The newSpin newsletter, Dec. 19, 2011
By Bill Lewellis
Published Monday, occasionally also on Thursday
• One in two people are poor or low income ... [AP] Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income. The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families. "Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty. "The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years." More here.
• Bethlehem Emergency Sheltering System needs volunteers ... Here.
• Renewal Assembly IV ... will focus on empowering leaders in our parishes and is designed to help vestry members in particular and those interested in leadership and taking an active role in parish vitality. Saturday, February 11, at seven locations around the diocesee. More here. Registration is open online.
• Diocesan Life, December/January ... available here.
• The Rev. H. Arthur Doersam, 83, onetime rector of Epiphany Clarks Summit and archdeacon of the Diocese of Bethlehem, died on December 2, following a brief illness. He retired in 1993 after 17 years at Trinity Memorial in Binghamton. Find his obituary here. [From Rick Cluett] Art Doersam came by the cathedral last summer on a Sunday I was preaching. He was in town to visit with friends. We had a chance to sit and have coffee and to talk archidiaconal talk, as in "How is soandso doing, and that parish in...?" He loved his time at Epiphany and as archdeacon, and still enjoyed relationships with several folks here from that time. He was my guide and host when I was in the bishop election in Central New York many years ago and we have kept up since. He was a loving and caring man and a fine pastor, priest, and archdeacon, as I have learned from those who were here during his tenure. Give rest O Christ to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. Amen.
• Immanuel at the Swimming Hole ... [Bishop Paul] God got into the water with us in the birth of a fragile and vulnerable human baby, who lived our life and died our death and has gone to the fullness of new life ahead of us. There is no part of human experience, from its joys to its horrors, from which God wishes to remain aloof. Read it all on page two of the December/January Diocesan Life.
• Renewal Assembly IV ... will focus on empowering leaders in our parishes and is designed to help vestry members in particular and those interested in leadership and taking an active role in parish vitality. Saturday, February 11, at seven locations around the diocese, 9 to 3. Registration is open online.
• Calendar of Diocesan Events ... Updated Dec. 2. Here.
• New Hope News from Kajo Keji ... Here.
• Reaching the Pygmies Ministry ... Photos from Epiphany Clarks Summmit, here.
• Weekly Parish eNewsletters ... There are now five. I publish links to the weekly electronic newsletters of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Grace Allentown, Prince of Peace Dallas, Trinity Easton and St. Anne's Trexlertown because these seem to me to be attractive, newsy, helpful and user friendly. The Cathedral's newsletter is created with ChurchPost that, through a diocesan contract, is available free to all parishes. There may be other weekly electronic newsletters, besides these five, that might be looked at. Please let me know. Cathedral, Dec. 16, here. Grace Allentown, Dec. 15, here. Trinity Easton, Dec. 16, here. Prince of Peace Dallas, Dec. 16, here., St. Anne's Trexlertown, here, click on "Weekly Calendar."
• 2012 Mileage Rates ... [Bruce Reiner] Beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven (unchanged from the mid-year adjustment that became effective on July); 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (reduced by 0.5 cents per mile); and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
• Episcopal News Weekly bulletin inserts ... Download inserts here.
• Public news and info lists ... At the Diobeth website , enter your name and email in the "Get Connected" box on the right hand side. You are welcome to subscribe to any or all of these. "Bakery" is our diocesan interactive list.
• Occupy group faults Trinity WallStreet, a onetime ally ... [NYTimes, Dec. 16] For months, they were the best of neighbors: the slapdash champions of economic equality, putting down stakes in an outdoor plaza, and the venerable Episcopal parish next door, whose munificence helped sustain the growing protest. But in the weeks since Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, relations between the demonstrators and Trinity Wall Street, a church barely one block from the New York Stock Exchange, have reached a crossroads. The displaced occupiers had asked the church, one of the city’s largest landholders, to hand over a gravel lot, near Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas, for use as an alternate campsite and organizing hub. The church declined, calling the proposed encampment “wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious.” And now the Occupy movement, after weeks of targeting big banks and large corporations, has chosen Trinity, one of the nation’s most prominent Episcopal parishes, as its latest antagonist. More here. And here's the Episcopal News Service story. More from arrested retired Bishop Packard here. And more here from Jim Naughton, writing at Episcopal Café, A tough weekend for the Episcopal Church. And Bishop Packard in the Paddy Wagon, talking Occupy v Trinity, here.
• Caring for your Introvert ... [The Atlantic] Someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs. More here.
• The Protester ... [TIME] Time Magazine's Person of the Year. No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world. More here.
• Christopher Hitchens dead at 62 – Is he still an atheist? ... [Bill] During his battle with cancer, there were people who told him in hard, hard copy or online that God is punishing him, especially with the loss of his voice, for his "blasphemies" against God and religion. I could not understand such people. Because Hitchens was an atheist, they wanted him to agonize in his illness and then go to hell rather than discover our compassionate God in the undiscovered country of death and what lies beyond. More here. And at the NYTimes , the Daily Beast, Episcopal Cafe and The Atlantic. From Andrew Sullivan on What Christians Owe Hitch: " I read his book on God with some trepidation but agreed with almost all of it. Ridiculing organized religion is like shooting a shark in a tiny barrel. But there was something quite exhilarating about Hitch's deployment of a rhetorical AK-47. What the book didn't do - what it couldn't do - was weaken my faith. He was attacking the human follies and lies and cruelties that exploit and abuse faith. As a Christian, I am grateful for that. If Christianity is to survive and prosper, it will not be because it has drawn back inside the castle of rigid orthodoxy, but when it has confronted and extirpated its anachronisms, absurdities, and abuses."
• Sudan withdraws invitation to Presiding Bishop ... [Episcopal Café] Archbishop Deng Bul, the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, has written to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to withdraw her invitation to visit Sudan this spring. He cites the Episcopal Church's support of gay and lesbian Christians as the cause. Here.
• Married couples at a record low ... [WaPo, Dec. 14] The proportion of adults who are married has plunged to record lows as more people decide to live together now and wed later, reflecting decades of evolving attitudes about the role of marriage in society. Just 51 percent of all adults who are 18 and older are married, placing them on the brink of becoming a minority, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census statistics. That represents a steep drop from 57 percent who were married in 2000. More here.
• Workplace spirituality movement ... [Religion Dispatches] Aiming at nothing less than a wholesale change in human consciousness, workplace spirituality has the trappings of a full-fledged religious movement—but whose religion? And what’s behind it? It turns out that underneath these aspirations to transform the world is a powerfully conservative ideology, and a boatload of conservative money. Which should invite all of us to ask: what is at stake when we bring God to work? Is the movement a (Christian) capitalist tool? [h/t Religion News Service]
• Can the cans ... [Slate] Why food drives are a terrible idea. Here.
• The Fox News War on Chrismas ... [Sojourners, Jim Wallis] What we actually have here is a theological problem, where cultural and commercial symbols are confused with truly Christian ones, and the meaning of the holy season is missed all together. The war on Christmas is really about what brand of “civil religion” America should have. The particular (read: biblical) meaning of Christmas, for Christians, has almost nothing to do with the media war. More here.
• Dead Sea drying fast, a sign of trouble ... [Jewish Daily Forward] Scientists drilling into the Dead Sea bed have discovered that the sea, now drying up because of climate change and overuse, dried up once before on its own. The process, which happened long ago without human intervention, is now going much faster because of global warming, which most scientists think is caused by human activity. “We are accelerating the process,” said one of the researchers, Emi Ito, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Minnesota. While the disappearance of the Dead Sea would be dramatic, the cause of its contraction is terrifying. No one draws water from the briny body, but its shrinkage reflects the rapid depletion of its source, the Jordan River, which is a primary source of water for Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians. More here.
• Jesus toasters selling briskly ... [CNN Belief Blog] Here.
•• This TV vicar does more good than 26 relationships ... [Daily Mail, UK] The British TV show "Rev" works as a fantastic advertisement for what a modern church can do. Here.
• Pray as you can, do not try to pray as you can't ... [From Brother, Give Us a Word, Advent reflections of the Cowley Brothers] “It would be impossible," Sister Joan Chittister writes, "to have spirituality without prayer, of course, but it is certainly possible to pray without having a spirituality at all.” How do you know the difference? For Sister Joan, the litmus test is, ‘Am I becoming kinder?’ That’s a good place to start. Maybe you’re trying to pray someone else’s prayer (or your former prayer or your future prayer) and it simply doesn’t fit now. It isn’t now. There’s a wonderful English Benedictine monk named Dom John Chapman, remembered especially because of the simple, wise spiritual letters he wrote in response to inquiries about spiritual disciplines. I recall one of his letters where he is addressing the fretfulness of a woman who is certain that her prayer isn’t good enough. One line from Dom John Chapman’s response comes to mind. He writes, gently: “Pray as you can, and do not try to pray as you can’t. Take yourself as you find yourself, and start from that.”
• The Daily Office ... with the Mission St. Clare. Now available for iPhone and iPad.
• With The Book of Common Prayer ... Here.
• For our young men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for their families ... Check the newSpin blog for an update. Better still, at the "Get Connected" box on the right side of our diocesan website, fill in your name and email address, and click on "My Groups." In the next window, check "Pray for." Then, you will receive the weekly update by email.
• Praying the News is a blog by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Here.
• In-Formation in Bethlehem ... December issue of Canon Anne Kitch's newsletter of lifelong Christian formation resources for the Diocese of Bethlehem. Here.
• Lay Ministry: Changing the culture, expanding the vision ... [Congregational Resource Guide via Charles Cesaretti] You've seen it in other congregations, and perhaps it's happened in yours. Visitors show up for worship, find the experience rewarding, and decide to join. But it's not long before they drift away. The usual solution? Turn new members into "lay ministers." That is, get them involved in carrying out the church's work. Ask them to serve on the grounds committee, or help out with the annual bazaar, or assist with communion. After all, those tasks need to be done. And if members are involved, they'll stay. Won't they? More here.
• When the mission changes ... [Dan Hotchkiss, Alban Institute] In theory, everything a congregation does should serve its mission. Traditional strategic planning starts with a mission statement and progresses through strategic vision, goals, objectives, timelines, budgets, and a tagline for the T-shirts--each expressing and reflecting the mission. If leaders have to choose between what they personally prefer and what the mission calls for, their obligation is to pick the mission. Members, too, when they vote in congregational meetings, hold the congregation in trust--not for themselves, but for the mission. Fidelity to mission assures donors that their gifts will serve the same ideals that motivated them to give. Some donors try to take control, writing elaborate restrictions, hoping to require the institution--even after they are dead--to do as it is told. But most donors--whether of a dollar in the plate or a bequest of millions--rely on the institution's understanding of its mission to provide a sense of continuity or even permanence, as times change. But what if times change so much that the original mission starts to look like a mistake? More here.
• You're never too old ... [National Institute of Health monthly newsletter] Keep active as you age. Here. [h/t Diana Marshall]
• Health and Wellness News ... [Episcopal Church Medical Trust] Here.
• Michelangelo's Masterpiece ... Follow the directions for fantastic views, especially the +, zoom in, icon. Here. [h/t Deacon Larry Holman]
• Which U.S. cities offer the most economic secuity? ... [The Atlantic Cities] Here. Don't miss the interactive map.
• General Seminary TV Special to air on CBS nationwide Christmas Eve ... [GTS News, Dec. 16] The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (GTS) has spent the last week putting the finishing touches on an hour long television program, Christmas in Chelsea Square, that will air over CBS stations nationwide on December 24th at 11:35 pm (EST). The 194-year-old seminary was selected by the network last summer to produce the annual television special. The central portion of the program features a traditional Christmas service of lessons and carols for which the homilist is the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. Also featured are excerpts from a reading of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem that begins, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” as well as a brief segment that introduces viewers to the Seminary’s history and present day mission. General is known for the beauty of its Episcopal liturgy and music as well as its idyllic campus located in the Chelsea district of New York City on property donated by Moore and known as Chelsea Square. Nearly all the network’s affiliates will broadcast the annual Christmas special. More here.
• Presiding Bishop's Christmas Message ... Here.
• Anglican Communion News Service ... Weekly Review, Dec. 10 - 16, here.
• Episcopal Church website ... Episcopal Church on Twitter ... Episcopal News Service ... ENS on Twitter ... NewsLine ... News & Notices ... Infoline ... Episcopal Church on Facebook ... Episcopal Church on YouTube ... Anglican Communion website ... Anglican Communion News Service. ... Anglican Communion News Service on Facebook.
• NEPA Synod E-News ... Dec. 16, here. NEPA Synod website ... Here. ELCA website ... Here. ELCA News Service ... Here. ELCA's blogs may be found here. See especially "Web and Multimedia Development."
• UMC website Here. News Service Here. Communication Resources Start here. Communication newsletter (tips and tools) Here. Eastern PA Conference website Here. Facebook Here. Bishop Peggy Johnson's blog Here.
• Will B16 resign? ... [HuffPost] Pope Benedict XVI seems worn out. People who have spent time with him recently say they found him weaker than they'd ever seen him, seemingly too tired to engage with what they were saying. He no longer meets individually with visiting bishops. A few weeks ago he started using a moving platform to spare him the long walk down St. Peter's Basilica. Benedict turns 85 in the new year, so a slowdown is only natural. Expected. And given his age and continued rigorous work schedule, it's remarkable he does as much as he does and is in such good health overall: Just this past week he confirmed he would travel to Mexico and Cuba next spring. But a decline has been noted as Benedict prepares for next weekend's grueling Christmas celebrations, which kick off two weeks of intense public appearances. And that raises questions about the future of the papacy given that Benedict himself has said popes should resign if they can't do the job. More here.
• Diocese of Allentown ... Here. Diocese of Scranton ... Here. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ... Here. Catholic News Service ... Here. Vatican website ... Here. Vatican Information Service blog ... Here. Vatican News/Info Portal ... Here.
• Waiting for the Higgs particle ... [NYTimes Brian Greene via The Atlantic Wire] Researchers this week have cautiously announced that they may have found experimental proof for the so called "Higgs particle" at a collider in Switzerland. "[E]ven the tentative announcement has rightly fueled much excitement. Finding the Higgs particle would complete an essential chapter in our quest to understand the basic constituents of the universe," explains Brian Greene, a Columbia physicist. Greene tells the story of the developing belief first put forward in the '60s by a physicist named Peter Higgs that a particle existed that "suggested a rewriting of the very definition of nothingness, filling otherwise empty space with a substance capable of bestowing upon particles their mass." He describes the slow inclusion of this theory into the mainstream and the difficulties that have impeded proving it experimentally for decades. If proved, he says, "The legions of physicists, engineers and computer scientists, whose collective efforts created the Large Hadron Collider, will have revealed the deepest layer of reality our species has ever probed." More here.
• The Spielberg Face ... [Slate] A brilliant video essay on the "Spielberg Face," "the death mask of our species, projecting us, eyes wide open, in an eternal state of wonder at what lies beyond." View the faces here.
• The Daily Office from MissionStClare. Now available for iPhone and iPad.
• The Lectionary Page ... Here. This is a new URL. Update your bookmarks or favorites.
• The Lectionary ... Here.
• Oremus Bible Browser ... Here.
• Revised Common Lectionary ... Vanderbilt.
• Jan. 5 ... Ordination of Eddie Lopez to priesthood, St. Stephen's, Wilkes-Barre 7:00 p.m., reception to follow.
• Jan. 21 ... Bishop's Day with Youth, grades 6-12. Nativity Bethlehem. Online registration will open Dec. 6.
• Feb. 11 ... Renewal Assembly IV, seven locations, 9 to 3. Online registration open.
• Feb. 19 ... Celebration of New Ministry, Doug Moyer and Christ Church Stroudsburg, 4:00 p.m.
• March 24 ... Diocesan Training Day, St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre 9:00 to 3:00.
• March 29 ... Chrism Mass, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem 11:00 a.m.
• April 13 ... Ordination, Nativity Cathedral Bethlehem, 7:00 p.m.
• April 20-22 ... Christophany Retreat, grades 6-12, at Pocono Plateau Retreat, Cresco.
• May 16 ... Episcopal Church Women Annual Meeting, Kirby House 9:00 to 2:30.
• May 20 ... St. Matthew's Society Gathering, Lehigh Country Club, Allentown 3:00 p.m.
• June 1-3 ... Vocare Retreat for Young Adults, Kirkridge Retreat Center.
• June 16 ... Renewal Assembly V, various locations, 9 to 1:30.
• June 30 ... Bishop's Day with Kids
• July 5-12 ... 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Indianapolis.
• July 28 ... Bishop's Day with Kids
• Summer ... Senior High Mission Trip. Dates and destination TBA.
• Sept. 20 ... New Hope 5th Anniversary.
• Sept. 25 ... Pre-Convention Meeting, St. Albans, Sinking Spring 7:00 p.m.
• Sept. 27 ... Pre-Convention Meeting, Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit 7:00 p.m.
• Oct. 2 ... Pre-Convention Meeting, Nativity, Bethlehem 7:00 p.m.
• Oct. 5-6 ... Diocesan Convention.
• Nov. 11 ... Joint Eucharist with United Methodist Church, Asbury United Methodist, Allentown 4:00 P.M. Bishop Paul to preach, Eucharist hosted by the United Methodists.
• The Diocese of Bethlehem on Twitter and Facebook ... http://twitter.com/#!/Diobeth ... https://www.facebook.com/DioceseOfBethlehem
• Kat Lehman on Twitter ... http://twitter.com/#!/KatLehman
• Episcopal News Service on Twitter ... http://twitter.com/#!/episcopal_news
Additional sources of news/info/commentary
• Religion News Service Daily Roundup ... here.
• Faith in Public Life ... here.
(1) The Lead, Episcopal Cafe
(2) Daily Episcopalian, Episcopal Cafe
(4) AnglicansOnline News Centre.
You are reading the newSpin newsletter. The newSpin blog, which includes the newsletter and other items, is available here. When the newsletter is completed on Mondays and occasionally, more often than not, on Thursdays as well, it is published immediately to the blog and on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,000 addresses. Many recipients forward it to many more. Bakery and the blog are interactive. The ChurchPost list is not. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop or the Archdeacon as an official communication. If you're wondering why you haven't seen something related to your parish or agency here, it's probably because no one has sent relevant info. Regarding items about your parish or agency as well as feedback on any other items ... send email to Bill.
Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem, retired
Communication Minister/Editor (1986-2010), Canon Theologian (1998)
Blog , Email (c)610-393-1833
Be attentive. Be intelligent. Be reasonable. Be responsible.
Be in Love. And, if necessary, change. [Bernard Lonergan]