Anyone who likes maps, religion and useful or odd bits of data will have fun poking around the website created by the Association of Religion Data Archives, which now includes information from the 2010 census. The site allows for all kinds of searches by denomination and region.
For example, the curious can find out what U.S. counties have the highest or lowest percentage of Episcopalians.
I worship in a congregation whose members sometimes hesitate before responding to scripture readings with “Thanks be to God!” On one Sunday, after hearing Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats and the strong words of warning at the end of that parable, they were so restrained that the liturgist looked up from his Bible and remarked, “You’re not so sure about that, are you?”
Ed’s Story is the title of a new series of short films documenting the life of Ed Dobson. The films capture the story of a man with a terminal illness who is coming to grips with his faith, his identity and his lack of control.
In his prime, Dobson was the senior minister of a thriving congregation in Grand Rapids, where he preached to more than a thousand people each week.
I once went on a blind date. He was a law student, a friend of a friend, and I was a seminarian. We met for drinks.
He was nice, funny. He was a self-identifying Christian--the first one, actually, I had ever gone out with. We were talking about our chosen professions; he was, as many are, fascinated by the idea of a call to ministry. My call story is not exactly dramatic, but it has a social justice edge, forged on youth group mission trips and in researching poverty. “I want to make the world a better place,” I told the date.
The future lawyer looked at me and asked, “But isn’t the world a fallen place?”
What do young people look for in church? In research done in 250 congregations among people ages 15–29, respondents repeatedly said they were looking for congregations that were “welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, hospitable, and caring.” The researchers began to call this set of concerns the “warmth cluster.” Worship bands and ministry programs are not a priority, nor is busyness. Even “niceness” doesn’t work with young people. What they apparently seek at church is a sense of family, which calls for intergenerational relationships (Washington Post, September 6).