Sept. 11 — Dreams of St. Nicholas

The first thing police found at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was a piece of a wing and landing gear from American Flight 11.Then the World Trade Center's north tower fell on the humble, white-washed walls of the tiny sanctuary across the street. It took time for work crews to find much of anything after that.Eventually they found a paper icon of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos, but never found its frame or silver cover. They found an embroidered velvet cloth, but not the Bible it covered. They … [Read more...]

Trying to do the Muslim math

Researchers at Hartford Seminary's Institute for Religious Research began with seven different lists of mosques in the United States.They eliminated all duplicates, before attempting to verify the existence of each institution. This produced a list of 1,209 mosques. Interviews at 416 found that about 340 Muslims regularly prayed in a typical mosque, but 1,629 or so might be associated in one way or another with its religious life.Then the researchers did what researchers do -- the math. The … [Read more...]

Spirituality up, doctrine down

During the 1990s, pollster George Barna released many reports showing that Americans were growing less traditional on issues of sin, salvation and the scriptures.Church leaders found his data disturbing. On many occasions they asked: Could anything reverse these trends? What would it take to inspire significant numbers of Americans to repent and return to their roots?"I told people that I thought it was going to take something big, some kind of genuinely shocking event that would show that there … [Read more...]

High Holy Days, one year later

The ritual could not have been more familiar, but Rabbi Howard Shapiro found it almost impossible to say the usual prayers for the infant.It was only a few days after Sept. 11th. Suddenly, it was hard to talk about blessings, peace, goodness, faith and hope."I remember what I said to the family that day," said Shapiro, the leader of Temple Israel in West Palm Beach, Fla. "I said that we must force ourselves to say these words. We must say these words, because if we do not say them, then we will … [Read more...]

After Sept. 11 — What good? What evil?

There was never any question whether the hellish events of Sept. 11 would be selected as the most important news story in the Religion Newswriters Association's annual poll.The question was which Sept. 11 religion story would receive the most votes.There were so many - from the prayers of the bombers to the prayers of those who fought them. In the end, five of the RNA poll's top 10 stories were linked to Sept. 11 in some way. The secular journalists who cover religion named Osama bin Laden as … [Read more...]

Happy Hanukkah, no matter what

When Sabina Dener was a child in the Bronx, she knew it was Hanukkah when everyone started singing Christmas carols."When I was in school, we had to learn Christmas carols and we had to stand up and sing them, too," she said, describing the World War II era. "That's just the way things were. Hanukkah was a minor holiday we celebrated at home. It was about treats and games and that was that."Now everything has changed. Just look at this."It was a glorious evening to light the first candle of the … [Read more...]