01: The creation of a reformulated program known as CEB (Comuinidades Eclesiales de Base — or Basic Ecclesial Communities) has moved out from its source at Dolores Mission Catholic Church in Los Angeles seeking to provide a model for community action though parishes across the region and the country. Headed by Mario Fuentes and influenced by liberation theology, the CEB is an independent agency set up to promote social justice within the framework of Christian outreach.
It trains its people, sets its agenda, provides its own funding and makes its own program evaluations. What is unique is that CEB works directly with the established parishes of the region. It avoids overlap and duplication by careful planning with the existing parish leadership of ordained clergy. It has the advantage of being comparatively free from ecclesial structures, thus able to respond quickly to immediate problems in education, housing, substance abuse, and ministry.
(Source: America, Feb. 27)
— By Erling Jorstad
02: Near Debek, Syria, an ancient monastery Mar Musa (Saint Moses) is attracting wide interest for its program of inculturation, bringing together Christian and Islamic teachings and practices.
Thousands of visitors annually find the Christian staff there dedicated to discovering the Christian kinship with Muslims and to serve them with voluntary programs of education and economic livelihood. The priests accent those liturgical practices which harmonize with Islamic practices: the use of carpets and the absence of pews in the sanctuary; worshippers take off their shoes and make four full bows of prayer with the head touching the floor.
The priests point out they are not appeasing Muslims but are expressing the commonality between Muslims, Christians and Jews.
(Source: Commonweal, March 12)
— By Erling Jorstad
03: Those who abandon the faiths in which they were brought up have a greater chance of suffering from depression as they grow older, according to a Dutch study.
The study, reported in the bulletin Ecumenical News International (March 3), focused on 3,000 elderly people in three different regions of the Netherlands and was conducted by Arjan Braam of the Free University of Amsterdam.
The percentage of elderly people suffering from depression was about eight percent in areas — mostly small villages — where most people stayed in the Reformed churches. In Amsterdam, the city with the highest percentage of people who had left the church, there was a 20 percent rate of depression. Braam said that those making a conscious decision to leave the church still felt some bitterness as they grew older, and had little experience of comfort.