NEWS FEATURE: Program brings sex education into black churches

c. 1999 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ Unlike most teens, Chalon Lockett has received more sex education from her church than anywhere else.”It wasn’t weird learning about sex in church,”said Lockett, 14, who recently completed one of 25 pilot programs aimed at introducing sex education to teen-agers in the nation’s black churches. African-American teens are learning about sex through”Keeping It Real,” a seven-week class consisting of faith-based teen dialogues on sexuality and AIDS prevention. The program, which has involved 150 teens, is part of an initiative of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a Washington-based organization that represents Christians, Jews and other faith groups. Lockett’s church, West Oakland Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, was among those selected by the coalition’s Black Church Initiative to pilot the”Keeping It Real”program.

COMMENTARY: The need for a church’s welcoming presence

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Tom Ehrich is a writer and computer consultant, managing large-scale database implementations. He lives in Durham, N.C.) UNDATED _ Eight weeks in Europe leave me tired and disoriented. Tired, because eight weeks of business travel is tiring. Disoriented, because I return from hotel living in Italy and Spain to a house that my family moved into just three days before my departure in May.”Look what I found on the front porch!”says my wife.

NEWS STORY: Greek Orthodox musicians debate conversion to English

c. 1999 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Whenever Greek Orthodox Christians have taken their religion to other countries, they have translated their liturgy and conducted religious services in the local vernacular. Yet when they came to the United States, immigrant congregations tended to retain the Greek language _ only slowly, and often reluctantly, switching to English.”Traditionally, we’ve been slower here to adapt to the native tongue,”said Vicki Pappas, chairwoman of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. Pappas, a leader in a movement to speed up the Greek church’s conversion to English, recently learned the National Forum will receive a $53,000 grant from the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Fund Inc., a national endowment fund for Greek Orthodox ministries, to address ways in which the church can strengthen the use of English in the writing and singing of church music. The use of English varies from parish to parish, according to Pappas, as the parish priest is supposed to look at the makeup of his local church and reflect that in the service.

NEWS FEATURE: Evangelicals praying for neighbors through”Lighthouse Movement”

c. 1999 Religion News Service PUYALLUP, Wash. _ Linda Woerman and Carolyn Nelson sat side by side at Woerman’s kitchen table, hands folded in prayer, ignoring the ringing telephone. Every week, they spend an hour together praying for the needs of their neighbors _ the guy recovering from heart surgery who must give up pizza and beer, the children who play near a busy street, the man around the corner who uses a wheelchair.”Father, you know the needs that are in this neighborhood,”prayed Woerman.”I pray, Lord, for the hearts of members of the households, Lord, that their hearts will be open and turn toward you.” Woerman, a conservative Lutheran, and Nelson, a Southern Baptist, are part of the”Lighthouse Movement”that has reached pockets of the country and that evangelical Christians predict will sweep the nation with a wide swath of prayer.

NEWS FEATURE: Catholic hospitals face union, bottom-line tensions

c. 1999 Religion News Service CHICAGO _ A hospital with a name like”St. John’s”may conjure up images of a peaceful, prayerful place where the healing is more than physical. Serenity, though, has lately been in short supply in the fiercely competitive business of health care. Even religious institutions find themselves bowing to the bottom line.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Eds: Check RNS StoryPix from the week of July 19 for photos of Falun Gong protest at the Chinese embassy in Washington to accompany first item of Digest. Update: China’s crackdown on Falun Gong sect continues (RNS) China’s crackdown on a popular meditation sect intensified over the weekend following the government’s recent ban on the movement it considers a threat to the communist-controlled government. Chinese security forces on Friday (July 23) arrested 200 people in Tiananmen Square protesting their government’s prohibition last week of Falun Gong, a movement that combines elements of Buddhism and Taoism with physical exercises believed to harness cosmic forces. The official ban came Thursday (July 22) after three days of widespread protests over the arrests of several Falun Gong leaders.

NEWS STORY: Kennedy rites follow recently approved, popular practices

c. 1999 Religion News Service UNDATED _ The burial at sea of the cremated remains of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and her sister followed a U.S. Catholic practice that received Vatican approval only a year and a half ago. Both cremation and burial at sea have become common ways to mark the death of Catholics, said Dennis McManus, associate director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.”It’s growing in popularity, so to speak,”McManus said of cremation.”The U.S. received its permission from the Vatican for cremations about a year and a half ago as a regular part of a Catholic burial service.” Kennedy, 38, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 33, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, 34, were killed when his single-engine plane crashed off Martha’s Vineyard after they departed July 16 from New Jersey to head toward a family wedding. A service of”committal of ashes”was held aboard the USS Briscoe on Thursday (July 22), not far from the crash site.

COMMENTARY: Did anyone tell Kennedy the truth?

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is publisher of RNS.) UNDATED _ Amid the investigation of and speculation about the cause of the crash of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s airplane, another theme has emerged. Even if the crash wasn’t caused by pilot error, the consensus seems to be that the young Kennedy was flying a plane too sophisticated and in conditions too dangerous for his training. What I would like to ask is whether anyone told him. All those people who claim to have known him well, flown with him, seen him at the airport before takeoff and now are willing to second-guess him _ did any of them warn him?

NEWS FEATURE: Amish Turn to Trade as Land Grows Dear

c. 1999 Religion News Service WILMOT, Ohio _ For more than four decades Abe Keim raised his family and ran a 91-acre farm and woodworking shop following the tradition of his Amish ancestors in this agricultural community in the northeastern part of the state. Now the 73-year-old Old Order Amish man manages the Wooden Toy Shop in Amish Door Village, a sprawling complex of shops, a 50-room hotel, a restaurant and a banquet room. Keim said he never dreamed he’d operate a retail store, or that so many Amish people would work alongside non-Amish people in such developments. Tourism is driving the economy in Wilmot and nearby towns in what is commonly known as Amish Country.

COMMENTARY: A hollow victory for Jewish muscle

c. 1999 Religion News Service (National Correspondent Ira Rifkin covers Jewish and Muslim issues for Religion News Service.) WASHINGTON _ Score another victory for American Jewish political muscle. Muslim activist Salam Al-Marayati has been removed from the National Commission on Terrorism following a barrage of criticism over his appointment from Jewish community groups who perceive him to be an apologist for Muslim terrorists. House Minority Leader Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., who appointed Al-Marayati to the commission, released a fig leaf of a letter in which he insisted his reason for dropping Al-Marayati was that the requisite security background check would take longer to complete than the commission is scheduled to exist. It didn’t seem to matter that Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, has previously been cleared to attend White House and State Department briefings, and to fly to the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty signing on Air Force II as a guest of the U.S. government.

COMMENTARY: The GOP and Muslims: Missing the boat

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Mohamed Nimer is research director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C.) (UNDATED) American Muslims, who number as many as 5 million, are increasingly flexing their political muscle _ from voting in greater numbers, to entering the public debate and contributing to campaigns. Surveys suggest that American Muslim voters are split almost evenly among Republican, Democratic and independent political affiliations. However, most Muslims identify with conservative issues. They care dearly about family values, oppose abortion and detest the entertainment industry’s reliance on sexual indecency.