As a church musician, I've been known to program what I thought were familiar Charles Wesley hymns, only to find my non-Methodist song leaders tongue-tied by the ambitious melodies and all-doctrine-all-the-time words. When I have a week off and visit an Episcopal church, the Hymnal 1982's Arthur Sullivan tunes make my mind wander to operetta.
Most churches have the equivalent of Eat at Joe's signs, advertising religious services so that people will stop, come in and taste what is good. The signs are imperative; they command us to eat here and not there.
Three centuries ago in the village of Olney, England, a new parish priest came to town. The townsfolk flocked to hear him, fascinated with his vibrant, personal style of preaching and his checkered past as a slave trader.
America’s Founding Fathers would have been amazed at the thought of a pope speaking to Congress. The Founders were overwhelmingly Protestant, and many generations thought the Catholic Church represented the older European order of kings and queens and the churchly hierarchies the new nation had left behind. Today the United States has the fourth largest population of Catholics, following Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines. Roles too have reversed: the United States is increasingly seen as a conservator of an established world order; in Pope Francis, the papacy has a spokesperson who forcefully challenges capitalism, consumerism, and the plundering of the environment (Politico, September 22).