OPINION: Not everyone comes to church happy
I’ve always enjoyed a nice pair of socks. For years I would reserve various pairs of argyle socks only for Friday, my “off day” in ministry. It felt good to look wear snappier socks on that day. So now on the day when I am delighted to be in worship, I wear my Happy Socks.
OPINION: When I reduce immigration to my own neighborhood I realize how visceral is this issue
One of Jesus’ most thought-provoking parables minces no words: the sheep and goats will be separated on the Day of Judgment according to a single criteria: care for the least of God’s people.
OPINION: Give something away every day are wise words
What can be given away need not be material. Freely giving away affirmation, love or forgiveness, when not given as a substitute for tangible gifts, can be far more long-lasting than giving money, goods or services.
OPINION: Worship encompasses more than sitting in a pew during a service
When did worship start and finish that Sunday? Were my conversations immediately preceding and following the service considered worship? The same encounters could have taken place on the street corner, at a civic club or in the neighborhood.
OPINION: Hot topics come to mind one at a time
Looking at meaning in a sign, faithfulness in attendance and leaders wearing thin with their flock.
OPINION: Vacations and other distractions are felt on Sunday mornings
There are certain things that inevitably happen in the religious community when the hottest part of summer comes.
OPINION: The church attitudes of the 1950s are reflected in the aging Finch in the Harper Lee sequel
Harper Lee’s father, Amasa Coleman Lee, an attorney who most agree was the role model for Atticus Finch, was a lay Methodist preacher, a leader at First Methodist Church Monroeville, a teetotaler and a member of the Alabama Alcohol Control Board. He confronted a minister about preaching on social issues before advocating for racial harmony in his later life.
OPINION: Not much enlightenment on the lighting aisle
Used to be one’s biggest decision was whether to purchase a 40-, 60- or 100-watt bulb. Now, purchasing a light bulb is loaded with so much terminology that one yearns for the days when the incandescent bulbs with the little wires that went “pop” were the only choice.
OPINION: Religious identity is more important than we acknowledge
Polls show that those who identify themselves as Christian (of any denomination) is waning, implying a weakening of religious identity.
FAITH COLUMN: North Carolina law would allow religious conscience to decide action by county officials
North Carolina lawmakers, not waiting to hear how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the legality of gay marriage, has passed a law that allows any county registrar to refuse, by reason of religious conscience, to issue a marriage license to a same sex couple.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Nine are killed in what should be a place of peace
One can’t help but ask – even though it is unfair to lump people together – what is wrong with a subset of angry, murderous, white men in our nation? Sandy Hook. Aurora. Now Charleston. Even sacred places are targets for cowardly assassins who murder elementary school children and moviegoers.
FAITH COLUMNIST: The arrival of a new church pastor can bring with it some anxiety
This Sunday I will experience an event that most laypersons have gone through many times. A new senior pastor will stand in the pulpit where I worship.
The challenge facing most congregations is not whether somebody with more power can shut down a church. The challenge is whether those within that local religious organization can maintain their freshness over the course of decades or even centuries.
FAITH COLUMNIST: People forget, but God doesn't
Stones may mark our spot, if we choose burial, for centuries to come, but those beneath those stones will sooner, rather than later, be a vague memory.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Country cemeteries testaments to less mobile society
A country cemetery whispers of continuity and eternity in ways that modern burial places cannot replicate.
FAITH COLUMNIST: The debate over the meaning of history will never end
One age’s heroes are another era’s goats; villains become sainted and vice versa, frustrating some and inspiring others.
OPINION: Rubio represents faith journey of many Americans
We think that presidential candidates should be far more conversant in every field, including expressing their faith deeply and meaningfully. In that sense Americans have seen an interesting variety of religiosity in the Oval Office.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Nancy Perry is on the sidelines,w ith only herself to blame
What school system did public middle school teacher Nancy Perry think she was teaching in? What made her tell her impressionable 8th-graders that anybody who voted for President Obama couldn’t be a Christian?
FAITH COLUMNIST: All ministers at some point should quit preaching and go to meddling
An individual who writes in the Wall Street Journal that clergy should be apolitical demonstrates that he applies that proscription only to those clergy who disagree with his position.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Clergy, by the nature of their calling, often feel isolated
Clergy mental health is not as strong and vibrant as it should be, a statement that may seem surprising.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Faith is seeping into the heart and soul of a child
He will one day know that people can worship God anywhere and everywhere, but now – without being told – he is grasping that church is the place where all generations for all ages gather to glorify God as a living body.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Hymns sung with spirit capture the joy of Easter
Lent’s 40 somber days are past; the cross is behind us; the tomb is empty; Christ is risen! Now sings my soul! Nothing is more stirring than a congregation of believers who sing with hearts full of faith and souls and voices lifted to heaven
FAITH COLUMNIST: Organizational life is rarely easy or simple
Solitary spirituality quickly becomes self-serving and, eventually, vestigial. The church, even with its deficiencies and failings, inculcates faith and spirituality, serves others, stands in the breach, takes difficult, painful, courageous positions and dies to self for the sake of others.
FAITH COLUMNIST: Generosity, lawmaking, ordination and Holy Week
The most meaningful season of the Christian Church year is upon us.
FAITH: War, once unleashed, knows few boundaries
The radical Muslim ISIS state is wantonly pillaging, plundering, selling and demolishing irreplaceable religious sites in the Middle East.
FAITH: A bad experience with a church has preacher leaving the ministry
I was preaching out of town and staying at a motel where breakfast comes with the price of the room. Sitting in the lobby early Sunday morning, I was drawn into conversation by the friendly, apron-clad man who was stocking the breakfast bar. When I told him I was a pastor, he responded, “I’m a preacher, too.”
FAITH: Proposed legislation opens state up to potential lawsuits
A broad coalition of religious leaders (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc.) strongly oppose this ill-conceived intolerant bill. I spent a day in the Capitol a few weeks ago standing with a number of clergy who urged our legislators, for a second year, to abandon this end-around at intolerance and discrimination.
FAITH: World does not always feel just
It was one of those parking lot moments. As I approached the front entrance to Panera, already savoring that hot cup of coffee and wild blueberry scone, I spied a group of four young adult women heading to the same doors.
FAITH: No one as quotable, winsome as Pope Francis
Is there a Protestant leader with Pope Francis’ magnetic personality and personal grace?
FAITH: Small group life key to Christian church
These opening weeks of 2015 might provide the impetus for some of you to join or form a small group for the purpose of increasing holy habits, deepening one’s faith and finding trustworthy friends.
FAITH: Although the spirit is willing, sometimes the flesh weakens
This congregational attendance app could revolutionize attendance at the principal weekly worship service so that at the final exam nobody will shriek in horror having skipped all the worship services.
FAITH: Rep. Sam Teasley missing the mark with proposed 'religious freedom' legislation
Let state workers be good Baptists, Methodists, Hindus, Rastafarians, Wiccans, Vegans, Scientologists or any of the other 10,000 recognized religions except while clocked in on the state dollar.
FAITH: Extremists use God's name to justify savagery
The writer of a letter to the editor of a Georgia newspaper, outraged over events in Paris, sounded a too-common fundamentalist theme by calling the prophet Muhammad Satan and all one billion Muslims as Satan worshipers, thereby defining the struggle as total good (Christians) versus total evil (Muslims).
FAITH: Every person who reads will be a stronger disciple
Don’t be too ambitious; devise a goal simple enough that you can succeed, then build on your success.
FAITH: No single reading plan fits everybody
Last October I suggested we could become more mature disciples by becoming disciplined readers; the onset of a new year provides a good time to do so.
FAITH: The time for encouragement never expires
Christmas is a 12-day season, so people still have time to send greetings to others. Here are some individuals and groups I would send words of encouragement to over Christmas.
FAITH: Miamonides had eight levels of charitable giving
Miamonides’ scale had nothing to do with Hanukkah or Christmas gifts; his hierarchy describes giving to persons in need. The lowest level is a gift given grudgingly while the highest level enables a person to stand without need for further gifts.
FAITH: A pastor will never be caught up with visitation
There is no unanimity on the priority on pastoral visitation.
FAITH: Sanusi lives to witness to the true roots of Islam
Violent, fundamentalists who warp the Koran will attempt to massacre all who will get in their way, lumping tolerant Muslims along with Christians, Jews as “unbelievers.” Verbal or written resistance to their ruthlessness opens one up to kidnapping, torture or brutal death.
FAITH: The older I get, the longer the list of what I am thankful for
Social scientists have devised various experiments to prove that giving thanks and counting blessings is good for the body and soul.
FAITH: What might Sabbath observance look like in your life?
I have discovered in my older age and in my retirement that for the first time in my adult life all days are potentially just about the same, which makes it even more imperative that I become intentional in observing the Sabbath, a practice I find deeply satisfying even in my imperfect practice of it.
FAITH: Sabbath keeper or Sabbath breaker
What a bizarre experience. I have never been in a grocery store at 11 a.m. on Sunday –the only commerce I ever transact on Sunday is dining out.
FAITH: Reason finally wins in dispute between Houston mayor, ministers
No government body has the right to suppress what is preached or taught in the church, a foundational principle that of course must be applied to synagogue and mosque as well.
FAITH: Much fear about Muslims deeply unfounded
What most Americans think of Muslims is terribly skewed towards the incessant television and Internet coverage of the warring Middle Eastern Shias and Sunnis.
FAITH: Reading can strengthen your spiritual life
Finding time to read may involve watching less TV, texting less frequently or playing fewer computer games that occupy our time without providing even a crumb of inspiration or spiritual nutrition or development.
FAITH: People disgruntled with their situations consider walking out
I honor that there comes a time when a person must either maintain loyalty and allegiance to the present system (church, nation, business, relationship) by working to improve it or take a new direction individually or with a group.
FAITH: Burial traditions are changing
As we took that long, slow drive from Ocilla into the county down a two lane asphalt state highway, I realized I was participating in a slowly vanishing tradition.
FAITH: Few pastors are self-defined and connected
For every pastor this move towards self-definition is a work in progress. Friedman writes that many pastors know how to stay connected with congregation members, fewer pastors know how to be self-defined and the fewest pastors of all are able to be both self-defined and connected.
FAITH: Most important task for church leader
The life and health of a congregation, not to mention the life of the pastor/rabbi, is directly related to the pastor’s ability to relate to self.
FAITH: How many children are hungry in Albany, Ga.?
Love children. Hug children. Laugh with children. Play with children. Protect children. Teach children. Defend children. Pray for and with children.