Churches remain relevant despite decline in membership
newSpin 120514

newSpin 120507

The newSpin Newsletter, May 7, 2012
By Bill Lewellis

Published Monday, occasionally also on Thursday 

Attribute errors, typos or anything bizarre in this week's newSpin newsletter to my head having been occasionally elsewhere. I'm off to Fox Chase on Monday for my six-month "active surveillance" routine – lab work and CT-Scan – hoping to receive another reprieve.

TopSpin    
• Fatal shooting at Maryland Episcopal church
... Canon Andrew Gerns has done yeoman journalism work for Episcopal Café over the past few days in order to keep us updated on the volatile events that began with the Thursday shooting of a priest and an administrative assistant. Administrative assistant Brenda Brewington was shot dead, and Mary-Marguerite Kohn, a priest at St. Peter's Ellicott City MD, has been critically wounded and is on life support to assist her family's intentions to donate her organs. Find Andrew's updated account here. A Saturday Baltimore Sun story says the shooter was angry about being told to limit his visits to the church's food pantry.

• Requests now being accepted for New Hope Grants ... [Daniel Gunn] The New Hope Grants Committee is ready to receive and consider requests for disbursements from the New Hope Campaign. The total amount we are able to grant for the 2012-13 calendar year is $70,000. This is the last year of major grants. We are inviting Letters of Intent from parishes and Episcopal-related organizations within the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. The Deadline for Letters of Intent is 2 July 2012. More here.

• Free online education at Harvard and MIT ... [NYTimes, David Brooks, summary from The Atlantic Wire] Online education has been around for years, but the recent announcement that Harvard and MIT would commit millions to free online education confirms for Brooks that the trend is becoming a "tsunami." "Many of us view the coming change with trepidation. Will online learning diminish the face-to-face community that is the heart of the college experience? ... The doubts are justified, but there are more reasons to feel optimistic," he writes. Online learning will give millions access to the best educational resources. And paradoxically, the concerns that it will diminish interaction and other important elements to learning may force universities who have been ignoring those things even in the real classroom to rethink how to provide them. "My guess is it will be easier to be a terrible university on the wide-open Web, but it will also be possible for the most committed schools and students to be better than ever," he writes. More here.

DioBethSpin
• Requests now being accepted for New Hope Grants
... See above, under TopSpin

• Churches remain relevant despite decline in membership ... [The Morning Call, Bill Lewellis, May 4] Declining numbers in churches of whatever flavor have become a truism, probably since the halcyon I-Like-Ike 50s but especially over the past few decades. Wednesday's Page One story detailed the past decade's local decline. Declining numbers often mean church closings. Witness the closing of Roman Catholic churches over the past few years. They received remarkable publicity because they were done wholesale and drew controversy. There have been many others, somewhat under the radar. Is there positive spin we might give to this phenomenon of changing churches? More at The Morning Call and the newSpin blog.

• Benedictine Wisdom ... Trinity Bethlehem rector Laura Howell will present a program on Benedictine Wisdom at the May 16 annual gathering of the diocesan Episcopal Church Women at Kirby House. The topic: Prefer Nothing to Christ: Benedictine Wisdom for the Christian Life.  Bishop Jack will also be there. More here.

• The new user-friendly, useful and attractive DioBeth website ... A complete do-over. Explore a bit. You'll find it eminently user-friendly, useful and attractive. www.diobeth.org . As a retired communication minister, I'm so proud of Kat's work and the work of everyone who had a hand in putting this together. It will become, I'm confident, an effective tool for evangelism. I will not hesitate to refer it to anyone who expresses to me an interest in becoming an Episcopalian and a parishioner in the Diocese of Bethlehem.

• High School Mission Trip ... Here.

• Diocesan Events for 2012 ... Here.

• Diocesan Life, May/June ... Stories on St. Alban's, Sinking Springs, Family Promise at All Saints, birthday bags for the Nazareth Food Bank, our New Hope campaign update from Charlie Barebo, Vocare, Bishop's Day for Kids, the Whitehall Food Pantry, What is a deputy? (for General Convention) and more. Here.

• DioBeth Website ... newSpin Blog ... Re:Create blog for youth and young adults ... Twitter.DioBeth ... Twitter.Kat Lehman ... Facebook.DioBeth ... Flickr, search under dio_beth

• Public news and info lists ... At the Diobeth website , enter your name and email in the "Get Connected" box. You are welcome to subscribe to any or all of these. "Bakery" is our diocesan interactive list.

ParishSpin
• Dallas ... Prince of Peace Church searching for organist/choirmaster. Here.

• Wilkes-Barre ... [Times-Leader] The members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre have been fired up about collecting money for the church’s Reach Food Pantry. But the bowls they’re using to muster the cash have been generating plenty of heat as well. For the fifth year in a row, the church will auction off bowls that have been hand-painted by church members and fired in a kiln. More here.

• Note to parishes ... Send news summaries and links to Bill.

• Diocesan Life, May/June ... Stories on St. Alban's, Sinking Springs, Family Promise at All Saints, birthday bags for the Nazareth Food Bank, our New Hope campaign update from Charlie Barebo, Vocare, Bishop's Day for Kids, the Whitehall Food Pantry, What is a deputy? (for General Convention) and more. Here.

Weekly eNewsletters from parishes
Allentown, Grace Church, May 3.
Bethlehem, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, May 4.
Dallas, Prince of Peace Church, April 27.
Easton, Trinity Church, April 27.
Trexlertown, St. Anne's Church here, click on "Weekly Calendar."
Wilkes-Barre, St. Stephen's, April 23.
There may be others. If so, please send me a link.

Monthly Newsletters from parishes ... Most parishes publish a monthly newsletter that is mailed to parishioners. Many, if not most, of those are available at the parish websites.

• Calendar of Events ...  Here 

General Convention 2012 in July 
• What is a deputy
... Diocese of Bethlehem deputation chair Anne Kitch recommends Cathy Bailey's new post on the GC Deputies Blog. "As we approach the 77th General Convention in July," Canon Kitch writes, "there will be more and more news about events and issues in the Episcopal Church. The deputies will be posting updates on the blog as our way of keeping you in the loop. As always, please feel free to contact any of the deputies with questions about General Convention. Deputies are available to meet with parish or regional groups. Our contact information is on the blog."

• The Blue Book ... information and resolutions for GC2012 is available for downloading. Here.

• May 9: Live webcast to address Episcopal Church General Convention 2012 ... Here.

Episcopal/Anglican 
• Another settlement in Virginia
... [Episcopal Café, Andrew Gerns] The Church of the Apostles (CANA) in Fairfax, Virginia has settled with the Diocese of Virginia. Here. Truro Church, also in Fairfax, settled with the diocese in April.


• May 19: Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Archbishop Desmond Tutu to discuss mission in live webcast  ... Here.

• Episcopal News Weekly bulletin inserts ... Download inserts here.

• Episcopal Church new website ... complete transformation and redesign, launched December 28, efficient and user friendly. Read about it here. ... Episcopal News Service ... ENS blog ... Episcopal Church on Facebook ... Episcopal Church on YouTube ... Anglican Communion website ... Anglican Communion News Service. ... Anglican Communion News Service on Facebook.

TaleSpin   
• Jon Will's Gift: George Will on his son's Down syndrome
... [WaPo] Will's son Jon, who has Down syndrome, turns 40 on Thursday, and his father uses the occasion to reflect on his life so far. "In 1972, people with Down syndrome were still commonly called Mongoloids. Now they are called American citizens, about 400,000 of them, and their life expectancy is 60. Much has improved. There has, however, been moral regression as well." Will weaves his critique of pre-natal testing, abortion, and the "baby boomers' vast sense of entitlement" into an appreciation of Jon's life. "It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society's complexities. They have no choice but to ... depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon's experience, they almost always receive it." [h/t The Atlantic Wire]

• Silence about the global treatment of women is disquieting ... [Joan Chittister, NCR] Then, the speaker stopped for a moment. She had clearly sensed the lack of understanding in us. "Let me tell you plainly," she said. "Seventy thousand women and girls were raped in the Congo during the war. They are homeless yet. Many have starved to death. Many became pregnant and now the children they bore are orphans. I am one of those women. I am a Christian, but I could not forgive." She sighed and her voice rose. "I will give you an example: One night, robbers came to a house and demanded that the man hand over his wife and daughters or die. He refused. So they began to cut him. They cut off his fingers and blinded his eyes. His wife couldn't stand it anymore. 'Take me and let him go,' she screamed. And they did. Then after they had gang-raped her and each daughter, they robbed the house and left." She waited again -- for what felt like eternity -- before she went on, tight-voiced and loud. "Then the husband began to scream. He threw the wife and daughters out of the house. Those women had no place to go," she said. "No one, no one," she paused, "would take them in." More here.

• In deeds, nuns answer call of duty ... [NYTimes, Jim Dwyer] Tesa Fitzgerald began her day on Tuesday by welcoming a new resident to the house that she runs in Long Island City, Queens, for women who are getting out of prison and have nowhere to go. Joan Dawber, in Brooklyn, spent Monday evening with three women who had just moved into the new safe house that she helped build for victims of human trafficking. In the Bronx, Lauria Fitzgerald was organizing evening meals that she serves to drug addicts and prostitutes who work under the Major Deegan Expressway and other dim elbows of the city. These three women, who work and live in New York City, are members of Roman Catholic religious orders. The old-fashioned word is nun, a noun. They are verbs. More here. [h/t Barbara Sorin]

• Nun and the Vatican: a clash decades in the making ... [NPR]  The confrontation has been brewing since Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church's controversial liberalization in the 1960s... "Many sisters I know are quite saddened, because many of the reforms that happened in the last 50 years were the result of their following the instructions of the Second Vatican Council," says Jesuit James Martin, culture editor for America magazine. More here.

• What would Jesus do? Not stuff like this ... [Baltimore Sun Op-Ed, Susan Reimer, April 30] It is no fun being a Catholic woman these days. In fact, it is almost embarrassing... When my children were preparing for their confirmation in the Catholic Church they were frustrated and angry over the fact that just about every minute of class time was spent talking about the evils of abortion and the sin of contraception and almost none on the Sermon on the Mount. These were 13-year-old kids looking for a way to deal with the first disappointments of life — the death of a friend's parent, mean girls, a divorce, the pain of trying to fit in at a new school, getting cut from a team. Where was the church when they needed it most? I would ask the same now. Why is the Catholic Church tightening the screws of doctrine in a world already awash in religious extremists? Why would it handcuff the good sisters, who live only to serve the weakest among us and be their voice for justice? More here. [h/t Scott Allen]

TailSpin
• Punch and slap the gay out
... [Jonathan Turley, Res ispa loquitur] North Carolina pastor Sean Harris is being featured on many gay rights blogs this week due to his lesson on parenting to his congregation, including his advice that parents should punch and slap the gay out of children.  

• Paul Ryan's budget ... [The Colbert Report] Georgetown Jesuit priest with a Ph.D. in political science Thomas J. Reese schools Stephen Colbert (oh, and Paul Ryan) about Catholic social teaching and the budget. He finds discrepancies between Catholic doctrine and Ryan's fiscal ministry.

• There are five basic tastes ... sweet, sour, salty, bitter and ??? Read it here.

• Austrian parish listens to priest, none receive the host ... [National Catholic Reporter] Shortly before Communion, the parish priest of a church near Innsbruck Austria announced that only Catholics who were in a state of grace should come forward to receive Communion. Catholics who are divorced and remarried and Catholics who do not attend Mass every week were not worthy to receive the Eucharist, he said. When Communion time came at this First Communion celebration, not a single adult came forward. The entire congregation demonstratively remained seated. Only the children received Communion. More here.

• Biden ‘Comfortable’ With Gay Marriage ... [Reuters via Daily Beast] In an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden signaled his changing views and quasi-endorsed same-sex marriage. Responding to a question about what social policies a second Obama White House may push,  Biden said that he is “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.” Biden said that he was expressing his own views on the subject and that “the president sets the policy.” The vice president’s quasi endorsement of gay marriage makes him one of the highest-ranking elected officials to take an affirmative stance on the issue.

• Reports are emerging that the Catholic church in Italy accepted a large bribe from a mobster's widow to allow his interment in a basilica.

• According to the creator of "Gilligan's Island,"  each castaway represented one of Christianity’s “seven deadly sins."

Resources
  • Oxford Classical Dictionary ... [Bill] Bishop Paul initiated a conversation on The Bakery about his recently received Fourth Edition of the OCD (after 30 years), "completely reset and much more readable, more unwieldy than its predecessors. You won't take this one on the plane. Nonetheless, it belongs on the desk of all priests and serious students of religion and/or culture... As I flip through it I find more articles than ever that help us understand the origins  and context of Christian faith--see, for example, the articles on Galatia or Ephesus, not to mention Christianity. The updates on Sappho and Pharisees are therapeutic to those who tend to think simplistically. Sadly, and this is the real English vice , there is no index at all, so you cannot track how texts are employed. The English have never in any book every published an index worth having." Debra Kellerman of St. Stephen's Wilkes-Barre quipped how amusing it was to find that a book with the acronym of OCD does not have an index. Linda Henry of Trinity Bethlehem said, "The OCD in all its editions lives in our house; I find the entries on “lares” and “statues, cult of” particularly enlightening, if not Christian. Then again, I am prejudiced, as the author of those entries lives here too. And I do love browsing the OCD, even for the entries not written by spousal unit." Offline, I asked Linda about "spousal unit." His name is Robert Phillips, a.k.a. C. Robert Phillips III, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Lehigh. He specializes in early Roman religion. Any entry with a "CRP" is his. "Spousal unit is not an Episcopalian," Linda says, "but he doesn't mind being identified as an affiliate." :-) If you want to join the conversation on The Bakery – you don't have to talk – subscribe at the "Get Connected" box at our website. Why Bakery? Bethlehem, in Hebrew, means "House of Bread."

• Free online education at Harvard and MIT ... [NYTimes, David Brooks, summary from The Atlantic Wire] Online education has been around for years, but the recent announcement that Harvard and MIT would commit millions to free online education confirms for Brooks that the trend is becoming a "tsunami." "Many of us view the coming change with trepidation. Will online learning diminish the face-to-face community that is the heart of the college experience? ... The doubts are justified, but there are more reasons to feel optimistic," he writes. Online learning will give millions access to the best educational resources. And paradoxically, the concerns that it will diminish interaction and other important elements to learning may force universities who have been ignoring those things even in the real classroom to rethink how to provide them. "My guess is it will be easier to be a terrible university on the wide-open Web, but it will also be possible for the most committed schools and students to be better than ever," he writes. More here.

• In-Formation in Bethlehem ... Canon Kitch's newsletter of lifelong Christian formation resources. May.
• Holy Women, Holy Men
... Download Holy Women, Holy Men as a .pdf file.
• Congregational Resource Guide ... May 1.
Daily Office ... Lectionary Page ... Lectionary ... Oremus Bible Browser ... Revised Common Lectionary 

Opinion/Commentary/Reflection
• Beauty in the eye of the app
... [LATimes, Meghan Daum] Howard Stern has helped an app called Ugly Meter, which analyzes your face to rank your appearance, skyrocket in popularity. The app doesn't work very well, and the creators don't seem to want it to, but Daum draws lessons from its existence anyway. "I suspect our need for public validation (and its corollary, public humiliation) is also the product of a culture whose obsession with image is matched only by its obsession with classifying and ranking things. In a sense, our whole world has become an Ugly Meter." More here. [h/t The Atlantic Wire]

Moravian
• Moravian Church in North America
website.  Moravian Church Northern Province website.  Moravian Theological Seminary website.

Evangelical Lutheran 
NEPA Synod website ... HereELCA website ... HereELCA News Service ... HereELCA's blogs may be found here. See especially "Web and Multimedia Development."

United Methodist 
• Methodists reach across historic racial boundaries with communion pact ... [RNS] The predominantly white United Methodist Church and five historically black denominations -- after more than a decade of discussions -- have entered a full communion agreement. With an overwhelming vote Monday (April 30) at the UMC General Conference, the leaders of the denominations agreed to recognize each other’s churches, share sacraments and affirm their clergy and ministries. Here.

• Methodists keep stricture on homosexuality ... [NYTimes, Laurie Goodstein, May 3] The United Methodist Church at its convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday voted against changing long-contested language in its book of laws and doctrines that calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote was 61 percent to 39 percent against the change to the church’s Book of Discipline. The delegates also defeated by a similar margin a compromise proposed by gay rights advocates, which said that Methodists could acknowledge their differences on homosexuality while still living together as a church. In other historically mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, liberals have prevailed so far in the battles over homosexuality. The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have all voted in recent years to end their outright prohibitions on openly gay clergy members. But in the United Methodist Church, theological conservatives have held sway in the 40 years that the church has been debating the issue. An influx of non-American members has even bolstered the conservatives. The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States, but its American membership has declined to about 7.8 million in recent years. Meanwhile, its membership abroad has grown to about 4.4 million, mostly in Africa and the Philippines, where homosexuality is not accepted. More here.

• 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.

Presbyterian
• Presbyterian Church USA admits gays and lesbians to ordination 
... The largest Presbyterian church in Colorado voted overwhelmingly to leave the Presbyterian Church USA and join a new, more conservative denomination. The exodus was prompted by the PCUSA decision to allow gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Roman Catholic
 
• The landmark Philadelphia abuse trial ... The seventh week has begun. Find  daily reports and complete Phila Inquirer coverage. The Morning Call has also published daily coverage.

• Diocese of Allentown ... HereDiocese 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.

Health
• How's your bone density health? ... Lehigh Valley Health Network is hosting free bone density scans on Tuesday, May 8, at LVH-Cedar Crest from 5:00  to 8:00 p.m. and on Monday, June 11, at LVH-Muhlenberg from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Call 610-402-CARE to schedule a free bone scan.

• Medline Plus ... Here.

• WebMD ... Here.

Media/Films/DVD/TV/Books/Music/Tech
• Best websites ... [MakeUseOf] The best 119 useful websites, categorized. Here.

• The Intersection of Poverty and the Environment ... The on-demand video is now available for this groundbreaking forum initiated by the Episcopal Church. View The Intersection of Poverty and the Environment at www.episcopalchurch.org/intersection

Calendar of Events/DioBeth ... Here.

Additional sources of news/info/commentary
• Religion News Service Daily Roundup ... here.
• Faith in Public Life ... here.
• Episcopal/Anglican

 (1) The Episcopal Church
 (2) Episcopal News Service
 (3) Episcopal Café
 (4) AngicansOnline.
 (5) 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 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]

 

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