Cover Story: For the first time, the world celebrates virtual Passover and Easter

AND SOON, MUSLIMS WILL JOIN IN VIRTUAL RAMADAN GATHERINGS

Seder plates are filled with Passover symbols. American churches love Easter Lilies.

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WE HAVE NEVER SEEN TIMES LIKE THESE

COVER STORY—This is an unprecedented month as Martin Davis points out in his column this week. Traditional gatherings have been cancelled for major observances in all three Abrahamic faiths on a global scale. This crisis also comes at a time of unprecedented access to the Internet.

Never-before-seen gatherings are being planned from the most intimate “virtual Seder” with a handful of relatives gathered around their digital screens as they move through the Haggadah—to worldwide connections like one planned by megachurch pastor Rick Warren. Healthy Muslims still will fast in Ramadan, but what about those enormous gatherings during the evenings of Ramadan and at the final Eid celebration? Those popular traditions will have to be adapted in many parts of the world.

Religious experiences will unfold this month that no reporter has ever covered. So, our writers—circling the globe—bring you a series of stories this week about this historic shift in global worship spanning more than 4 billion followers of Abrahamic traditions this month.

Once-in-a-lifetime: Virtual Passover, Easter, Ramadan

OUR FRIENDS at the INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION of RELIGION JOURNALISTS (IARJ) are tracking news about the remarkable expressions of faith emerging all around this planet among Jews, Christians and Muslims. This IARJ overview is a great place to start your reading, this week, packed with intriguing links that circle the globe.

IT’s a UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY to SHARE KINDNESS and COMPASSION—That’s what has prompted contributing columnist Martin Davis (also a member of the IARJ) to write a very personal appeal this week to all of our readers. Feeling helpless these days? Martin writes: That’s simply not so! You can become part of the caring community by sharing uplifting stories, like the ones published in ReadTheSpirit. In fact, this week, Martin invites readers to connect to his Facebook page, if you care to join him in sharing such stories.

From Our Community of Writers

HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS—Our holidays columnist Stephanie Fenton begins our coverage with an overview from the perspective of Palm Sunday (April 5) and Holy Week, plus this look at how Passover (starting on the evening of April 8) will truly be different, this year, form all other nights. Then, Stephanie also looks at Easter, which will be April 12 this year for Western Christians and April 19 for Eastern branches of the faith.

DEBRA DARVICK—The author of This Jewish Life contributes a column this week about Jewish families adjusting to virtual seders. She welcomes Christians to read along because “People of faith are people of faith. Your struggles are mine and vice versa.” Her column is headlined: “What? No seder?

BENJAMIN PRATT—From a Christian perspective, the author of Guide for Caregivers poses the question: “As Easter approaches in this overwhelming pandemic, when can we sing Alleluia? … Christians have a special perspective on this process of denial, separation, reconciliation and eventual celebration.”

Why do these holidays matter so much?

THESE TRADITIONS FORM OUR LIVES, writes Henry Brinton in his column this week, because they have shaped our lives—and the lives of our communities—for thousands of years. We must never forget their significance. He writes, “One blessing of this unique historical crisis is that all of us are reflecting in urgent new ways about the central meaning of these traditions in our lives.”

But wait! There’s More!

DID YOU GET YOUR FREE eBOOK from Rabbi Bob Alper last week? The offer lasts through April 11and Bob’s generosity as a standup comic has led him to launch a series called QUICK LAUGH. It’s a free service, described in this same column that tells you how to get the eBook.

We asked him: “Hey, Bob, after two weeks of such great deals—what could possibly come next week?”

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m thinking: free steak knives. I hear they even cut through cans!”

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Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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FAITH & FILM 

Click this image to learn about the April issue of Visual Parables Journal.

LIFT YOUR SPIRITS WITH STREAMING

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are these 10 recommending movies that are guaranteed to lift your spirits—and are available for streaming right now via Amazon and/or Netflix. 

  1. REVOLUTION OF THE HEARTEd’s review urges us all to watch this documentary by Martin Doblmeier. Ed writes: “Dorothy Day, lived such a long and eventful life that his film is brimming with photos, narratives by those who knew her, and archival footage, much of which features her speaking for herself.
  2. BARRY—”Director Vikram Gandhi’s wonderful film, paired with the 2016 film Southside With You, would make a great double feature. This Netflix film focuses upon Barack Obama’s (Devon Terrell) life as a student of political science at Columbia University in 1981 New York City, a time when the city and its subways looked scruffy due to graffiti and litter.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)
  3. SELF-MADE—”Thanks to the fine performance of Octavia Spencer and her supporting cast, this is a very entertaining film. Madam C.J. Walker, well known to black Americans, is less familiar to the rest of us, but should be, due to her being the first black female who raised herself to the status of America’s first black woman millionaire.” (Stream on Netflix.)
  4. I STILL BELIEVEEd also reviews this based-on-a-true-story film about the evangelical Christian musician Jeremy Camp (K.J. Appa) and the tragic death of his wife. However, Ed cautions that the movie is lacks subtlety in its direct religious appeal to evangelical viewers. (Rent on Amazon.)
  5. ORDINARY LOVEIn contrast, Ed gives a 5-star rave review to this film co-starring Liam Neeson. He writes, “Despite what the title might lead one to expect, this is an extraordinary film.” (Rent on Amazon.)
  6. EMMA—”First time feature director Autumn de Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton give us a delightful version of Jane Austin’s classic novel set in rural England around 1815.” (Rent this 2020 feature film on Amazon—and note: BritBox subscribers can stream the 4-part 2009 BBC production of Emma.)
  7. A MAN NAMED OVE—This quirky parable might be saying that Universe is not as cold and indifferent to our fate as some believe.” (Currently streaming free on Amazon Prime)
  8. ECHO IN THE CANYON—”Director Andrew Slater has assembled a galaxy of musicians and uses Grammy award-winning musician Jakob Dylan as his host to demonstrate the timelessness of these songs.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  9. FIDDLER ON THE ROOFWhy not relax with a true classic? (Streaming free on Amazon Prime) And, if you really love the movie—you can also watch Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, because the 2019 documentary can now be rented on Amazon Prime. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  10. MARY POPPINS RETURNS—”Although she seems a bit more reserved than an angel, the umbrella air-born Mary Poppins is a good stand-in for one for the Banks family in the two movies about her.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)

 

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Cover Story: Need to smile again? Get a free copy of Bob Alper’s ‘Thanks. I Needed That.’

Click the photo to read our Cover Story.

REACHING OUT TO SHARE HOPE

GET YOUR FREE collection of Rabbi Bob Alper’s inspiring and often amusing real-life stories in his book, Thanks. I Needed That. As the COVID-19 crisis spreads around the world, our publishing house staff continues to produce books that rest on our founding promise: “Good media builds healthy community.” And, what is more important right now than recovering hope—spreading smiles and reassurance? That’s the main theme of Bob’s book—and his famous standup comedy tours across the U.S. Since those in-person tours are on hold, Bob is eager to keep reaching out to share his best life-giving stories.

START THIS COVER STORY by reading this Front Edge Publishing column in which we explain this free-eBook offer, which we are extending for a limited time.

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THEN … THE BEST GOOD NEWS THIS WEEK!

Click the photo to read this remarkable story.

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VICTOR BEGG’S LITTLE GRANDSON startled all of us adults, this week, with his innovative idea to collect supplies for professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. This is the kind of Good News story that needs to spread far and wide: A little boy with a big idea is making a huge difference, connecting his community’s resources in new ways. We learned about this news story as it first appeared in a local Virginia newspaper, because the little boy is the grandson of our author Victor Begg. (NOTE: Have you taken a moment to order your copy of Victor’s memoir about his family, Our Muslim NeighborsWell, this news story about his grandson is exactly the kind of selfless community service we find among our Muslim neighbors. Thanks Victor for your family’s outreach!)

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SINGING, PRAYING & PAINTING FOR HEALTH

Click Debra’s illustration to read her Passover poetry.

PASSOVER and HOLY WEEK ARE COMING

WE ARE PROUD AS A PUBLISHING HOUSE that, over the past 13 years, we have been able to publish authors ranging from secular institutions (including universities and major nonprofits) to writers who are Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Because our national community is so diverse, we are receiving many hopeful messages from our Jewish writers and readers—who are preparing for Passover on the evening of April 8—and from our Christian writers and readers who are preparing for Easter on April 12 and Orthodox Pascha on April 19.

THIS PAST WEEK, the spiritual realms of the Internet blossomed as tens of thousands of congregations moved online to share hopeful messages, worship services, Bible studies, hymn sings—and even prayers and paintings you can share with others.

Share Rabbi Krakoff’s Prayers

PRAYERS FOR HEALING AND PEACE—Just as the story about Victor Begg’s remarkable grandson is spreading across social media, a short video of Jewish prayers is spreading across social media as well. Rabbi Joseph Krakoff is best known for his work with the Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network and as the author of Never Long Enough, an innovative picture book that helps families reflect on the lives of loved ones. Please, read this story about the Krakoffs’ online prayers—and watch the short video you’ll see with the column. Then, share it with friends.

Debra Darvick: ‘Why Is This Night Different?’

PASSOVER‘s crucial question is the title of Debra Darvick’s new column. Debra is an author, educator, media innovator and writes especially about her Jewish faith and heritage. She wrote this poem in preparation for Pesach 5780 in the Jewish calendar.

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Click this Masked Man to read Rodney’s column.

Rodney Curtis: Already Pining for Opening Day?

IN A COLUMN HE CALLS “IT,” author Rodney Curtis shares everyone’s rants about the state of our world today. “IT” is making us all furious with the mounting toll in lives and relationships! So, what can we possibly do in the face of such fear and frustration? Well, one thing we can do is tell great stories! And, that’s Rodney’s specialty. Read this column—and shake off some of your own ranting and raving along with Rodney—then, in the middle, you’ll find a link to watch videos of Rodney reading the opening chapters of his baseball novel, Hope’s Diamond. Go on! Enjoy Rodney’s column and share it with friends.

Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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Click this banner for the Dorothy Day Story to read more and get the streaming link.

FAITH & FILM 

HOMEBOUND?
LIFT YOUR SPIRITS WITH STREAMING

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are these 10 recommending movies that are guaranteed to lift your spirits—and are available for streaming right now via Amazon and/or Netflix. 

  1. REVOLUTION OF THE HEARTEd’s review urges us all to watch this documentary by Martin Doblmeier. Ed writes: “Dorothy Day, lived such a long and eventful life that his film is brimming with photos, narratives by those who knew her, and archival footage, much of which features her speaking for herself.
  2. BARRY—”Director Vikram Gandhi’s wonderful film, paired with the 2016 film Southside With You, would make a great double feature. This Netflix film focuses upon Barack Obama’s (Devon Terrell) life as a student of political science at Columbia University in 1981 New York City, a time when the city and its subways looked scruffy due to graffiti and litter.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)
  3. SELF-MADE—”Thanks to the fine performance of Octavia Spencer and her supporting cast, this is a very entertaining film. Madam C.J. Walker, well known to black Americans, is less familiar to the rest of us, but should be, due to her being the first black female who raised herself to the status of America’s first black woman millionaire.” (Stream on Netflix.)
  4. I STILL BELIEVEEd also reviews this based-on-a-true-story film about the evangelical Christian musician Jeremy Camp (K.J. Appa) and the tragic death of his wife. However, Ed cautions that the movie is lacks subtlety in its direct religious appeal to evangelical viewers. (Rent on Amazon.)
  5. ORDINARY LOVEIn contrast, Ed gives a 5-star rave review to this film co-starring Liam Neeson. He writes, “Despite what the title might lead one to expect, this is an extraordinary film.” (Rent on Amazon.)
  6. EMMA—”First time feature director Autumn de Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton give us a delightful version of Jane Austin’s classic novel set in rural England around 1815.” (Rent this 2020 feature film on Amazon—and note: BritBox subscribers can stream the 4-part 2009 BBC production of Emma.)
  7. A MAN NAMED OVE—This quirky parable might be saying that Universe is not as cold and indifferent to our fate as some believe.” (Currently streaming free on Amazon Prime)
  8. ECHO IN THE CANYON—”Director Andrew Slater has assembled a galaxy of musicians and uses Grammy award-winning musician Jakob Dylan as his host to demonstrate the timelessness of these songs.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  9. FIDDLER ON THE ROOFWhy not relax with a true classic? (Streaming free on Amazon Prime) And, if you really love the movie—you can also watch Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, because the 2019 documentary can now be rented on Amazon Prime. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  10. MARY POPPINS RETURNS—”Although she seems a bit more reserved than an angel, the umbrella air-born Mary Poppins is a good stand-in for one for the Banks family in the two movies about her.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)

 

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Cover Story: Filmmaker Martin Doblmeier Shows Us How Dorothy Day Faced Crises

WANT HOPE? STREAM ‘DOROTHY DAY’ NOW

DOING GOOD 1 PERSON AT A TIME—So many readers of our magazine are telling us that they truly feel a Spirit flowing through our Reading each week at ReadTheSpirit. That’s certainly true about our decision to feature an interview with filmmaker Martin Doblmeier about his new documentary: Revolution of the Heart—The Dorothy Day Story.

Dorothy Day’s core commitment to helping the people around her—even if that work seems insignificant or overwhelming—is a powerful message of hope during the COVID-19 crisis.

Also, our faith-and-film writer Ed McNulty has a complete review of the documentary—and, as always, Ed has added relevant resources to spark small-group discussions. If your small-group isn’t meeting in person during the COVID-19 crisis, consider streaming the film online—then use Ed’s prompts to spark a virtual discussion with your friends.

AND: You can stream this inspiring film, right now, from a link at the end of this brief Cover Story.

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More Spiritual Wisdom 

ONE FROM SUZY—

GodSigns—Columnist Suzy Farbman brings us stories of the remarkable men and women she meets in her travels, but this week she steps back to share some of her own spiritual insights in a column she calls: “Seeking divine intervention in a time of crisis.”

Suzy is among our many writers, editors and regular readers who have been sending us inspiring columns.

TWO MORE MARTINS—

PERHAPS IT’S A GOD SIGN? Our contributing columnist Martin Davis did not know we were featuring Martin Doblmeier as our Cover Story this week. However, Martin Davis was looking for spiritual signs of hope and emailed our home office to suggest we feature a link to a moving, personal column by our mutual friend James Martin, the Jesuit journalist. (We’ve recommended James Martin’s work for many years, including this 2011 column about his efforts to bring humor back to into the church.) This week, however, James Martin wrote in The New York Times on a serious note, headlined: Where Is God in a Pandemic? The honest answer is: We don’t know. But even non-Christians may find understanding in the life of JesusThanks to all three Martins for casting bright rays of hope into the world this week!

And a JUDITH, TOO

Poet, author and award-winning journalist Judith Valente has been a good friend of our online community for many years, as well. Just one example is this 2018 piece Judith sent us about her book, How to Live—What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community, which is a great choice to read during the COVID-19 crisis. This week, Judith sent us a link to her latest column, headlined: Staying Positive in a Time of CrisisThanks Judith!

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Keep Reading!

FRONT EDGE PUBLISHING Marketing Director Susan Stitt writes about the COVID-19 impact on publishing. Bottom line? Books still are shipping—which is great news for the millions of Americans stuck at home with extra time on their hands. This is a column you may want to share with a book-lover among your friends.

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Holidays & Festivals

A MEMORABLE LENT

SPEAKING OF GOOD BOOKS … Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reported on the start of Lent recently for 2 billion Christians: “With Lent quickly approaching and Easter on the horizon, Western Christians enter the season of repentance.” (Click to read more.) If you’re looking for an inspiring book to read day-by-day along your own Lenten journey this year, we recommend Our Lent: Things We Carry

These 40 daily stories by David Crumm highlight 40 “things” that Jesus and his followers encountered in the final days of his life, which is the biblical story Christians remember as Easter approaches. Then, each chapter connects the Bible lesson with our own daily lives—as well as the lives of men and women who are celebrated in our culture, including the spiritual writer Thomas Merton, the actress and singer Judy Garland, the country musician Merle Haggard and even the beloved Cat in the Hat.

Ramayana

DISCOVER THE ANCIENT INDIAN EPIC—Stephanie Fenton reports: “With the birthday of Lord Rama on the horizon, millions of Hindus begin Ramayana Week to prepare for the occasion. During these auspicious days, devotees read the timeless epic, witness narrations of the exciting events in Rama’s life and fast for the deity.” In her column, you’ll also find links to stream colorful Indian TV series based on this ancient epic. Interested in learning more about world religions while you’re stuck at home? This holiday column is a great invitation.

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Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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FAITH & FILM 

HOMEBOUND?
LIFT YOUR SPIRITS WITH STREAMING

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are these 10 recommending movies that are guaranteed to lift your spirits—and are available for streaming right now via Amazon and/or Netflix. (Psst! This list of 10 actually recommends a full dozen films.)

  1. CHICAGO—This week, Ed reaches back to 2012 and republishes his review giving 4.5 stars to the musical Chicago starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  2. ROXIE HART—He features Chicago, this week, so that he can reach even further back—almost 80 years this time—to recommend a 1942 rendition of the Chicago tale co-starring Ginger Rogers and Adolphe Menjou, directed by the Oscar-winning director William Wellman. (Ed provides a link to stream this film free on YouTube)
  3. THE FORTY-FIRST—On the trail of free-to-stream cinematic gems, Ed also came up with a gripping Soviet-made feature The Fort-First, which won the USSR equivalent of the best-movie Oscar for 1956. (Ed provides a link to stream this film free on YouTube)
  4. A MAN NAMED OVE—This quirky parable might be saying that Universe is not as cold and indifferent to our fate as some believe.” (Currently streaming free on Amazon Prime)
  5. BABE—Although there are still adults who have not seen Babe because they mistakenly think that it is “just a children’s film,” many more have discovered that both the humor and the insights into relationships make this a film literally for “children of all ages.” (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  6. ECHO IN THE CANYON—”Director Andrew Slater has assembled a galaxy of musicians and uses Grammy award-winning musician Jakob Dylan as his host to demonstrate the timelessness of these songs.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  7. FIDDLER ON THE ROOFWhy not relax with a true classic? (Streaming free on Amazon Prime) And, if you really love the movie—you can also watch Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, because the 2019 documentary can now be rented on Amazon Prime. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  8. A LITTLE CHAOS—”This beautiful costume drama is about a female garden architect taking on the assignment of designing and supervising the building of an important part of the lavish gardens of the new Versailles residence that King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) is building just outside of Paris.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  9. MARY POPPINS RETURNS—”Although she seems a bit more reserved than an angel, the umbrella air-born Mary Poppins is a good stand-in for one for the Banks family in the two movies about her.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  10. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING—”The title of director James Marsh’s biography of the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is taken from the scientist’s quest to discover the one equation that will account for the existence of the universe. Quite an ambitious undertaking!” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime.)

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Cover Story: What Would Abraham Lincoln Do … about facing the fears of epidemic?

Responding to ‘The Uncertainty and Mystery’

COVER STORY—As Americans nationwide cope with the anxiety and disruption of Coronavirus, The New York Times points out that our world lacks a strong unifying figure to calm fears as FDR once did during the Great Depression. Countering that inspirational void, many journalists and writers are working hard to find and lift up such inspiring, unifying voices every day.

LINCOLN’S WISDOM FROM MAINE

‘WE MUST RISE WITH THE OCCASION’ From Maine—where author Duncan Newcomer broadcasts his weekly public radio series Abraham Lincoln: Quiet Fire—Duncan is highlighting Lincoln’s response to deadly epidemics. Our ReadTheSpirit special issue, this week, begins with the text of Duncan’s two upcoming episodes. Please, share this story—and others on our front page this week—with friends and co-workers.

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BIAS BUSTERS:
FIGHT THE VIRUS, NOT EACH OTHER

HEROIC JOURNALISTS—One of the journalists working every day to reduce fear and combat bigotry is MSU School of Journalism’s Joe Grimm, the head of the Bias Busters teams that have produced more than a dozen books to provide fair, accurate and balanced information about racial, ethnic, religious and gender minorities. Please, read our Front Edge Publishing column this week about Joe’s work and you will discover an amazing daily resource for celebrating our cultural diversity. After you’ve read that column—share it with a friend.

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FROM ITALY: ‘FAITH IN A TIME OF CORONAVIRUS’

From Italy’s hard-hit northern region, Elisa Di Benedetto has been writing (and even appearing on U.S. radio) talking about Faith in a Time of Coronavirus. Other journalists are helping Elisa collect—and publish excerpts—of inspiring messages about spiritual resources that can help us to cope in such dire times. Elisa is a co-managing director of the International Association of Religion Journalists and is leading this effort because the IARJ’s core mission is sharing encouragement and timely story ideas with other journalists. Please, read the latest collection of these words of spiritual wisdom at the IARJ website.

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FROM WASHINGTON D.C.:
A HYMN OF GRACE

WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM D.C.? In fact, there’s a lot of spiritual wisdom in Washington, including the ongoing work of teacher and author Benjamin Pratt. Like Elisa Di Benedetto in Italy, Ben (and his wife) live in a virtual “petri dish”—a senior-living community that is widely regarded as a high-risk setting during such a pandemic. You can see from Ben’s books on his Amazon author page that one of his pastoral specialties is caregiving—so Ben wrote this inspiring reflection on living in a season of fear. He reminds us: We certainly aren’t the first to face such seasons! In fact, great teachers—and songwriters—of the past can help us to remember that the surest antidote to fear is a return to thankfulness.

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FROM GEORGIA:
‘We Need Each Other Now More Than Ever’

DR. DAVID GUSHEE continues to teach his Sunday School class, even though his church in Georgia is like so many nationwide that have physically closed their doors temporarily. Dr. Gushee, the author of the landmark book about Christian inclusion Changing Our Mind, spoke with a reporter from Word & Way, a Missouri-based Christian magazine, about the importance of remaining connected as congregations. His class will now meet virtually for a few weeks. “I believe that we need each other now more than ever,” Gushee told Word&Way. “When I heard that our congregation was canceling church meetings for many weeks, I felt that if I didn’t right away arrange for our class to meet (at the exact same time as usual) this first week apart, that we would never do it. I wasn’t willing to let that happen.”

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DAY1’s JOB 1: BROADCASTING HOPE

A NATIONAL NETWORK OF HOPE—Want more messages of hope? Listen to the Day1 radio network, hosted by Peter Wallace for the best of mainline Protestant preaching in a radio series that stretches back 75 years! Also, beyond the audio and video at Day1, you’ll always find inspiring columns on the front page of the network’s website. (In fact, you’ll occasionally find “shout outs” to ReadTheSpirit writers.) This week on Day 1’s front page, you’ll find the full text of an inspiring sermon by the Rev. Mandy Sloan McDow, based in Los Angeles and one of the leading United Methodist preachers of our time. You’ll also find the thoughtful message from Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to his denomination. And, you’ll find one of an ongoing series of meditations from the best-selling author Frederick Buechner. Lots to enjoy at Day1!
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GOT 60 SECONDS? GET CLEAN!

NO KIDDING! This little video is going—ahhh, well, we won’t say “viral” anymore, will we? Spotted from the World Health Organization by our Publisher John Hile, it takes just a minute to watch—and it will change the way you wash your hands forever! (If you don’t see a video screen below, then hop over to YouTube to see it there.)

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Holidays & Festivals

Click this cover to visit Amazon.

A MEMORABLE LENT

A PERFECT YEAR FOR ‘OUR LENT’—Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reported on the start of Lent recently for 2 billion Christians: “With Lent quickly approaching and Easter on the horizon, Western Christians enter the season of repentance.” (Click to read more.)

The annual observance of Lent—the season of spiritual reflection leading to Easter—is growing across the U.S. Around the world, 2 billion men and women mark Lent as a part of the Christian calendar.

If you’re looking for an inspiring book to read day-by-day along your own Lenten journey this year, we recommend Our Lent: Things We Carry

These 40 daily stories by David Crumm highlight 40 “things” that Jesus and his followers encountered in the final days of his life, which is the biblical story Christians remember as Easter approaches. Then, each chapter connects the Bible lesson with our own daily lives—as well as the lives of men and women who are celebrated in our culture, including the spiritual writer Thomas Merton, the actress and singer Judy Garland, the country musician Merle Haggard and even the beloved Cat in the Hat.

St. Patrick without a Parade

HOLIDAYS COLUMNIST STEPHANIE FENTON has the story with links for recipes you can enjoy at home, even some books and other resources you’ll enjoy as you Think Irish this week.

Equinox / Ostara / Nowruz

‘WELCOME SPRING!’ That’s what people are saying across the Northern Hemisphere, marked by the vernal equinox. Though the names and specific rituals differ, the theme throughout all of the above holidays is joy in the promises of new life; a specific joy that comes with the spring season. As the darkness of winter lifts, communities rejoice.

Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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FAITH & FILM 

HOMEBOUND?
TRY SPIRITUAL STREAMING

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are these 10 recommending movies that are guaranteed to lift your spirits—and are available for streaming right now via Amazon and/or Netflix. (Psst! This list of 10 actually recommends a full dozen films.)

  1. A MAN NAMED OVE—This quirky parable might be saying that Universe is not as cold and indifferent to our fate as some believe.” (Currently streaming free on Amazon Prime)
  2. BABE—Although there are still adults who have not seen Babe because they mistakenly think that it is “just a children’s film,” many more have discovered that both the humor and the insights into relationships make this a film literally for “children of all ages.” (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  3. BAGDAD CAFE—”This wonderful visual parable of grace grew out of a trip that German filmmaker Percy Adlon and his wife Eleonore made across the U.S. in 1984.” (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  4. ECHO IN THE CANYON—”Director Andrew Slater has assembled a galaxy of musicians and uses Grammy award-winning musician Jakob Dylan as his host to demonstrate the timelessness of these songs.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  5. FIDDLER ON THE ROOFWhy not relax with a true classic? (Streaming free on Amazon Prime) And, if you really love the movie—you can also watch Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, because the 2019 documentary can now be rented on Amazon Prime. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  6. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGONI love it when I come across another peacemaking film, especially when unexpectedly, as in such films as Babe, the Iron Giant, and now this one—all of them so-called “children’s films.” (Rent on Amazon Prime) And, while you’re at it, you can stream the sequel as well: How to Train Your Dragon 2, which Ed also recommends. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  7. A LITTLE CHAOS—”This beautiful costume drama is about a female garden architect taking on the assignment of designing and supervising the building of an important part of the lavish gardens of the new Versailles residence that King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) is building just outside of Paris.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  8. MARY POPPINS RETURNS—”Although she seems a bit more reserved than an angel, the umbrella air-born Mary Poppins is a good stand-in for one for the Banks family in the two movies about her.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  9. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING—”The title of director James Marsh’s biography of the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is taken from the scientist’s quest to discover the one equation that will account for the existence of the universe. Quite an ambitious undertaking!” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime.)
  10. THE TWO POPES—”Brazilian director Fernando Merilles makes theological discourse exciting in this speculative film about the encounters between Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) and Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins).” (Stream on Netflix)

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Patricia Montemurri’s ‘Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters’ is a window on women who are changing the world

‘Blue Nuns’ become an international model of Green living

COVER STORY—The nostalgic photo, above, summons deep memories for millions of Americans who were taught by nuns. But make no mistake! Patricia Montemurri’s new book about one of the most influential orders to serve American families makes it clear that these sisters—brilliant pioneers in many fields—are now a global model for Green living.

Yes, their numbers have dwindled—and their ages have risen—but a few women still are joining the order. Most importantly, even as they have aged, these pioneers have focused their ministry on what the can control. That includes a multi-million-dollar transformation of their enormous Motherhouse in Michigan into a global model of green systems.

Please, read Patricia Montemurri’s cover story this week; consider ordering your own copy of her book (either from the convenient Amazon links or through a special direct-order link we have included to maximize the revenue going to IHM ministries from book purchases). And, of course, share this news with friends! Remember, millions of Americans have memories of the nuns who once taught them—or shaped their lives in other important ways. (For example, did you know White Stripes co-founder Jack White was a student of IHM sisters?)

NATIONAL CATHOLIC SISTERS WEEK

MARCH 8-14—Did you know that, in recent years, this special week encourages people nationwide to celebrate the powerfully progressive work of Catholic nuns in this country (and around the world as well). Patricia Montemurri’s Cover Story includes IHM-related background on this festival. And, you can learn more at the official Catholic Sisters Week website, which includes additional resources plus news about regional events.

Click to read Montemurri’s Front Edge column.

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RECALLING FOND MEMORIES?
CONSIDER PRODUCING YOUR OWN BOOK!

Patricia Montemurri also wrote a fascinating column for our Front Edge Publishing blog about her ongoing work with Arcadia Publishing. Especially if you are interested in Catholic history and culture, by reading that Front Edge column, you’ll learn about her two earlier books on Catholic themes—plus an upcoming fourth book. Got a Catholic on your gift list this year? These make terrific gifts that spark lots of memories—and can inspire future spiritual reflection.

And there’s more: Are you a journalist, a regional writer or a history buff? Patty also explains in her column how Arcadia caters to such professionals, helping them finally to produce those local books they’ve hoped to see in print.

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Holidays & Festivals

Click this cover to visit Amazon.

MAKE IT A MEMORABLE LENT

A PERFECT YEAR FOR ‘OUR LENT’—Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reported on the start of Lent recently for 2 billion Christians: “With Lent quickly approaching and Easter on the horizon, Western Christians enter the season of repentance.” (Click to read more.)

The annual observance of Lent—the season of spiritual reflection leading to Easter—is growing across the U.S. Around the world, 2 billion men and women mark Lent as a part of the Christian calendar.

If you’re looking for an inspiring book to read day-by-day along your own Lenten journey this year, we recommend Our Lent: Things We Carry

These 40 daily stories by David Crumm highlight 40 “things” that Jesus and his followers encountered in the final days of his life, which is the biblical story Christians remember as Easter approaches. Then, each chapter connects the Bible lesson with our own daily lives—as well as the lives of men and women who are celebrated in our culture, including the spiritual writer Thomas Merton, the actress and singer Judy Garland, the country musician Merle Haggard and even the beloved Cat in the Hat.

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Purim

MONDAY EVENING the festivities, masquerades, plays and sweet treats of Purim recall the ancient victory of the Jewish people due to the courageous Esther. Stephanie Fenton has the story—along with a delicious recipe for Hamantaschen cookies by Bobbi Lewis.

Holi

HINDU COMMUNITIES around the world also are celebrating the colorful festival of Holi. Stephanie Fenton writes: “Termed the Festival of Colors, Holi calls all participants to set aside castes and manners for the day so that young and old, rich and poor, men and women can all gather to welcome the joy of spring.”

Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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And Now for Something Completely Different …

GOD SIGNS—Week after week, Suzy Farbman brings us inspiring and sometimes downright funny columns about the remarkable men and women she meets in her travels. Well, this week, she invites us to meet—yes, some lovable cats! In a column guaranteed to make you smile, Suzy also has added a number of great cat photos.

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THANKS TO PETER WALLACE and DAY1 RADIO!

LISTEN IN! If you haven’t discovered Day1 radio, we invite you to visit the Day1 website this week and learn more about a broadcaster near you—or about ways to stream Day1 online. Founded in 1945, Day1 Radio began as “The Protestant Hour” and has evolved under the direction of author and broadcaster Peter Wallace into a source of inspiration from some of America’s greatest preachers and teachers. Since we founded ReadTheSpirit in 2007, Peter and his team have been mutually supportive in many ways. (Stay tuned! Later this year, we’ll have a Cover Story about Peter’s latest book.)

Day1 has consistently encouraged its audience to pick up a copy of Duncan Newcomer’s new 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire. This week, you can read a free sample chapter from Duncan’s book on Day1’s website.

Also this week, Day1 is promoting a major fundraiser in Georgia with our author, the standup comic Rabbi Bob Alper, who is co-branding a special appearance of his Laugh in Peace Tour with Day1. You’ll see the details on Day1’s front page, if you happen to be in Georgia. Care to laugh a bit this week? Check out Bob Alper’s Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This or his Thanks. I Needed That.

 

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Click on these images to learn about the March 2020 issue of Visual Parables Journal, complete with many timely faith-and-film discussion guides.

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FAITH & FILM 

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Click THIS image to read Ed’s full review of the new Pixar movie Onward.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are:

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Cover Story: Tom Voss’s new ‘Where War Ends’ captures the drama of his walk across America to highlight veterans’ needs in healing

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‘WHERE WAR ENDS—
RECOVERING FROM PTSD AND MORAL INJURY’

COVER STORY—This book could save a life. The 2,700-mile walk across America described in this memoir certainly saved Tom Voss’s life—after the “moral injuries” of horrific violence during his service as an infantry scout in Iraq, where he participated in hundreds of combat and humanitarian missions. You may already have seen the feature-length documentary film about Tom’s trek and his struggle to heal from this trauma that is so common among America’s 18 million veterans.

Each day, 20 veterans die by suicide. Tom nearly did. His work—from his long nationwide hike, to his writing and teaching now that he is recovering—is aimed at helping to reduce that terrible toll.

Please, read our Cover Story, which includes an interview with Tom, links to view the documentary film and to get his new book—plus links to Tom’s website and resources he recommends for veterans and the families and friends who love them.

Marking Invest in Veterans Week

MARCH 1-7 has become a special week for promoting veterans and their families. So, this week, Susan Stitt writes our Front Edge Publishing column about two related books we publish, designed to help all Americans better understand the lives of veterans: 100 Questions & Answers about Veterans and The Black Knight, the memoir of retired Col. Clifford Worthy, the oldest living African-American graduate of West Point.

Know a veteran? Most of us do. Please, do a good deed this week, read these stories—and join in compassionate responses.

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Holidays & Festivals

Click this cover to visit Amazon.

MAKE IT A MEMORABLE LENT

A PERFECT YEAR FOR ‘OUR LENT’—Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reports on the start of Lent this past week for 2 billion Christians: “With Lent quickly approaching and Easter on the horizon, Western Christians enter the season of repentance on Ash Wednesday—after, of course, making any last indulgences the day before, on Fat Tuesday.” (Click to read more.)

She also reports on the fast of Great Lent for Eastern Christians, which begins March 2 just after Cheesefare Sunday, when observant Orthodox families will have their last dairy products until Easter: “Cheesefare Sunday will mark the discontinuation of partaking in dairy products until Pascha. For Orthodox Christians, Great Lent begins the day following Cheesefare Sunday, on Clean Monday—this year, March 2.

If you’re looking for an inspiring book to read day-by-day along your own Lenten journey this year, we recommend Our Lent: Things We CarryThese 40 daily stories by David Crumm highlight 40 “things” that Jesus and his followers encountered in the final days of his life, which is the story Christians remember as Easter approaches. Each of the daily stories connects those things in Jesus’s life so long ago with people’s lives today.

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National Day of Unplugging

MARCH 6-7—Two national organizations are chiming in on a message shared by ReadTheSpirit and educators nationwide: We should help children to reduce their current levels of screen time. In fact, all of us should consider how much time we spend focused on screens—and devote ourselves to more human contact. Our Holidays & Festivals section has the story, plus news about a great way to mark this holiday with someone you love: Sadie Sees Trouble, a children’s book that’s an open invitation to have unplugged fun around the house.

If you missed it, we just published a couple of stories about children in rural Georgia discovering the love of reading—including a story by Susan Stitt, who rode along on Stan Tucker’s literacy bus and saw the smiling faces of children selecting their books.

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Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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Courageous Journalist Freed—
Still Faces Crippling Fines

ERICK KABENDERA—Journalists around the world, this week, are spreading awareness of the release in Tanzania of Erick Kabendera, a founding member of the International Association of Religion Journalists. Erick was imprisoned last year in a government crackdown. While Erick has been freed, as this story on the IARJ website points out, journalists continue to decry the government’s harsh treatment—including crippling fines. You can help the cause by visiting the IARJ story about Erick and sharing it on social media, which we believe will add to public pressure against the government’s treatment of him.

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Click this image to read Ed’s review of Call of the Wild.

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FAITH & FILM 

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are:

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Cover Story: ‘Another Way’ Out of Atlanta comes ancient wisdom for rethinking leadership in our communities

Click this book cover to read our Cover Story.

Leadership Is Embodied in the Community Itself

COVER STORY—What’s going on in Georgia these days? For the second week in a row our cover story is rooted in central Georgia where African-American communities are giving us an inspiring vision of healthy communities. Last week, we profiled Stan Tucker and his organization that works in low-income schools to foster a love of reading.

This week, we are recommending a new book by a trio of scholars connected with the Forum for Theological Exploration in Atlanta. Drawing on wisdom from the African-American tradition—and other Christian traditions as well—Stephen Lewis, Matthew Wesley Williams (shown above with a group) and Dori Grinenko Baker have published a summary of their methods for Living and Leading Change on Purpose, which is the subtitle of their book.

‘Harnessing the Power of Tension’

Just as last week’s profile of Stan Tucker paralleled our own publishing house’s interest in early literacy—this week, we are pleased to introduce this trio from Atlanta and their work because it parallels our own work with peacemakers Brenda Naomi Rosenberg and Samia Bahsoun. Drawing on wisdom from their Jewish and Muslim traditions, Brenda and Samia also are working nationwide with communities, based on the same assumption: The most effective leadership resides not in a single individual—but in the entire community.

Read our Front Edge Publishing column this week, by David Crumm, to learn more about the work Brenda and Samia are doing and their two books that focus especially on building healthy interfaith and cross-cultural communities.

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When the Going Gets Tough, Friendship Means Everything

GodSigns—Closely related to our Cover Stories, this week, is Suzy Farbman’s GodSigns column about the importance of friendships. Why should we work so hard to form strong relationships across the community? Because we often need the strength of those friendships to buoy us up in life. Suzy writes, “It’s easy to be a friend during the good times. In 52 years of marriage, there’ve been loads of good times. But as for friendship, when the chips are down—that’s the true measure.”

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Holidays & Festivals

Click this cover to visit Amazon.

MAKE IT A MEMORABLE LENT

A PERFECT YEAR FOR ‘OUR LENT’—Holidays & Festivals columnist Stephanie Fenton reports on the start of Lent this week for 2 billion Christians: “With Lent quickly approaching and Easter on the horizon, Western Christians enter the season of repentance on Ash Wednesday—after, of course, making any last indulgences the day before, on Fat Tuesday.” (Click to read more.)

She also reports on the fast of Great Lent for Eastern Christians, which begins March 2 just after Cheesefare Sunday, when observant Orthodox families will have their last dairy products until Easter: “Cheesefare Sunday will mark the discontinuation of partaking in dairy products until Pascha. For Orthodox Christians, Great Lent begins the day following Cheesefare Sunday, on Clean Monday—this year, March 2.

LENT IN A TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

Of course, this year, millions of Christians around the world are changing their Lenten customs in this time of coronavirus, aka COVID-19. Across the U.S., many churches are urging parishioners to refrain from shaking hands while “passing the peace.” In Italy, journalist Elisa Di Benedetto emailed us this week to report that her region has been hit hard by concerns over the virus—so the Catholic church has cancelled Ash Wednesday services! Then, Elisa wrote that she remembered a copy of Our Lent: Things We Carry on her bookshelf. She wrote: “This is a perfect year to read David’s book!” What an endorsement! And, she’s right: The book truly will life your spirits even if you are especially worried in this era of coronavirus. Come back next week, because Elisa promises to write about how the worldwide virus is reshaping religious life in one of the famous homelands of Christianity.

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Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address InterfaithHolidays.com

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Click this image from the movie to read Ed’s review of Burden.

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FAITH & FILM 

ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are:

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