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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After more than 30 years of operation, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) can boast of building more than 200,000 houses for poor people around the world, of bringing thousands of Christians to work sites, and of helping countless people understand how faith and social action go together. Founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in Georgia in 1976, Habitat has affiliates throughout the U.S.
Residents of the Pacific Northwest are redefining what it means to be religious. The region is sometimes called the None Zone because 63 percent of those polled for the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey said that they were not affiliated with a religious group, compared to 41 percent of all Americans, and 25 percent claimed to have no religious identity—compared to 14 percent nationally. By checking “none” on a survey, however, Northwesterners are not necessarily signaling a lack of interest in religion. They are indicating, says Patricia Killen, a historian and dean of Pacific Lutheran University, that they do not think “religious identity is connected to a historic religious institution or faith.”
Mary Doria Russell’s novels include intricately drawn characters who explore life’s deepest and most troubling questions. She is perhaps best known for her first novel, The Sparrow (1996), and its sequel, Children of God (1998), about human contact with aliens on a space mission organized by Jesuits.