My trip to St. Petersburg, built in 1706 to be Russia’s window to the West, showed me that the city has recovered from the horrific Nazi siege of World War II and from years of communist neglect to reclaim its heritage as a center of education and the arts. St.
In the state where I live sometimes it's hard to tell which is scarier,
Halloween or election day—a useful reminder that Christians are
constantly besieged both by supernatural powers and by the results of
our own sinfulness, whether individual or communal.
John Updike’s death in January left a giant hole in my reading life. He chronicled American culture during my lifetime in a way that I always found lucid and smart. He seemed to know about everything, from Søren Kierkegaard to Ted Williams. And I simply loved the way he wrote.
From Britain to Denmark, Europe has hundreds of empty churches. The closing of a church is painful—especially in villages where the church for centuries served as a community anchor, even for unbelievers. Efforts are often made to adapt the buildings for a community service, such as a library. Because they are very expensive to maintain, empty churches are more frequently turned into some kind of commercial endeavor. The Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, still owned by the Catholic Church, has been turned into a skate park. The Netherlands has the largest number of idle church buildings. Roman Catholic leaders in Holland estimate that within a decade two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be closed, and 700 of the country’s Protestant churches will likely close over the next four years (Wall Street Journal, January 2).