Century Marks

Century Marks

Sunday assembly

The London-based Sunday Assembly is bringing its efforts to the United States in Novem­ber. The group holds assemblies for unbelievers who still want to be part of a congregation to become better persons and serve others. The London group, which draws about 600 people, recently went from monthly to twice-monthly meetings. Cristina Traina, religion professor at Northwestern University, said, “It’s very interesting that part of what they seem to miss is what Christians call liturgy—gathering to sing, to say something meaningful about the larger universe, to be inspired and made better in a group, not in your room.” She predicts that it will be a “flash in the pan” (Reuters).

True religion

Aaron Graham, pastor of a congregation in the District of Columbia, believes that churches are needed to address foster care needs in D.C. The district has over 1,300 foster children in the system, with 300 waiting for adoption. Through a program called DC127, and in cooperation with D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency, Graham is trying to get at least half of D.C.’s churches involved. In addition to looking for families who will take in foster children, DC127 is recruiting advocates for foster children, respite homes to give breaks to foster families, mentors and other resources for children in the system. DC127 is based on James 1:27, which says true religion entails caring for orphans (Time.com, November 3).


The percentage of a church member’s income given to the church dropped to 2.3 percent in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), down from 2.4 percent in 2010. According to a report by Empty Tomb, a Christian research group, giving has declined for four consecutive years. The only other period of prolonged decline in giving per member was from 1928 through 1934, almost entirely during the Great Depression. Sylvia Ronsvalle of Empty Tomb said part of the reason that giving has declined is because churches still treat people as if they are living in “hard times”—even when they are not. “They’re hard because people want to take better vacations,” Ronsvalle said. “They want to get more cars. They want to have more square footage” (RNS).

Bar none

Last month the regional council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America approved “Church-in-a-Pub” in Fort Worth, Texas, as a synod­ically authorized worshiping community. “I’m not interested, frankly, in making more church members,” Pastor Philip Heinze said. “I’m interested in having people have significant relationships around Jesus. And if it turns out to be [over] craft beer, fine” (NPR, November 3).

The R-word

Graylan Hagler, senior minister of the Plymouth United Church of Christ in the District of Columbia, says he has commitments from about 100 clergy members in the area who will urge the Washington Redskins to change their team name. Sometimes referred to as the R-word, the team name is something Hagler has been speaking out against for over 20 years. The move to alter the name has been championed by the Oneida Indian Nation’s Change the Mascot campaign. Oneida representatives hope to meet with National Football League officials to talk about the need for the name change (USA Today, October 23).