Monday, June 23, 2008

Tom Wright, Stephen Colbert, and a Great Email

Sometime last week, the British theologian (and Bishop of Durham) N. T. Wright made an appearance on "The Colbert Report" to plug his newest book, Surprised by Hope. I was curious as to why Wright would choose Colbert as a forum for discussing the topics covered in the book, and gave the video a quick view. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here.

I have to admit that after watching it -- and despite the fact that Wright handled himself very well, even with Colbert's over-talking and interruptions -- I was still confounded. So, rather than sit and wonder about it for much longer, I emailed the Bishop's office in Durham. This morning, I received a very kind reply from him, and as you'll see he even asked that I share this with others in hopes that it would address any questions they may have. So watch the video, read his response, and judge for yourself: good choice for a forum, or not?

Thanks for your enquiry. Please feel free to post this on blogsites if people are asking these questions. The answer is that the author does not ‘choose’ which chat shows to appear on. Rather, the publishers are delighted if any chance of free advertising comes along, and Colbert has a reputation for boosting the sales of books quite considerably. It works for me on the same principle as General Booth’s comment that if he could win one more soul to the Lord by playing the tambourine with his toes, he’d do it. I take the view that if I get even a couple of minutes, even in a rather unlikely format, to tell people about resurrection – Jesus’ resurrection, ours to come AFTER ‘life after death’, and the way that works in social justice in the present – then I should take it. Too many people, including too many Christians, are completely ignorant of all this.

Of course, if you know anyone who can get me an invite onto Oprah, I guess I should take that as well. But I don’t think it would be so much fun.

Greetings to any who read this – and please pray for me and for other Anglican leaders this summer!

Tom Wright

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Billy Graham Library

An interest in learning about Billy Graham has come very recently in my life; growing up as an Episcopalian, I really didn't have much interest in Reverend Graham or his crusades -- and when I was a child, I tended to get more aggravated than anything that the crusades always seemed to coincide with the nights that my favorite programs aired (typically on CBS, I believe).

Now that I'm older and reading more about such a wide range of religious issues and leaders, he has crossed my radar screen and worked his way into my reading list. And with the Billy Graham Library having opened in Charlotte, North Carolina within the past two or three years, the opportunity to learn more is very close by.

To tide me over until I can get the family down for a visit, this video introduction to the library (found on the official website) will have to hold me over. It looks like a fascinating place to visit...

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Shock of Losing Tim Russert

Working as I do inside the Washington beltway, where the political news by which we're surrounded (and inundated) every day often doesn't surprise us (after all, so many crazy things have happened in this city that for those of us who work in the political world, nothing surprises us anymore), it takes big news to shock us.

Just a short while ago, we got such news, and it blasted through this city like a lightning bolt: Tim Russert had died.

I loved watching Russert work. Growing up with such folks as Harry Reasoner, Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith, and Frank Reynolds, it always seemed that the folks best-suited to deliver the news to us were ones who would attend the high-class parties to which we never got an invitation. Russert was different; he was the grassroots guy you'd see at the bar, mingling with everyday folks (and here in Washington, lots of people had a chance to see Russert out and about) and talking football and politics. He was the guy who came across as someone you'd want to be your buddy -- not because he was famous, but because he seemed like a genuinely fun guy to spend time with.

For political junkies like me, he had a true talent for making politics even more exciting -- asking the questions we always wish we could have asked but never had a chance, sticking it to the officials that deserved it, but always treating everyone with fairness and respect. He loved his job, he loved politics (especially during election season, when he could pull out his famous dry erase board and calculate electoral votes), and he loved this city.

Above all else, though, he loved his family. If you need proof, I highly recommend you read Big Russ and Me, which is one of the best grandfather-father-son books out there.

Tim, you'll be missed. Sunday morning politics will never be the same.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Three Things to Look for in a Capitol Hill Event

Depending on the location, what are three things that you are probably guaranteed to see at a Washington political event?

a. Possibly the next president...

b. Surprise celebrities...

c. A fantastic view...

...and in today's case, you get -- d. All of the above. Not bad for a rooftop party in 100-degree weather...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Falls Church (Episcopal) -- Alive and Well

Several years ago, when A. and I had first moved back to Northern Virginia from Alabama, we went through a pretty intense process of trying to identify the Episcopal Church that we wanted to make our home. One of those that we visited was The Falls Church, a suburban Washington parish located in the city of the same name. While we enjoyed our visit, a combination of a small Sunday congregation (typical for Episcopal churches headed into the summer months), a guest minister (preventing us from getting a feel for the full-time clergy), and a lack of young couples/families (at least on that particular Sunday) led us to continue searching -- and after visiting other area churches we selected Christ Church in Alexandria.

As you're probably well aware from the news, The Falls Church was one of the earliest congregations in the Diocese of Virginia to vote to abandon the diocese as a result of the election of Gene Robinson in New Hampshire (in fact, 90 percent of the nearly 1,350 eligible voting members of the congregation voted to leave) and align itself with one of the Anglican dioceses in Africa. The minority portion of the congregation was forced to leave the property (the subject of an ongoing lawsuit that is still in the early stages of being resolved), but they were not without a home for long. A large Presbyterian church in Falls Church invited them to use space in the parish house for Sunday services, nursery, and classes for the kids; adult education forums and other activities are hosted in different homes of members of the congregation, which I think is a wonderful way to hold these activities.

For the past two weeks, members of the clery at Christ Church have been filling in while the priest-in-charge at The Falls Church - Episcopal (as it is now known) has been recovering from back surgery, and my family and I have been acting as unofficial missionaries from our church to support our priests and the small but very much alive congregation. I'm sure part of it comes as a result from my recent reading of Sundays in America, but I have noticed I've become very aware of the way parishioners in various places welcome visitors -- and I have to say that my family has been warmly received by TFCE.

Our large parish home encourages folks to wear nametags each Sunday so that people can greet each other by name, but it seems to meet with mixed results; I have to admit that I rarely if ever do it. The past two weeks, however, I have enthusiastically put on a tag as I've walked through the door and have been greeted by numerous folks before even getting completely into the room. We were welcomed as if they hadn't seen us in one week, not as complete strangers; one gentleman even recognized me this morning and gave me a hearty "It's great to see you again!" The congregation each week has only numbered about 40, but they're lively, engaged, and genuinely enjoying the time together and the time to worship.

The focus on fellowship is there; the focus on worship is there; the focus on education is there. Above all, the congregation possesses and incredible optimism about the future and warmth about the present. I think they have a bright future ahead of them, and depending on the outcome of the lawsuits regarding ownership of the church property tremendous potential for growth and an increased impact in the community.

They've certainly made an impact on us...
As an aside, I wanted to quickly mention a project underway at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chatham, NJ. Gene Robinson, despite being un-invited to attend the upcoming Lambeth Conference, will nonetheless be in England to meet with anyone willing to sit and engage him in conversation. However, because of the ongoing threats against his life, this will be a dangerous time for him.

Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, rector of St. Paul's, has established a fund to help defray the costs of security for Gene during his trip. To date, the "Christmas in July" fund has raised around $3,000, and there's still time to contribute. Rev. Kaeton's blog, "Telling Secrets," includes a link to a Paypal account where contributions can be made. Aside from that, her blog is definitely worth the visit in its own right -- fascinating content.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We Have the Candidates...and We're Off!

So the race has officially been set: Obama v. McCain for all the marbles. It should be an exciting race; I've seen first-hand the excitement that Obama can generate among the masses (as with this picture that I took at his rally at American University in Washington in January),

and I've had the chance to listen to McCain in a one-on-one setting (as when he taped my former boss' television show, when this picture was taken).

So who's it going to be? Just over five months separate us from the answer -- and what a ride it will be getting there.