newSpin 180809

A WORD OF THANKS
newSpin,
the newsletter

August 10
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis

This newsletter began in 2006 in the information vacuum following the end of Diocesan Life, our diocesan newspaper of nearly 30 years, while I was on diocesan staff. It included news and spin of the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Some time after my 2010 retirement, I modified newSpin as a personal project, stating that the views expressed, implied or inferred in its items or links did not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem. It turned into a newsletter about the intersection of religion, culture and politics.

The "S" in the middle of newSpin signaled that some items were newS while others were Spin and others, of course, were both. I suggested that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul spun "the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1) and that we continue to spin good news as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.

Over the past two months, I have not published a newSpin newsletter. Chalk it up to vacation and medical issues. Putting the newsletter together also required more energy than this retired priest has had. All of that and our upcoming transition with a new bishop present a good time to bring the curtain down on newSpin.

I am grateful to those of you who have read my offerings and have encouraged me in this thoroughly enjoyable endeavor.

My Facebook blog will continue. If you are a Facebook user, you may request to "friend" me on Facebook or send a note to blewellis@mac.com. My interactive blog does not ordinarily include news or spin about the Diocese of Bethlehem. For that, I encourage you to join "Bethlehem Episcopalians" on Facebook and look for a diocesan newsletter. If you have been receiving a diocesan newsletter, you will continue to receive information edited by Megan Dembi.

Once again, and finally, thank you. May you be blessed with the many for whom you have been a blessing. May you experience God's overwhelming love and good surprises. Remember blessings find their way.

Thanks.
Bill

Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998-)
blewellis@mac.com – (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]


newSpin 180614

newSpin, the newsletter
June 14
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis

TopSpin
• Update from Kevin Nichols, our bishop elect O eternal God, who settest the solitary in families and fillest the hungry with good things, visit this home and family with thy grace and favor; knit them together in thy love through good times and bad, bless their comings in and their goings out, give them thankful hearts for their daily bread and for each other, and bring them at the last into thy heavenly dwelling place; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

   This favorite prayer by Robert Rodenmayer, author of "The Pastor's Prayerbook," is particularly poignant for me right now. Our home for the past 21 years is now on the market and soon we will be moving. The news of my election as bishop of Bethlehem was met with elation and pride by my family, yet the reality of leaving a beloved family home has been bittersweet for all of us--more difficult for me than I ever imagined. In hopes of easing some of the loss associated with this transition, I asked our four children and three grandchildren to share their favorite memories of our home. Of course this was done via a group text message, and the steady "dinging" signaled another memory that brought needed laughter, smiles and even a few tears. Here is some of what they shared:
  
The time that we thought our brand new car was stolen from our garage.  Lo and behold a neighbor discovered it teetering on the hill in front of our house. Apparently we forgot to put on the emergency break and it rolled down the driveway! The police officer arrived and couldn't stop laughing.
  
The day Lindsay received word that an organ donor was located and she needed to board an Angel Flight to Pittsburgh for a transplant!  Off she and her mom went with the prayers of so many.
   T
he annual Easter egg hunt - there was no mercy for the little ones or even a pregnant mom! Everyone in search of the golden egg.

As we reminisced through the many memorable moments of the last two decades, it became helpful to see that some of these are traditions that can be carried on or even re-created in some form in a new home or a new place. We were also reminded of God's many blessings. That in our "comings in" and our "goings out," God was somehow knitting us together--strengthening us for the journey that lies ahead. When we paused, we were reminded that this place, this home, provided us a safe haven where we could be ourselves whether we were at our best or not. Here we were nourished, fed and reminded how much we are loved and need each other's love.
   For me, this is not unlike the knitting together that occurs in our churches--our spiritual homes. As I prepare to say goodbye to my larger community as well, I am reminded of so many joy filled traditions that have grounded me, held me together, warmed my heart and strengthened my  soul. What would we be without our homes--spiritual and otherwise? Today I give thanks for the many people who have opened their homes for me and my family. Today I begin to let go of my hold on one home and reach out to another. I can't wait to see what God has in store.
In God's Love, Kevin

• Adem Bunkeddeko in the Ninth District[NYTimes Editorial Board] The NYTimes Editorial Board has endorsed Adem Bunkeddeko in the June 26 primary of the Ninth Congressional District in the heart of Brooklyn. I note this because Adem and our son Stephen were friends at Haverford College (some 12 years ago). Within the past year, at Stephen's encouragement, Monica and I made a small contribution toward Adem's campaign. As Stephen said in a text to us today, "Ya never know where a young community organizer can go." Read a bit about Adem toward the end of the editorial below. Read on.

• 8 million teeter on the brink of famine. America is complicit [WaPo Editorial Board]  While the world was focused on the U.S.-North Korea summit, two U.S. allies in the Middle East launched a reckless and potentially catastrophic military offensive in Yemen, a country already enduring the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Troops led by the United Arab Emirates and backed by Saudi Arabian warplanes are attempting to seize the port city of Hodeida, which is held by the Houthi forces who make up one side in Yemen’s civil war. Because 70 percent of Yemen’s food and aid shipments come though the port, the United Nations and every major humanitarian agency have warned of dire consequences for the 22 million Yemenis who already depend on outside assistance, including 8 million on the brink of famine. They pleaded with the Saudis and Emiratis to hold off and allow more time for a diplomatic solution.
  
The attack nevertheless went ahead early Wednesday after receiving what amounted to passive assent from the Trump administration. That means the United States, which already has been supplying its two allies with intelligence, refueling and munitions, will be complicit if the result is what aid officials say it could be: starvation, epidemics and other human suffering surpassing anything the world has seen in decades. Read on. Also at NYTimes.


• Atrocities under Kim Jong-un[NYTimes] Mr. Kim rules with extreme brutality, making his nation among the worst human rights violators in the world. In North Korea, these crimes “entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” concluded a 2014 United Nations report that examined North Korea. Here are some of the atrocities that have happened there. There has been no good indication that President Trump spoke with Mr. Kim about human rights violations.

• Trump's most offensive statement on North Korea[WaPo Editorial Board] Over the past couple of days, President Trump has made a number of false statements regarding North Korea and his summit meeting with its leader, Kim Jong Un. Some of these may be harmless. Some may be justifiable in the context of a nascent diplomatic process. One, however, is obtuse, offensive and harmful. One, however, is obtuse, offensive and harmful. “His country does love him,” Mr. Trump said, speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.” Yes, you see the fervor, because anyone in North Korea who does not display fervor for their leader may end up in a concentration camp. No one in North Korea may criticize Mr. Kim and expect to survive. Read on.

•  How suicide quetly morphed into a public health crisis … The deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are emblematic of a persistent and growing threat in the United States. Read on. And here and here and here and here and here.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 
 

• A short but moving video … Church leaders drafted this statement because the soul of the nation is at stake. Here.

• Somehow weak in compassion[The Guardian, UK] Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, said in a homily that many people see the church as "somehow weak in compassion." Being pro-life means being alongside those whose lives are threatened by violence, and who cannot live life to the full because of economic deprivation, homelessness and marginalization, he said. Read on. Also at RNS.

• Eight million Jehovah's Witnesses don't salute the flag. 200,000 Amish don't stand for the national anthem. One Black Man kneels respectfully, and all hell breaks loose. Now you know why he's kneeling. And here and here and here.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 
 

• A short but moving video … Church leaders drafted this statement because the soul of the nation is at stake. Here.




• DioBeth Leadership News, June 7 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, May 31 … Here.
• DioBeth General News, May 24 … Here.


********  [A DioBeth newsletter (General or Leadership) or the unofficial newSpin newsletter is published online on Thursdays in the following rotation: (1) Leadership News, (2) The newSpin newslet
ter, (3) General News, (4) The newSpin newsletter. If you are not receiving these newsletters by email, be in touch with Paula Lapinski (610-691-5655, paula@diobeth.org). If you find something online or in print(or if you'd like to write something) that you think might warrant inclusion in the newSpin newsletter for the sake of many, please send the link or your text to bill.lewellis@gmail.com ********


Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• Medicaid's Nickel-and-Dime Routine[NYTimes Editorial Board, June 6] As a wealthy and politically powerful company gambles lives for profit, Texas officials look the other way, the Morning News reporters tell us. This is the sorry state of what passes for good-enough care for patients who depend on Medicaid, among the most vital safety nets for the American poor and disadvantaged, in the second most populous state. Elsewhere, officials are striving to make it harder for people to get Medicaid at all. Read on.

• Episcopal Church, Interfaith Leaders call for U.S. Government to end its immigration policy separating families … [ENS] Under international law, people fleeing violence and persecution have the right to request asylum. The Episcopal Church has a longstanding policy affirming the universal right to seek asylum; it recognizes the need to protect vulnerable people. Last week, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry signed an ecumenical and interfaith statement expressing concerns over a recent U.S. government policy “calling for more stringent enforcement of federal immigration laws.” A policy, they say, will likely result in an increase in family separations. Read on. NCR Editorial Board, here.

• RC Bishops call Trump's asylum rules 'immoral' … [WaPo] Leading U.S. Catholic bishops on Wednesday escalated their criticism of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, calling new asylum-limiting rules “immoral” and rhetorically comparing the crackdown to abortion by saying it is a “a right-to-life” issue. One bishop from the U.S.-Mexico border region reportedly suggested “canonical penalties” — which could refer to withholding the sacrament of Communion — for Catholics involved in implementing the Trump policies.
  
The comments came as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — the organizing body of bishops — gathered for a biannual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The topics of migration and asylum have long been a focus for the U.S. church; more than 50 percent of U.S. Catholics under the age of 30 are Latinos.The statements, including by the conference’s president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, came two days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that fear of domestic violence or gang violence aren’t clear grounds for seeking asylum in the United States. Sessions said asylum claims have expanded too broadly. Read on. Also, at RNS.

• Fact-Checking President Trump … [WaPo, Glenn Kessler, June 13] Here’s a roundup of claims made by President Trump at a news conference on June 12 and in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News about his talks in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Read on.

• America Isolated[NYTimes Editorial Board] When Vladimir Putin ordered his hackers to surreptitiously help Donald Trump in the presidential race, he could hardly have anticipated that once in office, Mr. Trump would so outrageously, destructively and thoroughly alienate America’s closest neighbors and allies as he did at the Group of 7 meeting in Canada. The lame explanation from Mr. Trump’s courtiers, that he needed to look tough for his meeting with Kim Jong-un, made matters worse by implying that he felt he needed to publicly kick friends aside to impress a murderous dictator. Read on.

• Scott Pruitt, who has reversed Obama era E.P.A. rules, enjoys cozy ties with a coal baron who got him a superfan experience at big Kentucky game … [NYTimes, June 2] It was one of the biggest games of the University of Kentucky basketball season, and Scott Pruitt had scored two of the best seats in the arena: a few feet from the action, in a section reserved for season-ticket holders who had donated at least $1 million to the university. The seats belonged to Joseph W. Craft III, a billionaire coal executive who has engaged in an aggressive campaign to reverse the Obama administration’s environmental crackdown on the coal industry. Read on.

• New York is suing the Trump Foundation [NYTimes] The New York State attorney general’s office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign. The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and three of his children from serving on the boards of nonprofits, was an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting president. Read on.

 

SpiritSpin
• Be attentive to God in your life Daily Examen.

• Why we shouldn't try to bargain with God[America, Valerie Schultz] Prayer is where we come face-to-face with our concept of God. Who is the God we believe in deep in our hearts? When we bargain with God, we espouse a God who keeps score, rather than the God who loves us no matter what, the God who is love, according to the first letter of John (4:8). When we offer to negotiate with God, we presume that we actually have anything that God needs, which is pretty presumptuous on our part. And when we maneuver to make a deal with God, we are in essence saying that we know better than God. Whatever crisis we are facing, we have a desirable outcome in mind, and we are going to bring God around to our way of thinking. Whatever God’s will for us may be, we have a counter-proposal. In fact, we have a list. Read on


• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.

• The Daily Examen [IgnatianSpirituality] is a technique of pray
 

• 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 ... 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.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons and reflections. Here.


Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin
• America can't take its salvation for granted [Richard Cohen, WaPo] Jon Meacham is a distinguished historian, journalist and television commentator who maintains in his new book, "The Soul of America," that, as bad as things are now, we have seen worse and come out the better for it. From his lips to God’s ear, as my grandmother used to say. You could ask for no better guide through the dark times than Meacham. He is a vivid writer and he seems to have read just about everything ever written that has anything to do with American history — from James Madison to William Faulkner. He cites plenty of bad days. 1968 was an awful year — the assassinations of King and Robert Kennedy — and the McCarthy period of the early 1950s was even darker in the sense that its anti-communist frenzy was not the work of a single deranged person but a mass hysteria, condoned by significant parts of the political leadership.
  
That, of course, brings us to the Trump era, which prompted Meacham’s book in the first place. But while he says, “the good news is that we have come through such darkness before,” the bad news, I would have to add, is that never before has it been a president who was blocking the sun. As bad as Joseph McCarthy was, he was a mere senator and not the self-anointed American proconsul — above the law, pardoner of the egregious, immune to subpoena, blithefully ignorant of history and as dishonest as one can be in 280 characters. President Trump is a vulgar man who would take John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” and plunk a casino in it.
   We have a president whose rhetoric is ugly and divisive, who is appallingly not appalled by white racists and whose whims go unchecked by important figures in his own party. He does not summon Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” but instead stokes unreasonable fear of immigrants, of change, of diversity, of government and of the press.
  
Is Meacham right? Pray that he is. But act as if he isn’t. Read on.

DioBeth

• DioBeth Leadership News, June 7 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, May 31 … Here.
• DioBeth General News, May 24 … Here.


Episcopal/Anglican

• Supreme Court denies breakaway Episcopal group control of its churches[Religion News Service] Read on.

• Some church services are a sea of iPhones … Had you noticed that Bishop Michael Curry read his royal wedding sermon from an iPad? Read on.


General Convention
• Bishop Sean and Eight Deputies from the Diocese of Bethlehem Here.


• Overview
… July 2 - 13 – The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church that meets every three years. It is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese. During its triennial meeting deputies and bishops consider a wide range of important matters facing the Church. In the interim between triennial meetings, various committees, commissions, agencies, boards and task forces created by the General Convention meet to implement the decisions and carry on the work of the General Convention. More info.  REPEAT?


Stewardship/Church Growth/Migration/ERD
• Episcopal Migration Ministries … Here
.
• Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) … Here.
• Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) … Here.
• Episcopal Asset Map … Here.


TaleSpin
The Most Popular and Talked-About Course at Yale Teaches How To Be Happy
Professor Laurie Santos’s new course, PSYC 157: Psychology and the Good Life, is so wildly popular, with over 1,200 enrolled students, suggests that she’s on to something. “College students are much more overwhelmed, much more stressed, much more anxious, and much more depressed than they’ve ever been. I think we really have a crisis writ large at colleges in how students are doing in terms of self-care and mental health.” Then she adds, “Sadly, I don’t think it’s just in colleges.”
   Santos is right on both counts. College students aren’t happy, and neither is anyone else. According to a recent survey by the American College Health Association, 52 percent of students reported feeling hopeless, while 39 percent suffered from such severe depression that they had found it difficult to function at some point during the previous year. At the University of Pennsylvania, there’s even a slang term for the grim mask of discontent that accompanies this condition: “Penn Face.” We could go further and diagnose a national case of “USA Face,” given that America recently ranked 18th in the U.N.’s “World Happiness Report,” trailing such national bastions of well-being as Finland (No. 1), Canada (No. 7), and Australia (No. 10). Read on.

Charles Krauthammer has terminal cancer[WaPo] Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer announced Friday he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. "My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live," he wrote in a farewell letter at The Washington Post. "This is the final verdict. My fight is over." Krauthammer, 68, thanked his medical caregivers, friends, colleagues, and readers. "I leave this life with no regrets," he said. "It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living." Read on.

• 9 People Reveal a Time They Racially Stereotyped a Stranger … [NYTimes] Here.


Requiescant in pace
• Frank T. Dobias, Jr. 89 
died June 2. Frank was employed as the Director of Educational Services for WLVT Channel 39, Bethlehem, for over 20 years, retiring in 1994. Previously, he was employed as a Radio Engineer for WAEB and also as the former General Manager of Blue Ridge Cable TV. While working at WLVT Channel 39, he originated and served as Executive Director of Scholastic Scrimmage, from its origin in 1975, until his retirement in 1994. He was a member of St. John's Palmerton. Obituary.

• Anthony D. Muntone, 81
… Tony and I were close during three years in Rome and nearly 15 years working in the bishop's office of the RC Diocese of Allentown. Msgr. Muntone was a good friend, a stand-up guy. Brilliant, yet loved by common people. A model of integrity and authenticity. Good sense of humor and wit. I loved him. He died on May 30. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Obituary.

Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
• Southern Baptist Leader Fired … [WaPo, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey May 30] A major Southern Baptist seminary has fired one of the movement’s giants of the last quarter-century, Paige Patterson, after new information came to light regarding how Patterson handled a sexual abuse allegation while he led another institution, the school said in a statement Wednesday night. Read on.

• A Televangelist and his Planes … [WaPo, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. May 29]  Jesse Duplantis, saying he needs about $54 million to help him efficiently spread the gospel to as many people as possible, has asked the Lord — and hundreds of thousands of hopefully deep-pocketed followers across the world — for a Falcon 7X. Read on.


Evangelical Lutheran Church
• ELCA WebsiteHere.

• ELCA News ServiceHere.
• ELCA BlogsHere.
 

Moravian Church
• Moravian Church in North America  Website.  

• Moravian Church Northern Province Website
• Moravian Theological Seminary Website.

United Methodist Church
News Service Here.
Communication Resources ... Start here.
Eastern PA Conference website Here.
Facebook Here.
Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Website
... Here
• News & Announcements ... Here.

Roman Catholic

Diocese of Scranton ... Here.

Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here
Catholic News Service ... Here.
Crux Now ... Here.

The Vatican
Pope Francis appeals to top energy executives to care for the poor and the environment [NCR, Joshua J. McElwee] “Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization,” Pope Francis told top executives of the world’s main petrol, natural gas and energy-linked investment companies when he met them in the Vatican on June 9. He appealed to them to use their “creativeness and professional expertise” in “the service of two great needs in today’s world: the care of the poor and the environment.” America here. NYTimes here.

• Pope Francis is finally starting to get it … [WaPo Editorial Board] The world has heard it again and again — heartfelt, ringing pledges by Pope Francis and his predecessors that the Vatican, at long last, has gotten the message on the global epidemic of clerical sex abuse. These often have been followed by half-measures, equivocations, inertia and even outright contempt for accusers, who in most cases were victimized as children. Here and here.


• Vatican Information Service blog
... Here.

• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.


Health and Wellness
• Guide to Your Midlife Tuneup … [Jane E. Brody, NYTimes, May 21] Our health needs change with every passing decade, but the good news is that it's never too late to start taking better care of yourself. Whether you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s or beyond, the Well Midlife Tuneup will put you on a healthier path to improving your body, mind and relationships. You are only as old as you feel, and completing our tuneup will definitely help you feel young at heart. Let's get started. Here.

Film and TV
• The Fred Roger documentary feels radically subversive … [Vox] Generations of American children now have grown up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, in part because it runs on public television, something that Fred Rogers himself was instrumental in saving. Somewhere between a playmate, an affable uncle or grandpa, and a fairy godfather, Rogers’s slow and compassionate approach to children’s television ran counter to what we typically expect of TV shows for kids; there are no bright, flashy, fast-moving cartoons or slapstick humor in his neighborhood, just simple, direct conversation and storytelling. You got the feeling he cared. The main goal of Won’t You Be My Neighbor is to convince us that while kindness and empathy are in short supply today, it need not be that way. Read on.

• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.


Media, Print, Music, Tech


• Books for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• Audios for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• 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.


Websites
The Episcopal Café
Here.

AnglicansOnlineHere.
Diocese of BethlehemHere.

The Episcopal ChurchHere.
Episcopal News ServiceHere.


Podcasts
• The Bible for Normal People
… Hosted by Peter Enns and Jared Byas.
• The Daily … How the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.
• Invisibilia …Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
• Today, ExplainedVox's daily explainer podcast — bringing you the biggest news every day with guests, context, radio drama, and more
• Radio Atlantic … Weekly conversations with leading journalists and thinkers to make sense of the history happening all around us.
• Stay Tuned with Preet … Join former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for a podcast about justice and fairness.
• The Axe Files with David Axelrod … Revealing interviews with key figures in the political world.
• Pod Save America … Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — are joined by journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists for a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency. 
• Trumpcast … A quasi-daily podcast from Slate chronicling Donald Trump's rise to the presidency and his current administration. With journalists, historians, psychiatrists, and other experts to help explain who this man is and why this is happening, right now, in the United States of America.
• Freakonomics Radio … Stephen Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.
• Things Not Seen … is an independent radio show and podcast that features in-depth interviews with nationally recognized guests. Each week, we welcome authors, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, and more. "We take faith seriously, and our guests do, too."
• The Francis Effectis about the real world of politics and current events, seen through the lens of Catholic teaching and spirituality. Hosts, Fr. Dan Horan and David Dault, both have doctorates in theology. Dan is a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. David is a radio producer and Catholic convert.
• Caliphateis a new audio series following Rukmini Callimachi of the NYTimes as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul.


Varia


Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO
… Anglicans Online
AP
… Associated Press
BCP
… Book of Common Prayer
CJR
… Columbia Journalism Review
COM
… Commonweal
CN
… Crux Now
CNS
… Catholic News Service
DoB
… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC
… Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic

TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal

newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
   The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It 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, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).

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]


Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Royal Wedding
1. The Sermon Watch it. Read it.

2. Wholly Un-British, Amazing and Necessary … [Esquire] "We really did not expect to get inspired by a Royal Wedding, but there you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to join the Episcopal Church."  Read on.

3. 'Almost a Sermon'
A few hours after the royal wedding, BBC repeated Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's sermon followed by this bit of curious commentary. "A pretty lively, a pretty forceful and uplifting address, almost a sermon by Bishop Michael. Maybe it’s fair to say it’s an address the likes of which hasn’t been heard at a royal wedding for quite some time, if at all, in recent years. Because he really had a message to deliver and he really did deliver it with some energy and some vigor, all about the power of Love..."

4. A Black Bishop Brings a Political Message to the Royal Wedding … [The Atlantic, Emma Green, May 21]
Poverty, hunger, justice, and care for the earth aren’t typical themes for a wedding sermon. But they’re typical for Curry, who has called for a transformative “Jesus movement” and has an unapologetically fierce preaching style. He was installed as the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal church in 2015, bringing a new voice of leadership to an extremely homogenous denomination: The Episcopal Church is 90 percent white in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center. Read on.

5. Global Praise For Presiding Bishop's Royal Wedding Sermon … [Episcopal News Service, David Paulsen] “There are some things you come to expect from royal weddings,” the Washington Post said. “One thing you don’t expect: That sermon.” The Post called Curry’s 14-minute sermon a “barnstorming address.” Canada’s CBC called it the “highlight” of the royal wedding. Vox said Curry “stole the show,” adding that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were “all but upstaged” by Curry’s “fiery sermon.” And the U.K. Guardian commentary asserted that Curry’s “royal wedding sermon will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house.” Read on.

6. On the Morning Shows … [EpiscopalCafé] Watch Bishop Curry on Good Morning America, Today and The View. Here.

7. The Royal Wedding made Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry a superstar. Can the religious left translate that into political change? [WaPo] The 65-year-old priest is now the repository of hope for progressive Christians who want to reclaim their faith from conservative evangelicals. Read on.

• For the Poor and the Neglected
[BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.

• Diocese of Bethlehem elects Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, as its next bishopNichols, who is currently, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, was elected on the first ballot by the clergy of the diocese and elected lay representatives during a meeting in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
   "I am thrilled to be joining with the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem to bear witness to the power of the Resurrection in their communities," Nichols said. "The momentum there is unmistakable and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us together.
  
"I see this as a moment for us as a church to recover our purpose for why we are here, to reconcile and to offer God's love and healing where there has been painful damage. The Diocese of Bethlehem in its diverse landscapes is rich and fertile ground for God's planting and pruning."
   Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire's Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.
   A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and St. Andrew's in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
 
While serving small parishes, Nichols also worked as an account manager and management trainer for Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging company. Read on,

• A prayer before anything[Bill] Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. Let us pray: Guide us, gracious God. May we be … Attentive to our experience, to the voices and hearts of those around us, Intelligent in our interpretation of that to which we have been attentive. Reasonable in our judgments about what we have understood. Responsible in our decisions about how we will act on our judgments. And always open to inner conversion, to transformation in your truth and your love.

• A Man Called Mark … A new biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, will be published on July 17. Dyer was bishop of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995. [Church Publishing and Leadership News] This official biography tells the compelling story of the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer: Irish Catholic boy from New Hampshire, U.S. Navy vet, Roman Catholic then Episcopal priest, bishop, and seminary professor-and one of the most influential, beloved leaders of the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
  
Following a dispute with ecclesiastical authorities, Dyer left the Roman Church for the Anglican Church of Canada. Later received as priest in the Episcopal Church, his gifts as teacher, preacher, and pastor were recognized with election as Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There, he established a new model of leadership, delegating administrative duties to concentrate on spiritual direction, pastoral care, and creating mission projects at every church in his diocese. Also renowned as a story-teller, many of his favorite stories appear here, told in his own voice. Read on.

• Reclaiming Jesus is a confession of faith in a time of crisis signed on to by many faith leaders including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The following is an excerpt.
I. We believe each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore, we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity.
II. We believe we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28).
Therefore, we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
III. We believe how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Therefore, we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34).
IV. We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives.
Therefore, we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.
V. We believe that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Therefore, we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it.
VI. We believe Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18).
Therefore, we reject “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. Read all of this confession of faith.

• A new comprehensive Evangelism Toolkit … is available online for congregations, dioceses, groups, and individuals to explore Evangelism.

Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.

Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.

Jubilate for Pentecost B … is now available at the Trinity Bethlehem website. Also, Prayers of the People may be found there. Jubilate is a resource for hymn selection. Weekly Prayers of the People may be used in place of the forms found in the Book of Common Prayer. Both are prepared by Canon Cliff Carr, priest associate. They are available in both Word (.doc) and .pdf formats. Find both here.

• Vital Practices for leading congregations … This website of the Episcopal Church Foundation seems to me to be an especially useful tool for anyone active in parish life. It covers much more than parish finances. Read on.

• The Episcopal Churchis currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
   The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on.


newSpin 180531

newSpin, the newsletter
May 31
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Royal Wedding
1. The Sermon Watch it. Read it.

2. Wholly Un-British, Amazing and Necessary … [Esquire] "We really did not expect to get inspired by a Royal Wedding, but there you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to join the Episcopal Church."  Read on.

3. 'Almost a Sermon'
A few hours after the royal wedding, BBC repeated Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's sermon followed by this bit of curious commentary. "A pretty lively, a pretty forceful and uplifting address, almost a sermon by Bishop Michael. Maybe it’s fair to say it’s an address the likes of which hasn’t been heard at a royal wedding for quite some time, if at all, in recent years. Because he really had a message to deliver and he really did deliver it with some energy and some vigor, all about the power of Love..."

4. A Black Bishop Brings a Political Message to the Royal Wedding … [The Atlantic, Emma Green, May 21]
Poverty, hunger, justice, and care for the earth aren’t typical themes for a wedding sermon. But they’re typical for Curry, who has called for a transformative “Jesus movement” and has an unapologetically fierce preaching style. He was installed as the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal church in 2015, bringing a new voice of leadership to an extremely homogenous denomination: The Episcopal Church is 90 percent white in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center. Read on.

5. Global Praise For Presiding Bishop's Royal Wedding Sermon … [Episcopal News Service, David Paulsen] “There are some things you come to expect from royal weddings,” the Washington Post said. “One thing you don’t expect: That sermon.” The Post called Curry’s 14-minute sermon a “barnstorming address.” Canada’s CBC called it the “highlight” of the royal wedding. Vox said Curry “stole the show,” adding that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were “all but upstaged” by Curry’s “fiery sermon.” And the U.K. Guardian commentary asserted that Curry’s “royal wedding sermon will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house.” Read on.

6. On the Morning Shows … [EpiscopalCafé] Watch Bishop Curry on Good Morning America, Today and The View. Here.

7. The Royal Wedding made Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry a superstar. Can the religious left translate that into political change? [WaPo] The 65-year-old priest is now the repository of hope for progressive Christians who want to reclaim their faith from conservative evangelicals. Read on.


TopSpin

• Michael Curry takes his message to the White House … [WaPo video, 2:41] Here.

• Puerto Rico: A Real Catastrophe[David Leonhardt, NYTimes] When President Trump traveled to Puerto Rico last October after Hurricane Maria, he touted the storm’s low death toll as proof that his administration had done its job well. “Every death is a horror,” he said. “But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina … what is your death count, as of this moment? 17?” He was very wrong.
   The true death toll could exceed 4,600, according to a study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine that appears to be the most rigorous count yet. Many of the victims likely died from delayed medical care, which is something that a competent government response could have avoided. Puerto Rico’s fatality count is now more than twice as high as the Katrina count that Trump called a “real catastrophe.” Read on.

• Stealth Reform in the Roman Catholic Church[TheWeek, May 23] Pope Francis' stealth reform of the Roman Catholic Church shows no sign of slowing down — and may even be accelerating. Stealth is key here. If the pope had declared earlier this month that henceforth the Roman Catholic Church would authoritatively teach that homosexuals should be happy being gay, that God made them homosexual, and that God himself (along with the pope) loves them just the way they are, it would have been a massive story in the history of Catholicism — and one that quite likely would have precipitated a major schism, with conservative bishops and priests (mainly in North America and Africa) formally breaking from Rome.
  
But because word of the pope saying these things comes to us second hand, in a report of a private conversation between Francis and a gay man named Juan Carlos Cruz who is also a victim of the clerical sex abuse crisis in Chile, the utterance will go down as just the latest example of the pope making unorthodox statements in settings in which he has plausible deniability and in which he can claim he was speaking as a pastor rather than as an expositor of the church's official dogmas and doctrines. Read on. Also, 'God made you this way," here.


• The Pope Opens His Eyes to Abuse[NYTimes Editorial Board] The abuse of minors by pedophile priests has been among the most painful sagas of our time, the horror compounded by the knowledge that hierarchs could have stopped the predators if only they had not chosen for so long to cover up their actions. Now, at long last, Pope Francis seems to have glimpsed the depth of the global crisis.The catalyst was a scandal in Chile, one of Latin America’s most staunchly Catholic countries, where for years the church establishment failed to act on multiple complaints of sexual abuse against an influential priest, Fernando Karadima. On a trip to Chile in January, the pope condemned Father Karadima’s actions but then refused to meet with his victims and dismissed allegations of inaction by bishops as “slander.”
  
In the outrage that followed, the pope appointed two investigators who produced a damning report confirming systematic efforts by the Chilean Catholic hierarchy to conceal clerical sexual abuse. That led to an apology by Pope Francis for the “grave errors” in Chile and an emergency meeting earlier this month with Chile’s bishops at which all 34 submitted their resignations and asked forgiveness for the “pain they caused the victims, the pope, the people of God and our country.” Read on.
Also at Crux.

• A 'Heretic' in the Vatican [Politico, May 28]  “They call me a heretic.” Not the words you’d expect to hear from the head of the Roman Catholic Church. But that’s what Pope Francis told a group of fellow Jesuits in Chile earlier this year, acknowledging the fierce pushback from arch-conservatives in the Vatican. Celebrated by progressives around the world for his push to update and liberalize aspects of church doctrine, Francis is facing fierce blowback from traditionalists who take issue with his openness to Muslim migrants, his concern for the environment and his softer tone on divorce, cohabitation and homosexuality. Opposition has become so heated that some advisers are warning him to tread carefully to avoid a “schism” in the church. Read on.

• A short but moving video … Church leaders drafted this statement because the soul of the nation is at stake. Here.

• Reclaiming Jesus … Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners have issued the following letter to church leaders about the Reclaiming Jesus Declaration. Read the letter here.

• Challenging Trump's Christian Apologists … E.J. Dionne Jr. discusses the declaration, Reclaiming Jesus, written in part by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The document posits six theological truths and explains their political implications. Though it never mentions Donald Trump’s name, the document’s vision is an implicit rebuke to “Christians who are invoking religious arguments in apologetics for a president whose actions and policies seem antithetical to almost everything Jesus taught.” Read on.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 
 

• A short but moving video … Church leaders drafted this statement because the soul of the nation is at stake. Here.

• Ireland votes to repeal abortion ban [David Leonhardt, NYTimes] It was one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, the prime minister said. The vote swept aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church. The surprising landslide cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. Read on.

• Somehow weak in compassion[The Guardian, UK] Eamon Martin, the archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, said in a homily that many people see the church as "somehow weak in compassion." Being pro-life means being alongside those whose lives are threatened by violence, and who cannot live life to the full because of economic deprivation, homelessness and marginalization, he said. Read on. Also at RNS.

• Eight million Jehovah's Witnesses don't salute the flag. 200,000 Amish don't stand for the national anthem. One Black Man kneels respectfully, and all hell breaks loose. Now you know why he's kneeling. And here and here and here.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 
 

• A short but moving video … Church leaders drafted this statement because the soul of the nation is at stake. Here.




• DioBeth General News, May 24 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, May 17 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, May 10 … Here.


********  [A DioBeth newsletter (General or Leadership) or the unofficial newSpin newsletter is published online on Thursdays in the following rotation: (1) Leadership News, (2) The newSpin newslet
ter, (3) General News, (4) The newSpin newsletter. If you are not receiving these newsletters by email, be in touch with Paula Lapinski (610-691-5655, paula@diobeth.org). If you find something online or in print(or if you'd like to write something) that you think might warrant inclusion in the newSpin newsletter for the sake of many, please send the link or your text to bill.lewellis@gmail.com ********


Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• McCain's Final Message[The Week] [John McCain still has something to say, even if a White House press aide doesn't think a dying man's thoughts matter. "I don't remember another time in my life when so many Americans considered someone's partisan affiliation a test of whether that person is entitled to respect," the Arizona senator writes in a new book. Read on.

• Trump Immigration Policy Veers from Abhorrent to Evil[NYTimes, Nicholas Kristof, May 30] We as a nation have crossed so many ugly lines recently, yet one new policy of President Trump’s particularly haunts me. I’m speaking of the administration’s tactic of seizing children from desperate refugees at the border. “I was given only five minutes to say goodbye,” a Salvadoran woman wrote in a declaration in an A.C.L.U. lawsuit against the government, after her 4- and 10-year-old sons were taken from her. “My babies started crying when they found out we were going to be separated.”

   This mother, who for her protection is identified only by her initials, J.I.L., said that while in El Salvador she was severely beaten in front of her family by a gang, and she then fled the country to save the lives of her children. Who among us would not do the same? We as a nation should protect our borders. We must even more assiduously protect our soul. Read on.

• Immigration Changes Could Lead to Dropped Children's Health Coverage[NCR] As many as 2 million U.S. citizen children could drop health coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), despite remaining eligible, if proposed changes to immigration policy go into effect. "When kids don't have access to health care they are not getting the preventative services that they need. When they are sick they're not going to the doctor, so you have an increase of emergency room visits," said Laura Peralta-Schulte, senior government relations advocate for Network, the Catholic social justice lobby. "There's just a myriad of problems presented when people can't access health."
   Since the first draft was leaked in February of new Department of Homeland Security guidelines to determine if immigrants in the U.S. seeking permanent residence could become a "public charge," advocates have worried that the changes could lead immigrants and their family members to drop out of public benefits programs in order to increase their chances of gaining a green card. Read on.


• Donald Trump's Guide to Presidential Etiquette[NYTimes Editorial Board, May 25] For the fourth time in a year, we’ve compiled a list of Mr. Trump’s more egregious transgressions. These items don’t represent disputes about policy, over which reasonable people may disagree. They simply serve to catalog what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the other Trump-supporting Republicans in Congress and across America, through their silence, have now blessed as behavior befitting a president of the United States.
   We find this guide a helpful way to avoid growing numb to what is so abnormal about this presidency, and to remind ourselves that a day may yet come when dignity and decency will matter again, even, perhaps, to Mr. McConnell and his fellow hypocrites. Read on.

• Nixon had his 'Enemies List' – If Trump has one, Amazon might be near the top [WaPo]
President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars. [Some reading here may know that Postmaster General Brennan is from Pottsville, Schuylkill County]
  
Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.
   Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump’s ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post. Read on.


• Because He Says So
[NYTimes] As a candidate, Donald J. Trump claimed that the United States government had known in advance about the Sept. 11 attacks. He hinted that Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice who died in his sleep two years ago, had been murdered. And for years, Mr. Trump pushed the notion that President Barack Obama had been born in Kenya rather than Honolulu, making him ineligible for the presidency. None of that was true.
  
Last week, President Trump promoted new, unconfirmed accusations to suit his political narrative: that a “criminal deep state” element within Mr. Obama’s government planted a spy deep inside his presidential campaign to help his rival, Hillary Clinton, win — a scheme he branded “Spygate.” It was the latest indication that a president who has for decades trafficked in conspiracy theories has brought them from the fringes of public discourse to the Oval Office.
  
Now that he is president, Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect. Among critics, they have fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.
  
“The effect on the life of the nation of a president inventing conspiracy theories in order to distract attention from legitimate investigations or other things he dislikes is corrosive,” said Jon Meacham, a presidential historian and biographer. “The diabolical brilliance of the Trump strategy of disinformation is that many people are simply going to hear the charges and countercharges, and decide that there must be something to them because the president of the United States is saying them.” Read on.

• "He has sold us a whole way of accepting a narrative that has so many layers of unaccountable, unsubstantiated content that you can't possibly peel it all back." [Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer, on the president's fixation on conspiracy theories.]

• No Blocking [NYTimes, May 23] President Trump’s practice of blocking Twitter users who are critical of him from seeing his posts on the social media platform violates the First Amendment, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled. The ruling came in a case brought by seven Twitter users who had been blocked by the @realDonaldTrump account after they criticized the president. Read on.

 

SpiritSpin
• Would that be political or biblical?
[An op-ed by Bill Lewellis, published in The Morning Call, Sunday, May 27] There is power in love," Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached at the recent royal wedding. He was quoting Martin Luther King Jr. "If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire," he continued, quoting French Jesuit Teillard de Chardin. Think about an American Episcopal bishop quoting a Baptist minister and a Roman Catholic theologian at an Anglican royal wedding. I owe that quip to Wilkes-Barre City Council President Tony Brooks.
   "There are some things you come to expect from royal weddings," the Washington Post said. "One thing you don't expect: That sermon." Commentary in the U.K. Guardian asserted that Curry's 14-minute "royal wedding sermon will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house." Some would criticize that sermon as political. Read on.


• Less Clouded By Irrelevance
[Bill Lewellis, The Morning Call, May 20]
A spiritual journey is a relationship. It’s a metaphor. No two journeys are the same. No authentic journey begins before God somehow speaks. "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1:1). Read on.


• Oscar Romero … [Except for four new paragraphs at the beginning, this is a slightly revised excerpt from a sermon preached by Bill Lewellis in 2010] Almost a year before I left the Roman Catholic Church, Oscar Romero became one of my heroes. Onetime Archbishop of El Salvador, he was assassinated at the altar on March 24, 1980. Read on. An interview with Noam Chomsky, here.

• A Clear Turnabout[NCR] After a 38-year-wait, it is now official. Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, murdered in 1980 for speaking out against military oppression, will be made a saint. His canonization while expected in recent months, nonetheless represents the culmination of one of the clearest turnabouts of Francis' nearly five-year papacy. The cause for Romero had languished for decades under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who expressed unease with his connection to liberation theology and his vocal denunciations of government killings and kidnappings. Read on.

• Trinity – A Glimpse into the Mystery of God[A slightly revised excerpt from a 2001 sermon preached by Bill Lewellis on Trinity Sunday] Religion is about relationship because that is what God is about. God is three-in-one, being-in-relationship, being-in-community. That is what we celebrate on Trinity Sunday. Read on. Find another Trinity Sunday sermon, At the Heart of Reality, here.


• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.

• The Daily Examen [IgnatianSpirituality] is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.
  
[Bill] When I was in college seminary in Philadelphia, those responsible for mentoring our spirituality put this into our nighttime community prayer as an examination of conscience (recalling our sins of the day) rather than an examination of consciousness (discerning God's presence in our day). What an awful misunderstanding of the Daily Examen! Worse yet, it may have been intentional in the RC seminary culture of those days. Read on.

 
• 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 ... 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.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons and reflections. Here.


Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin

DioBeth
Jubilate for Pentecost B
… is now available at the Trinity Bethlehem website. Also, Prayers of the People may be found there. Jubilate is a resource for hymn selection. Weekly Prayers of the People may be used in place of the forms found in the Book of Common Prayer. Both are prepared by Canon Cliff Carr, priest associate. They are available in both Word (.doc) and .pdf formats. Find both here.

• Diocese of Bethlehem elects Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, as its next bishop
Nichols, who is currently, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, was elected on the first ballot by the clergy of the diocese and elected lay representatives during a meeting in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
   "I am thrilled to be joining with the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem to bear witness to the power of the Resurrection in their communities," Nichols said. "The momentum there is unmistakable and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us together.
  
"I see this as a moment for us as a church to recover our purpose for why we are here, to reconcile and to offer God's love and healing where there has been painful damage. The Diocese of Bethlehem in its diverse landscapes is rich and fertile ground for God's planting and pruning."

   Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire's Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.
   A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and St. Andrew's in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
 
While serving small parishes, Nichols also worked as an account manager and management trainer for Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging company. Read on,

• On preserving favorable tax treatment of clergy housing allowances
[Forbes, May 6] The big trouble makers in this are are the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its officers. They think that allowing "ministers of the gospel" to receive cash housing allowances tax free is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Read on.

Ties with Royalty in Jim Thorpe [WFMZ-TV] While the world was focused on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the focus of Jim Thorpe's Mary Shorten was aimed at the scene directly in front of the couple. "I was concentrating more on the reredos trying to see theirs. My personal thought was ours is nicer," said Shorten, a sexton of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. The sculpture behind the altar at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe is a replica of the one in Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. "It's pretty cool. I think ours stands out more because the way our wall is versus the way the wall was at St. George," she added. In 1880 Queen Victoria gave the church the green light to make it. So how does one get an in with the Queen of England? Read on.

• DioBeth General News, May 24 … Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, May 17 … Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, May 10 … Here.



Episcopal/Anglican

• House of Bishops' pastoral response to #MeToo will focus on listening, liturgy and steps for healing[The Episcopal Church, Public Affairs Office] In an open letter to the Episcopal Church, an invitation is extended to share reflections on sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation. A selection of the reflections will be read at a special listening session during General Convention 2018. The House of Bishop’s Pastoral Response will be a sacred space for listening and further reconciliation on Wednesday, July 4, 5:15 pm to 7 pm Central (6:15 pm Eastern/4:15 pm Mountain/3:15 pm Pacific). Those at General Convention 2018 in Austin, TX, are welcome to attend; those not in Austin will be able to participate remotely via a live webcast. Read on.

• The Episcopal Asset Map … unveils redesigned site, invites full participation across church. It's an online platform showing the location and ministries of Episcopal churches, schools and other communities. It has been revamped and refreshed with more-detailed information, easier access and ease of navigation. If your congregation or appropriate info about your congregation is not included, that means info has not been supplied. Read on.

• Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech savvy?[The Guardian UK, Andrew Brown] Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be. Read on.


General Convention
• House of DeputiesMay newsletter.


• Overview … July 2 - 13 – The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church that meets every three years. It is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese. During its triennial meeting deputies and bishops consider a wide range of important matters facing the Church. In the interim between triennial meetings, various committees, commissions, agencies, boards and task forces created by the General Convention meet to implement the decisions and carry on the work of the General Convention. More info.


Stewardship/Church Growth/Migration/ERD
• Episcopal Migration Ministries … Here
.
• Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) … Here.
• Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) … Here.
• Episcopal Asset Map … Here.


TaleSpin
The Complicated Task of Covering John McCain's Final Days
[Columbia Journalism Review, May 21] As a war hero, former presidential candidate, influential voice in the Senate, and ready quote, John McCain has been a constant presence in the public eye for decades. His final book, The Restless Wave, is out today. McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis provides the opportunity for a slow motion, living eulogy, and the press has responded with a steady drumbeat of coverage. Read on.

• Australian Archbishop Convicted of Covering Up Child Sex Abuse[IAP] An Australian archbishop on Tuesday became the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the world convicted of covering up child sex abuse and faces a potential two years in prison when he is sentenced next month. Read on.

•  The 10-Point … The Wall Street Journal will send you any of many newsletters and alerts, even if you are not a subscriber. I have found Gerard Baker's "The 10-Point: My Guide to the Day's Top News" (in the Journal) to be useful. If you are not a subscriber, of course, links will not take you to the full story, but the summaries are usually helpful. Here.

• Migrant in Paris Scales Building to Save Child … [NYTimes] Even by the   The 4-year-old boy seemed to be suspended from a balcony. An adult standing on a nearby balcony seemed powerless to help. Disaster seemed the only possible outcome. Read on.


Requiescant in pace
• Hildegarde Mahala Singles Buratti 96, retired executive director of the Bethlehem YWCA, died on May 27.
Hildegarde and her husband Ralph (deceased) were longtime members of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. She was regular in worship until age and illness prevented her. Obituary.

• June D. (Beckman) Hayes, 93 …
died May 25.
Born in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, she and her family moved to Dallas in 1956. City girl turned country, she learned to love the area and its people; especially her neighbors and friends, who were many. She loved her position at the Dallas Dry Cleaners. which gave her the opportunity to meet people and make many new friends. She was very proud of the years she spent as a Dallas Borough election officer; one of only three people registered as a Democrat in the borough in those days. She was a member of the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church. She loved all creatures great and small.
   In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make generosity a way of life through every day simple actions — thought, word and deed; kindness, take some time to visit neighbors, volunteer, help a stranger, forgive, make a charitable donation. Let us know what you are doing by posting your kind deeds on June Hayes Sr. Facebook page, or write us a note. Obituary.


• Ralph E. Trumbower, 95
… died May 24.
He was the husband of Charlotte M. (Schlicher) Trumbower for 52 years. He served with the US Marine Corps. in the Central Pacific during WWII. Ralph was a member of Grace Episcopal Church, Allentown. He retired as a conductor for Conrail and the former Bethlehem Steel PBNE railroad, and retired as a courier for the Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network. Obituary

• Winifred D. Swick, 96
… died May 23.  Winifred was a registered nurse. She attended Temple University and graduated from the School of Nursing of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She had also been a volunteer at Warren Hospital for 40 years. She was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Easton and a former choir member. She was a member and past president of the Rotary Ann Club of Phillipsburg. In 2006 she was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club. Obituary.  

• Richard K. Kulasinsky, 61
… died May 23. H
e
was a very devoted member of Christ Episcopal Church, Forest City, where he was a member of the vestry and an active volunteer. Obituary.

• George Councell, 68
11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, died May 21. He retired as bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey in the fall of 2013, five years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. After his diagnosis, he was determined not to let the disease hold him back, and he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2008. Read on.

• Philip Roth, 85 … One of the most prolific and celebrated writers of his generation, Philip Roth died May 22. Between his first collection of stories, Goodbye, Columbus (1959), and his final novel, 2010's Nemesis, Roth won two National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker International Prize, two National Book Critics Circle awards, and three PEN/Faulkner Awards. He is best known for 1969's Portnoy's Complaint, and his literary explorations of sex and life as an American, a Jew, and a man. Many of his protagonists were thinly veiled versions of himself — Nathan Zuckerman, Alexander Portnoy, David Kepesh — and his work explored and blurred the lines between truth and fiction. Read on.

Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
• Employees quit American Bible Society over sex and marriage rules … [RNS] One of the oldest nonprofit organizations dedicated to distributing Bibles around the world will soon require all employees to adhere to orthodox Christian beliefs and heed a conservative code of sexual ethics. Employees are resigning in protest of the new policy, which will effectively prohibit sexually active LGBT people and couples in cohabitating relationships from working for the American Bible Society. But the organization stands by it as a measure intended to bring “unity and clarity.” Read on.


Evangelical Lutheran Church
• ELCA WebsiteHere.

• ELCA News ServiceHere.
• ELCA BlogsHere.
 

Moravian Church
• Moravian Church in North America  Website.  

• Moravian Church Northern Province Website
• Moravian Theological Seminary Website.

United Methodist Church
News Service Here.
Communication Resources ... Start here.
Eastern PA Conference website Here.
Facebook Here.
Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Website
... Here
• News & Announcements ... Here.

Roman Catholic
• As Fear Permeates Immigrant Communities, U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops' Responses Vary [NCR, Peter Feuerherd] Many immigrants are Catholic, but many white Catholics voted for Trump and his anti-immigrant platform. And in the middle of the immigration crisis stand more than 400 American Catholic bishops. While they stand together, bishops retain their individuality. They differ on strategies, approaches and how much of a priority they put on the issue of immigration. Read on.

Diocese of Scranton ... Here.

Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here
Catholic News Service ... Here.
Crux Now ... Here.

The Vatican
• Francis names 14 cardinals[NCR, Joshua J. McElwee] Pope Francis named fourteen new Catholic cardinals May 20, again diversifying representation in the most elite body of church prelates with selections from places as far-flung as Iraq, Pakistan and Japan and solidifying his influence on the group that will one day elect his successor. Read on.

• Stealth Reform in the Roman Catholic Church … See above, under TopSpin.
• The Pope Opens His Eyes to Abuse … See above, under TopSpin.
• A 'Heretic' in the Vatican … See above, under TopSpin.


• Vatican Information Service blog
... Here.

• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.


Health and Wellness
• The NYTimes Magazine Health IssueHere.

• How to Age Well and Stay in Your Home … [Jane E. Brody, NYTimes, May 21] What will it take to age well in place, in the surroundings we’ve long cherished that bring us physical, social and emotional comfort? What adaptations are needed to assure our safety and comfort and relieve our children’s legitimate concerns for our welfare?
   F
or those of you with concerns about aging family members and friends, I recommend a very helpful, comprehensive yet not overwhelming book, “Age in Place: A Guide to Modifying, Organizing, and Decluttering Mom and Dad’s Home,” by Lynda G. Shrager, an occupational therapist for the last 37 years who has worked with seniors in their homes for more than 13 years. Ms. Shrager has good reasons to believe that addressing the challenges of independent living can help keep seniors safe and their kids sane.
  
“It’s cheaper to stay in your home, even if you have to make some renovations and get an aide a few days a week to help,” Ms. Shrager said in an interview. “It’s money well spent and a lot cheaper than assisted living. But it’s important not to wait until there’s a crisis — a parent falls and breaks her hip.” Read on.


Film and TV
• Wild, Wild Country … [America] The Netflix documentary series “Wild Wild Country,” directed by brothers Chapman Way and Maclain Way,details Rajneeshpuram’s downward spiral; the scandals that plague the community include immigration fraud, biochemical attacks, arson, assassination attempts, the recruitment of homeless individuals to sway an election and the drugging of those same folks after their presence threatens the commune’s peace. The documentary features a wealth of archival footage, from the nascency of Rajneesh’s public life in India to the dissolution of the Oregon experiment. There are extensive interviews with key former members of Rajneeshpuram, including Sheela herself. The combination of intimate footage and candid confessions makes “Wild Wild Country” a worthwhile watch.

   It also presents the opportunity for a worthwhile discussion. Sometimes the best way to understand a serious phenomenon is to look at its parody. In this case, the serious phenomenon is religion, and its parody, a modern attempt at inventing one. The incursion of the “orange people” into Wasco County ignited a religious freedom debate that spread across Oregon in a not-so-predictable fashion. Their presence presented the problem of relating to the “other,” whether that “other” was a retired rancher or a spiritualist in red. One could also ask how Rajneesh managed to exploit the logic of global capitalism along with a certain market for spirituality among Westerners. Read on.


• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.


Media, Print, Music, Tech
• Communicate … Your Ministry, including Bill's Communication Biases and Communication-Evangelism. Here.

• Unprediictability is a trait, not a strategy [From Madeleine Albright's new book, Fascism: A Warning] The course I teach at Georgetown is about the tools of foreign policy and how to use them. From what I’ve seen, the president would have a hard time passing it. He considers himself a master at bluster and bluff, which can be an effective tactic, when applied sparingly. During the Cold War, Henry Kissinger tried to pry concessions out of the Soviets by suggesting that Nixon was a little crazy and that there was no telling what he might do if he didn’t get his way. Given Trump’s undisciplined style, a similar strategy now would certainly have the advantage of credibility. Trump can seem unhinged. But unpredictability is a trait, not a strategy. The question is whether the president’s penchant for insults and off-the-wall threats is linked to a plan for making progress toward specific national security objectives. Read on.

• The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, by Jon Meacham …I hear that Bishop Curry is reading this. He probably has a signed copy. Jon Meacham is an Episcopalian. Here. NYTimes review.


• Books for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• Audios for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• 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.


Websites
The Episcopal Café
Here.

AnglicansOnlineHere.
Diocese of BethlehemHere.

The Episcopal ChurchHere.
Episcopal News ServiceHere.


Podcasts
• The Bible for Normal People
… Hosted by Peter Enns and Jared Byas.
• The Daily … How the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.
• Invisibilia …Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
• Today, ExplainedVox's daily explainer podcast — bringing you the biggest news every day with guests, context, radio drama, and more
• Radio Atlantic … Weekly conversations with leading journalists and thinkers to make sense of the history happening all around us.
• Stay Tuned with Preet … Join former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for a podcast about justice and fairness.
• The Axe Files with David Axelrod … Revealing interviews with key figures in the political world.
• Pod Save America … Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — are joined by journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists for a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency. 
• Trumpcast … A quasi-daily podcast from Slate chronicling Donald Trump's rise to the presidency and his current administration. With journalists, historians, psychiatrists, and other experts to help explain who this man is and why this is happening, right now, in the United States of America.
• Freakonomics Radio … Stephen Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.
• Things Not Seen … is an independent radio show and podcast that features in-depth interviews with nationally recognized guests. Each week, we welcome authors, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, and more. "We take faith seriously, and our guests do, too."
• The Francis Effectis about the real world of politics and current events, seen through the lens of Catholic teaching and spirituality. Hosts, Fr. Dan Horan and David Dault, both have doctorates in theology. Dan is a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. David is a radio producer and Catholic convert.
• Caliphateis a new audio series following Rukmini Callimachi of the NYTimes as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul.


Varia


Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO
… Anglicans Online
AP
… Associated Press
BCP
… Book of Common Prayer
CJR
… Columbia Journalism Review
COM
… Commonweal
CN
… Crux Now
CNS
… Catholic News Service
DoB
… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC
… Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic

TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal

newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
   The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It 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, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).

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]


Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest

• For the Poor and the Neglected[BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.

• A prayer before anything[Bill] Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. Let us pray: Guide us, gracious God. May we be … Attentive to our experience, to the voices and hearts of those around us, Intelligent in our interpretation of that to which we have been attentive. Reasonable in our judgments about what we have understood. Responsible in our decisions about how we will act on our judgments. And always open to inner conversion, to transformation in your truth and your love.

• A Man Called Mark … A new biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, will be published on July 17. Dyer was bishop of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995. [Church Publishing and Leadership News] This official biography tells the compelling story of the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer: Irish Catholic boy from New Hampshire, U.S. Navy vet, Roman Catholic then Episcopal priest, bishop, and seminary professor-and one of the most influential, beloved leaders of the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
  
Following a dispute with ecclesiastical authorities, Dyer left the Roman Church for the Anglican Church of Canada. Later received as priest in the Episcopal Church, his gifts as teacher, preacher, and pastor were recognized with election as Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There, he established a new model of leadership, delegating administrative duties to concentrate on spiritual direction, pastoral care, and creating mission projects at every church in his diocese. Also renowned as a story-teller, many of his favorite stories appear here, told in his own voice. Read on.

• Reclaiming Jesus is a confession of faith in a time of crisis signed on to by many faith leaders including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The following is an excerpt.
I. We believe each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore, we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity.
II. We believe we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28).
Therefore, we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
III. We believe how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Therefore, we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34).
IV. We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives.
Therefore, we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.
V. We believe that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Therefore, we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it.
VI. We believe Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18).
Therefore, we reject “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. Read all of this confession of faith.

• A new comprehensive Evangelism Toolkit … is available online for congregations, dioceses, groups, and individuals to explore Evangelism.

Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.

Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.

• Vital Practices for leading congregations … This website of the Episcopal Church Foundation seems to me to be an especially useful tool for anyone active in parish life. It covers much more than parish finances. Read on.

• The Episcopal Churchis currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
   The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on.

 

 

 


Would that be Political or Biblical?

Bill Lewellis
[An op-ed published in The Morning Call, Sunday, May 27]
http://enewspaper.mcall.com/html5/desktop/production/default.aspx?pnum=22&edid=edb06e18-d437-4ddb-88b8-68cb61b058b5

There is power in love," Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached at the recent royal wedding. He was quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

"If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire," he continued, quoting French Jesuit Teillard de Chardin.

Think about an American Episcopal bishop quoting a Baptist minister and a Roman Catholic theologian at an Anglican royal wedding. I owe that quip to Wilkes-Barre City Council President Tony Brooks.

"There are some things you come to expect from royal weddings," the Washington Post said. "One thing you don't expect: That sermon."

Commentary in the U.K. Guardian asserted that Curry's 14-minute "royal wedding sermon will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house."

Some would criticize that sermon as political.

"Many noted his emphasis on applying the Christian faith and Jesus' teachings to contemporary social justice issues," according to Episcopal News Service. "Curry didn't shy away from such issues in his sermon, asking those gathered to "imagine a world where love is the way."

"Imagine our governments and nations when love is the way," Curry preached. "When love is the way, then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty would become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more."

Curry has called that "the Jesus Movement."

After I preached at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem a few months ago, someone gently remarked on his way out, "Don't you ever preach about anything but politics?"

I replied that I take my cue from the Bible which is filled with politics. "Keep reading," he said, implying that I might find something else.

I don't preach much these days. So, he may have been referring to my Facebook page where I frequently criticize the current U.S. administration.

When I did preach that day, the gospel passage was Mark 1:29-39. It's about Jesus casting out demons.

"If you've seen movies like 'The Exorcist,' get them out of your head," I said. "If you've heard anyone equate demons with mental illness, get rid of that lie as well. Stay with this: A demon is anything that has power that is not of God."

I asked the congregation to think about what/who are today's demons, and suggested three examples.

First, racism.

Then, fear of strangers, leading to denigration of those not like us. Accordingly, ban immigration. Get rid of the "Dreamers," the Haitians, the Salvadorans and, of course, the Muslims. Just as people before us wanted to get rid of or make life difficult for the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, Lithuanians and Slovaks.

Finally, whatever it might be that leads a person into addiction and keeps him/her there.

Was that political or biblical?

At my former parish, some 125 people once gathered for the funeral of a 52-year-old recovering drug addict, recovering alcoholic and a client of AIDS Outreach. Pablo may have truly loved and helped more people than I might imagine.

One who spoke reminded the others how often Pablo said, "Flacco [the drug dealer] doesn't love you. I love you."

Most were there because they loved Pablo in whom they saw someone from "the rooms" who had chosen not to use and wanted to turn their lives around.

They experienced, in Pablo — though they might not have put it this way — the healing touch of Jesus. They experienced themselves in need.

Flacco, the drug dealer, was the demon. Pablo was the healer.

To use that story in a sermon, for example, to speak against a lack of governmental aid to defeat the opioid crisis? Would that be political or biblical?

If humanity ever captures the energy of love!

Canon Bill Lewellis, an Episcopal priest, served on the bishop's staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years before retiring. His email address is blewellis@mac.com.


Oscar Romero

[Except for four new paragraphs at the beginning, this is a slightly revised excerpt from a sermon preached by Bill Lewellis in 2010.]

Almost a year before I left the Roman Catholic Church, Oscar Romero became one of my heroes. Onetime Archbishop of El Salvador, he was assassinated at the altar on March 24, 1980.

Pope Francis recently announced that he would declare Romero saint of the universal church in a ceremony in the Vatican on Oct. 14, 2018.

The Episcopal Church had added him to our book of saints, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, now Holy Women, Holy Men. He was attentive, intelligent, reasonable, responsible, in Love … and, when necessary, he changed.

Ironically, it was his change that got him into trouble with the institutional church. Many holy women and holy men experienced that. Does make one wonder. Pope Francis recognized that.

A conservative bishop who sided with the local power brokers who kept the poor oppressed, Oscar Romero was made archbishop in 1977 as a “compromise” candidate who was not impressed with Vatican II renewal.

When he was named archbishop, the local liberation theology Jesuits threw up their hands and wrote him off. They had been asserting heroically by their ministry that “the contemporary church must wield not only the teaspoons of charity, but also the bulldozers of justice, and become the voice of the voiceless.”

Over the next few years, however, especially after personally witnessing early morning clean up of bloodstained corpses on San Salvador's streets, victims of paramilitary death squads, and the slaying of his good friend, Father Rutilio Grande, Romero became a powerful critic of those in power who sanctioned atrocities.

When his Jesuit friend was gunned down in his jeep, Romero cancelled all services in San Salvador the following Sunday except for a single Mass outside the San Salvador Cathedral, celebrated with 100,000 people. His repentance and transformation accelerated after these and other events turned him around the bend. Reprisals intensified, while right-wing groups were leafleting the nation: Be a patriot: kill a priest.

“Romero's journey was not easy,” Canon Andrew Gerns at Trinity Easton on the 30th anniversary of Romero's martyrdom. “He was not raised to be a radical. He was raised in privilege and was appointed to care for the church in his archdiocese in a rather conventional way. Appoint priests, oversee schools, manage the books...don’t rock the boat. But he had a heart for faith and was willing to go where Jesus led him. At first tentatively, and later boldly, he began to connect the dots. He believed that the job of the church was to care for the weakest of God’s people. For Romero, this was a death sentence.”

We may not be able to point to any one event during which Romero was born again. As it is said of most Episcopalians, he was born again and again and again ... transformed, transformed, transformed and transformed. Not long after his incremental transformations – and actions taken in line with his transformation – Romero was shot on March 24, 1980, in the shadow of the cross.

For those of us who have read Mountains Beyond Mountains, it might be enough to note that Dr. Paul Farmer, living at Duke University when Romero was murdered, marks his own conversion and transformation from that event, from the witness and transformation of one man. Farmer, a Harvard doctor, reinvented international healthcare to bring medicine and healing to the poor in Haiti, Rwanda, Russia, Peru, Mexico and other nations.


Trinity – A Glimpse into the Mystery of God

[A slightly revised excerpt from a 2001 sermon preached by Bill Lewellis on Trinity Sunday]
 
 
Religion is about relationship because that is what God is about. God is three-in-one, being-in-relationship, being-in-community. That is what we celebrate on Trinity Sunday.
 
The ancient Greeks had a word that sounded like "mystery." Its Latin translation is a word that sounds like "sacrament." Christian thinkers used both words, mystery and sacrament or sign, to refer to the hidden presence of the real -- the partially veiled and partially unveiled presence of God -- to mean something visible (e.g., persons, community, bread and wine) something visible that communicates something of God's hidden presence.
 
Whenever we talk about God, we're in that realm of mystery. Unfortunately, our English word speaks of puzzles, riddles or problems to be solved. God is not a problem to be solved, an issue to be dealt with, or a belief to be held. God is first of all a presence to be encountered in our relationships, a presence that lures us into life.
 
Most of the great days of the church year celebrate events: the events of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost. Today, however, we celebrate and give thanks not for an event but for a glimpse into the heart of the mystery of God, a glimpse into God as a community of persons. We celebrate our faith that the mystery of God has to do with relationship, and that the relationships within the being of God form a pattern for all of our relationships, relationships meant to reflect God’s dream for all of us, the dream we refer to at times as the Kingdom of God or the Reign of God.
 
A glimpse into the mystery of God. In a university in Rome, where I studied theology, this was how a professor in a large lecture hall introduced.his course. He made a white chalk dot on a very large blackboard. “The dot,” he said, “is what we know about God. The blackboard is what we don’t know about God. What we know about God is precious little. But the little that God has given us to know is precious.”
 
I’ve found that to be a helpful image. What we know about God is precious little. But the little that God has given us to know is precious.
 
Experiencing God as Trinity. Most of us, as children, were baptized in the name of the Trinity. As children, many of us learned how to sign ourselves in the name of the Trinity. The most popular name for churches in our diocese is Trinity. The three-in-one God is a core teaching of the Church.
 
The idea of Trinity was not thought up by ivory-tower theologians to make things more complicated than they needed to be and to obscure the simple faith of ordinary people. It was, in fact, pretty much the other way around. It arose from how the early Christians, ordinary people, experienced God in their lives after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. They experienced God as three different persons. Yet, there could not be three gods. God, to be the biblical God and the only God of all, had to be one God. They attempted to put their experiences of God into words. Among the words they used to capture this experience were Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
 
The faith that arose from the experiences of ordinary people was then handed over to the theologians to try to make more intelligible. They have been trying ever since. A simple definition of theology is “putting your experiences of God into words.” The doctrine of the Trinity is our human attempt to use words to express our understanding of God – yet none of our words or images will ever be adequate to capture all of God.
 
I used to wear a tight, white T-shirt much too often in public, even after it framed my growing middle too well. Black lettering on the T-shirt proclaimed, “My life is based on a true story.”
 
Truth is not a thing apart. Truth is a relationship. If I remain in the relationship, continuing to explore the pattern of Trinity, I remain in the story.
 
God as Trinity means that relationship is at the heart of the universe, that relationship is the ultimate pattern, the ultimate design on which we explore the infinite possibilities of creation. God as Trinity means that you and I do not exist as genuinely human persons unless in relationship with others and with God. We are anchored by relationships. Our soul (spirituality, meaning, reality) is neither within nor without, but between… exploring the infinite possibilities of relationship.
 
Our lives are not limited by failure, nor by our illusions of success. There is always a call forward. None of us is there yet. Don’t ever think your life has come to a full stop. We are seeds swelling toward a ripeness never fully achieved, but ever in the process of becoming. In this moment, in every moment, we are being lured into life. We are becoming fit to live.
 
In the same way that nature constantly explores the infinite possibilities in a simple pattern like a tree, a leaf, a head of cauliflower, a snowflake, a human face, we too are exploring the infinite possibilities of the basic pattern of Trinity, being in community, being in relationship.
 
Life is a dance… with steps you don't know… Learn as you go.
 

Less Clouded By Irrelevance

Bill Lewellis
The Morning Call, May 20, 2018
http://www.mcall.com/features/religion/mc-fea-faith-and-values-lewellis-20180520-story.html

 

A spiritual journey is a relationship. It’s a metaphor. No two journeys are the same. No authentic journey begins before God somehow speaks. "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1:1).

God speaks first. Theologians call this revelation. God may speak through the created world, the prophets of old and new, our experiences, and the Jewish and Christian scriptures. 

God may speak through our families and friends, the wisdom of the ages, our critical faculties and our desires, the Word made flesh, our religious communities, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Through so many ways and people -- most of all, for Christians, in Jesus -- we continually discover who God is, who we are, and how we are related to God and with one another. 

Yet, we see "in a mirror, dimly” or, from an earlier translation, “through a glass, darkly.” (1Cor. 13:12) 

“I squint at God’s glory,” someone said, "through a smokescreen called the real world.” 

I hear Jesus say: Don’t let others tell you what is real. Don’t let anyone de-fine and re-duce reality for you. Don’t allow anyone to imprison you in that most secure prison without walls, the prison we don’t know we’re in. Imagine what is really real. See things differently. 

Jesus challenges us to dream. As we pray, he draws the dream from deep within us. To pray is to dream, to hope, to expect, to imagine. Whether worshiping with a community, reading alone, reflecting on the bible, considering a personal experience, a story or a movie, we can be at prayer, that research and development aspect of the church.

“Only the contemplative,” Thomas Merton used to say, only the pray-er “knows what the scoop is.” Only the pray-er knows that the really real is God breaking into human history -- God breaking through our prejudices and preferred notions with discomforting questions about poor and powerless persons, about justice and peace, about personal and systemic transformation – God breaking into human history so we might break out with new God given hearts to pursue God’s heart’s desires.

Through questions we ask and evidence we interpret, we experience insights. We sometimes see the light. We make judgments. We discover meaning.

God gave us a mind to wonder, put a yearning in our hearts, and sent his Word to lead us on and light our way.

Does our lifestyle celebrate the incredible revelation of God? Do we give thanks by our lifestyle for who we are as a result of God's reaching out to us?

St. Paul tells us in effect to conduct ourselves in certain ways not because law hangs over us but because life dwells within us.

You are a new creation in Christ. Celebrate the gift. Celebrate life. You won't find precisely those words in any one verse of Paul's letters. In many chapters, however, you will find what some biblical scholars have called the Pauline "Indicative-Imperative.” 

The indicative is the statement of fact, i.e., "You are a new creation in Christ." The statement of fact is followed by a moral command, the imperative, i.e., "Therefore, be... (Live accordingly)." The imperative's authority is not law above but life within.

The day after this is published, I will be 81. Though we do see always through a glass darkly, I wish I had seen decades ago, even dimly, however unlikely, what I think I see today. My spiritual journey might have been more focused, less clouded by irrelevance.

Canon Bill Lewellis, blewellis@mac.com, an Episcopal priest, retired since 2010 served on the bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the bishop’s staff of the RC Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that. His newSpin newsletter may be found at http://diobeth.typepad.com/diobeth_newspin/


newSpin 180517

newSpin, the newsletter
May 17
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis

TopSpin

• Bishop Sean's ministry could expand to Western New York … [Times-News staff, May 7] he Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and the Diocese of Western New York could begin sharing Bishop Sean Rowe in 2019.
Erie’s Episcopal bishop will wrap up his work in the Diocese of Bethlehem but could then head to the Diocese of Western New York.
   The Right Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Erie-based Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, will end his duties as provisional bishop in Bethlehem when its newly elected bishop is consecrated Sept. 15. Rowe became bishop in Erie in 2007 and took on the temporary Bethlehem job in 2014 after the bishop there retired. In 2019, he could resume the job of provisional bishop, this time in Western New York following the retirement of Bishop William Franklin.
   Rowe, 43, the youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church, leads an Erie-based diocese of 33 congregations that officials say has more than 3,000 members in 13 counties. The Diocese of Western New York, based about 100 miles from Erie in Tonawanda, New York, has 57 parishes with almost 8,500 members. Read on

Jubilate for Pentecost B … i
s now available at the Trinity Bethlehem website. Also, Prayers of the People may be found there. Jubilate is a resource for hymn selection. Weekly Prayers of the People may be used in place of the forms found in the Book of Common Prayer. Both are prepared by Canon Cliff Carr, priest associate. They are available in both Word (.doc) and .pdf formats. Find both here.

• Michael Curry will preach at the royal wedding[NYT] Bishop Michael Curry, the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church, will deliver a sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19. Read on. Also at Newsweek.

• A short but moving video … Church leaders drafted this statement because the soul of the nation is at stake. Here.

• Reclaiming Jesus … Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners have issued the following letter to church leaders about the Reclaiming Jesus Declaration. Read the letter here.

• Great Sermon! Now, how about my carburetor? … Most everybody in Moscow, PA knows Father Earl Trygar. At some point or another, he's probably had his head under the hood of one of their car. Plus, about 40 of them hear him preach and sing the Eucharist at St. Mark's Church every Sunday morning. It makes for interesting conversation. “People will stop on the way out of church and say, ‘Nice sermon! By the way, my inspection sticker expires at the end of the month. Can you get me in?’” And Trygar always can. Trygar’s Auto Center, which he opened in 1977, is the only garage in town, and it’s conveniently located about 100 yards from St. Mark’s Church, where Trygar has served as rector since 2003. During the years leading to his 2002 ordination to the priesthood, more than a few church leaders urged him to consider ordained ministry. Not that they wanted him to give up being a car mechanic; they just thought he should do both. Read on.

• Four different news stories over 24 hours – how they connect [David Leonhardt, NYTimes] The president is going to keep lying, and his allies are going to keep covering for him. The rest of us need to remember that a lie is still a lie, even when it’s coming from the president. #4: Pro-Trump media outlets, many of which have little regard for truth, are spreading. They include Salem Radio Sinclair Broadcasting, Fox News and local websites promoting Republican candidates that are intentionally framed to look like real news websites. Read on.

• DioBeth Leadership News, May 10 Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, May 3
Here.
• DioBeth General News, April 26 … Here.

********  [A DioBeth newsletter (General or Leadership) or the unofficial newSpin newsletter is published online on Thursdays in the following rotation: (1) Leadership News, (2) The newSpin newslet
ter, (3) General News, (4) The newSpin newsletter. If you are not receiving these newsletters by email, be in touch with Paula Lapinski (610-691-5655, paula@diobeth.org). If you find something online or in print(or if you'd like to write something) that you think might warrant inclusion in the newSpin newsletter for the sake of many, please send the link or your text to bill.lewellis@gmail.com ********

Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• We'll separate you from your childrenThat’s the message from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday to people who cross U.S. borders without documentation. Sessions said 700 kids already have been taken away from their parents by U.S. officials since July.That’s the message from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday to people who cross U.S. borders without documentation. Sessions said 700 kids already have been taken away from their parents by U.S. officials since July. Read on.

• On preserving favorable tax treatment of clergy housing allowances [Forbes, May 6]
The big trouble makers in this are are the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its officers. They think that allowing "ministers of the gospel" to receive cash housing allowances tax free is a violation of the Establishment Clause. Read on.

• Ben Carson vs. The Fair Housing ACT [NYTimes Editorial Board, May 13] The contempt of the housing and urban development secretary, Ben Carson, for the Fair Housing Act of 1968 has blinded him to policies that are in the nation’s best interest, and made him a prime target for lawsuits and court intervention. Read on.


• Protecting Religious Liberty [Bernard Prusak, Commonweal] Why should religious beliefs warrant accommodation when they conflict with other people’s interests?
Here.

• In rebuke of Trump, Tillerson says lies are a threat to democracy [NYTimes]
In his address, he cut to the heart of the most significant criticisms of the president, that Mr. Trump exaggerates and constructs his own truths and that he has undermined ethical standards in Washington. “If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both the public and private sector — and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector — then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years,” Mr. Tillerson warned. Read on.

• Trump's Failure in Jerusalem [NYTimes Editorial Board] The day the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem is a day the world has longed for, because of what it was supposed to represent: the end of a seemingly endless conflict, a blood-soaked tragedy with justice and cruelty on both sides. Israelis and Palestinians have envisioned a capital in Jerusalem, and for generations the Americans, the honest brokers in seeking peace, withheld recognition of either side’s claims, pending a treaty that through hard compromise would resolve all competing demands.
   But on Monday President Trump delivered the embassy as a gift without concession or condition to the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and as a blow to the Palestinians. The world did not witness a new dawn of peace and security for two peoples who have dreamed of both for so long. Instead, it watched as Israeli soldiers shot and killed scores of Palestinian protesters, and wounded thousands more, along Israel’s boundary with the Gaza Strip.
Read on.

 

SpiritSpin
• Isn't this a good thing we are doing?[A 1987 column by Bill Lewellis published in a local daily newspaper] There's
a good story about that awful distinction described as "ministers minister and congregations congregate." I'd like to supply appropriate attribution, but I can't remember where I heard the following parable about ministry.


• Faith, Fear and Certainty … [A slightly edited version of a 2003 column by Bill Lewellis, published in The Morning Call] When the religious certains have been many, they have harassed, persecuted, even killed the few. When the certains are few, they simply bore others to death with an ironic accomplishment: replacing the joy and richness of relationship with God with a drab and tedious version of being right. Read on

• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.

• What are your defining moments? [A slightly edited version of a column by Bill Lewellis, published in 1998] A three-story perspective casts a little light for me on God’s continuing visitations in our lives. Read on.

• The Daily Examen [IgnatianSpirituality] is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.
  
[Bill] When I was in college seminary in Philadelphia, those responsible for mentoring our spirituality put this into our nighttime community prayer as an examination of conscience (recalling our sins of the day) rather than an examination of consciousness (discerning God's presence in our day). What an awful misunderstanding of the Daily Examen! Worse yet, it may have been intentional in the RC seminary culture of those days. Read on.

• Keep thinking – It's so religious [A slightly edited version of a 2005 column by Bill Lewellis, published in The Morning Call] A conclusion, according to Mark Twain, is the place where someone got tired of thinking. God wants us to keep thinking. That’s why we have so many parables, images and themes in the bible without one-size-fits-all conclusions. I think. Read on.

• Life within the Swirl – pointlessly purposeful … [A slightly edited 1997 column by Bill Lewellis, published in a daily newspaper] Preachers over the years have moved from the classic “three-point” sermon to one memorable point. Television has, indeed, affected our attention span. Recently, however, I heard sermon-resource guru Leonard Sweet suggest that sermons be “pointless.” His “point” was that sermons ought to invite us into further contemplation. Open-ended images and stories do that better than points. My contribution to that discussion is a “pointless” column. My image: swirls. Read on

• Today We Remember Tomorrow[A slightly edited sermon preached at Diocesan House by Bill Lewellis, Oct. 31, 2013, Vigil of All Saints] From several of my classmates and friends and professors in Rome during the early 60s, I gained a love of good theology. But it wasn’t until some 15 years ago that I heard four words, right here, that captured the purpose of theology and the meaning of Eucharist. Today, we remember tomorrow. My mantra. Read on,


• Ability, Adaptability, Ambiguity: Living with integrity in the tension[Bill Lewellis] A one-sided conversation took place during the late 1960s when what was to become for me a 40-year ministry on the staffs of three bishops in two denominations. Too soon was it over. My first day at the bishop’s office of the RC Diocese of Allentown was a deep-water introduction to ecclesial systems. I was 30 years old with the slight experience of three years in parish ministry, and one year of teaching in local Catholic high schools. I had earned a reputation as one who resisted the system. Well, it was the '60s.
  
During that first day, the bishop’s main man gave me some advice. "You obviously have ability,” he said, “but even more important for your work here will be adaptability … and being able to deal with ambiguity."

   The veiled message spooked me. I was warned. It was a pre-emptive strike. I believed then, however, and still believe that the one giving the advice was looking out for me. One question stayed with me after I processed the advice: "How to live with integrity in the tension?" Read on.

• Oh the Places You Can Go With Metaphors [A slightly edited excerpt from a 2006 sermon preached by Bill Lewellis]  “Like knotholes in a fence around a construction site,” it has been said, “metaphors allow the curious to peek into the realm of God.”  One cannot speak about God or about relationship with God without using images and metaphors, some helpful, some not. Read on.

• Jesus is a troublesome figure[A 2001 published column by Bill Lewellis] Midway through The Brothers Karamazov, (New York: The Modern Library, pp. 259-266), Dostoevsky deals insightfully with the temptations Jesus rejected, temptations to carry out his mission by manipulation. He inserts in his novel the story of “The Grand Inquisitor.”
Read on

 
• 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 ... 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.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons and reflections. Here.


Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin
• Baylor's 12 Most 'Effective' English Language Preachers … [CNN] For only the second time in two decades, Baylor University has released its list of the 12 most "effective" preachers in the English language. It is among the most prestigious honors in the preaching profession -- one that has changed the lives of previous recipients.
Here, Here and Here.

• No wonder there's an exodus from religion
[EJ Dionne, Jr., WaPo, May 6] Do you wonder why the proportion of Americans declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion has skyrocketed in recent decades? This trend is especially pronounced among adults under 30, roughly 40 percent of whom claim no connection to a religious congregation or tradition and have joined the ranks of those the pollsters call the “nones.” To understand how so many now prefer nothing to something when it comes to religion, ponder the news over the past few days.
Read on.

DioBeth
• Diocese of Bethlehem elects Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, as its next bishop
Nichols, who is currently, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, was elected on the first ballot by the clergy of the diocese and elected lay representatives during a meeting in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
   "I am thrilled to be joining with the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem to bear witness to the power of the Resurrection in their communities," Nichols said. "The momentum there is unmistakable and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us together.
  
"I see this as a moment for us as a church to recover our purpose for why we are here, to reconcile and to offer God's love and healing where there has been painful damage. The Diocese of Bethlehem in its diverse landscapes is rich and fertile ground for God's planting and pruning."

   Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire's Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.
   A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and St. Andrew's in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
 
While serving small parishes, Nichols also worked as an account manager and management trainer for Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging company. Read on,

• DioBeth Leadership News, May 10
Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, May 3
Here.
• DioBeth General News, April 26
Here.


Episcopal/Anglican

• House of Bishops' pastoral response to #MeToo will focus on listening, liturgy and steps for healing[The Episcopal Church, Public Affairs Office] In an open letter to the Episcopal Church, an invitation is extended to share reflections on sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation. A selection of the reflections will be read at a special listening session during General Convention 2018. The House of Bishop’s Pastoral Response will be a sacred space for listening and further reconciliation on Wednesday, July 4, 5:15 pm to 7 pm Central (6:15 pm Eastern/4:15 pm Mountain/3:15 pm Pacific). Those at General Convention 2018 in Austin, TX, are welcome to attend; those not in Austin will be able to participate remotely via a live webcast. Read on.

• The Episcopal Asset Map … unveils redesigned site, invites full participation across church. It's
an online platform showing the location and ministries of Episcopal churches, schools and other communities. It has been revamped and refreshed with more-detailed information, easier access and ease of navigation. If your congregation or appropriate info about your congregation is not included, that means info has not been supplied. Read on.

• House of DeputiesMay newsletter.

• How the Church of England has shifted on divorce[WaPo] When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand before the altar at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, a refuge of the British monarch for a thousand years, the Archbishop of Canterbury will tie the knot with vows from the Common Book of Prayer that read “to have and to hold . . . until death do us part.” Not so very long ago, this wedding — with this service and this officiant at this place — would have been impossible.Not because Markle is an American and a commoner, marrying a prince now sixth in line for the throne. And not because the actress is biracial, raised Episcopalian and attended Catholic school in Los Angeles. No, such a service would have been opposed by the Church of England hierarchy because Markle is divorced and her former husband is still alive. Read on.


Stewardship/Church Growth/Migration/ERD
• Episcopal Migration Ministries … Here
.
• Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) … Here.
• Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) … Here.
• Episcopal Asset Map … Here.


TaleSpin
Question Your Answers
[The Atlantic and HBO] These days, our culture rewards strong opinions and quick-draw conclusions. In a time when every side seems convinced it has the answers, The Atlantic and HBO are partnering on a series of short films that challenge our certainties.
   Civil discourse ultimately depends on a recognition that none of us has a complete understanding of the world—and that we’re at our best when we engage with arguments that confront our deepest beliefs. This is how we, as a society, move toward a better and shared future. Read on.

• Children of the Opioid Epidemic[Intro by Jake Silverstein of the NYTimes Magazine] This NYTimes Magazine's cover story is a masterful piece of reporting, writing and human empathy from the novelist and journalist Jennifer Egan, who spent many months documenting the lives of women who are addicted to opioids and become pregnant. This is an aspect of the opioid crisis that we haven’t heard as much about, in part, perhaps, because it seems so tragic. But Egan’s story is a vitally important one. As she explains, the number of pregnant women addicted to opioids has grown significantly in recent years; and there has been a similar increase in the number of newborns experiencing the opioid-withdrawal condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Egan’s story explores the complex emotional and physical struggles that these women and their children go through.
  
As Egan notes, the tendency in many areas to villainize these women, to treat them as criminals (or at least criminally irresponsible), is a dangerous one, not only because it risks compounding their cycles of addiction with shame and persecution but also because it fails to recognize that a newborn baby can often become a lifeline for a woman who has struggled in vain for years to quit using drugs. Read on.


•  I am one of the lucky ones [A Mother's Day reflection by Dean Tony Pompa of Nativity Cathedral, Bethlehem]     I realize that I am one of the lucky ones. I was fortunate to be born to a woman whose basic instinct is one of nurture, love, and compassion. I also was fortunate enough to be have a mother who was resilient and smart, though she would never come to that thought on her own. I was raised in love, protected enough from strong forces that might work against me, and because my mother lived as one who respected other's dignity, I hold that as a core value. I am so very very grateful to my mother for her sacrifice and for her example. I am also lucky to still have her in my life and that my children have grown up to know this amazing woman. Lucky. In theological terms, my mother has been a blessing to me and my siblings.
  
I also know that Mother's day isn't always an easy day for some. I am aware that some have never known their mother or experienced the good fortune I have. I am aware that some relationships get strained, and that not all those who have given birth have had the resources or emotional capacity to love their children in ways some might hope for. I am aware that some relationships are abusive and that those scars remain a lifetime. I am aware that some have lost their mothers in death, sometimes tragically, and that pain often stings while folk like me enjoy the good fortune of a living and loving mother. I am also aware that some mother's among us have lost children prematurely, and that the hole left in their hearts by this is deep and sometimes dark.
   I suppose on such a day I will offer my thanks and share my gratitude and love with my mom. At the same time I offer my respect for the fragility of the day for those whose pain I am aware of, and walk a care filled path so that I might not step on the feelings of those whose pain I may not be aware. Perhaps a psalm that might be written or sung is to the great nurturer who is our God. A psalm that is able to mix a spirit of thanksgiving for love received with a balm of healing for love lost and longed for.

• A secretary quietly amassed a fortune, then gave most of it to scholarships … [NYTimes, May 6] Even by the dizzying standards of New York City philanthropy, a recent $6.24 million donation to the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side was a whopper — the largest single gift from an individual to the social service group in its 125-year history.
   It was not donated by some billionaire benefactor, but by a frugal legal secretary from Brooklyn who toiled for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died not long afterward in 2016.
  
Her name was Sylvia Bloom and even her closest friends and relatives had no idea she had amassed a fortune over the decades. She did this by shrewdly observing the investments made by the lawyers she served.

   “She was a secretary in an era when they ran their boss’s lives, including their personal investments,” recalled her niece Jane Lockshin. “So when the boss would buy a stock, she would make the purchase for him, and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary.” Read on.

• Surest way to face marijuana charges in New York: Be Black or Hispanic[NYTimes, May 14] The police explanation that more black and Hispanic people are arrested on marijuana charges because complaints are high in their neighborhoods doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Read on.

• The 9 Minutes that Almost Changed America[BuzzFeed, h/t NYTimes] A riveting reconstruction of last year’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice, which was very nearly a ‘deadly, mass political assassination.’ Detailed and haunting, it will remind readers of an awful day that, if not for a group of brave people, could have been even worse. But it also underscores how our hyper-charged news cycle has already pushed even this mass shooting to the edges of memory. Read on.

• A Different Age
[NYTimes] Viewing Eleanor Roosevelt’s tenure as first lady through the acrid smoke of Hillary Clinton’s history as political wife, senator, secretary of state and failed presidential candidate is like trying to picture a loved one before she suffered a devastating injury: There is no way to un-see that wreckage, to reimagine her whole. But there was once a highly educated, independent American wife and mother who transformed the role of first lady, worked tirelessly for social justice and served as a strategic helpmate to her charismatic, philandering husband — while retaiof course, and yet she was awarded — by a still moderately respectful press and not least by Franklin D. Roosevelt himself — a measure of personal freedom to nurture close emotional ties with others. One of the most significant of these was the A.P. journalist Lorena Hickok (known as Hick), who left her job after becoming tooning her dignity, and even some measure of privacy, in that exposed position. It was a different time.
   Eleanor Roosevelt had legions of detractors as well as acolytes, close to her subject, worked for the Roosevelt administration and later lived at the White House. In July 1933, just a few months after her husband took office, Eleanor and Hick set out for a vacation in New England and Canada, driving off in Eleanor’s sporty blue convertible, unaccompanied by the Secret Service, staying together in hotels and farmhouses. Today it’s unthinkable that such a holiday could go undocumented — or unpunished.
Read on,


Requiescant in pace
 • Gabrielle (Gaby) Whittier … died April 29. Gaby was a faithful parishioner and long-time parish administrator at Trinity Bethlehem.

• Louis J. Falzone, 87
… died May 11.
He was a member of Holy Cross Episcopal Church, Wilkes-Barre, and had been a member of the choir for many years. Obituary.

• Loren Mead, 88 … died peacefully under hospice care at his home,
in Falls Church, Virginia, on May 5. He was a congregational studies pioneer. "The Episcopal Church has lost a visionary pioneer and leader in congregation wellness and mission," Archdeacon Rick Cluett writes "I have lost an old friend. I am grateful for him. I have known him since the late 1960s. He was very important in my early ordained ministry and later inspired the church to see that God may be doing - and needing - new things as the Church moves into this era. I am grateful to him." Obituary.

• Tom Wolfe, 88 … died on May 14. The white-suited wizard of “New Journalism” who exuberantly chronicled American culture from the Merry Pranksters through the space race before turning his satiric wit to such novels as “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “A Man in Full,” died of an infection in a NYC hospital. AP, NYTimes, Poynter, Master of the Long Sentence, and Poynter, How Tom Wolfe made me feel better about the semicolon.

Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not
• St. Paul's Lutheran in Allentown in Danger of Closing … [Column, May 6, by Pastor Steve Shussett] Over the past few weeks, many people have learned about the precarious situation in which St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Allentown finds itself. Like many inner city mainline churches, its membership, though faithful, has declined for a variety of reasons. Generosity through the ages has carried the congregation far, but those resources cannot last forever. And so, like many churches, it faces the prospect of closing. Vital, if not sustainable, it remains a beautiful, worshipful place.
  
But unlike most churches, St. Paul's has become known as ground zero for ministry to the homeless and marginalized in Pennsylvania’s third largest city. From colleagues in community and government to Christian, Jewish and Muslim, and other faith partners, those in need knew they could come to St. Paul's for an array of services for body, mind and spirit. Regrettably, that soon may come to an end. We are hopeful, we are trying, but we are also realistic. We are trusting in God’s resurrecting power: that the God who raised Jesus from the dead can take this dire situation and bring new life. Read on.

• The elusive phenomenon of churches without God[The Economist] When a group sings, talks and bonds like a religion but may not be one. Like many similar clubs across the Western world, this “atheist church” aims to offer some features of a religious congregation (fellowship, collective enjoyment, a stimulus to moral behaviour) while eschewing any belief in a deity or the supernatural. Ruth Walther, the founder of the Seattle community, sums up its ethos by drawing a contrast with a Christian hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way”. At her church, she says, “We believe in good because good works in non-mysterious ways.” Read on.

• Is Jerusalem embassy part of God's grand plan? Why some evangelicals love Israel [RNS] Evangelicals' influence on the decision to move the Israel embassy suggests that United States policy in the Middle East is now heavily influenced by dispensational theology. Read on. And, The new American emassys messianic moment.



Evangelical Lutheran Church
• In historic votes, Lutherans elect two African-American women bishops [RNS] A synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made history Saturday (May 5) by electing the denomination’s first female African-American bishop. One day later, a synod 900 miles away elected the second. Read on,

• ELCA WebsiteHere.

• ELCA News ServiceHere.
• ELCA BlogsHere.
 

Moravian Church
• Moravian Church in North America  Website.  

• Moravian Church Northern Province Website
• Moravian Theological Seminary Website.

United Methodist Church
News Service Here.
Communication Resources ... Start here.
Eastern PA Conference website Here.
Facebook Here.
Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Website
... Here
• News & Announcements ... Here.

Roman Catholic
Diocese of Scranton ... Here.

Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here
Catholic News Service ... Here.
Crux Now ... Here.

The Vatican

• Vatican Information Service blog
... Here.

• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.


Health and Wellness
• The value of a doctor-patient relationship [NYTimes Magazine] In its push for profits, the U.S. health care system has made it difficult for patients to get personal attention from doctors. But what if hands-on medicine actually saves money — and lives? Read on.

• The NYTimes Magazine Health IssueHere.

• All about ticks and mosquitoes[NYTimes] Here.


Film and TV

• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.


Media, Print, Music, Tech
• Communicate … Your Ministry, including Bill's Communication Biases and Communication-Evangelism. Here.

• Books for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• Audios for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• 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.


Websites
The Episcopal Café
Here.

AnglicansOnlineHere.
Diocese of BethlehemHere.

The Episcopal ChurchHere.
Episcopal News ServiceHere.


Podcasts
• The Bible for Normal People
… Hosted by Peter Enns and Jared Byas.
• The Daily … How the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.
• Invisibilia …Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
• Today, ExplainedVox's daily explainer podcast — bringing you the biggest news every day with guests, context, radio drama, and more
• Radio Atlantic … Weekly conversations with leading journalists and thinkers to make sense of the history happening all around us.
• Stay Tuned with Preet … Join former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for a podcast about justice and fairness.
• The Axe Files with David Axelrod … Revealing interviews with key figures in the political world.
• Pod Save America … Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — are joined by journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists for a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency. 
• Trumpcast … A quasi-daily podcast from Slate chronicling Donald Trump's rise to the presidency and his current administration. With journalists, historians, psychiatrists, and other experts to help explain who this man is and why this is happening, right now, in the United States of America.
• Freakonomics Radio … Stephen Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.
• Things Not Seen … is an independent radio show and podcast that features in-depth interviews with nationally recognized guests. Each week, we welcome authors, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, and more. "We take faith seriously, and our guests do, too."
• The Francis Effectis about the real world of politics and current events, seen through the lens of Catholic teaching and spirituality. Hosts, Fr. Dan Horan and David Dault, both have doctorates in theology. Dan is a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. David is a radio producer and Catholic convert.
• Caliphateis a new audio series following Rukmini Callimachi of the NYTimes as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul.


Varia
• Ukrainian Sushi Here.



Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO
… Anglicans Online
AP
… Associated Press
BCP
… Book of Common Prayer
CJR
… Columbia Journalism Review
COM
… Commonweal
CN
… Crux Now
CNS
… Catholic News Service
DoB
… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC
… Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic

TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal

newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
   The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It 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, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).

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]


Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest

• For the Poor and the Neglected[BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.

• A prayer before anything[Bill] Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. Let us pray: Guide us, gracious God. May we be … Attentive to our experience, to the voices and hearts of those around us, Intelligent in our interpretation of that to which we have been attentive. Reasonable in our judgments about what we have understood. Responsible in our decisions about how we will act on our judgments. And always open to inner conversion, to transformation in your truth and your love.

• A Man Called Mark … A new biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, will be published on July 17. Dyer was bishop of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995. [Church Publishing and Leadership News] This official biography tells the compelling story of the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer: Irish Catholic boy from New Hampshire, U.S. Navy vet, Roman Catholic then Episcopal priest, bishop, and seminary professor-and one of the most influential, beloved leaders of the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
  
Following a dispute with ecclesiastical authorities, Dyer left the Roman Church for the Anglican Church of Canada. Later received as priest in the Episcopal Church, his gifts as teacher, preacher, and pastor were recognized with election as Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There, he established a new model of leadership, delegating administrative duties to concentrate on spiritual direction, pastoral care, and creating mission projects at every church in his diocese. Also renowned as a story-teller, many of his favorite stories appear here, told in his own voice. Read on.

• Reclaiming Jesus is a confession of faith in a time of crisis signed on to by many faith leaders including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The following is an excerpt.
I. We believe each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore, we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity.
II. We believe we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28).
Therefore, we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
III. We believe how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Therefore, we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34).
IV. We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives.
Therefore, we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.
V. We believe that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Therefore, we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it.
VI. We believe Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18).
Therefore, we reject “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. Read all of this confession of faith.

• A new comprehensive Evangelism Toolkit … is available online for congregations, dioceses, groups, and individuals to explore Evangelism.

Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.

Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.

• Vital Practices for leading congregations … This website of the Episcopal Church Foundation seems to me to be an especially useful tool for anyone active in parish life. It covers much more than parish finances. Read on.

• The Episcopal Churchis currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
   The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on.

 

 

 


Jesus is a troublesome figure

[A 2001 published column by Bill Lewellis]

Midway through The Brothers Karamazov, (New York: The Modern Library, pp. 259-266), Dostoevsky deals insight-fully with the temptations Jesus rejected, temptations to carry out his mission by manipulation. He inserts in his novel the story of “The Grand Inquisitor.”

Jesus comes again to walk our streets, the story goes, as the embodiment of God’s dream (God’s kingdom). He brings good news to the poor… release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and lets the oppressed go free… (Luke 4:18)

The Grand Inquisitor, a weary and crusty old man who embodies institutional concerns, has Jesus arrested. During the night he visits Jesus. Standing in the doorway of the prison cell, staring at Jesus, he sneers:

“Is it Thou? Don’t answer. Be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say… Art Thou come to hinder us?"

You made a mess of it once, the Grand Inquisitor says to Jesus, and we (the institutional church) fixed it by taking freedom away from men and women. That’s what you should have done. It’s the only way they can be happy. We’ve completed your work. Have you come to mess things up again? Go, and return no more.

“Instead of taking men’s freedom, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering."

Free choice makes us unique in God’s creation? We are free to snub the God who created us. We are free to tell God to take a hike. But it is only because of that dreadful possibility that we are free also to love.

"God put freedom into his created universe,” the late Episcopal Bishop Stephen Bayne said, “in order that the universe could respond to his love with an answering love of its own...

“God put into the created universe a principle of choice; and paid a twofold price for that. First, he limited his own freedom to have everything his own way. Second, he committed himself to having to win out of freedom what he could perfectly easily have commanded as of right. Why? Because God is love, and because love needs an answering love for love's sake."

“Jesus of Nazareth is a troubling and troublesome figure,” Verna Dozier writes in The Dream of God (Boston, Cowley Publications, 1991), “and the church has never known what to do with him.”

It has been suggested that many “churchmen” were good and saintly people who loved Christ enough that they probably would have died for him. They just couldn’t trust him, and sought safer ways than his to do things. Discipleship, because it is about faith, is risky. We see through a glass darkly. We do the best we can. Tomorrow we may find out we were wrong.

“Since I do not live by being right, I am not destroyed by being wrong,” Dozier says. “The God revealed in Jesus whom I call the Christ is a God whose forgiveness goes ahead of me, and whose love sustains me… and bursts all the definitions of our small minds…”

Yet, “the great anomaly of Christianity,” according to biblical scholar Raymond Brown, “is that only through an institution can the message of a non-institutional Jesus be preserved.”

The institution at its best faithfully suggests that we put our trust first in Jesus.

What is the message of Jesus? Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand. Turn around. Don’t be seduced by values of the world. God has a dream, and God has chosen you to work toward its realization.

What difference does it make that you believe in God? Does God’s dream come any nearer to realization because of what you believe?


Oh the Places You Can Go With Metaphors

[A slightly edited excerpt from a 2006 sermon preached by Bill Lewellis]

The word, “abide,” occurs eight times in a short passage from the Gospel according to John [John 15:1-8] and another six times in a short passage from the First Letter of John [1John 4:7-21]. No wonder there’s a hymn. “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide … in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

“Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. I am the vine, you are the branches.” Abide: remain, stay, live, dwell, last, endure, continue.

“Like knotholes in a fence around a construction site,” it has been said, “metaphors allow the curious to peek into the realm of God.” That, too, is a metaphor.

One cannot speak about God or about relationship with God without using images and metaphors, some helpful, some not.

It has also been said that Christians who can’t cope with metaphors have done their best to spoil the faith for the rest of us.

There’s another metaphor in John 15. It’s about pruning. You may remember an experience of spiritual pruning in your life. You didn’t like it? Don’t miss the point, however, that only branches that bear fruit are pruned … that they may bear more fruit.


Life within the swirl — pointlessly purposeful

[A column by Bill Lewellis, published in 1997]

Preachers over the years have moved from the classic “three-point” sermon to one memorable point. Television has, indeed, affected our attention span. Recently, however, I heard sermon-resource guru Leonard Sweet suggest that sermons be “pointless.” His “point” was that sermons ought to invite us into further contemplation. Open-ended images and stories do that better than points. My contribution to that discussion is a “pointless” column. My image: swirls.

Persons of faith, it has seemed to me, thrive within energizing swirls of apparent oxymorons — swirls of law and love, tradition and risk, sacrifice and celebration, already and not yet, death and resurrection. Persons of faith thrive where the world often sees only contradiction and foolishness.

“Be not anxious,” Jesus said. “Be not afraid,” he said again. Commands? No. These are promises. Invitations. When we move within the swirls of life’s storms — finding safe harbor in God’s eye — we need not be anxious about the force or flow of the current. On the other hand when we give ourselves over to current obsession — be the current one of despair, unfounded optimism, certainty, bible belting or anything less than God on which we bet our lives — we allow ourselves to be manipulated somewhere beyond God’s eye.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," a swirl of its own, recently caught my ear again. “I believe the most precious thing in the sight of God is the good deed freely chosen,” he said on the public television series, Searching for God in America. “When I choose to be generous, to be truthful, to be forgiving — when I choose to do good, the Talmud tells me that God looks down and says, 'For that moment alone, it was worth creating the world.'" The good deed freely chosen … within the swirl of God’s will and human freedom.

The TV series also featured former White House hatchet man Charles Colson who found religion in prison. The interviewer asked him if he is surprised by people still doubting the authenticity of his conversion, even 23 years later.

“Of course,” he said, because if Jesus Christ will come and live in my life, if he will take the toughest of the Nixon tough guys and turn Chuck Colson’s life around, he could turn anyone’s life around. The problem is a lot of people are running away and don't want their lives turned around.”

Kushner and Colson. Jew and evangelical Christian. Another swirl?

Caught up in a current of arrogance, I used to doubt the authenticity of Colson’s conversion. No more. What right do I have to doubt the authenticity of anyone’s conversion to God?

Be not anxious. Be not afraid. Life within the swirl is not a default compromise but an intentionally staked out position. When you live in God’s eye of the storm, you can also dance on the edge to the music of the center. Is there a “point” in that image? Sorry about that.


What are your defining moments?

[A slightly edited version of a column by Bill Lewellis, published in 1998]

A three-story perspective casts a little light for me on God’s continuing visitations in our lives.

The first story is the conversion of St. Paul. During the first century, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul's "business as usual" included search and destroy missions, seeking out those who were counter-cultural, those who followed The Way, Christianity's original name. While on one of those missions, Paul was blinded by a light, fell to the ground, and heard a voice: "Why are you persecuting me?"

"Who are you?" Paul asked. "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting."

That experience may have informed Paul’s theology and a morality. My soundbite version of Paul’s theology is: "Because Christ lives within, you are a new creation." Then, Paul’s morality: "Therefore, be who you are. Live as a new creature. Put away the old man."

The second story is more fanciful, about the Christ within us recognizing himself unformed, yet unborn, in the disguises of the world.

A little boy wandered into a sculptor's studio and watched the sculptor begin to work with a large piece of marble. He soon got bored and went on his way. Months later he returned and, to his surprise, where once stood only a large block of marble, there now stood a handsome, powerful, Aslan-like lion. "How did you know," he asked the sculptor there was a lion in the marble?" "Before I saw the lion in the marble,” the sculptor said, “I saw the lion in my heart. But the real secret is that it was the lion in my heart who saw the himself in the marble."

In line with that, a Maryknoll missionary once said: "Many years ago when I came to this faraway land, I came to bring God to the people. I soon discovered that God was here before me."

The third story of God’s continuing visitation changes often. For me, it is different today than it was 40 years ago or even 40 months ago. It is a wonderfully different story for each one of us, our own story of how we’ve been blinded by the light, our own defining moments.

Episcopalians don’t generally think of themselves as having been born again. We're more likely to describe ourselves as having been born again and again and again.

I've grown accustomed to thinking in terms of defining moments rather than born again experiences. Cut me some slack with the word "moment." I use it as "day" is used in the story of creation. A defining moment might be a sudden insight or a two-year journey that in hindsight occasions a renewed or rediscovered understanding of who we are and who God wants us to be.

May we all continue to have insights, dreams by day and night, "aha" experiences and "uh-oh" experiences that somehow shape our lives, defining moments from which then our transformed lives themselves tell what we have seen and heard.


FAITH, FEAR AND CERTAINTY

[A slightly edited version of a 2003 column by Bill Lewellis, published in The Morning Call]

When the religious "certains" have been many, they have harassed, persecuted, even killed the few. When the "certains" are few, they simply bore others to death with an ironic accomplishment: replacing the joy and richness of relationship with God with a drab and tedious version of "being right."

There is a presumption in the land of religion: that the opposite of faith is doubt,and that faith is about "being right." Jesus did not pray that his followers be ever right; he prayed that we be one. Lead us not into presumption.

The opposite of faith, some say, is fear. I agree. Fear that God does not love me. Fear that I might not "be right" about religion. So, somehow or other, I need to be certain.

Faith is a risky business, sometimes described as a leap. It has to do with questions. Certainty has to do with answers.

You may remember the old Peanuts comic strip that has Lucy shouting, "God is the answer, God is the answer." As she runs by Snoopy, he is left thinking, "What is the question?"

That's a profound statement. Greater religious faithfulness arises from asking insightful questions than from repeating one's own certainties.

The double-sided, classic religious question is first of all about exodus: emancipation, freedom, liberty, deliverance, passing through the river of death and life. It's about getting out of the box, a prison of our own making. It's the most secure prison one can imagine, a box we don't know we're in. In that context, "What's the question?" isn't so funny.

The other side of the question is about relationship, covenant, transformation, enlightenment, resurrection, new life. "You are a new creation in Christ," St. Paul often reminds us. Therefore - here I paraphrase St. Paul, -- be who you are, know whose you are, and live a life worthy of that calling.

The "certains" deal more in answers than in questions – quick to condemn the contemporary cultural target, e.g., persons who are gay as well as anyone who questions the answers about which they are certain.

Jesus “was not brought down by atheism and anarchy,” Barbara Brown Taylor writes. “He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared… to make others conform.”

“Our last experience of God is frequently the greatest obstacle to the next experience of God,” writes Richard Rohr. “We make an absolute out of it… All great spirituality is about letting go.”

Give me that old time biblical irony: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned."

As I've grown older, I've believed less more. My faith is focused on God's good news..

As I understand it, the good news is: (1) We're all sinners. (2) We're all forgiven/loved by God. (3) We're all forgiven/loved by God not because we've been repentant. Rather, we're repentant/transformed because we've been forgiven and loved.


'ISN'T THIS A GOOD THING WE ARE DOING?'

[A 1987 column by Bill Lewellis published in a local daily newspaper]

Some ten to fifteen years ago I heard a wonderful story about that awful distinction described by someone who said "ministers minister and congregations congregate." I'd like to supply appropriate attribution, but I can't remember where I heard the following parable about ministry.

Once, near a dangerous seacoast, stood a small life-saving station. Shipwrecks prompted six people to build it. It was a two-story, A-frame shelter with a bell that could be heard for miles.

On the ground floor were cots, blankets, dry clothing, first-aid equipment, a fireplace and a soup kettle. The second floor consisted of one small room with a window and telescope facing the sea. One member of the life-saving station was always on watch. They took turns. On especially stormy nights, all six stayed in the shelter.

Upon sighting a shipwreck, the watchman would sound the bell. All six would put out on their three small fishing boats. They always managed to save a few persons who would have drowned. They brought them back to the life-saving station, treated their injuries, gave them food and clothing and shelter until the rescued were ready to return to their own homes and families.

"Indeed, this is a good thing," many others began to say. Soon 12, then 20, then 50, then 100 people joined original six at the life-saving station. They built a larger shelter...with many rooms and a fine carpet. Many began to gather at the station even in good weather.

One night a sudden storm caused several shipwrecks. More than 80 people were rescued. They filled every room of the life-saving station. Some were nauseous; some were bleeding. All were cared for during the next few weeks. Some died. Most were nursed back to health.

At the next meeting of the membership of the life-saving station, everyone was delighted about what had been accomplished. But some members said, "This is a messy and risky business, and we are inexperienced. Perhaps we ought to hire a few professional life-savers." And so they did.

And the carpet committee said, "Out carpets have been stained, almost ruined. Perhaps we ought to construct an uncarpetted annex for the shipwrecked people." And so they did.

They built an annex. They hired a few full-time, experienced life-savers. And the membership no longer had to watch for shipwrecks, nor go to the rescue themselves, nor care for the rescued, nor even see the mess.

By this time, the life-saving station had 200 members. People went there often. Once in a while, someone might even catch sight of a rescue taking place and mention it to the others. And many would say, "Isn't this a good thing we are doing?"

At one of the meetings, a few members said, "We have slipped far from our purpose."

They were talked down, ridiculed and called life-saving fanatics. Finally, six of them felt they could no longer belong to the club that once was a life-saving station.

Five-hundred yards down the seacoast, these six put up a two-story, A-frame shelter to serve as a real life-saving station. They saved many lives. Their fame spread. Many others joined them.

A larger station had to be built. It became a convenient meeting place, except on those days when rescues took place. So, to avoid the inconvenience and the mess, a few full-time lifesavers were hired...and a lifesaving annex was built.

Thanks to better communications and navigational equipment, there are fewer shipwrecks along that seacoast today. And where once there was one small, lifesaving station where people went to help others, today there are five exclusive clubs along that seacoast where people go to help themselves.


Ability, Adaptability, Ambiguity

Living with integrity in the tension
Bill Lewellis

A one-sided conversation took place during the late 1960s when what was to become for me a 40-year ministry on the staffs of three bishops in two denominations. Too soon was it over.

My first day at the bishop’s office of the RC Diocese of Allentown was a deep-water introduction to ecclesial systems. I was 30 years old with the slight experience of three years in parish ministry, and one year of teaching in local Catholic high schools. I had earned a reputation as one who resisted the system. Well, it was the '60s.

During that first day, the bishop’s main man gave me some advice. "You obviously have ability,” he said, “but even more important for your work here will be adaptability … and being able to deal with ambiguity."

The veiled message spooked me. I was warned. It was a pre-emptive strike. I believed then, however, and still believe that the one giving the advice was looking out for me.

One question stayed with me after I processed the advice: "How to live with integrity in the tension?"

Many have tread through the swirling waters of one system or another, learning something along the way. What I learned early on, in the belly of the institution, was this: “God has been known to work within the institution. From generation to generation. But don’t naively trust the institution. It may be where God is speaking. Or not.”

To hear the word of God is to be called to the impossible.

To hear the word of the Lord is to be called to live with integrity in the tension, to live with gospel imperatives, impossible job descriptions that are written on our hearts.

Feed … Clothe … Heal … Welcome … Visit … Raise … Proclaim … Love … Pray … Be reconciled … Strive for justice and peace among all people … Respect the dignity of every human being … Follow me … In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.

It could take your breath away.

We are created with a thirst we cannot quench, to follow a strange God we cannot imagine

Nikos Kazantzakis tells this wonderful story about an Orthodox priest. "I hear you wrestle with the devil," someone says to Father Makarios. "No," he replies. "We've grown old together; we know each other too well; I know all his tricks. Wrestling with the devil has gotten too easy. I wrestle with God."

"You wrestle with God, Father Makarios? And you hope to win?"

"No, I hope to lose."

Hope to lose. The thrill is in being overcome by God. "Batter my heart, three-person’d God … O’erthrow me and bend your force to break, blow, burn and make me new." (John Donne)


Today We Remember Tomorrow

[A slightly edited sermon preached at Diocesan House by Bill Lewellis, Oct. 31, 2013, Vigil of All Saints]

From several of my classmates and friends and professors in Rome during the early 60s, I gained a love of good theology. But it wasn’t until some 15 years ago that I heard four words, right here, that captured the purpose of theology and the meaning of Eucharist.

Today, we remember tomorrow. My mantra.

I owe Jane Teter for this insight. It was September 13, perhaps 15 years ago. The next day was the Feast of the Holy Cross. Jane was our celebrant. She began to explain that on this day, September 13, not a special day on the church calendar, we would use the readings and prayers of the next day, which was a special day. Somewhere within those words, Jane got caught up in a circular explanation. She escaped with, “So, today we remember tomorrow.”

The words sang in my head. I wanted to applaud.

Today … We … Remember … That’s the heart of it. We remember. We make Eucharist, our Great Thanksgiving, by remembering. In our celebration together of this and every Eucharist, we give thanks by remembering the acts of God through the multi-millennial history of salvation … and the fourscore years of our lives.

Listen to some of the words we pray as we make ucharist. “We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love you have made known to us … in creation … in the calling of Israel to be your people … in your Word spoken though the prophets, and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus your Son … On the night before he died for us, he took bread … Do this for the remembrance of me. After supper, he took the cup of wine … he gave it to them … Drink this … for the remembrance of me …

Today … We … Remember … Tomorrow.
Imagine that. Remembering tomorrow! Remembering God’s acts on our behalf and God’s promises, we give thanks, we hope, we trust … we … remember … tomorrow.

We express our faith with wonder, hope and trust.

“There is but one fundamental truth for Christians,” Bishop Paul preached a few years ago on All Souls Day. It is that “in Christ we are tied to God and each other in a way that the circumstances of time and space cannot defeat.”

Or, we might say: Relationships trump doctrine.

Doing what we do in the words and actions and hymns of our liturgy, we “gently heal our past … and calmly embrace our future.” Today, we remember tomorrow.

Listen to the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer for All Saints Day. We pray this: It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. For in the multitude of your saints you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses, that we might rejoice in their fellowship, and run with endurance the race that is set before us; and, together with them, receive the crown of glory that never fades away.

We saints look deeply within. We somehow find God. We see God as we squint through the smokescreen of our conditioned reality … and we allow the God within to transform us and the world around us.

We saints. “You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea. In Church, or on trains, or in shops, or at tea. For the saints of God are just folk like me. And I mean to be one too” … while today I remember tomorrow.


Keep Thinking – It's So Religious

KEEP THINKING – IT'S SO RELIGIOUS … [A slightly edited version of a 2005 column by Bill Lewellis, published in The Morning Call]

A conclusion, according to Mark Twain, is the place where someone got tired of thinking.

God wants us to keep thinking. That’s why we have so many parables, images and themes in the bible without one-size-fits-all conclusions. I think.

On the other hand, the bible does contain a lot of plain teaching.

Look not beyond the strong verbs of God’s word. Repent, be, do, give, forgive, feed, clothe, go, sow, pray, judge not, fear not.

Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Heal the sick. Welcome the stranger. Visit the imprisoned. Proclaim good news. Sell what you have and give the money to the poor.

Love God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies. Be reconciled. Take up your cross. Find your life by losing it.

That’s just some of the bible's plain teaching … plain, hard teaching. Not even the plain teaching, however, comes with one-size-fits-all marching orders.

The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer pulls much of the plain teaching of the bible into the promises made during baptism and in the occasional renewal of baptismal promises: “Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers… Persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord… Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ… Seek and serve Christ in all persons loving your neighbor as yourself… Strive for justice and peace among all people… Respect the dignity of every human being.”

Mark those pages well, 304-5, if you have a Book of Common Prayer. Make those plain promises part of your daily prayer.

What about the not so plain? I’ve wondered. Why is the bible filled with stories, images and themes that mess with our heads? The Good Samaritan, the Forgiving Father, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, an innocent man on a cross, resurrection.

Might it be because these invite us into the mystery of God’s mercy and compassion, challenging us to imagine what is beyond ordinary imagination?

I’ve been thinking during this last quarter of my life that the hardest thing to accept about God’s relationship with us is not the strong verbs. The hardest thing to accept about God’s relationship with us is that God loves us unconditionally. It is so hard to imagine. We hesitate to trust anyone, even God, in that regard. We hesitate to say that’s what we believe when we say we believe in God.

Do we want unconditional love, even God’s?

The lingering grip of evil – from which we need salvation – has not to do with doubts about dogma nor with sins we have committed through refusal to make God’s strong verbs part of our lives. Evil’s last hope is our shred of pride that suggests we have done or can do something to earn God’s love – and so should others.

We’d rather that God not love us unconditionally. If God does, that is how we will need to relate to others, loving one another as God has loved us.

Our lives are based on a true story that cannot be captured in orthodoxies, human certainties, laws, sermons or newspaper columns. When we discover the story of God who loves us beyond worth and measure, beyond understanding, beyond whatever we can imagine, however, we will have the ability to recreate our world.


newSpin 180503

newSpin, the newsletter
May 3
, 2018 – Bill Lewellis

TopSpin
• Diocese of Bethlehem elects Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, as its next bishop … Nichols, who is currently, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, was elected on the first ballot by the clergy of the diocese and elected lay representatives during a meeting in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
   "I am thrilled to be joining with the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem to bear witness to the power of the Resurrection in their communities," Nichols said. "The momentum there is unmistakable and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us together.
  
"I see this as a moment for us as a church to recover our purpose for why we are here, to reconcile and to offer God's love and healing where there has been painful damage. The Diocese of Bethlehem in its diverse landscapes is rich and fertile ground for God's planting and pruning."

   Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire's Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.
   A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen's in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and St. Andrew's in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
   While serving small parishes, Nichols also worked as an account manager and management trainer for Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging company. Read on,

• Bishop Sean's Farewell Event, May 12 … Say thank you and farewell to Bishop Sean Rowe, and his family. This event includes Eucharist at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral (12:30) followed by a light hors d’oeuvres reception at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center, Wilkes-Barre. This is a free event, however registration is required by April 23:  Register here. In lieu of gifts for Bishop Sean, we will be collecting donations for Grace Montessori School, now a diocesan school. If you would like to make a donation in Bishop Sean’s honor, it can be sent to the Diocesan Office. Checks should be made payable to: The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem and mailed to:  333 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem, PA  18015. Please be sure to include “Bishop Farewell Gift” in the memo line.

• A. Theodore Eastman, 89 … 12th bishop of Maryland, retired, died April 26. Bishop Eastman was rector of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown,1969-73. More below, under "Requiescant."

• A Lynching Memorial[NYT] The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens Thursday on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol, is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy. And it demands a reckoning with one of the nation’s least recognized atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror. Read on.

• The Waiting Game [ProPublica, April 23] The U.S. is supposed to be a safe haven for people fleeing persecution. But asylum-seekers face years of uncertainty when they arrive.
   Like any piece of journalism, The Waiting Game presents true stories in each of the game’s five narratives. They’re based on detailed records and accounts from five real asylum seekers, as well as interviews with people who worked directly with them, and with experts who work with asylum seekers on a regular basis. The places, major events and people in our narratives are real, as are the reasons each person sought asylum and the results of their asylum requests. We have omitted details to protect the identity of the asylum seekers. Read on.

• These are the 12 most 'effective' preachers in the English language [CNN]
For only the second time in two decades, Baylor University has released its list of the 12 most "effective" preachers in the English language. It is among the most prestigious honors in the preaching profession -- one that has changed the lives of previous recipients. Read on. View/hear the sermons that put these 12 preachers on Baylor's list, here.

• DioBeth General News, April 26 …
Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, April 19
Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, April 12Here.

********  [A DioBeth newsletter (General or Leadership) or the unofficial newSpin newsletter is published online on Thursdays in the following rotation: (1) Leadership News, (2) The newSpin newslet
ter, (3) General News, (4) The newSpin newsletter. If you are not receiving these newsletters by email, be in touch with Paula Lapinski (610-691-5655, paula@diobeth.org). If you find something online or in print(or if you'd like to write something) that you think might warrant inclusion in the newSpin newsletter for the sake of many, please send the link or your text to bill.lewellis@gmail.com ********

Intersection: Religion, Culture, Politics.
• Trump blasts 'breeding' in Sanctuary Cities. That's a racist term[Analysis by Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, April 18] '"Breeding’ as a concept has an animalistic connotation. Dogs and horses are bred. So (Trump’s) use of it is, at best, dehumanizing to the immigrants he appears to be referring to," writes CNN’s Z. Byron Wolf. The network’s political director notes that “fear of immigrants from certain countries ‘breeding’ has been a staple of nativist thought for hundreds of years. The ‘breeding’ fear has been affixed to Jews from Eastern Europe, Catholics from Ireland and Italy, Chinese and, now, Latinos, Filipinos, Africans and Haitians.” Apparently excepted from Trump’s rhetoric: Germany and Scotland, where his immigrant grandfather and mother were born. Read on.

• NJ Court rules churches can't receive county's historic preservation money [Episcopal News Service, David Paulsen, April 19] It was an offer too good for a congregation to refuse. Need your church tower preserved? Your roof replaced? Your parish house restored? Morris County, New Jersey, was ready to help, with a historic preservation grant program offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in upkeep assistance for a range of properties, including houses of worship. The problem: Such direct taxpayer assistance to churches violated the state constitution, the New Jersey Supreme Court has concluded, ruling April 18 against a list of defendants that includes 12 churches, three of them Episcopal churches.

   The potential financial ramifications for Morris County churches are significant. The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, as one prominent example, received a $294,000 grant in 2013 to restore its 1926 parish house and an additional $272,000 in 2015 to restore the church’s slate roof. The court did not require Church of the Redeemer and the other 11 churches named in the lawsuit to repay the $4.6 million they received over four years, but the county is barred from awarding money to churches in the future. Read on.

• Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest? Why did Paul Ryan dismiss the House chaplain? [WaPo, Greg Sargent]
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has dismissed the House chaplain, outraging Catholics in the lower chamber, and this morning’s speculation has centered on a prayer offered by the chaplain that was critical of the GOP tax law. In that prayer, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy urged members of the House to ensure that “there are not winners and losers” under the new law, but rather “benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
  
In an interview this morning, Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia said that Conroy told him he thought this prayer was a cause of his dismissal. “He speculated that this might be the reason,” Connolly told me. Conroy has publicly made similar suggestions elsewhere, and Ryan’s office has refused to explain the decision.
   “A Catholic priest, a Jesuit like the Pope, committed to the social justice doctrine of the church, mildly encouraged members to keep fairness in mind as we contemplated the tax bill,” Connolly told me. “It reminds me of the line in Henry II, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'” Read on. Also here and here.


• What Mueller wants to ask Trump about obstruction, and what it means … The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently provided President Trump’s lawyers a list of questions he wants answered in an interview. The New York Times obtained the list, and published it with the context and significance of each. The questions fall into categories based on four broad subjects. Read on.

• Is the Christian Right driving Americans away from religion?
… New research finds that, when evangelical organizations raise their profile by sponsoring a high-profile political campaign, a backlash ensues. Read on.

• Frequently and Shamelessly [David Leonhardt, Op-Ed Columnist, NYTimes, May 1] Throughout his business and political careers, Donald Trump has had an important advantage: He is willing to lie, frequently and shamelessly. Most other people in public life view reality as a limitation. Trump does not. If telling falsehoods is more convenient or helpful to him than telling the truth, he tells falsehoods. It’s worked out very well for him — making his business look more successful than it was, helping him land a prime time television show and, of course, allowing him to win the most powerful political office on earth. In his 15-plus months as president, Trump has added a second bit of shamelessness to his approach. In addition to lying, he has also been willing to obstruct justice.  Read on,

• A Sad Track … President Trump has made 3,001 documented false or misleading claims since he has been in office — and he's making them more frequently in recent months, according to an updated count by Washington Post fact-checkers. "Seventy-two times, the president has falsely claimed he passed the biggest tax cut in history — when in fact it ranks in eighth place," the fact-checkers write. "Fifty-three times, the president has made some variation of the claim that the Russia probe is a made-up controversy." Read on,

• Proposed cuts to food program are immoral [Editorial, National Catholic Reporter, April 29] Sometimes it feels hard to keep up with the myriad scandals swirling around the Trump White House. From alleged payoffs to a porn star and ongoing inquiries into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the headlines come at a dizzying pace. The lurid spectacle of it all should not blind us to actual policy scandals that make a mockery of the administration's laughable claim to being "pro-life."
  
While cable pundits are buzzing about Stormy Daniels, the most vulnerable Americans now face the prospect of losing critical nutrition support for their families. Under a 2018 farm bill proposal in the House Agriculture Committee supported by the White House, a reckless change to the nation's food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), ties critical food support to work requirements (see Page 3).

   More than 2 million people who rely on the program, including parents raising children and people with disabilities, would be affected by the plan. This partisan, punitive measure breaks with a long history of bipartisan commitment to alleviating hunger as a matter of basic human dignity.
   The details are sobering and unacceptable. The bill cuts SNAP benefits by more than $20 billion over 10 years, diverting much of that money to sweeping new work programs with unforgiving penalties. Read on.

SpiritSpin
• Pope Francis, spiritual guide[RNS, Thomas Reese]
Before he was pope, before he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis spent much of his Jesuit life as a spiritual guide to young Jesuits. He was not a great theologian, although he was well read in theology. Nor was he the president of one of the order’s universities. Rather his job was to introduce young men to the Jesuits and help form them in their spiritual lives. He was the director of novices and rector of the community where young Jesuits studied philosophy and theology.
  
This background and experience helped make Francis the person he is today. It also explains why he naturally felt impelled to write “Gaudete et Exsultate,” his recently released apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness. For Francis, all Christians, not just religious and priests, are called to holiness. But as an experienced spiritual guide, he knows that most people are confused about what holiness really is and therefore can easily get lost on their spiritual quest.

   Francis’ goal was not to write an abstract theological treatise on holiness but to present a practical way to holiness for our time. He does this with a simple style that is full of spiritual wisdom that can enrich any reader, whether a beginner or experienced practitioner of the spiritual life. Read on. Read Gaudete et Exsultate.

• The Template of Reality … [Richard Rohr] The basic template of reality is Trinitarian, it’s relational. God is relationship. The energy in the universe is not in the planets or in the protons or neutrons, but in the relationship between them. Not in the particles but in the space between them. Not in the cells of organisms but in the way the cells feed and give feedback to one another. Not in any precise definition of the three persons of the Trinity as much as in the relationship between the Three! This is where all the power for infinite renewal is at work: The loving relationship between them. The infinite love flowing between them. The dance itself. Read on.

• At the Heart of Reality [Sermon by Bill Lewellis, Trinity Sunday, 2004] Clues to the most profound mysteries of life – who we are, why we are, where we are going, how we are meant to live – may be embedded in our DNA… that double-helix spiral staircase that has inspired scientists and artists and theologians over the past half century. Read on.

• Not to Win but To Be One [A slightly edited excerpt from a 1991 column by Bill Lewellis, published in a local paper] Despite my reservations about activities that nurture the competitive over the cooperative and empathic tendencies of children, our 14-year-old son plays ice hockey and our two younger sons, ages 6 and 8, play Little League baseball. Fortunately, the younger ones have coaches who love children more than the score.
   One Saturday morning in May, I wasn’t able to be at my six-year-old’s game. “How’d it go?” I asked Stephen later. “O.K.,” he said. “I got two hits and scored two runs — one for us and one for them.”
  
“One for us and one for them?” “Yes,” he said. “Some of the kids on the other team had church and couldn’t play today. So our coach made some of us play sometimes for us and sometimes for them.”

   That was church of its own. Jesus didn’t say we ought to win. He prayed only that we might be one. One for us and one for them

• Celebrate Life … [A slightly edited 1987 column by Bill Lewellis, published in a daily newspaper] Our spiritual journey is a relationship. No two are the same. Still, a reasonable construct which draws on the experiences of many, including St. Paul and St. John, suggests God is not only the end of the journey but also its beginning. The journey begins when God speaks. "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1: 1). Read on.

• Creativity and the Cross[Hillary Raining interviews Charles "Ty" Welles] Charles “Ty” Welles is a fourth generation lawyer from Scranton, PA, with degrees from Yale and Harvard. He has served as the Chancellor of Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, and, perhaps surprisingly, a sculptor, who primarily carves marble. He has been carving for more than twenty-five years and has exhibited and studied throughout the northeastern United States as well as regionally. In this episode, Ty will talk about his 13-piece installation of the Stations of the Cross as well as his creative process. This is a discussion (Season 1, Episode 5) about the power of creativity and spirituality in every life. Listen.
   This podcast appears on The Hive, a website created by Hillary Raining, rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwyne and known to many in the Diocese of Bethlehem where she was ordained. "Based on a model of community and support found in the hive of the honey bee," Hillary writes, "this wellness and spirituality website is for you in your quest to change the world." Here.

• Jesus' Farewell[Bill] In the Gospel according to John, just before John’s account of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, there are five chapters — 13 through 17 — that make up an especially powerful read. Read the entire section reflectively, perhaps today or tomorrow, and you will understand. John put that section together to be Jesus’ Farewell. Read on,

• Be in Love Transformed [Bill Lewellis, column published in The Morning Call, May 2003] My next to last step when preparing a sermon plays out on Saturday morning at a local diner where I browse through my notes while having breakfast and much coffee. I glance randomly at the faces of strangers. Might anything I’ve written be useful to anyone in this place? Something good always happens. I almost always discard cute phrases to which I was wedded a few days earlier. Ernest Hemingway, I believe, called this “killing your darlings?” *
   Something else happened a few weeks ago. Seeing that my coffee cup was full, the waitress on refill duty said, “You’re good.” Lose the notes, I chuckled. Anne gave you the sermon. This is your waitress. Listen to her. Read on.

• 'Religion' in Opposition to 'Ideology'[Interview: America Magazine with Jordan Peterson] In your lectures, you define “religion” in opposition to “ideology.” Could you explain the difference between the two?

   To me, ideology is corrupt; it’s a parasite on religious structures. To be an ideologue is to have all of the terrible things that are associated with religious certainty and none of the utility. If you’re an ideologue you believe everything that you think. If you’re religious there’s a mystery left there. The mystery is whatever God is. That mystery has the possibility of keeping you humble. You’re not the ultimate authority, and you’re accountable in some ultimate sense.
  
Now, you might say that doesn’t translate directly into proof for God, and obviously it doesn’t. But I think you could make a very compelling case that people are ultimately responsible, and if they don’t act that way. all hell breaks loose. Plus, religious thinking is a human universal that’s biologically instantiated. There’s every bit of evidence that capacity for religious thinking and experience evolve. Read on.

• 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 ... 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.
• The Prayer Site ... a resource of Forward Movement. Here.
• Speaking to the Soul ... Episcopal Café blog. Sermons and reflections. Here.


Columns, Sermons, Reflections, other Spin
• Good Shepherd Sunday sermon by Winnie Varghese at Trinity Wall Street.

DioBeth
• A Man Called Mark
A new biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, will be published on July 17. Dyer was bishop of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995. [Church Publishing and Leadership News] This official biography tells the compelling story of the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer: Irish Catholic boy from New Hampshire, U.S. Navy vet, Roman Catholic then Episcopal priest, bishop, and seminary professor-and one of the most influential, beloved leaders of the American Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
  
Following a dispute with ecclesiastical authorities, Dyer left the Roman Church for the Anglican Church of Canada. Later received as priest in the Episcopal Church, his gifts as teacher, preacher, and pastor were recognized with election as Bishop of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There, he established a new model of leadership, delegating administrative duties to concentrate on spiritual direction, pastoral care, and creating mission projects at every church in his diocese. Also renowned as a story-teller, many of his favorite stories appear here, told in his own voice. Read on.

• Herding Cats in the Kingdom of God [A sermon preached by Canon Andrew Gerns at the celebration of new ministry of the Rev. Rebecca Parsons Cancelliere at St. Mark and St. John Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe, PA on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 22, 2018.] If you were to ask me to choose the 100 best TV commercials of all time, do you know what would be at the very top of my list? It would be an ad that first appeared in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.
   Picture tough, dust-caked cowboys riding the range. They are on a drive through the desolate, wild, open prairie. From their horses they shout, whistle and use their lariats to bring their herd home. The ad opens with a young cowboy standing next to a Conestoga wagon, holding up a picture. “This is my grandfather,” he says. “He started herding cats when he was 15.”
  
Yes, these cowboys are herding cats. “Anyone can herd cattle,” one of these cowboys says. “But keeping ten thousand half-wild short hairs together… is about the hardest work a man can do.” This ad works because it takes a time honored image that we all know and with wonderful details like a little yarn, a sneeze, and a lint roller---not to mention dozens and dozen of cats--and turns it all upside down.

   Sort of like taking an historic parish founded by a famous industrialist located in a town re-named for a famous athlete and then raising up for that parish an all-female leadership team. Read on.

• Charlie Barebo … has been appointed Diocese of Bethlehem missioner for stewardship and development. Barebo, who has resigned from his role as treasurer to take on this non-stipendiary position, will share his expertise with parishes that request support in annual giving, stewardship, and other fundraising programs. "I am grateful for the service of Charlie Barebo as diocesan treasurer over the last four years," Bishop Rowe said. "He was instrumental in implementing a new accounting system, improving internal controls, reorienting the DIT [Diocesan Investment Trust], and setting a sustainable and mission driven financial strategy."
 
• Libby House … former member of the Standing Committee and current Finance Committee and Diocesan Council member, has been appointed the new treasurer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. "I am pleased that Libby House accepted the appointment as diocesan treasurer," said Bishop Rowe. "She has a depth of experience in non-profit finance, most recently as the director of the Grace Montessori School in Allentown, and has served on the Standing Committee during our time of transition."  

• Michelle Moyer … canon for family and faith formation at Nativity Cathedral Bethlehem has accepted a full-time position as chaplain to the independent and assisted living residence of the Phoebe Home Allentown.

• DioBeth General News, April 26Here.
• The newSpin Newsletter, April 19Here.
• DioBeth Leadership News, April 12Here.


Episcopal/Anglican
• Video series invites Episcopalians to revisit slave trade, share truths about race today[The Episcopal Church, Public Affairs Office] "Door of Return: Racial Truth and Reconciliation Pilgrimage to Ghana" is a series of three powerful, short films and discussion tools that open conversation about race, faith and the path toward healing. The videos and discussion guide are available for viewing or download at no fee. Read on.


• We went to 'Beyoncé Mass' and it was glorious[Mother Jones] San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, an historic episcopal church known for its commitment to social justice, hosted its “Beyonce Mass” as part of a weekly worship series intended to uplift the experiences of women and appeal to young worshippers. The unconventional service featured a sermon about liberation struggle, readings from a speech by civil rights leader Ella Baker, scripture readings by black women, a traditional communion, and of course, the singing of Beyoncé songs. A gospel soloist backed by a choir and live band performed Beyonce’s songs “Listen,” “Freedom,” “Flaws and All,” and “I Was Here,” as well as “Survivor,” a hit by Beyonce’s original girl group Destiny’s Child.
  
News of the planned service appeared in more than two dozen local and national news outlets—including the New York Times. Not surprisingly, the church was mobbed. Ushers estimated there were about 900 people in attendance—Grace’s Wednesday night service normally attracts 50 or so. Read on. Also here.

• Vital Practices for leading congregations … This website of the Episcopal Church Foundation seems to me to be an especially useful tool for anyone active in parish life. It covers much more than parish finances. Read on.


Evangelism
• A new comprehensive Evangelism Toolkit … is available online for congregations, dioceses, groups, and individuals to explore Evangelism.


Stewardship/Church Growth/Migration/ERD
• Episcopal Migration Ministries … Here
.
• Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) … Here.
• Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) … Here.
• Episcopal Asset Map … Here.


TaleSpin
She spoke to the soul
… Years ago, after having sufficiently experienced the ether, I ventured to say that online conversation would enable us to know people we might never meet. Ann Fontaine died this morning April 19). Though she was known personally to many across the Episcopal Church, she was known also to many more who never met her. Count me among those. Andrew Gerns of Trinity Easton has served for many years as an editor of Episcopal Café, as had Ann. Yet, they never did meet. Andrew wrote a tribute to Ann today that begins: "It seems strange to me, but I am grieving the death of a friend whom I have never seen in real life, at the same time we have 'spoken' as many as a dozen times a day as we worked together on the Episcopal Café over the past decade."
   "Maybe the reign of God is like this," Andrew also wrote. "We have dear friends knit together by bonds that defy space and time but are intimately connected by the love of God in relationship to Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Ann communicated Jesus in strikingly powerful and ordinary ways. When she told us that she had been admitted to hospice, she wrote in a way that was real, reassuring (to us), and reflective. She told us she was okay. And she was." Read Andrew's tribute.

• The Life She Deserves[Brookings] When Jennifer Collins was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, the drugs prescribed to stop her seizures made her angry, suicidal, and interrupted her ability to live a normal life. Desperate to help their daughter, Jennifer’s parents sought out alternative treatments, and learned about the success of cannabis oil in treating epilepsy. There was just one problem: marijuana wasn’t legal where they lived, even for medical purposes. Watch the rest of Jennifer’s story in the short film online now
  
What if you had to choose between suffering from a debilitating illness and breaking the law? A new documentary short film from Brookings sheds light on the challenges American patients and their families face when navigating the outdated laws and lack of research around medical marijuana. Read on


•  How religion is coming to terms with modern fertility methods… [WaPo, April 27] Forty years ago this July, the world’s first “test tube” baby was born at a British hospital in the industrial city of Oldham, heralding a radical change in the creation of human life. Until Louise Joy Brown arrived, hopeful parents had been at the mercy of fate, and a barren marriage could feel like divine punishment.
   Since then, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and related technologies have produced some 7 million babies who might never have existed — roughly the combined population of Paris, Nairobi and Kyoto — and the world’s fertility clinics have blossomed into a $17 billion business.

   The procedures have amplified profound questions for the world’s theologians: When does life begin? If it begins at conception, is it a sin to destroy a fertilized egg? What defines a parent? Is the mother the woman who provides the egg or the woman who gives birth? What defines a marriage? If a man’s sperm fertilizes an egg from a woman who is not his wife, does that constitute adultery?
   The moral questions are rapidly becoming more complex. Researchers are working to advance gene-editing tools that would allow parents to choose or “correct for” certain preferred characteristics; to create artificial wombs that could incubate fetuses outside the body for nine months; and to perfect techniques to produce “three-parent” babies who share genetic material from more than two people. Read on.

• It's about the music … [Bill Lewellis] In April 1999, Bishop Paul preached to the deacons and priests of the Diocese of Bethlehem at the Chrism Mass, the Eucharist wherein Holy Oils are blessed and ordination vows renewed. He spoke about how ordained ministry is so much more than role and function. “When I took organ lessons,” he said, “I was a bit too concerned at one point with technique and with hitting the right notes. My. teacher said, ‘Paul, I could get a monkey to play the right notes. What I want to hear from you is music.’" Read on.

 

• Same-sex marriage garners support among most American religious groups[RNS, Janet Riess, May 1] Most religious groups now support the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to a study released Tuesday (May 1) from the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey, which was based on more than 40,000 responses collected during 2017, finds that twice as many Americans now support same-sex marriage as oppose it, 61 percent to 30 percent.
  
What is more surprising is how quickly support for same-sex marriage has grown among religious groups that are more politically diverse. Two-thirds of Catholics, Orthodox Christians and white mainline Protestants now say they are in favor.
  
What’s more, majority support now includes African-Americans, whose support for same-sex marriage has increased from 41 percent in 2013 to 52 percent today. Hispanic Americans also saw double-digit increases, with support rising from 51 percent in 2013 to 61 percent today. Majorities of Americans in most states support same-sex marriage, with the exceptions all located in the South. Even in the handful of states that do not have more than 50 percent support for same-sex marriage, they also don’t have 50 percent opposition; Alabama is now the only state where a majority of residents say they oppose same-sex marriage. Read on.

• I give you a new commandment … A few decades ago on a National Public Radio program, someone spoke about an experiment she did with her kindergarten class. The occasion for her experiment was her dismay over the five-year-olds who would constantly exclude: "You can't play with us." "You can't sit in here with us." And so on.

   So the teacher sat down with the children and told them there was a new rule now. Everyone can play with everyone else and sit with everyone else. She reported that the children were relieved. I can’t think of her name, but the teacher wrote a book entitled: You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.
  
A new rule. Everyone can play with everyone else and sit with everyone else. The story reminded me of the beginning of Jesus’ farewell: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." (Jn. 13:34)


Requiescant in pace
• Louise "Petey" D. Perkins, 92 … died April 23.
She was a member of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, since 1955 and President of Talbot Hall, the Episcopal Diocese's onetime home for teenage girls. Since 1980 she served as an Associate Chaplain with the Pastoral Care Department of St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem. Obituary.

• David R. Brackenbury, 39 … of Bethlehem tragically lost his long battle with bipolar disorder on April 20. Obituary.

• Barbara Ann (Wamsher) McCord, 84 … died on April 6. She was a member of St. Thomas Morgantown. Obituary.

 • Paul R. Neff, 84 … died April 3. He was a vestry member and senior warden of Trinity West Pittston. He recently held several positions, including choir and vestry member, at Saint Peter's Tunkhannock. Obituary

• A. Theodore Eastman, 89 … 12th bishop of Maryland, retired, died April 26. Bishop Eastman was rector of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown,1969-73. Washington Post obituary here. Also, Baltimore Sun.


• James H. Cone, 79
The Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, a central figure in the development of black liberation theology in the 1960s and ’70s who argued for racial justice and an interpretation of the Christian Gospel that elevated the voices of the oppressed, died April 28 in Manhattan. Read on. Also, here and here. His theology is easy to like and hard to live, Christian Century.

Ecumenism, Interfaith, Pluralism – or Not


Evangelical Lutheran Church
• ELCA WebsiteHere.

• ELCA News ServiceHere.
• ELCA BlogsHere.
 

Moravian Church
• Moravian Church in North America  Website.  

• Moravian Church Northern Province Website
• Moravian Theological Seminary Website.

United Methodist Church
News Service Here.
Communication Resources ... Start here.
Eastern PA Conference website Here.
Facebook Here.
Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Website
... Here
• News & Announcements ... Here.

Roman Catholic
Diocese of Scranton ... Here.

Diocese of Allentown ... Here.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here
Catholic News Service ... Here.
Crux Now ... Here.

The Vatican
Pope to Chile abuse victims: 'I was part of the problem'
[AP] The three whistleblowers in Chile’s sex abuse scandal urged Pope Francis on Wednesday to transform his apology for having discredited them into concrete action to end what they called the “epidemic” of sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.
   Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo spoke to reporters Wednesday after spending five days with the pope at his Vatican hotel. Their press conference was broadcast live in Chile, a sign of the unprecedented nature of their hours of meetings with the pope.
   Cruz said that during his private encounter with Francis, the pope acknowledged: “I was part of the problem. I caused this, and I apologize to you.” Read on.
   [Bill] Now there's an apology. None of this "I apologize to anyone who was offended."

• Vatican treasurer to face trial on abuse charges[CNN, May 1] Cardinal George Pell, of Australia, is accused of abuse spanning three decades, including incidents that allegedly took place at a swimming pool in rural Victoria in the 1970s and at St. Patrick's Cathedral during his time as archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Pell, who says he's innocent and has pleaded not guilty, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to face criminal sex abuse charges. Read on
. Also, RNS.

• Vatican Information Service blog
... Here.

• Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.


Health and Wellness
• Infections like Lyme disease, dengue and Zika that are spread by ticks and mosquitoes are soaring, the C.D.C. says [NYTimes] The number of people who get diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled in the United States in recent years, federal health officials reported on Tuesday. Since 2004, at least nine such diseases have been newly discovered or introduced into the United States. Ticks spread Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rabbit fever, Powassan virus and other ills, some of them only recently discovered. Read on.

• All about ticks and mosquitoes[NYTimes] Here.

Film and TV
• Reflecting on the frightening lessons of 'The Handmaid's Tale'[America] The Handmaid shows us that that terrible things happen when there is only one acceptable religion to practice or when there is only one way to be a woman. Read on.

• Spirituality & Film ... Here.
• Spirituality on DVD ... Here.
• Communicate … Your Ministry, including Bill's Communication Biases and Communication-Evangelism. Here.


Media, Print, Music, Tech
• James Comey has a story to tell. It's very persuasive [NYTimes, April 12, Book review by Michiko Kakutani] The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture. Read on,

• God and the IRS [Book by Samuel Brunson. Reviewed for Forbes by Peter J. Reilly] Brunson's thesis is that accommodations to religious individuals have been implemented in a random, haphazard manner without any sort of overarching system. The point of Brunson's survey is to demonstrate the "ad hoc, reactive lawmaking" that has created exiting religious accommodations in the tax law. From there he goes on to suggest a rational rubric and then apply that rubric to a number of situations that might call for accommodation. I have a sense that Brunson's quest is somewhat quixotic, but you can always hope. Over the next couple of years bright lads and lasses in law school may read Brunson's book. The brightest of them will be clerking for Supreme Court justices in a few years when the parsonage exclusion litigation now before the Seventh Circuit makes it to the big leagues. With just a little bit of luck the "Brunson Rubric" might then make its way into legal history. Read on.

• Great American Novels … Which books deserve to be described as "Great American Novels"? PBS plans to put its own spin on this much discussed question in The Great American Read, a new 8-part series, starting May 22, which will journey across the country to uncover the nation's 100 most-loved novels.

• Books for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• Audios for Spiritual Journeys ... Here.
• 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.


Websites
The Episcopal Café
Here.

AnglicansOnlineHere.
Diocese of BethlehemHere.

The Episcopal ChurchHere.
Episcopal News ServiceHere.


Podcasts
• The Bible for Normal People
… Hosted by Peter Enns and Jared Byas.
• The Daily … How the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.
• Invisibilia …Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
• Today, ExplainedVox's daily explainer podcast — bringing you the biggest news every day with guests, context, radio drama, and more
• Radio Atlantic … Weekly conversations with leading journalists and thinkers to make sense of the history happening all around us.
• Stay Tuned with Preet … Join former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for a podcast about justice and fairness.
• The Axe Files with David Axelrod … Revealing interviews with key figures in the political world.
• Pod Save America … Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — are joined by journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists for a freewheeling conversation about politics, the press and the challenges posed by the Trump presidency. 
• Trumpcast … A quasi-daily podcast from Slate chronicling Donald Trump's rise to the presidency and his current administration. With journalists, historians, psychiatrists, and other experts to help explain who this man is and why this is happening, right now, in the United States of America.
• Freakonomics Radio … Stephen Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.
• Things Not Seen … is an independent radio show and podcast that features in-depth interviews with nationally recognized guests. Each week, we welcome authors, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, and more. "We take faith seriously, and our guests do, too."
• The Francis Effectis about the real world of politics and current events, seen through the lens of Catholic teaching and spirituality. Hosts, Fr. Dan Horan and David Dault, both have doctorates in theology. Dan is a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. David is a radio producer and Catholic convert.
• Caliphateis a new audio series following Rukmini Callimachi of the NYTimes as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul.


Varia
• Ukrainian Sushi Here.



Abbreviations of Sources
AM … America Magazine
AO
… Anglicans Online
AP
… Associated Press
BCP
… Book of Common Prayer
CJR
… Columbia Journalism Review
COM
… Commonweal
CN
… Crux Now
CNS
… Catholic News Service
DoB
… Diocese of Bethlehem
EC
… Episcopal Café
ENS … Episcopal News Service
ERD … Episcopal Relief & Development
MC … Morning Call, Allentown
NCR … National Catholic Reporter
NYM … New York Magazine
NYT … New York Times
R&P … Religion&Politics
RNS … Religion News Service
TA … The Atlantic

TEC … The Episcopal Church
TLC … The Living Church
TNY … The New Yorker
WaPo … Washington Post
WSJ … Wall Street Journal

newSpin? … I decided years ago to call this newsletter and its related blog newSpin. The "S" in the middle suggests that some items are newS; others, Spin; others, both. Items I include as well as how and how often I present them are clues to my leanings. I think all of us spin. There's a lot more spin in the world of news than most editors own up to. Watch out for that upper case S in the middle. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul might be said to have spun "the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" [Mark 1:1]. We continue to spin that good news, as we experience and dance with the Risen Lord.
   The newSpin newsletter is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on a newSpin list of some 2,000 addresses every other Thursday. Many recipients forward it to others. It 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, the Standing Committee, the Canon to the Ordinary or the Archdeacon as an official communication. Comments are welcome on Bethlehem Episcopalians (if you have joined that interactive FaceBook group).

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]


Selected Posts from Past newSpin Newsletters that may still be of interest

• For the Poor and the Neglected[BCP] Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

• The Serenity Prayer … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful worldas it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. Read on.

• A prayer before anything[Bill] Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. Let us pray: Guide us, gracious God. May we be … Attentive to our experience, to the voices and hearts of those around us, Intelligent in our interpretation of that to which we have been attentive. Reasonable in our judgments about what we have understood. Responsible in our decisions about how we will act on our judgments. And always open to inner conversion, to transformation in your truth and your love.

• Reclaiming Jesus is a confession of faith in a time of crisis signed on to by many faith leaders including Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The following is an excerpt.
I. We believe each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore, we reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity.
II. We believe we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28).
Therefore, we reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God.
III. We believe how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Therefore, we reject the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34).
IV. We believe that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives.
Therefore, we reject the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life.
V. We believe that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Therefore, we reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it.
VI. We believe Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18).
Therefore, we reject “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. Read all of this confession of faith.

• The Toolkit … of the Public Affairs Office is located on the Public Affairs pages of The Episcopal Church website here. Among the items are: Topics – topics of interest and dates of importance. Catalog – a list of important topics along with actions taken by The Episcopal Church and General Convention. Getting started - an easy how-to for getting started in preparing materials, media releases, op-eds, etc. For more information contact Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer, publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org, 212-716-6080.  THERE'S A NEW TOOLKIT

Sermons that work … The Episcopal Church welcomes many different points of view, and sermons offered during an Episcopal service may vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Although there is no “typical” or on'e-size-fits-all sermon for Episcopal congregations, the sermons in this series are selected for their universal qualities so that they may be useful to a wide variety of small congregations without full-time priests on staff, where lay leaders often shoulder the responsibility of delivering the sermons on Sunday. To assist these small congregations, the Episcopal Church offers Sermons That Work, new sermons each week for Sundays and major feast days throughout the liturgical year. Here.

Weekly bulletin inserts … provide information about the history, music, liturgy, mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church. Here. There's also an archive dating back to 2006.

• The Episcopal Churchis currently in full communion relationship with the following churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church of the Northern and Southern Provinces, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India. Coordinating committees support the implementation of some of these relationships, which involve full mutual recognition of ministries and sacraments. Clergy of these churches may serve in Episcopal churches, and vice versa. We also have warm relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
   The Episcopal Church is in active dialogue with three traditions: the Roman Catholic Church through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Methodist Church. Our dialogues meet regularly to discuss matters of common concern, doctrinal agreements and disagreements, and possibilities for the emergence of full communion relationships. Each diocese of The Episcopal Church has a designated officer responsible for promoting ecumenical and interreligious conversations on the local level. Canon Maria Tjeltveit of the Church of the Mediator in Allentown is the designated officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Read on.

 

 

 


Jesus' Farewell

Bill Lewellis

In the Gospel according to John, just before John’s account of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, there are five chapters — 13 through 17 — that make up an especially powerful read. Read the entire section reflectively, perhaps today or tomorrow, and you will understand. John put that section together to be Jesus’ Farewell.

Chapter 13 begins with the Holy Thursday account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

The beginning of chapter 14 includes, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Chapter 15 begins: ”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower … Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit … Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.

In chapter 16: "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me."

In chapter 17: "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

Those chapters are filled with “knock-your-socks-off" Christianity… that might make one say, “Either this is not the gospel, or we are not Christians.” For example: (1) “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (2) Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (3) Those who love me will keep my word, and my Fath


Be in Love Transformed

By Bill Lewellis
[A column published in The Morning Call, May 2003]

My next to last step when preparing a sermon plays out on Saturday morning at a local diner where I browse through my notes while having breakfast and much coffee. I glance randomly at the faces of strangers. Might anything I’ve written be useful to anyone in this place?

Something good always happens. I almost always discard cute phrases to which I was wedded a few days earlier. Ernest Hemingway, I believe, called this “killing your darlings?” *

Something else happened a few weeks ago. Seeing that my coffee cup was full, the waitress on refill duty said, “You’re good.”

Lose the notes, I chuckled. Anne gave you the sermon. This is your waitress. Listen to her.

At all times, according to another Anne, author Anne Lamott, 37 voices let us know how we are doing. Thirty-five have the job of telling us how awful we are. To hell with them, she says. Listen to the other two.

In all of life, she said, we need to hold onto great friends and eccentric relatives, the people who love us even when they see who we are.

Mark, the gospel writer, tells us that Jesus took his inner circle – Peter, James and John – to a high mountain, suggesting a place where people encounter God. They saw Jesus transformed. Mark’s Greek word is the word from which we get metamorphosis, the process by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly – a truly dramatic transformation.

“This is my Son, the Beloved,” said the voice from the cloud. Nearly the same words God spoke at Jesus’ baptism, except that at the baptism God addressed Jesus. Here, on the mount, God addresses the disciples. “Listen to him… Keep on listening to him.”

Fred Rogers, who died a few months ago at 74 after raising generations of our TV-watching children, helped many understand that that you don’t have to do anything sensational in order to be loved – unless you live in a dysfunctional family – and that “there’s only one person in the whole world like you.”

Life’s trick: integrate that without becoming narcissistic -- come down from the mountain and love one another. “When you reach the mountaintop, you’re only halfway,” says a mountain climbers’ proverb.

“Once we recognize God's great secret, that we are all meant to be God's sons and daughters, we can't avoid the call to see one another differently,” said Rowan Williams a few weeks ago during a sermon at the liturgy wherein he was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury.

“No one can be written off; no group, no nation, no minority can just be a scapegoat to resolve our fears and uncertainties. We cannot assume that any human face we see has no divine secret to disclose: those who are culturally or religiously strange to us; those who so often don't count in the world's terms… We have to learn to be human alongside all sorts of others, the ones whose company we don't greatly like, the ones we didn't choose, because Jesus is drawing us together into his place, into his company.”

Listen to God calling you beloved. Forget the 35 voices – listen to the other two. Listen to your waitress. Be in love transformed.
…………
* When I wrote this in 2003, I thought “kill your darlings” was advice from Ernest Hemmingway. Later, I learned it was William Faulkner’s. Thanks. Bill