Religion News Roundup] The question: Can religiously motivated employers in for-profit corporations claim an exemption from the Obamacare requirements to provide contraceptive carriers? The New Republic. The case "pits religious liberty against women’s rights," according to the NYTimes, reaching far beyond the issue of contraception. In a USA Today column, Bishop Gene Robinson who knows something about religion-based discrimination says the Hobby Lobby case fuels bigotry. Another column by Bishop Robinson, Religious freedom or a license to discriminate, on DailyBeast. Finally, ReligionLink.
• Alban Institute to shut down ... [RNS] The Virginia-based Alban Institute, which has provided mainline denominations with consulting services and publications on church life, will shut down after a steep revenue decline. In this, the institution is not unlike its chief client: mainline congregations. [h/t Religion News Roundup] Also here. And here, a letter from the Alban board.
• Going Home Again ... [NYTimes Op-Ed, David Brooks, March 20] Sting’s appearance at TED was a nice reminder of how important it is to ground future vision in historical consciousness. Some of the TED speakers seemed hopeful and creative, but painfully and maybe necessarily naïve. Sting’s talk was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past. Read on.
• Heady yet lucid ... [Commonweal] For heady yet lucid Bible and patristic-based daily reflections, read those of Joseph Komanchak in Commonweal. Full disclosure: Joe was a classmate at North American College in Rome.
• No homefield advantage ... Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) was a writer who said her subject was "the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil."
• Questionnaire ... [Wendell Berry]
How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.
For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred. Read on.
• Jesuit head: Religion isn't doctrine, but sensitivity to human experience ... [NCR] Religion is less a code of doctrines and teachings than a sensitivity to the "dimensions of transcendence" that underlie the human experience, the head of Pope Francis' Jesuit order said Friday.Likening the religious experience to a person who can appreciate the intricacies and variations of classical music, Jesuit Fr. Adolfo Nicolás said "religion is first of all very much more like this musical sense than a rational system of teachings and explanations.""Religion involves first of all a sensitivity to, an openness to, the dimensions of transcendence, of depth, of gratuity, of beauty that underlie our human experiences," Nicolás said. "But of course, this is a sensitivity that is threatened today by a purely economic or materialist mindset which deadens this sensitivity to deeper dimension of reality." Read on.
• OMG: Spirituality in the Digital Age ... The 2014 Kay Butler Gill Lecture in Christian Spirituality presented by Bishop Steven Charleston on Thursday, April 3, 7:00 p.m. at The General Theological Seminary, New York City. More info here.
• SpiritSpin Resources ... Below, near the bottom.
• Religious freedom or a license to discriminate... [Bishop Gene Robinson, The Daily Beast, March 23] Here.
• College Scholarships ... Gressle Scholarship, for male children of clergy resident in Pennsylvania.Leonard Hall Scholarship, for diocesan youth active in youth ministries.Shannon Fund, annual grants for daughters of Episcopal clergy who are canonically resident in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These grants are for undergraduate study only and are awarded in mid-June of each year. The application deadline is April 30. Contact Fr. Jim Rinehart or Ms. Edna Rauco at Trinity Episcopal Church, Pottsville for an application. Phone: 570-622-8720 Email: email@example.com
• Diocese of Bethlehem elects Sean Rowe as provisional bishop ... [ENS, Canticle Communications] A special convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem on March 1 elected the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe as the provisional bishop of Bethlehem. ... “My style is a collaborative one in which we will work together — bishop, clergy and lay leaders,” said Rowe in an address to the convention following his election. “I hope you will find yourself welcome to a table large enough to hear your voice. Collaboration requires relationships of substance, and I want to spent time getting to know you, hear your stories, and learn to care about those ministries for which you have great passion and excitement.” All of 64 of the clergy present and 99 of the 100 laypeople voted in favor of Rowe’s election, which required a two-thirds vote. ... “Today you did not elect the smartest or the most spiritual bishop ever. The fact is, there are people here who have been praying twice as long as I’ve been alive,” said Rowe, who is 39. “What you’ll get is one who is faithful to God, at least most of the time, and one who stands firmly on the promises of Jesus Christ. I am your servant.” Read on. More here.
• New Beginnings ... [Bishop Sean Rowe, Diocese of Bethlehem] While often hope-filled, times of transition also have particular challenges. We care deeply about our diocese and the ministry that we share, and, at the same time, we differ about the ways that ministry is exercised or the shape of our future together. Over the next few months and years, we will continue on a journey where we are called upon to remember that we walk by faith and not by sight. Together and in ways that are collaborative, we will discern the next steps in our life and witness as a diocese. This time of transition and discernment is a time to celebrate what is working well and examine aspects of our life that are challenging. Read on.
• We have a lot of work to do ... [Canon Andrew Gerns, sermon at Special Convention, March 1] We are a community with a memory of growth and success and, yes, with a complicated history. And we are wondering where God is taking us next. We are working out our faith in a culture that is changing fast and among people are looking for the direction, purpose and meaning that we hold tantalizingly nearby right here in our hearts, in these sacraments, in this community. Read on.
• 10,000 photos ... [dio–beth on Flickr] Check out our Flickr photostream of Diocese of Bethlehem events here.
• The DioLight ... Vol. 2, Iss. 3, March 12. Here. New Beginnings, by Bishop Sean Rowe. Welcome, by Canon Andrew Gerns.
• In-Formation in Bethlehem ... [Canon Anne Kitch] A newsletter of lifelong Christian formation resources. March.
• Chrism Mass ... at Cathedral Church of the Nativity, April 10, 11:00 a.m.
• DioBeth news, info ... DioBeth website, newSpin blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, and LinkedIn,
• Public news and info lists ... At the Diobeth website, enter your name and email in the "Get Connected" box. You are welcome to subscribe to any or all of these. "Bakery" is our diocesan interactive list.
• Christophany ... April 25-27 at Bear Creek Camp, Wilkes-Barre. Register Here. "I'm so excited about the response to Christophany so far," says missioner for youth and young adults Ellyn Siftar. "We have had quite a number of youth and chaperones register. Space IS limited though, so please register as soon as possible in order to guarantee a spot. Registration closes April 11 or when capacity is filled. See you on the moutain."
• EYE: The 2014 Episcopal Youth Event ... will take place at Villanova University, July 9-13. Read on.
• The EYE 2014 Team ... Here.
• At St. Stephen's Wilkes-Barre ... Organ recitals and Lenten ecumenical services. Here.
• At St. Stephen's Wilkes-Barre ... The acclaimed DaPonte String Quartet will present a concert of works by Franz Josef Haydn, Earl Stewart, and Ludwig van Beethoven at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 35 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, on Wednesday, April 2, at 7:30 pm. Admission at the door is $20 per person, $15 for students, senior citizens, and WVIA members with ID. Proceeds from this concert will support the Wilkes-Barre Free Medical Clinic and REACH of St. Stephen’s. Read on.
• Calendar of events in our parishes ... Here.
• Your story about money ... [Seth Godin] There's money. But before there's money, there's a story. It turns out that once you change the story, the money changes too. Read on.
• Communication tips and tools ... Here. (March) In this issue: Is your Facebook page reaching fewer people? Tips for getting people to open (and read) your email. [Video] 5 social media guidelines for churches. Online security for churches. What can Twitter teach the church?
• United Methodist website ... Here.
• The Moravian Church in North America website ... Here.
• The Moravian Church Northern Province website ... Here.
• The Presbyterian Church USA website ... Here.
• United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website ... Here.
• Vatican website ... Here.
• The Episcopal Church website ... Here.
Rest in Peace
• Rowan Allen Greer III, 79 ... The Rev. Dr. Rowan Allen Greer III, Walter H. Gray Professor Emeritus of Anglican Studies at Berkeley and Yale Divinity Schools, died March 17 following a lengthy illness. Professor Greer was much beloved by students and colleagues alike at Berkeley and Yale Divinity Schools. As a patristics specialist, he introduced generations of students to the study of the early church. He was the quintessential scholar-priest, whose academic study deeply informed his priesthood, and vice versa: his presence was equally felt in both the classroom and chapel. At his request, the burial office and interment will be held privately, officiated by Greta Getlein. Friends and colleagues are invited to attend a reception to honor his memory at Christ Church, New Haven on Friday, March 28, from 5:00 to 7:30 PM. Plans are also being made at Yale Divinity School for an event to celebrate his life and work at a later date. Read on.
• Fred Phelps, 84 ... [RNS Analysis] His Westboro Baptist Church drew scornful attention for proclaiming in rallies that God was punishing America for tolerating homosexuality. The message he spread across the country never took root, and in fact helped galvanize the gay rights movement and put other Christians on the defensive. The image of Christianity he painted was a hateful, judgmental collection of rabble-rousers — an image that, paradoxically, did more to help his targets than it advanced his message. Experts say Phelps’ ultimate legal and social impact on the American religious landscape will be a footnote. Religious leaders lament the damage they say he did to Christians who preach God’s love and mercy. Read on. Also at WaPo and AP. And Tom Ehrich's commentary: How did he inspire a following? Not a large following, it seems. His church might number only a few dozen. But its members have traveled the nation to further Phelps’ mission and apparently plan to keep at it. What was appealing about the Phelps brand of bigotry?
A conversation on Bakery drew several points of view. Here's a story from Father Craig Sweeney who signed as "Someone who has known their evil." I have stayed away from this conversation, because I am still angry. I Came of age and came back to the church at St. David's Episcopal in Topeka. We were the first church to counterprotest Westborough Baptists signs and anti-homosexual protests at Gage Park. Fred and his brood immediately began to protest at our church, which had sidewalks all around. Thus they were able to scream at every single one of us as we went to church. We mounted counter protests in silence, holding signs that said we were a house of worship for all people. They walked right behind us and screamed and sang perverted hymns in our ears. We were eventually able to get a court order to keep them a certain distance away because of our children, not because of adults. That started them to protest at churches all over town. They videotaped every confrontation, and would not hesitate to sue someone who got in their face. Do not give too much credit to Fred's civil rights history. He and his daughters became infamous for getting minority people to pay a monthly retainer and then never doing anything about their case. They financed their activities and national travels through suing people, swamping them with impossible discovery requests, and then settling. I could tell you stories! The fact is that they have been financed and supported by hate groups all over the country. My daughters and nieces and nephews knew the grandchildren and understood how they were being used. These are evil people. There is no other way to describe them. While I pray for God's mercy for Fred and for them, their activities and the harm they did is horrible. As a Topeka native, I am embarrassed to have to say we could not think of anything to do to stop them. We learned to simply ignore them.
• Free weekly bulletin inserts ... provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Find the inserts here.
• Re-Imagining the Episcopal Church ... [Episcopal News Service] The Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church is on track for reporting its recommendations and specific legislative proposals to the church this November, according to the group’s co-conveners. Read on. [Bishop Sean Rowe is one of four bishops on the Re-imaging Task Force.]
• Church of England Sunday attendance continues downward slide ... [Religion News Service] Attendance figures released by the Church of England show that Sunday worship attendance continues its downward slide and now stands at about half of what it was 45 years ago. Read on.• Around the Episcopal Church ... Here
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.
• Tempus fugit ... How many years ago did the oil tanker Exxon Valdez run aground off Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil, one of the worst oil spills in the history of the United States? Was it 10 or 15? No. It was 25.
• The 'Preferential Option for the Rich' on Fox News ... [Sojo.net, Jim Wallis] Here.
• Candidate for Congress says God is angry, and wins majority ... A Republican candidate who believes that God dictates weather patterns and that tornadoes, autism and dementia are God’s punishments for marriage equality and abortion access won the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in the Chicago-area 9th Congressional District. Her name is Susanne Atanus.
• Seminary ponders selling its Eakins portraits ... [Phila Inquirer] For a year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been mulling how to carry out its plans for consolidation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on City Avenue. About 46 acres will be leased or sold, the diocese announced last March, and the campus will shrink to the remaining 30 acres, away from City Avenue. The announcement caught the attention of the seminary's Main Line neighbors, who formed a coalition to watch over issues of density, traffic, and development. Lost in the real estate concerns, however, has been another part of the fund-raising plan: the sale of seminary artworks, including portraits by Thomas Eakins, Philip Pearlstine, and Alice Neel. Read on.
• National Catholic Reporter ... Here.
• Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
• Diocese of Scranton ... Here.
• United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here.
• Catholic News Service ... Here.
• Pope replaces German ‘bling bishop’ after inquiry ... [Associated Press] Pope Francis permanently removes a German bishop after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful. Read on.
• Vatican website ... Here.
• Vatican Information Service blog ... Here.
• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.
• The Joy of the Gospel ... Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, with detailed table of contents. Here.
• Cutting the strings during March Madness ... [Morning Call, Mllton Carrero] Hospitals around the nation are reporting an increase in the number of vasectomies during the weeks that March Madness is in earnest. Men figure, if they have to stay home and rest for a few days, they might as well be watching their favorite teams giving it their all on the basketball court. Read on.
• Resources for caregivers ... Here.
• Medline Plus ... Here.
• WebMD ... Here.
• Alzheimers.gov ... For people helping people with Alzheimers. Here.
• Three Free Apps for getting qualified medical advice... [Techlicious] Urgent Care, HealthTap and First Aid. Info and links.
• Pope meets Crowe ... [Religion News Roundup, David Gibson] Russell Crowe got some face time with the pontiff this morning, at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, if not the private audience the “Noah” star was seeking. The Aussie star (photo here, waiting like a good altar boy) had been lobbying hard for an audience on social media. Does the film need help? Some of our coverage of religious reactions here and here.
• 'God's Not Dead': What low-budget hit says about Christians and Hollywood ... [Christian Science Monitor] 'God's Not Dead' plays to Christians who feel their faith is caricatured or mocked by Hollywood. It finished fifth at the box office this weekend amid sharply mixed reviews. ... This weekend, the little-known and small-budget “God’s Not Dead,” a narrative about a Christian college student who must defend his faith in front of an aggressive philosophy professor who makes each of his students sign a pledge affirming that God does not exist, took in more than $8.5 million Friday through Sunday – a surprising fifth-place in this weekend’s box office numbers. Even more startling, say observers, is the fact that the movie, aimed toward Evangelical Christians, was shown in only 780 theaters – far fewer than those ahead of it, each of which were showing on more than 3,000 screens. It beat nearly every other movie this weekend on an earnings-per-screen basis. Read on.
• Free eBooks by Project Gutenberg ... Here. • Free Audiobooks from LibriVox ... Here. • Free Audiobooks and eBooks ... Here and Here.
• Google Books ... Millions of books you can preview or read free. Here. • The Online Books Page ... from UPenn. Here.
• More free eBooks and Audiobooks ... [Techlicious] Here.
• Religion Research Hub ... ARDA, Association of Religion Data Archives, an especially useful site.
•• In-Formation in Bethlehem ... February.
• Many Congregational Resources ... The "Using Resources" series of publications by the Center for Congregations is designed to help congregations make the most effective use of capital funds, consultants, architects, contractors, books, congregation management software, and more.
• Church locators ... Here.
• Insights into Religion ... Here.
• Forward Movement ... Here.
• The Alban Institute ... Here.
• ECF Vital Practices ... Here.
• Faith in Public Life ... Here.
• Religion&Ethics News Weekly (PBS) ... Here.
• The Chalice, a publication created by Joan DeAcetis for older adults and caretakers. Download issues here.
• Weekly Bulletin Inserts from the Episcopal Church ... Here.
• Episcopal Web Radio ... Here.
• Updated Episcopal Church canons and constitution ... Here.
Additional sources for news/info/commentary
• Religion News Service Daily Roundup ... here.
• Religious Freedom Blog ... a weekly look back at the top stories and developments on religious liberty around the world. Here.
• National Catholic Reporter ... here.
• Back issues of the newSpin newsletter ... here.
(1) The Episcopal Church website, news service, news service blog,
(2) Episcopal Café
(3) AngicansOnline website and news centre.
(4) The Living Church
(5) The Anglican Communion website and news service.
• The Book of Common Prayer ... every edition from 1549 to 1979. Here.
• Prayers and Thanksgivings from the BCP ... Here.
• The (Online) Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• The Daily Office ... can be read online in Rite I, Rite II or the New Zealand Prayer Book versions. At Mission St. Clare.
• The Daily Office ... from the Diocese of Indianapolis. Here.
• Daily Prayer ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Holy Women, Holy Men ... Download Holy Women, Holy Men as a .pdf file.
• Speaking to the Soul ... An Episcopal Café blog. Sermons, reflections, multimedia meditations and excerpts from books on spirituality. Here.
• The Imitation of Christ ... Available free online.
• The Lectionary ... A collection of Lectionary resources for the Episcopal Church, updated Sunday night. Here.
• Lectionary Page ... A liturgical calendar for upcoming weeks, with links to readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), as adapted for use in Episcopal worship. Here.
• Jubilate ... [Diocese of Bethlehem] Hymnody for Lent and Easter is published by the Diocese of Bethlehem for our diocesan community and for free distribution to the world. It is a service of our Liturgy and Music Commission, specifically Canon Cliff Carr who has been doing this for more than 30 years. Find it here.
• Revised Common Lectionary ... Here.
• The Liturgical Calendar ... BCP, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, HWHM ... Here.
• Oremus Bible Browser ... Here.
• Enriching our Worship and Same-Sex Blessings ... Free download here.
As soon as the newSpin newsletter is completed, usually by Tuesday, it is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,200 addresses. Many recipients often forward it to others. 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 Standing Committee 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. If you think something about your parish or agency merits inclusion, send email to Bill. Comments are welcome at the newSpin blog. Click there in the right hand column on the title of the current newsletter. Then, make your comment below.
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]