The Common Good

Blog Posts By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 3 days ago
Six years ago, the people of First Congregational Church of Rowley in Massachusetts were convinced they’d lost their treasure. A 17th-century minister’s 664-page diary, and its rare detailed account of community life in early America, had been missing for nearly two decades.Then the phone rang.A local bank was cleaning out its vaults when a staffer opened a burlap sack marked “dimes” and found an old leather-bound book with strange handwriting inside.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 5 days ago
The 50 members of All Saints Episcopal Church in Hitchcock, Texas, are looking forward to December, when Mark Marmon will be ordained their priest.One reason for the excitement? They won’t have to pay him.A 57-year-old fly fishing guide, Marmon, whose wife is a lawyer, says he doesn’t want or need a church salary. He belongs to a growing breed of mainline Protestant clergy who serve congregations in exchange for little or no compensation.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 19 weeks ago
Soon after the Boston Marathon bombings, local Christian leaders stepped swiftly into the public eye, convening vigils and urging peaceful healing in the wake of senseless violence.But their public voices have fallen mostly silent as noisy resistance grows to the prospect that suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev could be buried in local soil.Cemeteries and even some mosques have refused to take his body. His city, Cambridge, has urged family members to bury him elsewhere. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez and local talk radio host Dan Rae want him dumped in the ocean, like Osama bin Laden. Clergy have largely kept mum.“The only signs of people who are showing some sort of moral conscience are those few who stand with a card near the funeral home saying [burial] is a corporal work of mercy,” said James Keenan, a moral theologian at Boston College. “To say, ‘we won’t bury him’ makes us barbaric. It takes away mercy, the trademark of Christians. … I’m talking about this because somebody should.”
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 21 weeks ago
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that left three dead and more than 260 injured, perhaps none face more significant adjustments or a longer road ahead than the 14 amputees who lost a limb.For these victims, the path forward involves relearning almost everything, from getting out of bed to getting in a car. Whether they go on to lead satisfying lives depends largely on how they handle the spiritual challenges at hand, according to amputees and researchers.Losing a limb is like losing a family member: It involves grief and mourning, according to Jack Richmond, a Chattanooga, Tenn., amputee who leads education efforts for the Manassas, Va.-based Amputee Coalition. When one’s body and abilities are radically changed, questions of meaning are suddenly urgent: Why did this happen? Why am I here?“You’re wondering: Why did I live?” said Rose Bissonnette, an amputee and founder of the Lancaster, Mass.-based New England Amputee Association, a support organization for amputees.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 22 weeks ago
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Boston Medical Center chaplain Sister Maryanne Ruzzo was checking on staffers who’d been caring for the injured when she received a page. A bombing victim wanted to see her.The bedside was fraught with worry. A woman in her 30s had lost a leg to amputation as surgeons deemed it unsalvageable. Still suffering multiple injuries, she was now heading into surgery again, knowing she might wake up with no legs at all.Ruzzo stood among the woman’s parents and siblings and did what she does best: listen. She heard their fears, including concern for the woman’s husband, who was being treated at a different hospital and who also might lose a leg to amputation. Then she prayed.“Other people might not want to feel the pain and say, ‘Oh, it’s going to be fine,’” said Ruzzo, the Archdiocese of Boston’s coordinator of Catholic services at BMC. “We just try to be present and listen to them. … I prayed for the surgeons and the nurses.”In a week when Boston hospitals cared for more than 170 bomb victims, staff chaplains were suddenly in great demand. They moved calmly from emergency departments to waiting rooms and employee lounges, offering a compassionate ear and much-needed comfort to anxious patients, family members and staffers.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 30 weeks ago
When disgruntled congregations have left hierarchical denominations such as the Episcopal Church, they’ve often lost property battles as civil courts ruled buildings and land are not theirs to keep.But outcomes could be different this year, court watchers say, as high-profile cases involving dozens of Episcopal congregations in South Carolina and Texas wind their way through state courts. That prospect has observers watching for insights that could shape legal strategies in other states and denominations.Both cases involve conservative dioceses that voted to leave the Episcopal Church over homosexuality, among other issues. In South Carolina, congregations representing about 22,000 people are suing the Episcopal Church for control of real estate worth some $500 million and rights to the diocese’s identity. In Texas, the national Episcopal Church is suing about 60 breakaway congregations in the Fort Worth area for properties estimated to be worth more than $100 million.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 32 weeks ago
Amy Lester has followed Jesus for decades, but her keen appreciation for his sacrifice on the cross came only recently when she started eating like the prophet Daniel.During Lent, which starts Feb. 13, the 40-year-old mother of two keeps a type of Daniel Fast, which involves eating only food from seeds (vegetables, fruits, unleavened grains), drinking only water and practicing daily devotions.A similar regimen kept Daniel and his friends free from corruption in King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian court, according to the Bible. Now the Old Testament example guides growing numbers of Christians in the 40-day period of preparation for Easter.“We set apart a sacrifice in Lent in order to identify, even the smallest (bit), with what Jesus sacrificed for us,” said Lester, who attends University Carillon United Methodist Church in Oviedo, Fla. “He died for me. The least I can do is to sacrifice the foods that are comforting to me.”
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 42 weeks ago
Corruption has gone too far. The righteous must break away. Hope now rests with a holy remnant that will honor foundational texts. The message sounds familiar. A church schism? No, mounting calls for secession from the United States.Since President Barack Obama won re-election, more than 750,000 Americans have petitioned the White House website to let their respective states secede, from Alaska to Iowa to Maryland and Vermont. Those leading the charge are framing it, observers say, in terms that suggest a deep-seated religious impulse for purity-through-separation is flaring up once again.But this time, it’s playing out on a political stage.“Today's secessionist movements are just the latest example of a long parade of breakaway groups [in American history] seeking to restore some lost ideal,” said Peter J. Thuesen, professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “The problem is that the ideal is invariably a mirage.”
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 42 weeks ago
CONCORD, N.H. -- When V. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2003, his controversial election triggered shock waves and fears of schism across the worldwide Anglican Communion. Hundreds of parishes left the Episcopal Church in protest.Now, as this lighting-rod figure prepares to retire on Jan. 5, he’s leaving New Hampshire for a city that knows polarization all too well: Washington, D.C.But rather than throw fuel on the culture wars, Robinson foresees a new role as a bridge builder for a nation strained by divisive issues. First up: helping his new church home, St. Thomas’ Parish in Dupont Circle, found a Center for Non-Violent Communication.“Our big goal is to change the nature of the debate in Washington,” Robinson said during an interview at his Concord office. “We’re mostly shouting at each other these days. We’d like (the center) to become a place where people can learn about and commit themselves to a different kind of tone.”
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 1 year 46 weeks ago
Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.Grand Canyon University of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.    "We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield," Mueller said. "Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area."    The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed.    The Greens, who bought the property in 2009 with plans to give it to a Christian institution, initially offered it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a C.S. Lewis College on the site. But fundraising efforts for the college fell short last year. In January, the Greens began soliciting new proposals, and in September named GCU the recipient. The other finalist to receive the campus was the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, which later withdrew.  
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 2 years 15 weeks ago
Laura Kaeppeler has a fantasy gig: traveling nonstop, wearing stylish new outfits each day and attracting TV crews in every city she visits as Miss America 2012.But the glamorous appearances go for a most unglamorous cause. As someone who saw her father hauled off to prison for a white collar crime, Kaeppeler uses her high-profile platform to shine a spotlight on the 2.7 million, largely unseen kids who have an incarcerated parent."I feel like I've been called to do this," said Kaeppeler, a 24 year old from Kenosha, Wis. "I believe my life was pre-written and predestined by a higher power before I was born. ... What happened in my past is part of that, and (being) Miss America is part of that."
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 2 years 17 weeks ago
Groups of Boston-area Catholics who have waged an eight-year battle to block the sale of parish buildings are running out of options as the Vatican has rejected their appeals.In rulings dated March through May, Rome's Congregation for the Clergy upheld the Archdiocese of Boston's plans to convert six parish buildings from sacred to profane (non-church) use.Now parishioners, including vigil keepers who've occupied two church buildings round-the-clock since a wave of parish closures began in 2004, must decide whether to appeal one more time to the Vatican's top court.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 2 years 17 weeks ago
With the 2012 election less than six months away, congregations are getting the message that Americans want religion out of politics. But that doesn’t mean they plan to keep mum in the public square.Instead, they’re revamping how congregations mobilize voters by focusing on a broader set of issues than in the past. Preachers are largely avoiding the political fray, and hot-button social issues are relegated to simmer in low-profile church study groups.Why? For one, Americans are growing impatient with religious politicking: 54 percent want houses of worship to keep out of politics (up from 52 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 1996), according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Churches seem to be responding.
Posted by G. Jeffrey MacDonald 2 years 28 weeks ago
Rankled at the prospect that "extremist" Liberty University might soon own the campus where they spent their prep school years, alumni of Northfield Mount Hermon School are petitioning to stop it.In a letter posted Monday (March 5), more than 570 NMH graduates are calling on Mark Chardack, chair of the NMH board of trustees, to help ensure that when the 217-acre property is given away by a wealthy Christian family, it doesn't end up in the hands of a "homophobic and intellectually narrow institution.""We consider the institutional presence of Liberty University on the Northfield campus fundamentally incompatible with the spiritual breadth, academic depth and community diversity we know and cherish at Northfield Mount Hermon," the letter says.