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October 11, 2011

Sheryl Oring Collective MemoryEvery day is the anniversary of something. The date on the calendar ripples with other dates, other stories.

It’s now a month since the tenth anniversary of 9/11, when, two days earlier, a dozen of us marched into Manhattan’s Bryant Park wearing somber black vintage clothing, clutching manual typewriter boxes in our hands. Our up-dos and pearls lent us an air of Old New York secretarial efficiency. We were not to appear casual or chatty; we would not be using our cell phones.

When we first took our seats on the plaza, tourists snapped photos as if we were museum specimens. Gradually the first hesitant talkers sat down across from us, then a few more, until the hours passed quickly in an exchange of words and a clattering of keys.

October 08, 2011

On my first day as a chaplain at Calvary Hospital, a palliative care facility in the Bronx — a place where every patient was near death — I was overwhelmed.

September 30, 2011

a cross to barephoto: Helen Sotiriadis/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Where did you read the Bible?” she asked. My friend Karin used to teach religion in a Swedish public elementary school, which is why her question made so much sense to her but so little sense to me.

“In Europe,” she explained, “we see the clips of your news commentators, we see your President getting sworn in on a Bible, we know America is intensely Christian. But where do you  learn it? Is it taught in the public schools, or do you just have really active Sunday schools, or what?” I quickly reassured her that in America, we keep religion out of the schools, since we are a secular nation.

September 23, 2011

Love“Love” by Christopher Brown (Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Wednesday night at 11:08, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, a man widely believed to be innocent. A last-minute delay went to the Supreme Court, where a stay of execution was denied.

Meanwhile in Texas, another man was executed. There was no widespread outcry for the life of Lawrence Brewer. His horrific crime was one of which he boasted, one in which there was no doubt of his guilt. He “deserved” to die.

September 21, 2011

More than 80 participants attended the second northern women’s security shura on Monday in Mazar-e Sharif at Camp Marmal in Balk province, Afghanistan to discuss women’s roles in governance transition. (photo: DEU Capt. Jennifer Ruge)

As an imam at a mosque in the Jordanian capital Amman, I have been following the dramatic developments across North Africa and the Middle East with a combination of high hopes and grave concern. The phenomenon of young people organizing peacefully to demand political reform, economic opportunity, and human rights is a source of pride for me; numerous worshippers in my mosque are among them. On the other hand, the mounting lethality of conflict between state and society in so many Arab countries is terrible to behold. So is the tragedy of burgeoning crime, economic struggles, and insecurity in countries such as Egypt that are undergoing dramatic transformations.

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September 17, 2011

For one woman with MS, a tree reminds her to make t'shuva — to turn inward, to return to goodness and godliness in preparation for the High Holy Days. A guest reflection for all to ponder.

September 16, 2011

Obama and Bush Pray at 9/11 CeremonyU.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama and former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush observe a moment of silence at the time the first hijacked airliner crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center during the tenth anniversary commemoration of the September 11, 2001 attacks at the lower Manhattan site of the World Trade Center in New York. (photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Last weekend, as the nation marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, our collective media gaze focused on lower Manhattan, where the memorial service and dedication led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already provoked controversy. Though the focal point of these events was undoubtedly — and rightfully — on remembering those lost, that controversy was a revealing glimpse of contemporary American religion.

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September 13, 2011

Rita Patel offers this wonderful story from architect Christopher Alexander about a Japanese man and his fish pond that's a way of being to remember and make a habit.

September 12, 2011

Grandma May Ng with her grandson PenuelGrandma May Ng holds her great-grandson Penuel. (photo: Melody Ng)

I don’t know that I have ever paid much attention to the

legend behind the Moon Festival, but I sure love moon cakes. I haven’t bought them in years, because my grandmother always sends me a box of my favorite — lotus seed paste (a thousand times yummier than the usual red bean!) with one egg yolk per cake — from a good bakery in Los Angeles.

Last September, she gave me my box in person because I was in LA for my cousin’s wedding and spent a few days with her. I brought the moon cakes back to Minnesota, ate one right away, and gobbled up the second during the Moon Festival. The other two are still in my refrigerator. I haven’t been able to eat them.

September 10, 2011

The lightPhoto by Aftab Uzzaman/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. Most of us remember that day and what we were doing around nine o’clock that morning. (I was at the veterinarian’s office; we had just gotten a puppy the Saturday before).

September 11, 2011 is a Sunday. For those of us who will be in church that morning — in the pulpit or the pew — there’s an expectation that something important must be said; that appropriate ritual solemnity must be observed; that meaning, in some form or fashion, must be made.

September 03, 2011

SevenPhoto by Alicia Reiner/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I am from fire.

I’m from the fire my father had for life and the fire my mother had for living. His was fueled by parties, drugs, wit, and self-involvement, hers by longing, anger, spite, and sweat. He was vivid; he hit her skin like sunshine and she finally felt warmth from an external source. She smoldered. He was curious to know how her sweat turned to the steam that hovered over her skin. What was her heat source? How could someone burn so hot without catching fire?

September 01, 2011

Archbishop Vincent Nichols ordains five priests for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Westminster Cathedral on Friday, June 10, 2011. (photo: ©Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

Hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, famines, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, and many other natural disasters — supernatural disasters and signals to Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson — are prime global and local topics. They inspire prayer and practical responses, but they also provide metaphoric language for religion. Try this, from National Catholic Reporter: “NO EARTHQUAKE FROM OVERTURE TO ANGLICANS,” a story by John L. Allen, Jr. This week he could have communicated as well by writing “No Hurricane after overture to Anglicans.” “Earthquake” works better, so let it stand.

August 23, 2011

Rep. Michele Bachmann and other Christian Reconstructionists bring a clear spiritual perspective to deficits, budget battles, and taxes says Rev. Sharp. But, he writes, there is another clear spiritual approach that also needs to be heard.

August 20, 2011

Lake Nokomis

This summer, I headed to Minneapolis on a research trip, glad to be headed north after two years’ absence. I rented a tiny house on the city’s south side, and hauled books and papers and photocopies with me — the tools of my trade in glorious abundance.

And then the state government shut down. Thousands of Minnesotans were thrown out of their jobs, and services of every imaginable kind ground to a halt. I was not someone whose income suffered from the shutdown, only someone who could not access the state’s historic sites, museums, or archives. My ability to do my job was, in a tangled way, connected to my ability to do those things, but I did not face hardship, only a struggle to let go of plans and goals that I had convinced myself I must achieve.

August 14, 2011

Joan Watts' One Series (2008)On a gloriously sunny Memorial Day in 2008, I arrived at the Santa Fe studio of painter Joan Watts. I was there to interview her for a review in a local newspaper. She led me into her impressive studio where her newest paintings, in cool gradations of blue, purple, and gray, lined the warm, white walls. As we talked, a friendship based on our mutual experiences in the studio and on the meditation cushion began.

August 08, 2011
August 08, 2011

When a poet is assaulted in a grocery parking lot for the length of his shorts, what does he do? Write a poem. A guest post from Luke Hankins.

July 30, 2011

Harry Potter holds Dumbledore's Elder WandStill frame from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

In addition to providing me with a least a decade’s worth of entertainment, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series has also given me a fresh and hopefully meaningful way to explain my not-always-easy-to explain religion to others. And given that practically half the world has either read or seen the last installment of this epic series, I feel comfortable doing so without fear of spoiling the ending.

But first a little background…

July 28, 2011

Debra Dean Murphy recalls a New Testament story of Jesus and questions whether we in the U.S. have given appropriate attention to the vulnerable poor.

July 27, 2011

Happy Ramadan(photo: Mohammad Khedmati/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ramadan this year starts Monday, August 1st. Every year it comes 11 days earlier because Muslims follow a lunar calendar. A lunar year is only 355 days long. So my Ramadan comes sometimes in super freezing Iowa winters and sometimes in hyper sizzling hot and humid summers.

When Ramadan comes in winter. It is easy to fast. Sunrise to sunset is a very short day. When it comes in summer, like this year, oh God helps us. Dawn is about 4:30 a.m. and sundown in Cedar Rapids is about 8:30 p.m. A sixteen-hour fasting day.

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July 23, 2011

A seminary student wants to engage in conversations about homosexuality among other faithful, as a catalyst for social justice.

July 02, 2011

When I moved to Jerusalem two years ago, I thought for sure that I would continue my yoga practice, especially after having yoga present in my life in so many ways for so many years. And I thought that I would even find others in this holy city to practice with. A sangha, a space, a teacher.

June 25, 2011

Path in Andalusia

The road may be — and almost always is — made of our footsteps, as Antonio Machado said, but there are places in the world, sacred sites, where arrival is at least equal to the effort of getting there, where our beginnings and our ends do actually know each other. The Camino du Sacromonte, which we recently climbed all the way to the Abbaye du Sacromonte at the very top of the trail is such a place.

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