The Fourth of July is certainly not a church holiday, but it is an opportunity for the church and the preacher to reflect on the history of the republic, the extraordinary group of leaders who gathered in Philadelphia to declare independence and their remarkable conclusion that at the heart of the American revolution would be individual liberty and freedom of conscience.
Preachers have often imagined an anguished Abraham staggering toward
Moriah as he leads his son to his death. But the biblical account
contains no anguish, no heated arguments with Sarah (“Yahweh told you what?”),
no teetering on the edge of faith.
Last month the United Church of Christ invited its congregations to conduct a “sacred conversation” about race in response to the controversy swirling around Trinity United Church of Christ and its now retired pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
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).