Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, California, announced that it will not comply with any state directives limiting its gathering for worship and fellowship. Pastor John MacArthur spoke about the decision to a packed house of thousands this past Sunday night, admitting that the church had been gathering for worship throughout the pandemic. The video of the event showed no adherence to guidelines about social distancing and mask wearing. Pastor MacArthur explained that the threat of COVID is low, much lower than other threats to life; he asserted that alcohol, tobacco, and abortion all take more lives than COVID. He said Christians are called upon to obey God rather than the governor.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is home to the restored community known as The Ephrata Cloister. The Christian commune of the 18th and 19th centuries produced original manuscripts of music composed by the residents. Recent scholarly examination of these documents, known as a Codex or Codices, reveal details previously unknown. The composers include women! Sister Fober, Sister Katura, and Sister Hanna, to be precise. They are now considered to be the first known female composers in America. An album is in production featuring these hymn compositions, recorded in the Meetinghouse at the cloister, to be released sometime next year. When it is released, we will play some of this historic music right here in our own meetinghouse.
The American Jewish Yearbook 2019 was published this week and it estimates that the number of Jews living in the United States now exceeds the number living in Israel. Co-editor Ira Sheskin, a professor at the University of Miami, says there are now 6.7 million Jews in the States compared to 6.6 million living in Israel. Others dispute this, and the difference comes down to the definition of Jew. Sheskin and his co-editor Arnold Dashefsky, who teaches at the University of Connecticut, include people whose Jewish identity is “compromised” by affiliation with other religious or ethnic groups. After the US and Israel, other countries with large Jewish populations are France, Canada, United Kingdom, Argentina, Russia, Germany, and Australia, all counting between 100,000 and 500,000 Jewish residents.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network has led the way in criticizing the recent actions of the Department of Homeland Security related to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—adults brought by their parents to the States as undocumented children) The Department issued a memorandum making certain immediate changes to the DACA policy while the agency reconsiders the program in light of the Supreme Court’s June 18th decision. That decision rejected efforts by the administration to deport the residents, also known as Dreamers. Effective immediately, DHS will: reject all pending and future initial DACA requests; reject all pending and future applications for advance parole, absent exceptional circumstances; and grant DACA renewals and employment authorization in one-year increments, instead of two-year periods. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Board chair, Reverend Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento, described the decision by the administration as making “no moral or practical sense”.
The pastor of an Episcopal church in Tifton, Georgia, has achieved a level of notoriety this past week as his tweaked version of a Broadway song has gone viral, as they say. The priest is Lonnie Lacy; the church is St. Anne’s; and the song is a parody of “You’ll Be Back” from the Broadway hit “Hamilton”. His version is, of course, about coming back to church after the virus. The video features the minister wearing his pastoral vestments, dancing around the sanctuary, singing: “You’ll be back, time will tell when we kick this virus back to hell.”
And now, for your edification, instruction, and enjoyment, here is the reverend Lonnie Lacy, with his version of “You’ll Be Back.”