Words pastors fear saying to their flocks, part 1

The powers that be in professional sports know that it’s easier to fire embattled coaches than to push powerful athletes out the door.Pastors know that the same pattern usually holds true when push comes to shove in religious sanctuaries. The sad result is often a vicious cycle of fear, stress, doubt, despair, workaholism, frustration and fatalism.In his book “Counseling Christian Workers,” the late Dr. Louis McBurney — a Mayo Clinic trained psychiatrist known for helping clergy in time … [Read more...]

To SHUSH or not to SHUSH in church

At the altar, the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine, then makes the sign of the Cross and leads worshippers into the most sacred moments of the Mass.The prayer is familiar: "To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church."The atmosphere is reverent, or it's supposed to be.The problem is the … [Read more...]

The heretical art of Thomas Kinkade

When describing his painting "Candlelight Cottage," the late Thomas Kinkade said its "candlelight has a cozy, intimate quality -- especially when it's suffused in the soft mist of this fine English evening."Actually, the cottage windows are glowing so brightly that the entire interior appears to be in flames.This painting, noted National Catholic Register critic Simcha Fisher in 2011, only makes sense as "a depiction of an oncoming storm, with heavy smog in some spots and total visibility … [Read more...]

Baptists face Christmas, present and future

This is the time of year when many pastors sit in their offices muttering, "It happened again."The Rev. Rick Lance knows all about that. He has long been one of the true believers who battle the waves of "Happy Holidays" messages that define one of their faith's holiest seasons as the civic tsunami between Halloween and the inevitable wrapping-paper wreckage on Christmas morning.The problem is that whining doesn't work. Thus, Lance has grown tired of preaching his all-to-familiar annual … [Read more...]

Rome ponders iMissal app

When it comes to liturgical details, the Vatican has clear guidelines about sacred objects that are blessed for use during a Mass."The Church has always sought," notes the Book of Blessings, "to ensure that all those things that are involved in any way in divine worship should be worthy, becoming and beautiful. ... Those objects that through a blessing are set aside for divine worship are to be treated with reverence by all and to be put only to their proper use, never profaned."This … [Read more...]

Synagogue for Jewish seekers

For centuries, Jews have watched their rabbis show reverence to God during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur rites by doing a prostration at the front of the synagogue.This symbolic act takes place during the "Aleinu" prayer that reminds worshipers of their duty to "bend our knees, and bow down, and give thanks, before the Ruler, the Ruler of Rulers, the Holy One, Blessed is God."Rabbi Shira Stutman isn't sure how many people will accept her invitation to exit the pews and perform this … [Read more...]

Fix your ugly Catholic church?

The sanctuary walls are, as a rule, made of flat wood, concrete and glass wrapped in metals with an industrial look -- often matching the furnishings on the stark altar.The windows are frosted or tinted in muted tones of sky blue, lavender, amber or pink. If there are stained-glass images, they are ultramodern in style, to match any art objects that make sense in this kind of space. The floors are covered with carpet, which explains why there are speakers hanging in the rafters.The final … [Read more...]

Symbols in the Texas hills

KERRVILLE, Texas -- The bracelet is both simple and a bit strange, since it consists of six or seven fishing lures connected end to end.Some people look at this piece of silver or gold jewelry in the James Avery line and they see fishing lures -- period.But other shoppers see the same item and they think of these words of Jesus: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." This is especially true if they have completed a United Methodist Walk to Emmaus weekend, or some other renewal … [Read more...]


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