What I Wrote This Week @UrbanFaith: September 5-9

Hitchhiker, NYC

  • How Did 9/11 Change Urban Ministry? With the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in mind, Christian leaders Jeremy Del Rio, DeForest Soaries, and Shane Claiborne reflect on how 9/11 changed urban ministry in America.
  • Clergy Excluded from 9/11 Ceremonies: Clergy are being excluded from government sponsored 9/11 memorial events at Ground Zero and the National Cathedral and believers are protesting. Should they?
  • Shacking Up or Sacrament? More couples are living together without a marriage license. Is it time for churches to adjust or do cohabiting couples need to make their “marriages” legal?

Jersey Shore Faithful to Commemorate 9/11 Anniversary @NJShorePatch

Faith at Ground Zero

Sacred remembrances dominate the weekend calendar.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have excluded clergy from the 9/11 10th anniversary ceremony at the memorial site in New York City, but there are plenty of opportunities here at the Jersey Shore for sacred remembrances. Here are a few of them:

Saturday, September 10

At 8:00 pm, Father Alphonse Stephenson will conduct the Orchestra of St. Peters by the Sea in a “Salute to Civilization” at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove. …

For a list of Sunday’s events, go to Manasquan Patch.

Listening to 9/11 Stories at @NJShorePatch

Two women recall their close encounters with those devastated by the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.

Mary Mick Davis

The first time I saw Mary Davis in the spring of 2002, she was wearing a hard hat and overseeing a group of volunteers at a respite center at St. Peter’s Church near Ground Zero. She clearly had a lot on her mind and she was clearly in charge of the smoothly running operation that provided a place of rest and sustenance for those who were working at the site.

When I saw Davis again, it was at the mega-church in Southern California where we had both taken jobs. It was early 2003 and she had just been diagnosed with Shingles, which can be induced by stress. She was exhausted, burnt out, and in need of respite herself.

Davis lives in Kentucky now, with the husband she met and married in California and their young son Mickey. I talked to her last week by phone about her memories of working at Ground Zero. Some of the details have grown fuzzy, but the people she served are etched into her heart and mind. …

Paula Griffin

Paula Griffin, Pt. Pleasant, worked for Don and Jean Peterson when the Spring Lake couple was killed on Flight 93, but she also considered Jean a friend.

“That was a true relationship, because she gave so much of herself to everybody,” Griffin explained.

The Petersons were on their way to California to visit Jean’s mother, Griffin said, and called her before they left to tell her to take a paid day off. Griffin was at home that morning when her husband came in from 7-11 and told her to turn on the TV. She watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center.

“I knew right away something was wrong and then it clicked. Immediately it set in: ‘Oh, my gosh, what flight were they on?’” said Griffin.

The Petersons had arrived at the airport early and had taken Flight 93 instead of the later one that they had booked.

“I just didn’t know what to do at that point. I just knew that I needed to go over there,” said Griffin. …

Read the rest of their hopeful stories at Manasquan Patch.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 1 @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

When Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. decided to study psychiatry 30 years ago, persons of faith often wondered how he would fare as a Christian in the field. The influence of Sigmund Freud’s atheism has waned, Josephson said, but it was pervasive then.

Josephson not only survived, but flourished and became an agent of change. Today, he is Vice Chairman for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Services at the University of Louiseville School of Medicine in Louiseville, Kentucky, and author of three books. One of them is the Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice, a text he edited and contributed to that is used in psychiatric residency programs to help psychiatrists understand the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of their own and their patients’ worldviews. …

In this series we’re going to tap into Josephson’s wisdom to explore this theme as it relates to:

  • How healthy child development mirrors Scriptural principles.
  • What children need in the contemporary family for healthy development.
  • Why there is an increase in people, particularly children and adolescents, who exhibit narcissistic behavior, and what can be done about it.
  • The psychological effects of technology.
  • How work defines the self.

Both psychology and theology have much to say about these topics. We hope you’ll join us for the discussion.

You can read more about Dr. Josephson’s journey at The High Calling.

Rationing and the NICU: An Interview with Catholic Ethicist Charles C. Camosy @TheHuffingtonPost

We’re already rationing health care, Fordham University ethicist Charles C. Camosy argues in his book Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU, so why not reconsider the resources expended on premature babies?

Camosy was a principal organizer of Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Fair Minded Words: A Conference on Life and Choice in the Abortion Debate at Princeton University last year and is working on a book about correlations between Christian Ethics and the controversial bioethics of philospher Peter Singer. I interviewed Camosy via email about his current book and its foundation in Catholic Moral Theology and the Social Quality of Life model of bioethics.

Christine A. Scheller: You say in the introduction that “Too Expensive to Treat?” is about “moral tragedy” that results from “two universal aspects of the human condition”: 1. We have virtually unlimited health care needs 2. We have limited health care resources. You suggest that while we must live with this tragedy, “we need not live in an unjust situation.” Why did you choose to focus on Neonatal Intensive Care as an example of this injustice?

Charles C. Camosy: My general argument could really apply to any kind of medicine. Many other bioethicists have explored rationing health care at the end of life, but I wanted to apply this argument in a new way. I also picked this topic because the very few who have looked at rationing care for newborns, like the philosopher Peter Singer, have challenged the moral worth of such babies. I insist on the full worth and personhood of even the most vulnerable newborn baby. No one should aim at the death of a patient in order to save money.

You argue that the most important issues of neonatal bioethics are primarily social, so the “social quality of life model” is the most helpful for decision making in the NICU context. What is the social quality of life model and why is it the most helpful?

Despite the secular culture’s continued attempts to get us to worship the individual and “individual rights,” Christian ethics affirms that no human choice exists in pure isolation. It is impossible to understand one person’s claims except in a context of relationships with other persons. If we are going to ask whether and how to treat an individual patient, then we cannot pretend to do so in an isolated manner — as if choices made about one patient do not affect other patients and our broader society.

You say “honest acknowledgement of the inescapable need to ration resources” and “rationing that has justice and the common good — rather than politics and the ability to pay — as its guiding principles” are two steps that should be taken in health care reform. How do you propose accomplishing these goals?

It is easy to point out that we are rationing resources already within Medicaid, Medicare, and even private insurance: certain necessary procedures and drugs are not covered, and almost nothing is paid in full. It is easy to point out that the way we currently ration care is unjust: politics and profitability drive most of it. But it is far more difficult to determine what to do instead. One thing we could do is give far more critical and public attention to the entities that are currently rationing care. What sort of people are making these decisions and how are they chosen? What is their training? Are they protecting vulnerable minorities over and against patients that might be big money-makers? How influenced are they by special interests and politics? I find it stunning that these practices still get very little attention even in our era of health care reform.

You say a broadly Roman Catholic understanding for reform according to the National Conference of U.S. Catholic Bishops would require: universal access to health care, priority concern for the poor, comprehensive benefits, pluralism, quality, cost containment and controls, and equitable financing. How does Catholic moral theology inform this list?

All people must have access to resources for meeting their basic needs, and the community is unjust when they are not made available. Indeed, the Church fathers and other great theologians like Thomas Aquinas teach that the poor and vulnerable may actually take what they need from others without it being “theft” because what they are owed to is being unjustly withheld. The bishops, therefore, start with the premise that all human beings are owed health care as necessary for their basic needs. Following in the example of Jesus, we must then have a special concern for the poor and given priority to their health care needs over those who are better off. The other aspects listed are a bit more complex and may even be in tension with each other. Yes, we should aim for comprehensive benefits, but that might be balanced by needs for quality and cost containment. The Catholic tradition takes a both/and approach to these and many other questions — believing that we must live with the tension rather than abandoning important values.

You write in the conclusion: “Perhaps forgoing lifesaving treatment for babies in the NICU will be enough to give our culture the shock it needs to clear the conceptual space needed for this kind of systematic shift in thinking about health care?” Do you think any parent would be willing to make this tradeoff?

I would be shocked. It would take a selflessness and mental strength that is close to superhuman. However, many parents are already familiar with Medicaid and private insurance denying claims for health care for their children. Again, we are already rationing health care for our children (and other patients), and I’m simply arguing that we should be honest about this and that we should try to do it justly.

In a post about the debt ceiling debate at Catholic Moral Theology, you wrote: “Christians in particular should understand that the finitude of our natures and of our resources means that rationing health care is an inescapable feature of human existence,” but research has shown that Christians often cling to artificial life extension as tenaciously, if not more tenaciously than others. What can be done about this disconnect between what Christians should understand and what they do?

Anyone gazing at a crucifix can see that preserving biological life at all costs is a failure not only to follow the example of Jesus, but of the early Christian martyrs as well. Following the commands of God to do justice to the most vulnerable, especially when it means meeting their basic health care needs, trumps whatever good can come from pumping huge amounts of money into an attempt to prolong the fate that awaits us all. Unfortunately, many self-described Christians have traded our tradition of justice for the most vulnerable and a belief in the kingdom of God for an understanding of secular individual rights which can envision no life but this one. But no one can serve two masters, and modern-day Christians should think hard about to what or whom they own their ultimate allegiance.

Here’s the article at  HuffPost.

Serving God in the Family “Business”: A Candid Interview with William Franklin Graham IV @TheHighCalling

At The High Calling, we don’t often address the unique vocational, relational, and spiritual challenges of working for a Christian non-profit organization. So we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview William Franklin Graham IV, the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and the son of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) President and CEO Franklin Graham. Now an associate evangelist with BGEA and Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina, Will has a lifetime’s worth of exposure to these challenges. Here’s the first question:

The High Calling: People often idealize working for a Christian organization. Are we wrong to expect a Wll Graham at Ocean Grove Auditorium, May 2011Christian workplace to be different?

Will Graham: When we hire people, one of the things that we really try to listen for is if whether or not they feel called to ministry with our organization. We’ve gotten a lot of resumes from qualified people, but if they’re not called, ultimately, they’re not going to fit. They may be wonderful Christian people, but they’re not who we’re looking for.

BGEA has some of the best employees; we really do. But at the same time, we’re all human, and we all have bad days. When there is an issue, we’ll sit down and pray about it. Employees will get together and pray about it. Sometimes it still doesn’t work out. We may have to move people to a different department because their gifts aren’t being used – maybe we put them in a bad spot that doesn’t meet their strengths. On the other hand, we have some great administrators who have helped us in this area. My dad is a wonderful administrator. My granddaddy hired George Wilson, who really kind of shaped the Billy Graham organization administration-wise when it first was founded.

As a staff, every morning we start off in devotions, looking into God’s Word together, praying together for the needs of the ministry. We pray for one another. BGEA is a wonderful place to work, and I’m blessed to be a part of it. It’s tough working for family, but we do it because we love each other. …

Read the whole interview at The High Calling.

Cross-Country Bike Ride to End in Toms River Brings Light to Brain Injury @NJShorePatch

Doug Markgraf’s cross country fundraising and awareness bike ride will end in Toms River August 21.

The finish line is in sight for Doug Markgraf, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor who is due arrive in Toms River August 21 after cycling across the country alone to raise money and awareness for TBI. Markgraf chose the location to highlight the work of Health South Rehabilitation Hospital of Toms River.

“Ocean County is very lucky to have an acute rehabilitation hospital,” said Denice Gaffney, director of Marketing Operations at Health South. “Not everyone has that level of care available to them locally.”

“We’re hoping to connect Doug with our brain injury survivors and our therapy team,” she said.

Markgraf, of Philadelphia, has been meeting with TBI survivors throughout the trip and was five miles outside Smyrna, Ohio when Patch talked to him Thursday afternoon.

“It’s blown me away that people who need that extra boost are getting it by me riding and meeting them,” said Markgraf.

Read the whole inspirational story at Toms River Patch.

Only a Number Takes Top Prize at Jersey Shore Film Festival @NJ Shore Patch

Steven Besserman shares his ailing mother’s Holocaust memories in award winning documentary.

“A17855: This became my only identity. This was Auschwitz,” Aranka Besserman says in the film tribute to her memories Resa, Steve, & Eleanor Besserman at Only a Number Screening, Deal, NJof the Holocaust that her son Steven Besserman directed.

Only a Number premiered at the Garden State Film Festival in March and won the Best Feature Documentary prize in a field of about 100 documentaries at the Jersey Shore Film Festival last week.

“This is where my mother lost her mother. This is where she lost all human dignity. This is where she became only a number,” Steven says as he narrates her story from the fairytale-like places where it unfolded.

Hers is an unlikely story of finding lasting love amidst unspeakable evil. …

Read the whole thing at Manasquan Patch.

Faith at Work, Part 7: Putting It All Together @TheHighCalling

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Figuring out how to integrate our faith with our work is a primary interest for the High Calling community. In our series about the work of Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow David W. Miller, we learned about four ways people do this and about a Hebrew concept that Miller says undergirds the Faith at Work movement.

Investigating the Sunday/Monday Gap

In the first article, we learned that Miller was flourishing in his career as a senior executive and partner at a London bank, and felt called to that career. But he seldom, if ever, heard clergy talk about how to integrate faith and work, even as he intuitively viewed work as part of God’s created order. If work mattered to God, why weren’t clergy talking about it?

To his surprise, Miller gradually discerned a new calling to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, where he earned an MDiv. and then a PhD. in Social Ethics, focusing almost exclusively on the question of integrating faith and work. This question continues to be central to his teaching and research at Princeton University, and to his consulting work with CEOs and businesses.

“I suppose people are drawn to study things either because they’re really good at it or because they’re not really good at it. I was drawn to this subject of integrating faith and work because of my own professional experience of asking how to overcome the Sunday/Monday gap,” said Miller.

A Theological Foundation

In the second article, we learned that the Hebrew concept of avodah provides a theological foundation for Miller’s work. …

Read the whole rest at The High Calling.

Hugs & Hospitality at Wright Memorial Church @BarnegatPatch

Congregation that meets in former opera house welcomes visitors with music and warmth.

“Life is desperate; we need all the hugs we can get,” said Rev. Bob Lewis after Sunday morning worship at Wright Memorial Presbyterian Church, Barnegat, NJWright Memorial Presbyterian Church.

He was standing at the foot of the church’s front steps greeting people after the service. There were hugs for the men and kisses on the cheek for the women. He inquired warmly about each person’s concerns and sent them on their way.

This kind of affection permeated the morning.

At 9 a.m., people gathered for coffee and conversation, Lewis said.

“Sometimes it’s religious. Sometimes it’s just funny and jokes,” he said.

At 10 a.m., Lewis began strumming his guitar and singing modern worship songs while congregants arrived and chatted. Music has always been important to the congregation, in keeping with its history as a former opera house that was foreclosed upon and purchased by the Presbytery of Monmouth in 1877, a church brochure said. …

Read the rest at Barnegat Patch.

Faith at Work, Part 5: Drawing Enrichment from Deep Wells @TheHighCalling

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Dale Jones is a vice chairman and partner at Heidrick & Struggles, one of the nation’s top executive search firms. He advises boards and CEOs on human capital issues such as leadership, recruiting and succession planning, but a few years ago, Jones sensed a calling to do something about the problem of global water. Together with the founders of America Online, Steve and Jean Case, he pursued an innovative plan to bring clean drinking water to rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa. The plan involved installing merry-go-rounds that pumped water from the ground as children played on them.

“Villages get water for the first time, and to see the rejoicing of families and children is pretty incredible,” said Jones in an interview with Laity Leadership Senior Fellow David W. Miller this spring.

“It was really a time in my life when I needed to do something that would feed the soul, but it was also a chance for my family to be on a journey that we were part of something that had a greater sense of mission and serving people’s needs,” said Jones.

Eventually the PlayPumps project was folded into a larger water project and Jones returned to his work atHeidrick & Struggles. As enriching as the experience was, Jones sensed that his real calling was to the search business. He realized he is most effective connecting people with particular skills and character to organizations that have matching needs and he speaks of  leveraging people with resources to take action. One third of his work at Heidrick & Struggles is devoted to the firm’s social enterprise practice.

Figuring out how to integrate his faith and his passion for humanitarian projects into his daily corporate work is “the crux” of who he is, Jones said.

“I wake up everyday thinking about it,” he said. …

Read the rest at The High Calling.

Exuberant Hospitality at First Baptist Church @NJShorePatch

First Baptist Church of Manasquan, NJExuberant hospitality. That’s how I’d describe Sunday morning worship at First Baptist Church of Manasquan.

The worship band was playing before the service began July 17 and soon after I sat down Rev. Joseph Gratzel came over and gave me a tote bag that held a travel mug, a Bible, and information about the church.

“Have you been mugged?” he asked with a smile.

The service began seamlessly with modern worship and two “Pandamania” songs led by Vacation Bible School students. Associate Pastor Martha Bevacqua asked for prayer requests and the congregation called out a host of personal concerns before saying the Lord’s prayer together.

A sign language interpreter translated the service for hearing impaired worshipers and Senior Pastor Joseph Gratzel’s son Gavin called out questions from the back of the room until his dad gently instructed him to be quiet. …

Read the rest at Manasquan Patch.