Century Marks

Century Marks

Tower of power

Cell phone companies are having difficulty finding places to build new towers, so they are looking to church buildings, which means that many churches may get a new source of income. The Catonsville Presbyterian Church in Maryland, for instance, has struck a deal with a cell phone company: the company is allowed to put three antennas in the steeple, in return for which the church is paid over $1,000 a month for each antenna (NPR, July 26).

Worship revolution

Poet Christian Wiman says that “mystical experience needs some form of dogma in order not to dissipate into moments of spiritual intensity that are merely personal.” On the other hand, “dogma needs regular infusions of unknowingness to keep from calcifying into the predictable, pontificating, and anti-intellectual services so common in mainstream American churches.” Practically, this means that “conservative churches that are infused with the bouncy brand of American optimism one finds in sales pitches are selling shit. It means that liberal churches that go months without mentioning the name of Jesus, much less the dying Christ, have no more spiritual purpose or significance than a local union hall. It means that we—those of us who call ourselves Christians—need a revolution in the way we worship” (Image, Spring).

Lay leader

Philanthropist Melinda Gates has declared that she wants to devote the rest of her life to making contraception more accessible globally. Her efforts put her in direct opposition to the Vatican. Gates, a Catholic, says that since her declaration she’s gotten a multitude of supportive responses from Catholic women, including nuns. She argues that women in Africa and Asia need to make decisions on their own about contraception. She points out that 82 percent of American Catholics believe that contraception is acceptable—and that African and Asian women will likely follow them (Sydney Morning Herald, July 13).

Accommodating the faithful

Summer tends to thin out pews on Sunday mornings, as churchgoers take off for vacations. Some churches are rediscovering Wednesday p.m.—a traditional midweek church night—as a prime time to gather the flock for casual worship in the summer. Early adopters report improved attendance, slightly fatter coffers and invigorated spirituality as curious newcomers drop by and join in. For some, the shift to Wednesdays brings variety to a familiar weekly rhythm, but it’s not an easy sell for all church folk (RNS).

Hindus & Christians together?

A Christian human rights group in Pakistan has called for an exclusive region for religious minorities whose numbers have been on a steady decline in the Muslim majority nation. The group has demanded abolition of constitutional provisions that declare Islam to be the state religion. Pakistani laws also say that only a Muslim can head the government. The law forbidding blasphemy against Islam is often used to harass religious minorities. Since the formation of Pakistan in 1947, the percentage of minorities has shrunk from 40 to about 4 percent, Hindus and Christians being the largest minorities (ENI).