Christ’s triumph over death holds special meaning for Christians. But all of us, no matter how or whether we believe, can identify with elements of His story. The triumph of hope over despair. Of faith over doubt. The notion that there is something out there that is bigger than ourselves.
These beliefs help unite Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. They shape our values and guide our work. They put our lives in perspective.
So to all Christians celebrating the Resurrection with us, Michelle and I want to wish you a blessed and Happy Easter. And to all Americans, I hope you have a weekend filled with joy and reflection, focused on the things that matter most. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
So to to all LoGro readers, I hope your day is filled with joy and reflection, focused on the things that matter most.
The first gathering is tonight, Thursday, March 29, 7:30 pm.
Here’s the press release, with my images and links added.
March 17, 2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Compassion sounds like a good idea, but it’s such a lot of work! How can a person cultivate and expand the capacity for compassion? Do some practices of compassion cross all religious, ideological, and national traditions from Jainists to Atheists and from Tibet to Timbuktu?
The Northfield Buddhists are hosting a conversation sparked by a provocative thinker on the role of religion in the modern world, the former Catholic nun, author, and “free-lance monotheist”, Karen Armstrong.
Armstrong’s book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life will anchor a conversation about the practices of compassion common to all religious and cultural traditions. The series begins on Thursday, March 29, 7:30, at the Northfield Buddhist Mediation Center, and continues on the last Thursday of each month at least through August.
In Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Armstrong provides an impassioned and practical guide to putting the ideals of compassion into practice. She suggests tools to improve the way we treat each other, the way we treat ourselves, and offers concrete examples and exercises for cultivating daily compassion.
Starting with “learning about compassion” and continuing through “love your enemies”, Armstrong leads readers through a discussion of self-love, mindfulness, suffering, sympathetic joy, the limits of our knowledge of others, and concern for everybody.
As the winner of the 2008 TED prize, Karen Armstrong wished for help in creating, launching and propagating the Charter for Compassion. The TED Prize is designed to leverage the TED Community’s exceptional array of talent and resources. It is awarded annually to one exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, the granting of “One Wish to Change the World.” The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and the Charter for Compassion are the result of Armstrong’s wish.
“The Northfield Buddhists are thrilled to be part of this international movement to change the conversation so that compassion becomes a key word in public and private discourse. Any ideology that breeds hatred or contempt has failed the test of our time. Together we are summoned to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time,” says Sam Demas, one of the book study organizers.
The Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center is located at 313 ½ Division St., (second floor, above Jenkins Jewelers) Northfield, MN. In the spirit of compassion, all who seek to practice compassion are sincerely invited to join the conversation.
I noticed yesterday that the Gateway Ministry Center has opened next to Cost Cutters in Heritage Square along S. Hwy 3. Back in 2007, I blogged that they had opened Northfield Healing Rooms in Heritage Square, also selling books, art, health products, coffee, and art. Steve Roberts and Rebecca Roberts were the pastors, according to a listing in the Northfield News. Their focus at that time:
Our mission is to help unite, equip and empower the body of Christ to promote healing as a vital part of ministry. Our focus is on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to work through us to heal the sick and infirmed.
Now they seem to have a different focus, though it’s not clear to me what it is. Steve Roberts is still listed as the pastor but there’s no mention of Rebecca Roberts. Their site also has a Gateway Youth Ignited page though this may be a discontinued program as their website doesn’t have a navigation option to it.
The StarTribune used this teaser headline on the homepage of their website yesterday:
4-year-old believed to be first Minnesota-born lama-reincarnate
The actual headline and by-line for the front-page story: The little lama from Columbia Heights – "Tibetan Buddhists see the extraordinary in this Columbia Heights boy — a reincarnated guru."
Jalue Dorjee, you see, is believed to be no ordinary boy. According to the highest authorities of the Tibetan Buddhist order, he is the reincarnation of the speech, mind and body of a lama, or spiritual guru, who died in Switzerland six years ago. Jalue is said to be the eighth appearance of the original lama, born in 1655.
Katherine Kersten’s column in the Aug. 27 Sunday Strib, Riots show that the West needs religion, got my attention. I’ve been to the UK a few times in recent years and have seen the evidence of the unraveling of Britain’s social fabric—the pervasiveness of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in even the most rural areas being one example.
This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that has been building for years. The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people, deprived of parental care, who on average—and yes, there are exceptions—do worse than their peers at school, are more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, less likely to find stable employment and more likely to land up in jail.
The truth is, it is not their fault. They are the victims of the tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.
David Brooks addressed this in a column last spring titled Creed or Chaos:
But religion itself can do enormous good as long as people take religious teaching metaphorically and not literally; as long as people understand that all religions ultimately preach love and service underneath their superficial particulars; as long as people practice their faiths open-mindedly and are tolerant of different beliefs.
What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues. The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, which Smith and company recount in a new book, “Lost in Transition,” you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so…
Smith and company are stunned, for example, that the interviewees were so completely untroubled by rabid consumerism…
In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.
I grew up Catholic, spent 7 years in the seminary, and still have fond feelings for the Catholic Church, especially when I think of how many elements of Catholic social teaching have impacted my life in positive ways. Still, I disagree with Kersten’s asserting that religion and active church participation are the only ways to address this problem of a decaying social fabric.
But as an atheist and a frequent critic of some religious practices, let me clear: I do think that the leaders and members of Northfield’s faith community, including Rejoice! Church, are doing "enormous good" in our community for the ways in which they help to strengthen our social fabric and teach moral values.
I hesitated to write into this blog, but I did feel that there are some wrong facts in your reporting of the prayer meeting that need to be brought to light.
First, it was not Dan Clites, Rejoice!, or TN that organized this prayer walk at the school. It was a 16 year old junior girl who attends Emmaus that organized it. In fact, the same thing was done last year around the same time of year, also organized by her. She called me (I am the youth pastor at Rejoice!) a week before the date to ask if we would promote it via our email and our website. I believe she called other churches including her own and did the same. She told me it was opened to youth, parents and anyone else who would like to pray for the school. Afterwards, they were invited to her house for a bonfire. I was not there because I forgot (great youth pastor) but it also was not one of my youth leading the group and technically not a Rejoice! youth function.
The only connection she has to TN and Rejoice is that I went to school with her dad. Their family attends Emmaus and they have never attended a TN meeting. This is a pretty typical youth group activity in many cities throughout the US and world…
Last week, Rejoice! pastor Dan Clites posted this on the church’s website (since removed):
THIS FRIDAY! DO YOU CARE ABOUT OUR SCHOOLS? Of course you do! So, let’s pray walk the grounds of Northfield High School and start seeing the spiritual climate change for our students, faculty and administration! THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 26th…meet at 7:00 pm sharp in front of the NHS Auditorium entrance. We will pray walk for 45-minutes. If you feel uncomfortable praying out loud— then just walk along in agreement! It will make a difference because the Bible says God hears our prayers!
Any message, direct or indirect, that homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals are somehow under the influence of demonic forces, is not only hurtful and destructive but dangerous. It can have a corrosive effect on the morale of LGBT employees who work for the city and school district.
And for any LGBT youth in our schools who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity, it can exacerbate their pain, lead to depression, or worse.
It concerns me that some teachers and coaches who are members of TN might convey this belief to the youth they work with. And it concerns me that some of the youth involved with TN, who are urged to live their calling in the marketplace of school, could fall into demonizing other youth.
I assume the prayers were generic/innocuous, judging from the video they posted on Northfield Patch. But for Clites to say that "We’re here to simply pray blessing and let God’s Holy Spirit move," is more than a little disingenuous. Judging from his writings and those of his mentors , his unstated belief is likely that demonic forces inhabit the building and some of the faculty, staff and students who are LGBT.
Ms. RACHEL TABACHNICK: I would say the basic beliefs began with the idea of dominionism, and dominionism is simply that Christians of this belief system must take control over all the various institutions of society and government. They have some unusual concepts of what they call spiritual warfare that have not been seen before in other groups.
Spiritual warfare is a common term in evangelicalism and in Christianity, but they have some unique approaches and unique spins on this that distinguish them from other groups.
GROSS: And that literally have to do with casting demons out of people and religions and…
Ms. TABACHNICK: They use this in terms of evangelizing. So whereas we might be accustomed with the idea of saving souls, of missionaries or evangelical work to save individual souls; they believe that they can, through this demon warfare, take control over entire communities, or perhaps nations or people groups, an ethnic group, a religious group and so forth, because they believe that they are doing spiritual warfare at this higher level against these demonic principalities, what they call demonic principalities.
And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.
So this season I’m paying closer attention to what the candidates say about their faith and what they have said in the past that they may have decided to play down in the quest for mainstream respectability.
Of course, I’ve got no problem with any group trying to affect public policy by getting elected. But tactics and transparency matter and I object to how Clites demonizes people (‘principalities of opposition’) and how he and some members of TN and Rejoice! aren’t transparent about some aspects of their agenda.
But then, what do I know? According to Clites (twice in my conversation with him last Friday), I can’t be expected to understand these things because I’m an atheist.
Update 8:39 PM: I’ve amended the 3rd to the last paragraph above to read:
I took the above panoramic photo of the construction (parking lot and addition) underway at Rejoice! Lutheran Church in Dundas yesterday. (To see the large version of the photo, right-click on it and open it in a new browser tab. Other photos below.) Groundbreaking was last Sunday, according to this story in the Nfld News.
The Ad Hoc Advisory Task Force on Holy Cross Church, consisting of local citizens Julie Schrader Bicket, Stephanie Henriksen and Jane Moline, is pursuing an appeal to require an EAW. I got this press release from Stephanie yesterday:
Citizen Group offers to drop appeal if Rejoice agrees to restore sanctuary
The Ad Hoc Advisory Task Force on Holy Cross Church, a group of local citizens, has filed an appeal in the Minnesota Court of Appeals against the City of Dundas asking the Court to order the City to complete an environmental assessment worksheet on the project of Rejoice! Church on the historic Holy Cross Church site in Dundas.
Holy Cross Church is a historic treasure in Minnesota and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Upon taking possession of the property, Rejoice! stripped the historic interior sanctuary of Holy Cross, including pews, altar rails, lecturns, chairs, plaques, and other items of historic significance. Destruction of outer walls of the Parish Hall and grading activities on the site for construction of a new building began this past week.
Minnesota law required the EAW because of the partial destruction of Holy Cross Church, a listed National Register property. There is hope the case will lead to restoration of the sanctuary, currently being used as a meeting room. If the Court requires an EAW, a process will take place that will address this, among other things. The Citizens group has offered to drop the case in the Court of Appeals if Rejoice! agrees to restore the historic sanctuary.
Anyone who purchased interior furnishings from Rejoice who is willing to return them (and be reimbursed for prices paid) may call this number:
Ad Hoc Advisory Task Force on Holy Cross 507-645-7086
"While some of our parishioners are mechanically savvy enough to repair their bikes without assistance, many are not," said Father Demster. "To have the Blessed Virgin on hand for intercessory prayers while bikes are being worked on can really help. We’re also hoping it can diminish the frequency if not the volume of taking the Lord’s name in vain that we typically hear during bicycle repairs."
While the bike repair stand is intended for parishioner use, any community member can use it.