Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Palm Sunday

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As Christians around the world prepare for Holy Week, I’ve been thinking a lot about church attendance. Christmas and Easter are the two days of the year that you can well assume that the pews will be filled. Even the days leading up to those services start to see a slight uptick in attendance; yesterday we had our Palm Sunday service and had perhaps 25% more people in church than in past weeks.

We have a new Rector at our church which is also helping the attendance numbers; he’s been onsite for about five weeks, and people are showing up to see what the buzz is about. Whether or not they will continue to show is the question.

Church attendance across denominations is low. In March 2021 there was a Gallup poll conducted on this:

The proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue or mosque has dropped below 50 percent, according to a poll from Gallup released Monday. It is the first time that has happened since Gallup first asked the question in 1937, when church membership was 73 percent.

That’s both sad and scary to me.

I’ve not always been the most faithful in attendance, but it seems the older I get, the more I realize how important it is, and how meaningful the liturgy is to me. We attend the Episcopal church that my parents took us to when I was a kid, so I have strong sentimental attachments and memories there. It felt rather like coming home when my husband and I started going back to church on Sunday.

Religious services are simply not a priority for so many these days. In our congregation our average age is easily in the 60s-70s range. We have some young families, but not in overwhelming numbers, and those that are actually members don’t attend because they have soccer games or softball tournaments for their kids, or some other such activity that is always more important.

I’m not judging anyone, but I do wonder why events like that are scheduled for Sunday morning? I don’t recall that always being the case.

And with most things, politics causes a divide in religious congregations sometimes. Congregations wrestle with issues like sexual orientation and abortion, and try to determine where as a congregation we stand on these things? Are we a big umbrella welcoming all? Why is our Rector teaching a book written by a gay priest? (gasp!). Do we allow gay marriage or not? When does life begin? When does it end? How does it end? Does it end?

So many issues can bog us down. Faith is such a personal thing but also something we find strengthens in fellowship with others.

It seems to me in an ever more complex and confusing world, the only place I find peace and stillness is in the church. My head clears, my heart listens, and I find hope and clarity. It is my hope that as Holy Week and Easter begins to fill the pews, if only for a short time, at least a few people will also find this same peace and will continue to come back.

It sure couldn’t hurt anything. With the state of society these days, it sure could not hurt.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

By John Ruberry

Within the last month two new seasons of Viking-themed series began streaming on Netflix, Vikings: Valhalla and Season Five of The Last Kingdom. The former is a sequel to another Netflix series, Vikings, which I have not seen, but as the action of Valhalla occurs about 100 years after the first batch of shows, viewers need not have tuned in to Vikings to follow the new action.

The Last Kingdom and Vikings: Valhalla have much in common, besides Scandinavians battling the English. A main plot driver in both shows is the conflict between Christians and followers of the Norse gods. Presumably Valhalla begins the same year, 1016, when Canute the Great seized the crown of England. Ironically, only two English kings, Alfred, who is played by David Dawson in the first three seasons of The Last Kingdom, and Canute, gained the epithet “the Great.” Oh, when Canute was crowned, this Viking, who later became king of Norway and Denmark, was a Christian.

Both shows attempt to be even-handed between the two cultures, but they leave out one very nasty part of Viking life, slavery. Yes, there was slavery among Christian Europeans, but slaves–thralls are what the Norse called them–were an essential part of the spoils of Viking raids. However, both series portray human sacrifice by the Scandinavians.

Vikings: Valhalla, which consists of eight episodes, is the inferior of the two shows, so let’s get that one out of our way. Its central character is Leif Erikson (Sam Corlett). Yeah, he’s the same man who journeyed to North America around 1000. While there is no historical record that says Erikson participated in wars with the English, there’s no proof that he didn’t. It’s believed around the time of his journey to North America he converted to Christianity, but he’s a follower of the Norse gods here, although he dabbles with the Christian religion. His sister, Freydís Eiríksdóttir (Frida Gustavsson), is a devout follower of the Norse faith. Freydís is romantically involved with Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter), who history tells us was a newborn at the time of they were “getting it on” in the show.

The main action of Vikings: Valhalla originates in the Norwegian town of Kattegat, which is ruled by Jarl Haakon (Caroline Henderson), who history tells us was a white man, but here Haakon is a black woman.

I could go on for quite much longer on the many historical anomalies, but I will conclude here that had Vikings: Valhalla had an intriguing story line, if the performances were compelling–Henderson’s overacting is particularly annoying–and hey, if the CG was believable, then I’d say, “tune in.”

But don’t.

The Last Kingdom’s fifth last season takes place around 920. Its lead character, the fictional Uhtred, whose birthright as lord of Bebbanburg in Northumbia, England was usurped by the Danes in the first episode of Season One. He was raised by Danes, during that time he abandoned Christianity for the Norse gods, although he’s not very devout. When Uhtred reaches adulthood, he’s a skilled fighter and a ladies’ man, a James Bond of the Middle Ages.

The Last Kingdom is based on Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series of books.

Alfred the Great’s goal was not only to defeat the Danes–the word “Viking” is never uttered during The Last Kingdom–but also to create from his small kingdom of Wessex a unified England. It’s up to his son, King Edward, to complete the task, with Uhtred’s assistance of course.

All the while Uhtred is forced to confront a onetime romantic interest, fellow-Saxon and abductee, Brida (Emily Cox), whose faith in the Norse religion is strong.

Edward meanwhile has to confront betrayal within his court as a unified England seems within grasp.

While a bit wooden at times, the acting in The Last Kingdom is generally quite good. The battle scenes are intense, and the plotlines are strong enough to keep watching. But to figure out what is happening here, you absolutely have to watch the first four seasons beforehand. One flaw of The Last Kingdom, as with Ozark, which also took a year off from filming, presumably because of the COVID outbreak, is that it is need of very strong recaps at the beginning of each episode, of which there a ten this season. Hey, people forget things two years later. Another challenge in keeping the storyline straight is that many of the characters’ names, all based on historical figures, are similar; they incorporate the Old English prefix “Æthel,” which translates into modern English as “noble,” or Ælf. Had they asked me, I would have for starters changed the name of a duplicitous rat, Æthelhelm (Adrian Schiller), a character whose historical standing is foggy. In The Last Kingdom he’s the father of Edward’s second wife, Ælflæd (Amelia Clarkson). One son of Edward is Æthelstan (Harry Kilby) another is his half-brother Ælfweard (Ewan Horrocks), he’s the son of Ælflæd.

A spin-off of The Last Kingdom is in the works, a movie titled Seven Kings Must Die.

There are two more seasons of Vikings coming. I probably won’t be watching.

Both programs are rated TV-MA for violence, nudity, and sex.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

The military never cared about religion

Posted: December 4, 2021 by copperhilltradingco in News/opinion, war
Tags: , , , ,

While I don’t have a print subscription to the Military Times newspapers, I still get their morning email, and today’s headline featured the US Navy not accepting any religious exemptions for the COVID vaccine:

As the deadline for active-duty sailors to get the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passed Monday, the sea service has yet to grant any vaccine exemptions on the basis of religious accommodation, according to figures released Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, 2,531 requests for exemption from the vaccine mandate had been filed by sailors on religious grounds, though officials could not say how many of those requests had been ruled upon.

Navy Times

I’m not surprised, because in my experience, the Navy (and most services) don’t really care about your religious beliefs. Never have, never will, because in today’s service, the service is the religion.

I noticed this trend when I first joined the Navy. I remember having to beg the Commanding Officer on my submarine to get a mere 45 minutes off on Sunday to hold Catholic services. Mind you, we weren’t on mission, at war, or even strapped for time, but he couldn’t be bothered, and it wasn’t until I talked with the squadron chaplain that I was grudgingly granted the time. This was despite the fact that there are plenty of instructions stating that time and space will be provided unless a submarine is on mission or executing critical duties. My Commanding Officer viewed my request as a nuisance, and he told me as much to my face.

It wasn’t just one CO though. At multiple duty stations, there would be this unwillingness to grant military members the time off to celebrate their faith, be it Christian, Jewish or anything else. In Bahrain, where Sunday is considered a workday, I essentially caused a small office revolt by going to noon Mass on Sunday and telling my boss I simply wasn’t going to work yet another 12 hour work day when we weren’t in crisis mode. I distinctly remember the Admiral there telling us at an all-hands call that he was expecting 6 day work weeks, and even most Saturday mornings, despite no apparent need to do so. It was like the Navy was his “god,” and he couldn’t pray enough while slogging through the mass of self-induced paperwork at his desk.

If the Navy can’t provide a simple hour for Mass once a week, its no surprise they won’t approve vaccine exemptions. Now, to be fair, I encourage people to vaccinate because I think its far better than catching COVID, but I also don’t really think its a hill worth dying on or kicking people out over, similar to why I don’t think we should be stopping everything to chase the extremely tiny number of extremists that might exist in the ranks.

Kicking people out over a COVID vaccine is just one more reason the Navy is going to be hurting for recruitment come 2024-2025. The lip service paid to everything from ship maintenance and strategy to human resources and bonuses is becoming more obvious every day. People are catching on that the Navy views itself as its own religion, and if you’re not willing to worship, then you’ll be shown the door.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, consider supporting the author by purchasing his book for either yourself or as a Christmas gift.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Few things have the potential to divide a church congregation more than a change of leadership. This sort of thing can be so complicated.

Full disclosure – I was born and raised in the Episcopal church, married there, but then life happened and for no single reason I can name, I quit attending. Then it just got easier and easier to sleep in on Sunday and I did not attend for many, many years. Even still, my rector was right there when I needed his services for my mother’s burial. That meant a lot to me.

Just under a year ago my husband and I started attending church once again; he had always been more avid about going than I had been, and he really missed church.

The second Sunday we attended the assistant rector announced he was leaving; he’d been offered a church in another state and he and his family decided to accept the offer. We were crushed: this fellow is young and is smart as a whip. But we wished him well and forged ahead.

The very next Sunday, our rector of many, many years announced his retirement. Vowing not to take this exodus personally, we took the news with some trepidation, knowing how tumultuous a decision on a new spiritual leader can be.

To assist with services, our Rector Emeritus was called back into service. This is a man who served as rector of our church for years before the current rector and the word “beloved” barely describes how much everyone in the church loves him. He is a kind, gentle soul. He has a voice that resonates and absolutely instills joy and comfort. Just hearing his voice restored calm and consistency to our services while the rector search committee does its work.

So, the date came for our current rector to leave. We gave him a lovely sendoff, shed some tears, and wished him well. Though he remains in the area, by the rules of the diocese, he cannot attend services with us for one year. Theoretically this rule aims to give any new guy a fighting chance to build his trust and rapport with his new congregation.

But we don’t have a new guy yet. Priests are in short supply, apparently.

We’ve been working with our beloved Rector Emeritus and a series of fill-in guys – guest preachers from various churches. The first guy who came was very different from what we have been used to and while he is not a candidate for us, we are grateful that he did come to lead our services.

We had yet another guy this past Sunday – one we know and like, but also not a candidate. Just a guy helping out.

Now we have heard from a very credible source that our beloved Rector Emeritus has been asked by the bishop to disappear because he “was trying to run things in the church.”

Devastated is too soft a word for how I took this news.

But, after I calmed down, I have to realize that however credible this source, it is still just a rumor. I don’t know for certain what transpired. But our beloved guy was not there Sunday. The congregation was told “he is taking some time off.”

Maybe.

But to leave us completely without a rector? None? That’s not like him.

Speculation is dangerous and I am working very hard not to do that. We will know more in the coming days.

There has been a great deal of turmoil in the Episcopal church in recent years as liberalism creeps in more and more. When the church codified and approved gay marriage in 2015 many conservative members left. Some were even outraged when women were allowed to become priests. Theological changes and doctrine has changed as well.

And there is still the search for a full-time rector. Inevitably someone will be unhappy with the choice. It’s all very upsetting, especially for someone who doesn’t do change well!

If you’re the praying sort, say a little prayer for our little church in Shreveport as we go through difficult times.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.