June 17, 2010
Photo by Vicki Harris
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Those who return to church this Sunday will note that their places of worship aren’t full like last Sunday. They will notice less crowded parking lots, nursery and pews and mournfully ask, “Where is everybody? Why can’t we be as full as we were last week?”
Most pastors are able to pray through almost anything. Offering public prayer in a variety of settings toughens one’s resolve to stay the course when invoking the divine. Every pastor has prayed through buzzing wasps, crying babies, ringing phones, crashing thunder, wailing trains, sonic booms, insistent sirens and bored parishioners.
There is much intriguing data in a comprehensive religion survey released last summer by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
This week’s column is offered as a public service to readers who intend to pack your pistol to next week’s worship service at the mosque, synagogue or church.
Notice to all middle-aged, middle-class women looking for a little excitement! North Georgia real estate developer Greg O’Leary is riding to your rescue with a proposal to expand Georgia gambling. Mr. O’Leary, according to reports, has been working on a proposal for eight years to build a casino along the interstate in Norcross.
The New York Times carried an article, March 31, 2012, about one of three real estate agents in the U.S. who deal exclusively in the sale of church buildings. Reporter Mark Oppenheimer’s story about David and Mary Raphael of Azusa, California, “Building a Business on Churches for Sale”, carried enough fascinating material in it for numerous columns.
Here are some reports and comments from the world of religion:
There is something quite egalitarian about a sunrise service. You might be an unemployed carpenter sitting right next to the CEO of a major bank. There might be people whose total repertoire of church music would be “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace” standing right next to a person who knows their church hymnal frontward and backward.
I recently heard a wise hospice counselor clergyman speak movingly about grief. Practically everyone faces grief either for the death of a significant person, a dearly loved pet or even the death of a cherished ideal.
A non-event may become the most noteworthy event of the March 23-29th Pope Benedict XVI visit to Cuba and Mexico.
Author Jonah Lehrer has written a book on how to foster and encourage creativity. As one who preaches and writes weekly I need all the creativity I can get and someday I may pick up his book, though it would have been sooner except for one unnecessary word in the book’s excerpt in the March 10-11, 2012 Wall Street Journal.
I’ll eventually order the book because of the absolutely creative title: “Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor” by Jana Riess. Ms. Reiss focused on a different spiritual practice each month for a year, documenting her failures and successes in this book.
Sometimes it takes a long time for a story to develop and what looks bleak at the time can turn out very differently.
How many controversial topics can one list regarding faith and values right now? It’s enough to make one want to crawl in a cave until the presidential election is over.
The national health insurance plan has created another controversy with the Obama administration’s proposed rules mandating that charitable religious agencies (hospitals, colleges, etc.) provide preventative women’s health options (contraceptives, morning-after pills). Religious people with strong opinions are angry, indignant and inflexible. (Take the Quik Quiz by going to Creede Hinshaw's column.)
The National Prayer Breakfast was held this month for 3,500 guests with President Barack Obama speaking.
Every election cycle produces heated rhetoric but some in our country think partisan bashing, hate-filled comments and bitterness have reached new lows. One political veteran observes that Congress hasn’t been this divided since the 1850s, a period marked by such inability to find common ground that we eventually made war on ourselves.
I write in praise of asking questions. (Who asked the first question in the Bible? Click on Creede's column and take the quiz to find out.)
Have you considered reading through the Bible this year?
What if your surname became so common — due to your behavior — that it became a verb?
Do you pray for those who in serve in our government? At the dawn of what will prove to be a long year of focusing on government at every level, one of the most important things the ordinary citizen can do is to pray steadfastly and consistently for our leaders and those who seek to be leaders.
We keep on resolving to do some things annually because well, we need to keep on doing those things annually! Though it is always in vogue to make snide remarks about those who keep on making new year’s resolutions without ever keeping them you won’t hear me joining that chorus.
The Christmas story is replete with angels, those mysterious celestial beings known to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
‘Tis the season when the Christian world remembers a star that shone brightly over a manger at Bethlehem, pointing the way for wise men from the east to pay homage to the newborn Jesus (Matthew 2).
Tony Perrottet recounts his hike to the floor of Maui’s Haleakala crater, a dormant Hawaiian volcano (“Into the Volcano,” Smithsonian, December 2011) where “... the silence is absolute.
A friend handed me a grocery bag full of accusations, suspicion and indignation last week.
Earlier this week in Christ Church in Savannah et al. v. Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia the Georgia Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of the Episcopal Church USA, perhaps bringing a long legal battle over the ownership of an historic Savannah church property to an imminent conclusion.
I heard a familiar comment recently that always sticks in my craw.
How would you like the federal government to help decide which men and women in your faith community are worthy to be ordained or have their ordination rescinded?
What happens when the British protest version of Occupy Wall Street pitch their tents outside one of the wealthiest churches in London?
Listening to Martin Luther’s famous hymn “Ein Feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress),” I remember the courageous, larger-than-life priest and theologian who nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on All Hallows’ Eve, Oct. 31, 1517.
The news out of Egypt this week concerning Muslim-Christian relationships is not good.
Word came this past Wednesday of the death of civil rights pioneer the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
Last week, returning to Savannah from Saint Simons Island on “back road” U.S. 17, I enjoyed the moss draped scenery, the small towns, the marsh and the feel of rural Georgia.
Former commissioner of Major League Baseball Fay Vincent recently served up a curve ball in a Wall Street Journal op ed piece (Sept. 16, 2011, page A11) titled “Soak the Rich?
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released Aug. 9, almost 2.2 billion people live in nations where restrictions on religion have substantially increased, according to the Lauren Markoe of the Religion News Service.
Ten years ago this coming week, churches and synagogues were packed to overflowing.
Eugene Nida died this week in Brussels, Belgium, age 96. Though unknown to many, The Rev. Nida was a groundbreaking leader in the field of biblical translation.
Creede Hinshaw talks about tax relief for the clergy.
The Rev. Creede Hinshaw talks about the uncertainty of death.
Are religious organizations experiencing a sharp decrease in contributions due to the economic climate? Anecdotal evidence might support such a conclusion. Some congregations are reducing staff; the Crystal Cathedral (California) reported a 27 percent drop in revenue in 2009 and some surveys indicate lower levels of support on the part of many Americans.