There are times when the world, instead of being the solid stage on which we conduct our affairs, instead of enveloping us in its massive givenness, seems to totter at the cliff’s edge. The news announces financial meltdown, the friend who seemed forever young dies, the best plans and provisions crumble. What does the future hold?
What is Jack Boughton really like? How will he respond to Reverend Ames’s blessing as he gets on the bus to leave Gilead again? Will he embrace the grace and forgiveness of the blessing? Or will he return to his old ways?
When Toma and I became friends, he was somebody. I was 16, he was 22. He was a body builder, one of the best in the country, with aspirations and good prospects of becoming Mr. Universe. But then he embraced Christian faith and joined the church where my father was a pastor. He felt that God required him to abandon his athletic pursuits, which until then had been his god. He transposed the dreams of becoming Mr. Universe onto a religious plane: he wanted to be the apostle Paul of Yugoslavia, and maybe a new Billy Graham to the world.
In mid-August I attended the grand opening of the new Al-Farooq Masjid in midtown Atlanta, a complex that includes gardens, fountains, a school and a 46,000-square-foot prayer hall with room for 1,800 worshipers. Along with other guests, I admired the hand-painted dome, the carved stonework, and the custom-made carpet with individual prayer spaces woven in, all pointing toward Mecca.
Pauline Baynes died on August 1 at the age of 85—one more light gone out from the golden age of children’s book illustration, an age that gave us Arthur Rackham’s fairies, Edmund Dulac’s Cinderella, Beatrix Potter’s spirited rabbits and E. H. Shepard’s Toad and Pooh.
Marketplace Ministries, based in Plano, Texas, is the nation’s largest provider of workplace chaplains, a growing service industry. It has an annual budget of $14 million and sends thousands of chaplains into workplaces around the world. Although almost all workplace chaplains are Christian, their job is not to proselytize, and they relate to employees of any or no faith. Their job is more to listen than to speak. Company executives are discovering that productivity goes up when stress goes down (NPR, December 11).