Century Marks

Century Marks

Role reversal

Churches and clergy are usually at the center of disaster relief efforts, but many churches and synagogues were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and they have needed help themselves. Houses of worship in numerous areas were destroyed. The clergy have had disasters at home to deal with, and many have endured long periods without electricity. Jewish synagogues have had the additional challenge of rescuing and salvaging waterlogged sacred texts (New York Times, November 12).

Lifeline

George S. Hendry was a Scottish Presbyterian who taught theology at Princeton Seminary from 1949 to 1973. He considered his 20 years in pastoral ministry and an active life of prayer essential to his teaching profession. Seminary professors should have firsthand knowledge of the world into which many of their students are headed, he believed, and theology should be integrally connected with the life of the church. To take the measure of other theologians, he would read what they had to say about prayer. If a theologian took prayer seriously, Hendry took that theologian seriously, even if he had theological objections. “Prayer is the life line of theology,” Hendry said (Theology Today, October).

The teaching life

The American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature report that teaching positions in religion experienced a modest yet steady growth from 2000 until 2008 but declined from 2008 to 2010. The number of tenure-track positions has declined. The fields of Islam, New Testament and early Christianity, and theology have the most openings (InsideHigherEd.com, November 13).

Home and away

On the basis of a survey of emerging adults, two Presbyterian ministers concluded that church attendance in college years follows earlier habits. This finding underscores the need for establishing habits of worship participation during youths’ junior and senior years of high school. The authors suggest that high school seniors should be helped to think about how to find a congregation after leaving home. This cohort is spiritually hungry and often finds nourishment at a parachurch ministry. Congregations could also help their youth think about what kind of religious groups to connect with on campus. Staying in touch with them after they leave home is important too (Presbyterian Outlook, November 12).

Chosen by lot

The Coptic Church of Egypt recently chose a new pope through a blind process. After the number of candidates was whittled down to three, their names were placed on pieces of paper in crystal balls sealed with wax and put in a glass bowl. A blindfolded boy picked one name out of the bowl. Bishop Tawadros’s name was chosen. The new pope will have the challenge of guiding the church in the face of a government led by the Muslim Brother­hood (BBC News, November 4).