Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Spirituality in America - Newsweek 8-29-05

Newsweek cover 8-29-05In August Newsweek magazine published an issue with a major series of articles about Spirituality in America. Although not every story was about ecstatic experiences, the articles were united by the theme of the personal nature of the experiences of God.

The main article began with a reminder of the Good Friday in 1966 when the cover of Time magazine asked the question “Is God Dead?” The answer to that three-word query depends on what question one hears. The obvious (to me) Christian answer is that in Jesus Christ God experienced death, but that God is eternal, always alive, and the source of life for all. My answer would only be a tangential answer to the question being asked by the articles in that edition of Time magazine, which were about whether the idea of God had become irrelevant to people living in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

The news reported in Newsweek is that God is not irrelevant for Americans at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. I expect that it will be difficult for many people to read these articles as if they are talking about news. We are too close to the topic of the story, and even the many statistics offered in chart after chart only help us find where we are on the map of experiences of God by people across America.

The religious landscape has become more diverse since 1966. The wrap-up article by Martin Marty about the American spiritual journey referred to the publication fifty years ago of Protestant-Catholic-Jew by Will Herberg. The spiritual landscape has certainly become more diverse over fifty years, and one of the other articles describes the growth of Muslim faith communities. Marty also points out that “most people pursue their search in traditional sanctuaries, though often in untraditional ways.” He also says that one of the paths of the American Spiritual journey “takes the spiritual-minded into activism.” Along that line another of the articles in the issue discusses the development of Eco-Christianity, a development in very traditional churches guided by the principle that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Where is your spiritual journey taking you? Are you feeling called by God to express your faith in specific acts of service or advocacy? If so, are you willing to share what you are hearing from God with the rest of your present faith community?

Do you feel a sense of connection to your church family along with a need to worship differently? The fact that your faith community seems to be doing things the way they've always done things before does not prevent them from trying some new things. If you are feeling a need for a different kind of worship, are you willing to share what you are hearing from God with the rest of your present faith community?

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Sozo experience at Mojoe and Molly Brannigan's

"Sozo experience" will perform this Friday, September 2 at Mojoe Coffee House from 8 to 10:30. The performance will feature 36 string harp originals, guitar and harp duos, and fun piano/organ and guitar tunes as well.

Saturday evening, September 3, from 9 to midnight they will perform at Molly Brannigan's in Pittsburgh.

Sozo experience is Nadina Bembic and Mark Lang. The name "sozo experience" is a reference to one's active pursuit of healing/wholeness/salvation.

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Emergent Pittsburgh

I've been following a number of conversations about the Emergent Church over the last several months, so I was delighted to discover that there is a new blog in the area supporting the development of a Pittsburgh Missional Church Cohort.

September 28 there will be a gathering at Camp Crestfield.

File under: emergent church,
, missional church, Pittsburgh

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

One of the things I love about Tarentum

One of the things I love about Tarentum is the quirky way that an occasional Technorati search on Tarentum can lead me to information about a national news story on Spirituality in America.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Beauty for Ashes

The Alle-Kiski Hope Center has given me the flier they are distributing for the Domestic Violence Training being offered at Central Presbyterian Church in Tarentum on September 24, 2005 from 10 to Noon.

A pdf version of the flier can be downloaded here.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Churches supporting public education

Grandview Elementary SchoolToday was the first "Grandview Sunday" at Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum, a special celebration that grew out of the congregation's partnership with the Grandview Elementary School in Tarentum. On the Sunday before the first day of classes in the Highlands School District, Central Church invited the teachers from Grandview to be present so that we could pray for God's blessing on them and their students for the coming year. The church was honored by the presence of about eight representatives of the Elementary School, including both principals. There was a reception with light refreshments following the service.

Patrick Graczyk, Building Principal, brought greetings to the congregation from the Grandview Elementary School.

As part of the service the members of the congregation joined the Grandview teachers in taking the "Grandview Pledge":
Today I pledge to be a Grandview Star.
I will be kind and courteous because all people deserve respect.
I will do my best and work hard at all times.
I will make good choices because I know I am here to learn and be a responsible citizen.

My sermon, "A ring of stones," referred to my experience of seeing an open air school when I was a child in Africa. I saw children sitting around an old man under a tree, and the space within which they were sitting was marked out by a circle of stones so that people who had business to do outside the circle could behave appropriately in ways that did not disrupt the essential educational activities happening inside the circle.

Although public education's roots in this country go back to the colonies established by the Puritans, it seems to me that religious groups in America have not always shown the correct respect for the essential function of public schools. When the concern should have been to ensure that children learn how to pray in the homes of the faithful, there have been fruitless, energy-draining controversies over inappropriate efforts to try to get the public schools to take over the church's sacred responsibility. I rejoice in the fact that Central Presbyterian Church has discovered opportunities to help the school in work that the school has defined as necessary and which the church recognizes as appropriate to support. A faith group that has a sacred Book benefits when our own children and others are able to read with understanding. A faith group that follows the One who tells us to "count the cost" benefits when our children and our neighbors acquire the skills of critical thinking. There are more than enough opportunities for churches to find common ground with the schools without stirring up unnecessary controversies.

Central Church began its partnership with Grandview as an outgrowth of the Presbyterian Pentecost Offering. We used the local portion of the offering to support the Title I reading program at Grandview when it held a Campfire night this January. The relationship has continued to deepen over time as we have had opportunities to support the good work being done at the school.

According to yesterday's Valley News-Dispatch there were five congregations in the Alle-Kiski Valley (including Central Church) that announced they would do something special to recognize the start of the school year. Bethesda Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lower Burrell, Millerstown United Methodist Church in Fawn, and the congregations of the New Hope Lutheran Ministries in Vandergrift and Keppel Hill, each had services that included the blessing of backpacks or bookbags.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tarentum Punk Fest #2 8-27-05

This Saturday, August 27, 2005 from 2 until 9 PM the Tarentum Punk Fest #2 will be happening in Riverview Park in Tarentum. The concert is free. The bands will be performing for the sake of the music. All are welcome.

The bands to perform are:

  • Lacking Restraint
  • The Last Hope
  • Headnoise
  • Arson D'ecor
  • Tommy & the Faggots
  • Elementary Thought Process
  • Marcus Reid
  • Hammers to Fences
This concert will be similar to Tarentum Fest '05 that happened on July 30, 2005.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A strange Google Image Result that brings people here

Google image searching produces a strange result that keeps bringing people to this blog. Apparently, people are looking for something called "wallpaper" and they find an image from this site. But when Google images offers to show the image in its context, no such luck. Google Image Result shows the most recent posts from this blog.

If you are looking for wallpaper.jpg on this site, its original context was an entry called Highlands Arts Festival. The original image was this:

photo of wallpaper made by art students in the Highlands School District, after the example of Andy Warhol's elephant wallpaper

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The band was called Glitz

Glitz at the 2005 Tarentum Summer Concert SeriesI'm not sure why they kept giving the crowd the quiz about their name when we got it right the first time. The name of the band was Glitz. They gave the final free concert in the 2005 Tarentum Summer Concert Series. They featured 80's hair band music and put on a great show from 7:00 until 8:30 PM tonight.

Young people dancing to GlitzThe crowd who came out to hear them were of all ages. There was the expected presence of adults for whom the tunes of the 80's were the music of their youth. There were young children, who may have had no history with this music, but they seemed to enjoy dancing to it anyhow. There were senior citizens, some of whom seemed to have those studied looks of shock on their faces as the barrage of sound poured off the stage; but if you looked closely you could see many of them tapping their feet as they stayed through the whole concert.

Glitz performingI enjoyed the concert a lot. I don't go out to the big ticket rock concerts in stadiums; I can count on one hand (with fingers to spare) the number of times I have been to such performances. This concert reminded me what a difference it is to hear the music performed live by a band that interacts with the crowd.

Glitz will be in the area again this weekend. They will perform at the Fawn Tavern this Saturday, August 27. I suspect that the crowd should have given the band a pop quiz about where they were performing tonight. They kept telling us that the Fawn Tavern was across the bridge, but the locals all knew that Tarentum and Fawn were on the same side of the Allegheny River.

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Verbal Inkblot: "To Exist Is To Resist"

This entry is an opportunity and invitation to follow up on this comment in a discussion on my blog, about the slogan on the banner on Adam's summer blog, and which has also received some comments on Adam's main blog Pomomusings here.

I'd like to invite participation in a structured discussion of the slogan "To exist is to resist." If this slogan were said to you by a person with whom you agreed, what would be the message you would hear? If you choose to join in this discussion on this blog entry, please begin your first comment by offering your paraphrase of the message you would hear. I hope that this discussion might be a helpful way to build some bridges of understanding between people who disagree.

When I hear that slogan, I hear it saying that my existence itself is an act of resistance against all the forces that I perceive to be aligned against me. Another paraphrase of the same idea would be that "Living well is the best revenge." I hear this as a life-affirming, positive message that encourages me not to surrender to nihilism and hopelessness. As a pastor of a small membership church in a community that has its share of problems, I would hear this as encouragement to carry on making sure the church is pursuing its mission.

If the English words were turned around so that the slogan was "To resist is to exist," the meaning would be almost the opposite. It would be a statement that resistance is my reason for being, and perhaps could lead to the conclusion that any and all destructive acts of resistance are appropriate. I disagree with such a slogan and condemn the use of terroristic violence by anyone.

Some have made the assertion that this slogan is a Hamas slogan. I don't agree with the goals of Hamas (at least as they are stated at the Wikipedia entry for Hamas last modified 23:37, 23 August 2005). I also have not been able to verify that Hamas is the source of the slogan, but my main question to my readers is "What do these words mean?"

I invite you to offer responses either through Blogger comments directly on the park bench or side comments through Haloscan. But please begin your first comment by offering your paraphrase of the slogan as (perhaps imaginatively) stated to you by someone with whom you agree.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Theory of Intelligent Falling

At last I have come across a theory that makes sense of how the sparrows in Central Park can fly from shrub to shrub, and yet I never see any of them fall to the ground. Yes, they do land on the ground, but I never see them fall.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down."

Of course, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, should not be taught in the schools. Its a flawed theory. The FSM is really falling; but a higher intelligence is only pushing it down very, v-e-r-y slowly.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

End of August music in Tarentum

The original flier that announced the 2005 Tarentum Concert Series had a typo in the date of the final concert in the series. The correct date is Wednesday, August 24, and the group performing will be Glitz. The concert begins at 7:00 PM in Riverview Park.

There will also be a show in Riverview Park on Saturday August 27. It will involve a long lineup of bands similar to the Tarentum Fest '05. Save the date and watch for fliers and posters. More information will be posted here when it is available.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Peach Festival

Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum will hold a Peach Festival on Saturday, August 20, 2005 from 9 AM to 2 PM.

An a la carte lunch will be served with salads, sandwiches, and other items. There will also be a Flea Market, Bake Sale, and Car Wash.

There will also be individual ham loafs (loaves?) for sale.

Directions to the church can be found at

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Communion tokens

Tonight the Tarentum Genealogical Society held its monthly meeting at the Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum.

C. J. Culleiton
The program for the evening was a talk given by C. J. Culleiton on communion tokens. "Skip" Culleiton is the vice-president of the Alle-Kiski Historical Society and a member of the Holy Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in West Tarentum.

He explained that the practice of using communion tokens originated in 1560 in the Reformed Churches in France. It is thought that Catholic Churches in France used communion tokens as early as 1613.

Earlier in the week when Holy Communion was to be administered, the people of the community were invited to attend preparatory instruction to ensure that they understood the meaning of the sacrament. Upon successfully completing the instruction, they would receive a small piece of metal that would admit them to the Table when the Church observed the Sacrament. The tokens would be collected, and then set aside until the next time when preparatory instruction would be given.

Over the passage of time there have been about 9,000 different varieties of tokens used in a number of different traditions in the Christian faith, although the majority of the churches to use them were Presbyterian Churches. Two thirds of the varieties of tokens were used by churches in Scotland. Over 400 varieties of tokens were used in Pennsylvania.

He showed slides of a large number of these tokens. Most of the time the tokens were made of lead, and less frequently of pewter, but there are other instances where other metals were used. Their shapes included rectangles, squares, disks, and hearts. Some were plain pieces of metal. Many had letters stamped on them, and some had rather elaborate designs or messages inscribed on them. Their sizes ranged from the size of a dime to the size of a silver dollar. As the practice began to diminish, some churches used printed cardboard tokens for a short time. Gradually, many churches made the decision to stop using communion tokens, and today people who discover them may not even recognize what they have found.

Mr. Culleiton showed actual tokens or pictures of tokens used by churches in Tarentum and other local communities.

Mickey Cendrowski, President of the Tarentum Genealogical Society shared some stories about successful research done recently by visitors to the Society's library. She also informed the Society of a new website,, where it is possible to research many of the immigrants to America who arrived before Ellis Island.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Making PDF files for the masses

Ever since I first downloaded the free Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to read something provided to me as a PDF, I have been aware that Adobe makes a much more expensive piece of software that some people use to create PDF files. My need to post anything as a PDF file has been too infrequent to justify laying out almost $300.

Then I found the free CutePDF Writer. This software makes it possible for a Windows ( 98/ME/2000/XP/2003 ) user to produce a basic PDF document from any software that can print.

Installation was a bit tricky. I needed to download and install two pieces of software. On my first try one of them did not install correctly, so I had to uninstall both and start over. The two programs to install can be downloaded at The main program is CuteWriter.exe and is under the "Free Download" link on that page. The second program is a PostScript to PDF converter, and they recommend using GNU Ghostscript, which can be downloaded on that page through the "Free Converter" link. When you finish installing both you will notice that Windows now recognizes an additional printer called "CutePDF Writer."

Using the software is really easy. You print the document to the CutePDF Writer. Simply select the "CutePDF Writer" printer subsystem when you print your document. (In Microsoft Word choose Print from the File Menu instead of using the Print button on the main toolbar because the button is set to print to your default printer.) Don't worry about checking the "Print to file" checkbox; the CutePDF Writer printer will ask you for the filename under which you want your PDF file to be saved.

This is a system for creating PDF files without the advanced features that more expensive software would provide, such as encryption, bookmarks, or forms that can be filled in online. For the average person who might need to create a simple PDF file occasionally, CutePDF Writer is the way to go.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Domestic Violence training event for religious workers

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it is not too early for religious groups to start making preparations for whatever they will do to lift up awareness of domestic violence.

There will be a free training event for religious workers and leaders on Saturday, September 24 from 10 to Noon at the Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum. It is open to anyone. Leadership from the workshop will be provided by the Alle-Kiski Hope Center.

For more information, you may download this invitation.

This post is a follow-up to earliers postings here and here, and to this recent posting at UnSpace.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Blogfest 3

Tonight I decided to meet a bunch of the local bloggers at the Pittsburgh Blogfest 3. I've walked into rooms filled with strangers before. I've even walked into social gatherings filled with strangers before. This was one of those occasions where the roomful of absolutely unfamiliar faces carried the promise that I would be meeting in person many of the people whom I have been reading recently.

By the time I arrived some who already knew each other or had been introduced were already chatting. I found my way to a place where I could fill out a nametag giving my real name (which very few would recognize) and my blog's name (which some had read).

It was a good evening, with an opportunity to put faces and names to blogs. Over the course of the evening I met:
2 Political Junkies
Ales Rarus
Comments from Left Field
Creating Text(iles)
Freedom's Gate
Froth Slosh B'Gosh
Mark Rauterkus and Running Mates
My Brilliant Mistakes
I also spotted:
Aldo Coffee Company
Inner Bitch
New Carthage
Pittsburgh Dish

Over the course of the evening, all present rejoiced at the good news that Words For Snow has a new baby now eight days old. We also learned that there are now 250 weblogs listed on Pittsburgh Webloggers.

If I chatted with you and forgot to make note of your name, or if you were there without my noticing your blog, please accept my apologies. See you next time!

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Domestic Violence Training for religious workers and officers

As a follow-up to my article here, and to UnSpace's reminder of the urgency of dealing with the problem of domestic violence, I'm writing this blog entry about an event which has been scheduled, but for which the publicity has not yet gone out.

The Session (i.e., governing board) of the Central Presbyterian Church of Tarentum was receptive to the idea of ensuring that it provide training about domestic violence for all of its officers, and a training event has been scheduled. The Alle-Kiski Hope Center will provide leadership for the free training that has been scheduled for the morning of Saturday, September 24, from 10 to 12.

Central Presbyterian will consider the event a success even if the only people who show up for the training are the church's own officers. In the interest of making efficient use of community resources, the church will be inviting other area churches to send interested officers or workers for the free training.

The training will include some basic information about domestic violence and will generally cover topics which the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recommended in 2001 for its officers and churches.

  • The importance of reporting to the appropriate authority the abuse of children, the elderly, and those disabled in ways that prevent them from reporting the abuse themselves
  • Appropriate training to equip church leaders to discuss with all victims/survivors their risk and safety options, and refer the victims/survivors to appropriate resources.
  • Education and training for all clergy, commissioned lay pastors, and church educators to recognize the causes and symptoms of abuse, to offer instruction for recognizing professional limitations and making appropriate referrals, to intervene appropriately in instances where abuse is reported or suspected, and on how to be part of a community coordinated response by providing a referral list for pastors of qualified agencies and psychotherapists for guidance and counsel.
  • Making certain that pastors, church officers, people involved in caregiving ministries, and volunteers are trained to recognize and respond appropriately to domestic violence. This would include educating them about restraining orders, shelter visitations, and those actions that jeopardize women’s, children’s, and men’s safety.
  • Encouraging churches and pastors to communicate to their children and youth that local resources addressing domestic violence are available and that their pastors and trained church educators are accessible and appropriate adults with whom to discuss real or potential domestic violence.
Watch for more information or encourage your church leaders to watch their mail.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Hospitality brings many blessings

I hope my little sister will forgive me.

The article "Family shows best things are free" from the Syracuse-Post-Standard, Monday August 1, tells about her family's history of providing free event parking in a small village in upstate New York.

I'm glad her family is moving closer to me, even if it is still across the state.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Skateboard park petition

As mentioned at the end of this post, there is a petition circulating in support of a skateboard park for Tarentum.

On July 18th the Tarentum Borough Council passed a resolution for the 2006 grant applications. One of the proposed projects is a skate park. People who want to support the application for a grant for the skateboard park can sign the petition that is circulating here.

The proposed location is Crab Diamond /Davidson Street across from the Borough Garage. This location was selected after consulting with the Street Department foreman and Code Enforcement officer. This property was suggested by the Street Department’s Foreman.

Send completed petitions to Central Perk, 410 Corbet, Tarentum, PA 15084

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