549: Readers tell us about the surprising Mr. Asbury, Halloween & 2 Jewish films


Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …

FRANCIS ASBURY—Blast from America’s Past 
Still Relevant Today …

The Rev. Dr. Al Bamsey put it succinctly, as this noted expert in church leadership often does.
    When Al read our stories about Francis Asbury this week—Monday’s introduction and Wednesday’s interview with historian John Wigger—Al wrote this short note:
    “I never thought I’d be reading about Asbury again in my lifetime! But you’ve piqued my interest, as you often do.
    Jen76 also sent a short but revealing note: “You mean there’s actually someone from mainline churches with some smarts about church growth? … Pat me on the back and dismiss me as a Grandma from Indiana! But it was good to know some of our fore-parents knew a few things.
    Not everyone sent praise. Reader Bobbie L wrote that the Asbury stuff was “interesting” and he may have been “a brilliant administrator and marketer,” but Bobbie is not Methodist—not Christian for that matter. She has a very strong background in her own faith, but she was disappointed that we didn’t explain more about what Methodism means. “Still in the dark about Methodists” after reading our stories this week.
    Sorry, Bobbie! We could have helped readers by adding more context this week. Just ran out of space! That’s a great suggestion, though, Bobbie. We probably should post some “resource pages” on various religious groups—sort of a “Religion 101” tour of the basics for readers. One place we did post some additional Methodist background this week was on our high-school-themed page Bible Here and Now.
    Then, historian John Wigger himself sent us a wonderful note of thanks.
    “As a writer, it’s always interesting to see how people will interpret your work. I think you have understood what I was trying to get at with Asbury better than anyone, with the exception of George Marsden, who read the first—and much longer—draft of the book and who is just plain brilliant anyway. The book really is about religious leadership, and it’s nice to see it presented in that way. … I also loved the Eisenstaedt photo at the end of the first piece on Monday, which beautifully captures mid 20th century Methodism.”
    Final Note: If you’re a subscriber to our Monday-morning Planner E-newsletter, there’s a news item coming Monday about a couple of appearances by Wigger around the U.S. We often provide additional news items like that in the Planner. If you’d like to receive that free, once-a-week E-newsletter, send an email to [email protected] and type the word “subscribe.” (You can cancel the Planner any time.)

Halloween Themes 
Spark a Tasty Note
from Writer Terry Gallagher

We’ve shared a lot about Halloween, most recently our Spiritual Season column by Stephanie Fenton—and then Cindy LaFerle’s delightful “Why I Still Love Halloween.
    But it was reader (and writer) Terry Gallagher who chimed in with a note about seasonal foods.
    I love this note from Terry, partly because I love food! And, long ago, I served for six months as the Detroit Free Press Food Writer. When I showed up in the famous Free Press Tower Kitchen for my first day writing about food, the Grande Dame of the Tower Kitchen, Nettie Duffield, met me at the kitchen door.
    She puffed skeptically on her cigarette, exhaling in my general direction. “You know, as you start writing about food,” she said, “here’s a tip about readers. They want to read three things about food: recipes, then more recipes. And, third, they want to read recipes.”
    So much for my deathless prose.
    Perhaps a wiser writer than I am, Terry quickly went for the autumn foods with a prominent reference to—recipes. He wrote:

    “Here’s another thought about the Halloween season—because we do have autumn on our minds a lot at our house. For about 20 years, we’ve marked the season by making a different soup every week from the equinox to the solstice. The Soupathon, we call it here. Then on New Year’s Eve, we bring any leftovers out of the freezer, as well as making one or two fresh pots of soup, and have our neighbors over for soup and bread.
    “Some soups we have every year at the same time. We always start this season with gazpacho since tomatoes are so plentiful the first days of fall, and the weather is usually still pretty warm. And after Thanksgiving, we’ll do something like turkey noodle or mulligatawny. Then we have some soups that don’t have a fixed date but that are included every year, like beef barley and a great baked squash. And we try to introduce one or two new ones every year.”
    And, now, Terry turns to—the recipes—which you can get in the cookbook at right …
    Terry writes: “Many of our recipes come out of the great Mennonite cookbook, ‘More with Less.’ It works for us because it means that we have one meal out of it on the weekend, then at least another one during the week when we’re pressed for time.
    “We’ve gotten a little easier on the rules over the years, too. At first, we didn’t include chili or beef stew as soups, but now both are classified that way in our taxonomy. We celebrate the Soupathon on the idea that if you want traditions to bind your family and your household, then you better invent them yourself, because the world sure won’t help you.”

Reviews of 2 New Jewish Films 
Open Readers’ Eyes

We received positive feedback about the reviews of 2 important Jewish films, published on Thursday this week: “The People vs. Leo Frank” on PBS and “Rashveski’s Wedding,” new to DVD.
    Of course, readers haven’t seen either film yet, so could not really debate our conclusions. “Leo Frank” debuts on Nov. 2 and you have to order “Rashevski” via Amazon or Netflix to actually see it yourself.
    But we heard from a good number of readers who plan to do just that.
    And special thanks go to Aly Colon, a longtime journalism consultant and teacher, who praised the reviews themselves. Aly wrote:
    “I just read ‘548: Two films on Judaism & boundaries—confronting evil; defining families.’
    “You grappled with the creative
accomplishments of two different approaches to a similar religious
theme and made your own creative contribution to them.
    “You wrote about them in an informative, instructive
and insightful matter that I felt educated and enthused about wanting
to know more. Your personal, and persuasive, tone captures the
conversational communication that writers strive for but don’t always
    “As a journalist who has written, and taught, about
diversity themes, including religion, I plan to save your pieces to
show how writers can explore differences compellingly and concisely.”

    Well, thank you Aly!

    FINALLY, a preview: We published Aly’s note partly because we’re thankful for readers’ encouragement—and also because, if you like the way we approach stories about film—pssst!!!—you won’t want to miss next week’s stories about the crazy-quilt array of movies made by the Brothers Coen! Yup! The spirituality of the Coen’s is next week’s big theme!


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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