Century Marks

Century Marks

Edifice complex

Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from mega­churches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).

Give us your tired

The United States has been criticized for its slow response in resettling refugees from the Syrian civil war crisis. So far only 300 have been accepted out of more than 3.2 million who have fled from the Syrian conflict. The State Department is expecting a surge of thousands in the next few years and is now considering 9,000 resettlement applications. The vetting process to screen out potential terrorists can take up to two years. Only those in dire need are considered—the very young, the elderly, the sick, and those who have been persecuted by their government (Chicago Tribune, December 11).

Roadside chapel

For nearly 75 years, travelers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike could pull off the highway and walk up the steps to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church to pray or attend mass. The church features rich wood and hand-carved accents, a beautiful staircase to a loft, and 14 Tiffany stained-glass windows. But the days of the “Church of the Turnpike,” 90 miles east of Pittsburgh, could be numbered. A highway widening project is under way that will permanently remove the legendary steps in two or three years (RNS).

Out of the shadows

Gay Christians who have chosen celibacy are increasingly coming out from the shadows. A blog titled spiritualfriendship.org draws thousands of visitors a month. Leaders in this movement of conservative Catholics and evangelicals emphasize the positive side of developing relationships that don’t involve sexual intimacy. Celibate gays elicit varied responses: other gays and lesbians often criticize them, saying celibacy is untenable and a denial of equality and authenticity, while some conservative Christians affirm celibate gays for their commitment to celibacy but are uncomfortable with their openness about their sexual orientation (Washington Post, December 13).

Near death

Dr. Ian Crozier con­tracted Ebola while treating patients at a government hospital in Sierra Leone. He nearly died from the disease. His family feared that if he survived he would suffer severe brain damage. But he pulled through, thanks to aggressive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Afterward he talked about the excruciating experience of treating patients with Ebola. He also reported moments of grace: mothers who fed the babies of other mothers who had died, and three young brothers with the disease who stuck together after their mother had died and their father was absent. Crozier hopes to return to West Africa in February or March (New York Times, December 7).