Century Marks

Century Marks

United front

After years of preparation, a new Christian denomination was formed last month in France when two synods met in the eastern town of Belfort, a location historically important in the growth of Protestantism. Called the United Protestant Church of France, the merger is not for economies of scale but to make a more united witness to the gospel. The merger of the Reformed Church of France (ERF) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France (EELF) was first proposed in the 1960s but was resisted by Lutherans who feared they might be absorbed. A new proposal was launched in 2001, and the nearly unanimous decision to merge was taken in 2007 (ENInews).

Thinking about death

Chaplain Rob Ruff encourages people to start early in life to prepare for death. Think about your death a moment or two each day, he says, keeping in mind that death is a natural part of life. Don’t give in to the idea that to think about death will somehow make it happen. Make a list of the things you want to do before dying and then check them off. Prepare an advance medical directive, designating who you want to make decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself and what your end-of-life preferences are. Use your prayer life to prepare for death. Finally, say the most important words to the most important people in your life: Forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you (KevinMD.com).

Churches found

People once found churches by looking for steeples. Now they look online. A study by Faith Communities Today (FACT), authored by Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, shows that seven in ten churches surveyed had websites. Four in ten had Facebook pages by 2010 (USA Today, April 17).

Lifeline of books

Writer Mari­lynne Robinson says that after she spoke at a women’s prison in Idaho one of the women said to her, “Tell your students to write good books. They’re all we live for.” Robinson, who teaches at the highly regarded Iowa Writer’s Workshop, said in an interview in the May Atlantic that it’s easy to forget how important books are, especially for a person like herself whose house is groaning with books. “But then you realize that they’re really bread to people who absolutely need them,” she said.

Quest for historical Qur’an

The academic study of Islamic origins is one of the most contested fields in the history profession. “Those of us who study Islam’s origins have to admit collectively that we simply do not know some very basic things about the Qur’an—things so basic that the knowledge of them is usually taken for granted by scholars dealing with other texts,” says Fred Donner, an expert in early Islamic studies at the University of Chicago. Among the issues in question are the book’s place of origin, its original form and its initial audience. What is known is that the Qur’an came to be viewed as divine, and it empowered previously despised and marginalized Arabs to challenge two great empires, the Roman and Persian (History Today, May).