For the past few years the religion department at the Chautauqua Institution near Buffalo has sponsored a program for new clergy and their families. This summer I was invited to meet with the group, especially to talk with them about prophetic and pastoral preaching.
I was teaching a class on Isaiah and we had reached chapter 40,”Every
valley shall be exalted.” A student piped up, “So Isaiah borrowed these
words from Handel?” He was reading the Old Testament in the light of
“new” history. In Isaiah I find it hard not to read the Old Testament
in the light of the new—the New Testament, that is.
High on the list of people I have most admired is Mstislav Rostropovich, the great Russian cellist who died in April. I admired him first for his courage. In 1970 Rostropovich expressed his support for artistic freedom and human rights in a letter to Pravda, the state-run newspaper of the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviets stripped him and his wife of Soviet citizenship.
By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).