Thursday
Feb212013

Ruminations on Lenten Politics

From Thomas C. Goodhart

There is a photo hanging above the piano in my dining room, an old black and white that shows the first parsonage I lived in, a beautiful stone house in New York’s Hudson Valley. Over ten years ago when I first came across the original photo—the one displayed is a copy—while moving into the church office I was struck immediately with the huge American flag prominently shown strung before the house in the front yard. I’m patriotic and love my flag but nevertheless thought, “Well, that seems ostentatious or something and not becoming of a churchyard.” It was only after noticing the flag that I noticed all the people in the yard—out of the ordinary for a little country church situated between two farms. Then finally looking even more closely I noticed why all those folks were there. They are gathered around the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. I then understood why the flag.

Apparently somebody knew somebody and had a connection, and there was most likely an election coming up, and the President being relatively a local boy coming from across the river in Hyde Park, he was invited to the Ladies Guild Annual Church Fair. And he shows up!

Thursday
Feb212013

January/February Issue of Perspectives

The January/February issue of Perspectives is now available online. It includes:

and much more. Subscribers, your copies will be arriving in the mail very soon.

Wednesday
Feb202013

When a Pudding Cup is Grace

From Jes Kast-Keat

One of my favorite parts of my workweek takes place on Tuesday nights 4:00-5:30. It’s a time when we swing wide open the sanctuary doors of the church and invite all sorts of people in for a meal. It’s a time I feel The Holy the most tangible which is weird because it’s kind of messy; imperfection is the norm during these 90 minutes.

All sorts of people step into our house of worship on Tuesdays: people who have been chronically homeless for 12 years and know the rules of the street, people who are new to living on the street and I can see the anxiety of this new life in their eyes, people who use their body to sell sexual favors, people who wreak of alcohol, people who can’t stop testifying about what the Lord has done in their life and they know God is good (though they call the concrete their pillow), people who are mean, people who want to pick a fight, people who smell real bad, people who have a home but it’s dang expensive to live in NYC so they come to soup kitchens for their food, black people, white people, brown people, transgender, gay, straight, and some who think being gay is an abomination, volunteers who want nothing to do with religion, and volunteers who find their religious identity in serving, and then there is me – the minister.

Tuesday
Feb192013

Immunized

From Scott Hoezee

Because I have been invited to teach a preaching course at a conference in Uganda this coming August, I recently paid a visit to the on-campus health center to get the requisite immunizations for the trip.   I was pierced twice in each upper arm.   The shot that stung the most was also the one that contained the heaviest proviso warning ahead of time: the yellow fever vaccine contained a small portion of the live virus and so that was the shot that had the highest potential of causing redness and soreness at the vaccination site but also of just possibly giving you the real deal disease.   The risk was slight but . . . when you receive a portion of a living disease, there is no getting around the possibility--however statistically slight--that you could come down with it.

Monday
Feb182013

Good + Books

From Jeff Munroe

Being good is complicated.

I’ve just read two British novels, written over 150 years apart, that make that point. It fascinates me that of all the titles ascribed to Jesus, the one he rejected was being called “good.”  No wonder -- these novels show how difficult “good” can be.  (Both books also, in their own way, skewer the Church of England, but that’s another topic for another day.) 

The first is How to Be Good by Nick Hornby.  I loved Hornby’s movies About a Boy and An Education and gleefully jumped at this book when I found it tucked away amid the treasures of a used bookstore.  Hornby is hilarious and compassionate and insightful and all of these qualities pour out in this novel.  Katie, the main character, is a goodperson; she cares about third-world debt and homelessness, she “saves the odd life” as a doctor and she’s a wife and mother.  Except she’s not that good at being a wife or mother.  She’s married to a lout who writes a newspaper column called The Angriest Man in Holloway (the name of their London suburb), and she opens the novel by asking for a divorce.

What happens next surprised me.  Instead of exploring the pain of a relationship going south, the novel takes a wonderful twist when Katie’s husband undergoes a dramatic spiritual awakening, aided by a mystic named DJ GoodNews.  “I believe all the things you believe,” he tells her, “except I am going to walk the talk.”