Little children belong in church
Canonical Roles of Vestries and Clergy

newSpin 140820

The newSpin newsletter
August 20, 2014
Bill Lewellis

Published weekly, usually by Tuesday

• The Mystery of Mithril 1.0 ... [Bill] If you like cats or theology or St. Francis or Middle Earth or creativity – all or any of them – I think you will like this.

• Little children belong in church [Adam Bond and Canon Laura Howell] Church or Nursery? Here.
• Sister Acts  ... [Nicholas Kristof, NYTimes] “I may not believe in God, but I do believe in nuns,” writes Jo Piazza, in her forthcoming book, “If Nuns Ruled the World.” Piazza is an agnostic living in New York City who began interviewing nuns and found herself utterly charmed and inspired.“They eschew the spotlight by their very nature, and yet they’re out there in the world every day, living the Gospel and caring for the poor,” Piazza writes. “They don’t hide behind fancy and expensive vestments, a pulpit, or a sermon. I have never met a nun who rides a Mercedes-Benz or a Cadillac. They walk a lot; they ride bikes.” ... Forgive us for having sinned and thought of nuns as backward, when, in fact, they were among the first feminists. And, in a world of narcissism and cynicism, they constitute an inspiring contingent of moral leaders who actually walk the walk. So a suggestion: How about if the Vatican spends less time investigating nuns and the public spends less time mocking nuns — and we all spend more time emulating nuns? Read on.

• Frustration in Ferguson ... [Charles M. Blow, NYTimes Op-Ed] The frustration we see in Ferguson is about not only the present act of perceived injustice but also the calcifying system of inequity — economic, educational, judicial — drawn largely along racial lines. In 1951, Langston Hughes began his poem “Harlem” with a question: “What happens to a dream deferred?” Today, I must ask: What happens when one desists from dreaming, when the very exercise feels futile? The discussion about issues in the black community too often revolves around a false choice: systemic racial bias or poor personal choices. In fact, these factors are interwoven like the fingers of clasped hands. People make choices within the context of their circumstances and those circumstances are affected — sometimes severely — by bias. Read on.

• The incompetence of force ... [Andrew Gerns, posted on his blog on Thursday, August 14] In watching the events in Ferguson, Missouri unfold, I am struck by the sheer incompetence of the police and the ineptitude of the political leadership. Their reactivity and fear is adding fuel and oxygen to the fire on top of the heat that already exists in the community they are supposed to lead and care for. They lack moral imagination and it is making things worse. Read on.

• Pope lifts beatification ban on Salvaoran Oscar Romero ... [BBC]
Pope Francis has lifted a ban on the beatification of murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. For years, the Roman Catholic Church blocked the process because of concerns that he had Marxist ideas. An outspoken critic of the military regime during El Salvador's bloody civil war, Archbishop Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980. Beatification, or declaring a person "blessed", is the necessary prelude to full sainthood. The bishop was one of the main proponents of Liberation Theology - an interpretation of Christian faith through the perspective of the poor. On Monday (Aug. 19), the Pope said he was hoping for a swift beatification process. "For me Romero is a man of God," the pontiff told journalists on the plane bringing him back from a trip to South Korea. "There are no doctrinal problems and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly." Read on. Also NYTimes. The central question for the church has been whether the archbishop, who was killed by a Salvadoran right-wing death squad, died because of his faith or his vocal criticism of the country’s military. Official martyrdom has traditionally been limited to those who were killed as persecution for their Catholicism. But Pope Francis suggested that Catholic theologians might soon expand the martyr designation to those killed because they were doing God’s work, whether or not hatred of the faith had inspired the killers.

• Four unexpected benefits of being in a small church ... [Christianity Today] To be in community, to serve, to reckon with diverity, to receive opportunities I might otherwise not have had. Read on.

• Burying your dead without religion ... [The Atlantic] The proportion of Americans who don't identify with a specific faith is growing. What does this mean for the future of funeral rites? Read on.

• Celtic Spirituality Initiative at Bethlehem Cathedral
... [Melinda Rizzo] Nativity’s dean Tony Pompa said his hope is for the monthly Thursday evenings, the fourth Thursday, 7:00 p.m., to become a touchstone for anyone interested in seeking a new way to approach spirituality and make a deeper connection with the sacred.  All are welcome to the Thursday evening Celtic spirituality offerings, regardless of their denomination, or faith affiliation. The sessions are informal, and invite participants to enter the Cathedral for meditation, silent prayer, personal reflection time, to light candles, privately ask for healing prayers, and simply enjoy brief theme appropriate meditative readings and poems spoken, all supported by quietly played Celtic Music by guest musicians, well known and versed in Celtic themed music. “We offer a variety of opportunities for sacred connections in about 40 minutes, and the sessions hold a peace-filled and paced economy of time; the Celtic music played by our gifted guest musicians throughout the majority of the evening invites transformation, it’s a recipe of sacred mystery," Pompa explained. Read on.

RNS: The “Left Behind” books series has sold more than 60 million copies. What do you think when you hear that so many have been influenced by that brand of eschatological thought? 

SH: My reaction to the “Left Behind” series is one of amusement and pathos. Pathos because so many people have misunderstood Christian eschatological convictions and turned them into speculative accounts of the so-called “rapture.” I take it to be a judgment against the church that that kind of speculation has gained a foothold.

- See more at:

• Resources
 ... Here.

'Lost in Space – Maybe. Lost to God – Never ...  On Bakery, our diocesan interactive list, Amy Spagna, curate at Trinity Bethlehem commended this blog posting by a colleague from the Diocese of Virginia, the Rev. Joani Peacock. Joani examines some of the discussion around Robin Williams' death from her unique perspective as a theologian who has herself struggled with depression in one way or another throughout her life. Well worth your time, as well as the questions it raises about how we as church people can help keep the discussion around suicide out in the open.

• Take care even of mild depression ... [Bill] Following on the item above ... Back in 2009, when I was diagnosed with one certain and one possible cancer ... followed by a severe, months-long reaction to Levaquin, my wise primary physician, who had not prescribed the Levaquin and had never seen me with such low affect, prescribed medication to counteract the Levaquin reaction as well as a low dose of Citalopram (generic of the anti-depressant Celexa). Beyond that, he simply kept reassuring me that "we'll get through this" – that actually helped – and followed reports from Fox Chase where I went for a second opinion (after a local urologist wanted to do immediate open-knife surgery on a kidney, followed by radiation for my prostate). I continue as an outpatient at Fox Chase on active surveillance or, as some say, watchful waiting. My abdomen and chest may soon light up from the C-Scans. After my fourth prostate biopsy, scheduled for January, I hope to graduate.
    I decided to resign late in 2009. As I've told some of you, had I known I'd have felt as I do today, I might still be working at Diocesan House; on the other hand, had I not resigned, I might not be feeling as well as I do. I still take my low dose of Citalopram daily, with no side affects and hardly a trace of depression. I tell you all this story with the thought that even mild depression should be treated early. (But, who am I to give medical advice.) Actually, however, I remember Paul Marshall asking me, a few years before the problem I've described, whether I would hesitate to talk with a doctor and take an anti-depressant if I felt even mild symptoms. He may have seen something.

• The most unexpected mission at Trinity Wall Street and St. Paul's ... [NYTimes] St. Paul’s Chapel, the tour guide explained to the guests in its sun-dappled churchyard on Monday, was built in 1766, making it the oldest building in continuous use in Manhattan. George Washington prayed there. When the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed across the street in 2001, the chapel suffered not even a broken window. And then the guide, Zev Baranov, relayed the most remarkable thing about St. Paul’s, at least from the point of view of 20 tourists who had just completed a two-hour walking tour of Lower Manhattan on a hot summer’s day. “Bathrooms are in this church; there are three of them, and they are free to use,” he said, to some relieved nods. “And then you can see the inside of the church, too.” Tourist numbers are exploding downtown — 11.5 million tourists visited in 2012 alone — but public facilities have not kept pace. The memorial plaza at the trade center site, for example, has no public restrooms. So Trinity Episcopal Church, at the foot of Wall Street, and its nearby satellite chapel, St. Paul’s, have found themselves de facto rest stops for many of the three million to four million guests they welcome through their doors each year. The crush has resulted in the storied churches’ most unexpected mission: its bathroom ministry. And though it means tour groups traipsing through the sanctuary to the restrooms, never-ending rolls of toilet paper and constant cleaning, it is a ministry the church says it counts as among its most important daily services to the public — even though the church, overwhelmed, sometimes ponders if the access should be reined in. Read on.

• IRS scams ... The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received 90,000 complaints about scams., and estimates that thieves have stolen an estimated $5 million from about 1,100 victims. To avoid becoming a victim of these scams, you should know: (1) The IRS will first contact you by mail if you owe taxes, not by phone. (2) The IRS never asks for credit, debit or prepaid card information over the phone. (3) The IRS never insists that you use a specific payment method to pay your tax. (4) The IRS never requests immediate payment over the telephone. (5) The IRS will always treat you professionally and courteously.

• Former employee of Lehigh County Conference of Churches admits stealing $380,000 ... [Morning Call] from Lehigh Conference of Churches.
An employee since 1997 was charged in December following an investigation. Officials from the association of 138 churches and faith organizations told police they found unauthorized checks written as "pay to the order of Sheri Lopez." The money was earmarked for the conference's Homeless Prevention Fund, officials said. Lopez, who was fired shortly after the thefts came to light, was initially charged with stealing only $95,000. The amount was amended following an investigation. Read on.

• Americans are taking fewer vacations than they used to ... [Vox] Some rough calculations show, in fact, that about 80 percent of workers once took an annual weeklong vacation — and now, just 56 percent do. Read on.

• Diocesan Convention, Oct. 10-11 ... Have you registered? Here

• Godly Play Training ... [Anne Kitch, 610-691-5655 x222] [email protected]] September 6, 9am - 3pm, Grace Church, 30 Butler St. Kingston, PA 18704. Register here. Led by certified Godly Play trainer Dawn Stewart. This training is for new and experienced Godly Play teachers. The day will include the demonstration of several Godly Play stories, discussion about managing time and behavior, and tips on obtaining and creating Godly Play materials. There will also be the opportunity to meet and network with others using Godly Play in the Diocese of Bethlehem. Cost $10, includes lunchSponsored by Grace Church Kingston and the Commission of Lifelong Christian Formation for the Diocese of Bethlehem.More Godly Play training opportunities.

• Bishop's School, Fall 2014 ... [Jane Teter] The fall term of Bishop’s School will begin on Saturday, September 14. Classes are: (1) Church History, with The Rev. Brian Pavlac, afternoon. (2) Old Testament, with Rabbi Robert Lennick, morning. Classes will meet at St. Stephen’s Church in Whitehall. If you plan to attend classes, please register as soon as possible. For further information please contact Canon Jane Teter, 610-691-5655 x228, (cell)610-216-1731, [email protected]. To register please send the following information to Jane: your name, address, phone number(s), email address and parish. She needs to be able to reach you in the event that we have inclement weather or need to change or cancel the class(es). More info here.

• Listening, Prayer and Discernment ... [News release from the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem] Two Episcopal Moment consultants, the Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Johnson, Jr., D.Min, and the Rev. Dr. Robert K. Myers, PhD, both priests based in the Chicago area, will facilitate a series of listening opportunities, to be held across the diocese beginning in fall, at which everyone will be invited to discuss the challenges facing the Episcopal Church in northeastern Pennsylvania, how the diocese has responded to these challenges, and where the Holy Spirit might be leading this diocesan community. The goal is for everyone who wishes to participate in this process to have a chance to be heard. Read on.

• Resources
 ... Here.

• At St. Paul's Montrose ... Celebration of New Ministry, The Rev. Paul Towers, Aug 24 at 9:00 a.m.

• At Redeemer Sayre ... Celebration of New Ministry, The Rev. Glenn Mahaaffey, Aug. 24 at 4:00 p.m.

• Resources
 ... Here.

People from our diocese and parishes in the media
• Nothing to report

• Resources
 ... Here.

Evangelism/Stewardship/Worship/Church Growth
• New Church Planting ... [Daily Episcopalian, George Clifford] Part 1, Why doesn't TEC plant more churches? Part 2, TEC should adapt an idea from Harvard professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, who suggests that persons needing to downsize envision the change as a generative opportunity.

• Resources

 ... Here.

Rest in Peace

•• Marius Bressoud, 91 ... Services at Trinity Bethlehem on Saturday, August 23, at 1:30. Calling hour from 12:30. Obituary here. Find extended item on Marius in last week's newSpin newsletter.

• Bishop David Russell, 75 ... [EWN] Russell has been described as a courageous veteran in the church's struggle against apartheid. Read on. Also here and here.

Episcopal/Anglican (Beyond DioBeth)
• Resources
 ... Here.

• Help put the 'rat' in ratification ... [The Writer's Almanac]  On August 18 in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. There had been strong opposition to woman suffrage since before the Constitution was drafted in the first place; people (mostly men) believed that women should not vote or hold office because they needed to be protected from the sordid world of politics. ... The first national constitutional amendment was proposed in Congress in 1878, and in every Congress session after that. Finally, in 1919, it narrowly passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states to be ratified. Most Southern states opposed the amendment, and on August 18, 1920, it all came down to Tennessee. The pro-amendment faction wore yellow roses in their lapels, and the "anti" faction wore red American Beauty roses. It was a close battle and the state legislature was tied 48 to 48. The decision came down to one vote: that of 24-year-old Harry Burn, the youngest state legislator. Proudly sporting a red rose, he cast his vote ... in favor of ratification. He had been expected to vote against it, but he had in his pocket a note from his mother, which read: "Dear Son: Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don't keep them in doubt. I noticed some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the 'rat' in ratification. Your Mother." Read on.

• The dark, lucrative world of debt collection ... [NYTimes Magazine, Jake Halperin] In the murky world of unpaid bills, a banker and an ex-con can make a fortune — if they don’t run into too many crooks. Read on.

Employment Opportunities
• Episcopal Positions (NYC/DC) ... Here.

Evangelical Lutheran Church
• St. Paul (MN) pastor's pulpit? A food truck ... [Pioneer Press, Richard Chin] There are a couple of clues that the mobile kitchen parked every Thursday at lunchtime on Payne Avenue on St. Paul's East Side this summer isn't just another food truck.First of all, the food -- hot calzones -- is free. And the person who drives the truck is a young woman in a clerical collar who likes to say, "Peace be with you."Her name is Margaret Kelly, a 33-year-old preacher's kid, ex-French chef and former mental health case manager. She's now a pastor, and the food truck is her church.It's not a typical church, but Kelly isn't your typical Lutheran pastor. She's a gay woman who started her training at Luther Seminary in St. Paul at a time when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America didn't allow gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy members. Read on.

• Resources

... Here.

Moravian Church
• Resources ... Here.

United Methodist Church
• ... a wealth of good info, opinion and reflection. Here.
• Communication tips and tools ... Here.

• Resources

... Here.

Presbyterian Church USA
• Resources
 ... Here.

On Meet the Press earlier this month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, claimed that the Catholic Church is not anti-gay. “We’re pro marriage, we’re pro traditional marriage, we’re not anti anybody. We’ve been out-marketed, we’ve been caricatured as being anti-gay,” he explained to the show’s host, David Gregory. Dolan’s right. The Catholic Church isn’t anti-gay, but evidence suggests its bishops certainly are. - See more at:
Whoops! After years of debate, Catholic bishops in France decided that the version of the Lord’s Prayer their congregants recite could be considered blasphemous. Apparently French people…can’t read French? The official translation has been changed from “Do not submit us to temptation” to “Let us not enter into temptation,” absolving God of any perceived meddling. - See more at:
Whoops! After years of debate, Catholic bishops in France decided that the version of the Lord’s Prayer their congregants recite could be considered blasphemous. Apparently French people…can’t read French? The official translation has been changed from “Do not submit us to temptation” to “Let us not enter into temptation,” absolving God of any perceived meddling. - See more at:

Roman Catholic
• Lifesthyles of the rich and pious ... [Religion Dispatches] CNN’s Belief Blog has a great rundown of the lavish homes of American archbishops who haven’t gotten the memo from Pope Francis about a “church which is poor and for the poor.” CNN reports that “10 of the 34 active archbishops in the United States live in buildings worth more than $1 million.” The median home value in the U.S. is $174,200. Not surprisingly, that list includes some of the nation’s most outspoken conservative bishops—and allies of the Republican Party—who seem to take the whole “prince of the church” thing more literally than some of their fellow prelates. Read on.

• Controverseal feminist theologian speaks at Nuns' final assembly without Vatican oversight ... [Religion Dispatches] The Outstanding Leadership Award at the LCWR’s last annual assembly without the direct supervision of Vatican overseer Archbishop J. Peter Sartain was presented to Sister Elizabeth Johnson, the feminist theologian whose writings exploring Christianity caused CDF head Cardinal Gerhard Müller to make a harsh public rebuke of the organization (and insist that Sartain review all speakers and conference materials going forward) ...
In her acceptance speech (which Sartain skipped after briefly addressing the assembly), Johnson said she practiced a theology that encouraged others to “think, raise questions, make connections, learn the tradition, see for yourselves how beautiful the faith is, as a step toward encountering and living out the love of the holy mystery of God.” At the same time, noting the absence of women’s voices in traditional theology, she said she was committed to “using the human dignity of women as one lens through which think about other religious and ethical subjects,” noting that the “submerged female half of the church, indeed of the human race, is rising, and the faith we pass on to the next generations will be poorer if women’s insights are ignored.” Read on.

• Resources

... Here.

The Vatican
• Resources
 ... Here.

• Resources
 ... Here

• If bad-ass nuns ruled the world: Ten sisters on a mission ... [Religion Dispatches] Interview with author Jo Piazza, here.

• Resources

... Here.

As soon as the newSpin newsletter is completed, usually by Tuesday, it is uploaded to the newSpin blog and posted on Bakery and on a ChurchPost list of some 1,200 addresses. Many recipients often forward it to others. The newsletter comes, of course, with some spin from the editor. The views expressed, implied or inferred in items or links contained in the newsletter or the blog do not represent the official view of the Diocese of Bethlehem unless expressed by or forwarded from the Bishop, the Standing Committee or the Archdeacon as an official communication. If you're wondering why you haven't seen something related to your parish or agency here, it's probably because no one has sent relevant info. If you think something about your parish or agency merits inclusion, send email to Bill. Comments are welcome at the newSpin blog. Click there in the right hand column on the title of the current newsletter. Then, make your comment below.

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







The comments to this entry are closed.