Christianity

Facebook’s Next Target: The Religious Experience

July 25, 2021

Months before the megachurch Hillsong opened its new outpost in Atlanta, its pastor sought advice on how to build a church in a pandemic.

From Facebook.

The social media giant had a proposition, Sam Collier, the pastor, recalled in an interview: to use the church as a case study to explore how churches can “go further farther on Facebook.”

Source: Facebook’s Next Target: The Religious...

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New Lady of La Vang statue expected to attract faithful from around the Vietnamese diaspora

July 15, 2021

A canvas drape covered the statue, but that did not stop tourists from filming themselves in front of it.

With a selfie stick decked in images of the old South Vietnamese flag, Vinh Hoang of Houston narrated for a Facebook post.

After it is unveiled this weekend, the 12-foot-tall Virgin Mary, as she is believed to have looked to persecuted Catholics in Vietnam’s La Vang forest in 1798, is likely to draw many faithful like Hoang from all over the Vietnamese diaspora to Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove.

Source: ...

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Jewish group condemns United Church of Christ resolution on Israel, Palestinians

July 19, 2021

(RNS) — A Jewish advocacy group has condemned a resolution adopted at a meeting of the United Church of Christ on Sunday (July 18) that calls the continued oppression of the Palestinian people a “sin.”

The American Jewish Committee denounced the UCC resolution, a “Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel,” saying the measure “demonizes Israel, fails to offer a credible path to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and undermines advances in Christian-Jewish relations.”

The condemnation is the latest skirmish between Jewish advocacy groups and liberal...

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Denominations have begun creating special prayers for fatal mass shootings

July 16, 2021

When there are mass shootings, like this week in Chicago, or the previous week in Toledo — or, really, any week in this country — Episcopal Bishop Scott Hayashi thinks of that split second in a Tacoma record store decades ago. The beat when he turned toward a man with a gun to ask, “What did you say?” and saw his own 19-year-old face in the man’s mirrored shades before his body hit the floor.

Hayashi spent two months in the ICU and almost died after being shot in the stomach during the robbery. He now advocates with a group of other U.S. Episcopal bishops on the issue of gun...

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As pope restricts Latin Mass, some Boston Catholics respond with praise, some with frustration

July 19, 2021

Some Massachusetts Catholics are denouncing and some are extolling a move by Pope Francis on Friday to restrict celebration of the Latin Mass, the church’s standard form of worship until the 1960s, in what the pope says is an effort to unify believers.

The edict allows bishops to regulate the Latin Mass in their dioceses, but adds certain conditions to the rite’s celebration that will in effect curtail it. The decree, for instance, mandates that, from now on, new priests must get Vatican approval in order to say the rite.

Source: ...

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For another year, the world’s most famous door-knocking ministry will stay home

July 8, 2021

(RNS) — For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the pandemic has meant putting principles ahead of personal preferences.

“Our preference is to meet together, to hug one another, to greet one another, to see each other’s smiles, but our principles won’t let us do that, not yet,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

For the second year, the global denomination of 8.6 million is holding its annual large-scale summer worship conventions online through August. Kingdom halls, where congregants would typically meet twice a week, remain closed across the country....

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Supreme Court sides with Amish who argued septic systems violate their religious beliefs

July 2, 2021

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday sided with an Amish community that is challenging on religious grounds a Minnesota county's requirement that its members install septic systems to treat wastewater.

The high court overturned a state court ruling that had sided with the county and asked the state's courts to review the case again in light of its recent ruling in favor of a Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia that refused to screen same-sex couples.  

Fillmore County in 2013 began requiring that the Swartzentruber Amish, who reject modern...

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LGBTQ youth of faith pray, bond at 'Beloved Arise' group

July 4, 2021

Jessika Sessoms grew up in a conservative Black evangelical family, attended Christian schools and often heard that being gay was an abomination, until she understood that she was queer while studying to become a missionary.

The 23-year-old from Florida came out publicly last year and has found healing and a sense of community after joining Beloved Arise, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and empowering LGBTQ youth of faith.

Maria Magdalena Gschwind, 20, from Germany, credits the U.S.-based group for inspiring her to study Protestant theology in college...

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Amish put faith in God's will and herd immunity over vaccine

June 28, 2021

When health care leaders in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country began laying out a strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, they knew it would be a tough sell with the Amish, who tend to be wary of preventive shots and government intervention.

Early on, they posted flyers at farm supply stores and at auctions where the Amish sell handmade furniture and quilts. They sought advice from members of the deeply religious and conservative sect, who told them not to be pushy. And they asked three newspapers widely read by the Amish to publish ads promoting the vaccine. Two...

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For 3 weeks, clergy and immigrants fasted to pressure lawmakers for pathway to citizenship

June 30, 2021

(RNS) — For about two years, Rosa Gutierrez Lopez avoided deportation by taking sanctuary in Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, residing in the Bethesda, Maryland, church just nine miles from the White House.

Now, Gutierrez Lopez — who is living independently with her children after she was granted a stay of removal — is urging lawmakers to enact policies that offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants like herself.

Lately, she’s been back in church — but this time, at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C., where she has joined...

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Portland Congregation Races To Get Members Vaccinated Before Oregon Reopens

June 27, 2021

Oregon is counting down to reopening as the state's vaccination numbers tick up. Governor Kate Brown has established a threshold to lift most restrictions: 70% of Oregonians need to have at least one shot. The state is expected to reach that number in the coming days.

But at Highland Christian Center in Portland, the mood is not one of excitement.

"It feels like a war," says Senior Pastor Shon Neyland. "It feels like a war of attrition."

Source: ...

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The American church needs to reckon with its legacy in Indigenous boarding schools

June 24, 2021

(RNS) — Over the last few weeks, devastating news has come out of Canada: Residential schools, also known as boarding schools, often run by churches, have been under investigation, and the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children have been unearthed in the process. The most recent discovery, of 751 bodies in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan, reveals the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism.

While the Canadian government and churches in Canada attempt to respond to this, First Nations peoples are demanding Canada come to terms with its history...

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Religious institutions step up to help after Surfside tragedy, special mass to be held Friday

June 25, 2021

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The South Florida community is eager to help the victims of Thursday’s condominium collapse in Surfside, including religious institutions.

Local 10 News has learned that many people who lived in the Chaplain Towers South building regularly attended temple at The Shul of Bal Harbour.

And just four blocks away from the collapse, donations are pouring in to The Shul Jewish Community cCCenter.

Source: ...

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Archdiocese of Boston gets first Vietnamese parish

June 15, 2021

NEW YORK – After decades of pleas Vietnamese Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston can now celebrate the Eucharist in their native tongue with the establishment of the archdiocese’s first Vietnamese parish on Sunday.

About 600 faithful filled the pews of Saint Clement Church in Medford – now a part of the Blessed Andrew Phú Yên Parish – for what auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell of Boston told Crux felt like “a big celebration” with a big choir, drums and dancing.

“At the Mass yesterday I was just full of gratitude about the timing and everything,” said Father Phong...

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Southern Baptists Narrowly Head Off Ultraconservative Takeover

June 15, 2021

NASHVILLE — In a dramatic showdown on Tuesday, Southern Baptists elected a moderate pastor from Alabama as their next president, narrowly heading off an attempted takeover by the denomination’s insurgent right wing.

The election of the pastor, Ed Litton, was the result of what was effectively a three-way standoff for the leadership of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. In the first round of voting on Tuesday afternoon, Southern Baptists rejected a prominent mainstream candidate and onetime favorite for the presidency, Al Mohler Jr., who received 26 percent of some...

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