MH News April 23, 2020

New York and elsewhere
Easter was celebrated this week by Orthodox Christians; and by Orthodox, I mean those followers of Jesus who are members of the various Orthodox churches, such as the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, and Antiochean Orthodox. Most of these ethnic churches have jurisdictions in the United States, and there is also a Orthodox Church of America, headquartered on Long Island in New York. Last year, the Orthodox authorities created the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, one of the results of Ukrainian independence from Russia. The date of Easter among the Orthodox is calculated differently than among western or Latin Christians (which includes Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, and Protestants).


Las Cruces
A Roman Catholic church in New Mexico has become one of the first in the nation to reopen after a shelter-in-place, no-gathering order from governors around the country. It illustrates the hodge-podge approach to religious services during this great Sabbath Shutdown of 2020.  New Mexico governor Michelle Grisham had announced that churches must abide by a state-wide public health order banning mass gatherings in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Other congregations around the country never did shut down; and several people in Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit claiming the prohibition of drive-in church meetings was a violation of their constitutional rights, citing the second amendment. Now, governors are opening up their states, and pastors themselves (and their lay leaders) are faced with the decision: to gather or not to gather.


St. Louis
The production company Hulu launched its weekly docudrama on Phyllis Schlafly, the community-organizer who led the resistance to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. She hailed from St. Louis and was a devout Roman Catholic who saw danger to women, to faith, and to the nation in the provisions of that proposed amendment. Critics of the icon of conservative religion and politics used the occasion to slam Schlafly, and a few fans found space to extol their late leader. She died in 2016 at the age of 92. Ironically, this year, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment but there is a legal tussle ahead to determine whether their action, so late in the game, actually counts constitutionally.


One of the leading churches in the country, Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago) has called a new pastor. He is Dave Dummitt, a megachurch pastor from Michigan. He is the founding pastor of a seven-campus congregation with the unusual name, 2/24 Community Church, centered in and around Ann Arbor. He launched it in 2005 with 35 people in his living room. Willow Creek pioneered the “seeker friendly” philosophy of church life under the pastoral leadership of Bill Hybels. Just before his intended retirement, testimonies accumulated describing his inappropriate behavior with and toward women. He retired early under this cloud of suspicion, and for two plus years the congregation has worked their way through this crisis. Dummitt is married with four grown children; he will begin his ministry in Chicago on the first Sunday of June.


And Everywhere
Muslims the world over, including here in the United States, are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan. During this month, Muslims abstain from several things, including food and sex, during the day. They generally gather in the evening to break the fast; and they gather at the end of the month for a large and festive banquet. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, the others being the Confession, Generosity to the poor, Prayer five times a day, and the Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during a lifetime. While the common practices of Ramadan call on Muslims to refrain from things, and thus have much in common with the great Sabbath Shutdown of 2020, it also includes a good bit of communal eating and that will, obviously, have to be curtailed.