I have a friend who was a college professor before she made the brave decision to leave the security of academia and strike out on her own as a writer. Once or twice a year she sends me two books and a nice note expressing her reluctance to add to the number of books I need to read—and her conviction that I will love these two. She is always right.
A friend heard I was writing about blind Bartimaeus and asked me a
question: “Where do call and healing meet? How do they intersect?” Since
I didn’t really know the answer, I preferred to think of her question
Americans love a good scandal. We’re mesmerized by the salacious details
of celebrities’ lives, by politicians trapped in webs of greed and
infidelity and by clergy gone astray. Maybe we’re drawn to the
titillating lapses and scurrilous misdeeds of the powerful because we
delight in seeing the mighty fall or the hypocrisies of the arrogant
The articles in this issue on funerals set me to thinking about my own experience and the changes I have witnessed in funerals. In my first two congregations I never conducted a funeral in the church itself. Every funeral was held in a funeral home, and every funeral was followed by a graveside interment and committal.
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).