NEWS FEATURE: Faith-based calendars help believers balance time and eternity

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Time is a mirror of eternity for followers of most of the world’s major faiths. The moments of each day and the days of each year are believed to be intangibly _ but inseparably _ tied to deeper spiritual realities that transcend both space and time. As folks near the end of another calendar year, many are wondering where time has gone as it seems to have passed so quickly. Others are inspired to reflect on ways they can do a better job next year of distinguishing between those things that are truly important and those which are merely urgent.

NEWS FEATURE: At Christmas, what’s an atheist to do?

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Martin Blazevich, a 34-year-old computer programmer from Durham, N.C., can’t remember a time when he ever believed in God. So when he received an e-mail asking for his address so the company secretary could send him a Christmas card, he responded by saying he wasn’t a Christian _ and left it at that. Next came a company-wide e-mail regarding the safe handling of Christmas trees that left him feeling frustrated.”How can I respond to that? I can’t say that that’s a meaningless symbol to me.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Public ritual, public spectacle dominate religion stories of ‘97

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _ In the world of faith, the past year was marked by events of sweeping religious and spiritual proportions, as masses of humanity gathered around the globe to publicly act out rituals of collective yearning and grief to a degree rarely, if ever, seen before. From the hundreds of thousands of Christian men who gathered in Washington to the spontaneous, global grief over the twinned deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, Americans and others appeared gripped in an inchoate spiritual revival that transcended traditions and institutions.”Once again we have discovered that America is a very religious nation, but one less and less tied to historic labels,”said David Neff, executive editor of Christianity Today magazine.”People looked to public rituals to help them understand the big questions, which is religion in its purest form.” Witness: _ In Washington, an estimated half-million Christian men assembled in October on the National Mall to pray and sing praises for more than six hours during the Promise Keeper’s”Stand in the Gap”rally _ possibly the largest religious event in U.S. history. _ In London, and in countless cities worldwide, mourners gathered throughout September in public displays of grief over the untimely death of Princess Diana.

NEWS FEATURE: Infancy Gospel offers `different, detailed’ account of Jesus’ birth

c. 1997 Religion News Service UNDATED _ It’s the Christmas story you probably haven’t heard before. The characters are much the same: There’s Joseph, Mary, the Magi, and, of course, the newborn Jesus. There’s also a donkey, a trip to Bethlehem and a star in the east. But that’s about where the similarities end between the familiar accounts of Jesus’ birth and the one told in the Infancy Gospel of James, a noncanonical book about Mary and the birth of Jesus purportedly written by Jesus’ half brother.

COMMENTARY: Prison officials setting stage for another Attica

c. 1997 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J., and a fellow of the Gallup International Institute.) UNDATED_ In September 1971, an inmate uprising over living conditions at Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York resulted in the worst bloodbath in the history of U.S. prisons. After four days of negotiations between inmates and New York state officials, an assault team of state troopers stormed the facility in a successful attempt to recapture the prison. When the smoke cleared, more than 40 inmates and their hostages lay dead, virtually all of them the result of gunfire by the troopers.