Rick Steves on the spirituality of traveling: People have a lot of fear, and the flip side of fear is understanding. When you travel to new places you understand more, so you fear less. Then you can love people as a Christian should. The less you travel, the more likely that media with a particular agenda can shape your viewpoint. Those of us who travel are a little more resilient in weathering the propaganda storms that blow across the U.S. media.
For the last ten years, I have worked in the same small soup kitchen at a local church. For nearly all this time, those of us who work there have wondered how to become more integrated with our town’s immigrant communities. Within the last year, that integration has suddenly occurred, almost without warning.
Mary Karr’s memoir follows two earlier biographical efforts, The Liar’s Club, the story of her upbringing as the daughter of alcoholics, and Cherry, about her unmoored adolescence and nascent poetic longings. Lit begins with Karr on her back porch with a tumbler of whiskey, a cigarette and headphones.
Gwen opens the circle session at nine a.m. on a Monday morning with a reading from Alcoholics Anonymous’ Blue Book. The theme is powerlessness, and Gwen reads in a halting voice. Her audience is a group of women who’ve come to work here in an old parsonage just up the hill from a well-heeled Episcopal church.
Just over a year old, J Street is a lobbying organization in Washington that describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” It aims to offer an alternative perspective to that of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which for decades has been the dominant voice of American Jews on Mideast issues.
London is the world’s most diverse city, with more than 30 percent of its residents hailing from outside England. This diversity is abundantly evident on market day in East London, as thousands of people crush into Petticoat Lane, and the trendier Up Market at the far end of Brick Lane, speaking dozens of languages. Women in short skirts brush shoulders with women in full-length burqas.
Rupert Shortt is religion editor of the Times Literary Sup plement in London (he also covers the fields of Latin America and Spain for the TLS) and author of two recent biographies: Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith (2006) and Rowan’s Rule (2008), a profile of Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury.
When pastors Constanzo and Marisela Aguirre decided to copastor a congregation in Aurora, Illinois, they had to give up health insurance because the small congregation could not afford it. Soon the Aguirres and other Mennonite pastors may have a solution. An insurance plan created by the Mennonite Church USA would give every pastor essentially the same coverage—with larger and wealthier congregations subsidizing smaller congregations.
Paula Huston is a straightforward and gentle teacher of the spiritual life. In Forgiveness: Following Jesus into Radical Loving, she combines practical counsel, easy-to-read prose and absorbing storytelling to offer a challenging account of forgiveness rooted in the Christian gospel.
Phil Harmon was a successful business executive with deep roots in the Quaker community of the Northwest. By the 1990s the Oregon man had several homes in Oregon and Washington State. In his early career, he sold insurance.
After moving out of the Bronx neighborhood where she grew up and finding a corporate job in Manhattan, Alexie Torres-Fleming decided it was time to return to the Bronx. She got involved in neighborhood issues, and in 1994 she founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. The community organizing group works on environmental and social issues.
John Nelson is a world-renowned conductor noted for his commitment to contemporary sacred music. He was born in Costa Rica to American missionary parents. He attended Wheaton College and the Juilliard School of Music.
As yet another cargo train thunders past her house in Fortín de las Flores, Mexico, Benita Juárez wraps a scarf around her head and looks up. In addition to its usual load of sugar cane, coffee and automobiles, the train carries migrants traveling north from Central America.
• Plant lettuce in a window box. Lettuce that you grow yourself does not have to be transported from farm to grocer to home, burning fuel. A home garden can be as simple as a window box and as elaborate as a carefully designed urban plot. (kitchengardeners.org)
If it is a little difficult to find your way into Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles, it isn’t because there are too few doors, but because there are so many.
In December, the arts-and-faith journal Image published its 20th-anniversary edition, showcasing the work of poets, short-story writers, theologians and essayists as well as visual artists. Under the direction of Gregory Wolfe, Image has become one of the top-ten best-selling literary journals in the U.S.
One Thursday afternoon this past October, along the main road to Los Angeles International Airport, members of the hotel workers union unrolled a banquet scene. Tables were put up in front of the Hilton LAX, one of the airport hotels most hostile to unions, and workers from unionized hotels, dressed in tuxedos, set the tables with tablecloths and plastic champagne goblets.
Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy begins with a Sophie’s Choice moment for a slave woman living in Barbados in the late 17th century. Her master owes a debt to a trader, and he offers the woman’s infant son as collateral. She pushes her preadolescent daughter toward the trader and begs him to take the girl instead.