The once and future Bishop Rimbo

I had a nice visit yesterday to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Central Park West and 65th Street.

That’s right across the street from the park, where the traverse road goes through. What a spot.

b20ac448-c8a6-4092-a6e5493fd61400b6.jpgI stopped by to interview the Rev. Robert Rimbo, who was recently elected to serve as the next bishop of the Metro NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He’ll begin a six-year term on Aug. 1.

I’ll write it up for the Journal News/LoHud over the next few days.

Rimbo’s story is an interesting one. He served as a pastor in several states, including a stint on Long Island, before becoming bishop of the Southeast Michigan Synod in 1998.

He was in the first year of his second term as bishop when he had lunch in early 2005 with Bishop Stephen Bouman, then the head of the Metro NY Synod. Rimbo said that he hoped to pastor a church again someday, and Bouman responded “Boy, have I got a place for you.”

Holy Trinity was looking for a pastor and Rimbo left Michigan a few months later to take over.

He did not expect to become a bishop again. Important note: In the ELCA, when a bishop leaves office, he does not remain a bishop. So Bishop Rimbo became Rev. Rimbo again — and will soon become Bishop Rimbo II (so to speak).

Rimbo will face a lot of challenges. I asked him about many of them, and I’ll include his answers in my article.

I can tell you that many of his answers had to do with discerning God’s role in ELCA congregations and ministries and then moving from there. He wants to improve Christian formation for pastors, lay leaders, families, everyone, before addressing the more parochial concerns, however serious, facing the synod.

“We are supposed to be teaching the Gospel of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead,” he said.

He also needs to buy a car. The synod is awfully large…

The impact of yoga on…race

I got an interesting flyer for a yoga program this September at the popular Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

The program is called Roots, Rhythm & Soul: A Yoga Gathering for Black People.

abigail_36.jpgThe flyer promises: “Join some of today’s leading black yoga teachers to explore the impact of yoga on health, race, and the politics of being black in America. Relax and rejuvenate on our 195-acre idyllic campus while reconnecting with your roots, rhythm, and soul.”

Among the teachers is Maya Breuer, the 2006 recipient of the Trailblazer Award from the International Association of Black Yoga Teachers, and Abigail “Ifatola” Jefferson (that’s her), the creator of Roots Yoga: African-inspired Movement.

Religious groups quiet on ‘Grand Theft Auto’

Religious groups, of course, protest just about anything.

Every day, I sign on to my email and get at least a few emails of complaint.

So it surprises me that there has been little — any? — religious outrage over Grand Theft Auto. Lot of groups have protested against the incredibly violent video game — police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and prostitutes among them (the game allows interaction between prostitutes and clients and alludes to the rape of prostitutes).

0602755600.jpgTo be clear, I’ve never played the game (or seen it). But based on what I’ve read about its contents, I’m simply surprised that the religion world hasn’t taken notice. Religious groups complain about a lot less. And GTA, you would think, would be a target that liberals and conservatives could agree upon.

It’s worth noting for those disconnected from the video game world that Grand Theft Auto is not some fringe game. It is incredibly popular. GTA 4 wracked up $500 million in sales during its first week this month. By comparison, the Iron-Man movie took in $100 million during its first weekend.

There must be some religious protests out there. But where?

Albanian-American parish celebrates ‘independence’

The only Albanian-American Catholic Church around, Our Lady of Shkodra Albanian Parish in Hartsdale, is celebrating the “newly independent nation of Kosovo,” a very controversial concept, of course, in the Balkans.

images2.jpegThe church is also organizing a dinner on Sunday to raise funds for a planned Mother Teresa Cathedral to be built in Prishtina, Kosovo. Mother Teresa was Albanian.

These are heady times for Albanians.

The dinner is being held at 6 p.m. at the Westchester County Center. Tickets are $150 a person.

According to a statement from organizers:

Residents of Kosovo, regardless of faith or ethnicity, are viewing the Cathedral as a major step forward for the new country, as it looks to rebuild itself after decades of
communist misrule followed by ethnic wars. The Cathedral is a symbol of hope and peace, and as such is receiving support — moral, spiritual, and financial — not only from Christians but from Muslims and Jews alike. In addition to its religious importance, the Cathedral is being viewed as a cultural triumph for the Kosovars, who are eager to show Kosovo’s potential to the world community.

Father Dunne arraigned today

The Westchester County DA’s office just put out this press release about the Rev. Patrick Dunne, former longtime pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in White Plains:

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced that Patrick Dunne (DOB 08/18/44) of 920 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, New York was arraigned today on one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class “C” Felony.

Over a six year period from January 1st, 2002 to December 30th, 2007, the defendant, who since 1991 was the parish priest for Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in White Plains, stole several hundred thousand dollars from various parish accounts.

Father Dunne diverted monies that were donated by parishioners for several collection campaigns including: the church building fund, a collection for Hurricane Katrina victims, and the weekly offertory received by the church for general church operations.

He used the stolen money for his personal expenses and recreation without the permission or authority to do so.

During the six year period, the defendant wrote and endorsed checks to himself and to “cash”, failed to provide an accurate accounting to church officials and deliberately concealed the books and records relating to the parish development account.

Dunne was released on his own recognizance.

His next court date will be on June 27th, 2008.

He faces a maximum of fifteen years in state prison.

Assistant District Attorney Nicole Gamble, of the Economic Crimes Bureau, will prosecute the case.

The Priest Council speaks

The Archdiocese of New York just released this statement from its Priest Council, which met yesterday at St. Joseph’s Seminary:

“The Archbishop of New York, as Shepherd of this local Church, serves the needs of the people of the Archdiocese of New York. In that capacity, the Archbishop assigns priests based on the pastoral needs of the people of this Archdiocese, as well as the needs of the parishes and other institutions. We, the Priest Council of the Archdiocese, recognize our Archbishop’s authority to assign priests and support him as he faces unfair and anonymous attacks in the media. We have full confidence in Cardinal Egan’s leadership as he continues to serve with distinction the people who have been entrusted to his spiritual care.”

Lots of questions, no answers

Just got back from visiting with the Rye Brook Seniors, talking about my book.

As I told them, it is a good time to talk about my book — which is never a good thing.

There are 78,000 dead in Myanmar and 56,000 missing.

Another 51, 000 are dead in China.

And, yes, we did lose 20 people recently to tornadoes in this country.

3f4f4a2d056f48e0bd59f256690339811.jpgPut the totals together, counting the missing, and you’re starting to approach tsunami-level tragedy.

I started my talk, as I often do, by saying that I will have no answer. Can God intervene? Where was God in the tsunami, in the earthquake, in the cyclone? No answers.

But after I summarized what I found, explaining how religion after religion understands “acts of God,” one person said to me: “You may not have answers. But you helped us ask better questions. And those questions can lead to understanding.”

I’ll take that.

The photo, of a boy displaced by the cyclone in Myanmar, is by the AP’s Stan Honda.

Updating the ‘OU’ for the OU

The Orthodox Union has decided to supplement its famous symbol — the letter U inside the letter O — that has been stamped on Kosher foods for about 80 years.

It’s this one:


On the OU letterhead, it looks like this:


Because the Orthodox Union is today involved in many aspects of Orthodox life, beyond certifying Kosher food, the organization has decided to keep stamping the old symbol on food labels, but to adopt a new symbol for the overall group.

The new symbol:


Gerald M. Schreck, chair of the OU Communications and Marketing Commission, said:

The creative process of identifying the proper logo for the OU involved numerous designers and consultants. The final look reflects what the OU is all about — a contemporary organization enhancing Jewish life in practically every sphere.

The church that became a soup kitchen

It’s too bad that the website of the New Yorker doesn’t allow free access to Ian Frazier’s article this week about the soup kitchen at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan.

It’s a great story. Pick it up at a newsstand or find it at a library.

That church has run the soup kitchen for more than 25 years and has, over time, really become a soup kitchen. After a major fire in 1990, the church was built without pews. On weekdays, hungry people eat right inside the church. On Sunday, parishioners (it’s an Episcopal church) take out folding chairs.

The church serves about 1,200 meals a day.

view2.jpgThe article, though, is really about a writing workshop that Frazier started at the church 14 years ago. He gives leaflets to people who show up to eat — the poor and dispossessed, obviously — and some of them come to his workshop.

They write and they read out loud what they’ve written. Now and then, Frazier publishes the best of it.

It’s simply an amazing story, written in such an understated way that it seems to unfold right before your eyes.

Here’s a few lines:

When they saw my sign, they stopped to talk, their lunch having put them in a narrative mood. Almost everybody who talked to me said they had some amazing stories to tell if they could only write them down. Many said that if their lives were made into books the books would be best-sellers. Some few had written books about their lives already, and they produced the manuscripts from among their belongings to show me. If you take any twelve hundred New Yorkers, naturally you’ll find a certain number of good musicians, skilled carpenters, gifted athletes, and so on; you’ll also come up with a small percentage who can really write. Lots of people I talked to said they were interested in the workshop; a much smaller number actually showed up. Some attended only one session, some came back year after year. In all, over fourteen years, maybe four hundred soup-kitchen guests have participated.

You can listen to Frazier talk about his article (and the writers group) on the New Yorker website HERE.

And, boy, while I’m at it…

This issue of the New Yorker also has tremendous profile by David Remnick of Phil Schaap, a truly fanatical jazz fanatic (repetitive, I know, but it works in this case) who hosts a daily morning show dedicated to Charlie Parker on the Columbia U radio station. It has nothing to do with religion, although jazz is religion to Schaap (and others).

It’s a great piece that you can read on the website HERE.

Calls, emails still coming in…

I’ve been overwhelmed with emails and phone calls from people who are unhappy — to say the least — about Cardinal Egan’s reshuffling of priests.

The emails/calls, I should make clear, have been unanimously opposed to the moves (although I did find one blogger who thinks that anonymously critical priests and the media who quote them are scapegoating Egan).

Much of the feedback I have received has been in support of Father Stephen Norton, the extremely popular president of Kennedy Catholic H.S. in Somers who is to be transferred to a parish in Hopewell Junction. Let’s just say: No one wants him to go, and they can’t understand why he has to go.

Norton has also gotten a lot of props for being the only priest (I believe) to address what’s happening on-the-record. He told me, basically, that he understood why people have questions, but that he’ll do whatever his archbishop asks and that there is no way he can see an assignment to pastor a parish as a bad thing.

Well, the Priest Personnel Board is supposed to meet today at 11 a.m. They had requested a meeting with Egan. We’ll see what happens.

The larger Priests Council is supposed to meet at 2 p.m. today at St. Joseph’s Seminary. Ditto.

I have to end my workday early today for two good reasons — to attend my wife’s graduation and to take my son to the Yankees game (yes, it will be freezing, but the tickets were expensive — too expensive!). So I don’t know when I’ll get to write about today’s events.

One point I do want to address now: A statement released by the archdiocese on the priest reassignments includes this:

According to Father Thomas Devery, Director of Priest Personnel, 75% of those appointments were based on the recommendations of the Priest Personnel Board, and the other 25% were made directly by the Cardinal in response to particular pastoral needs. It has always been the prerogative of the Archbishops of New York to make priestly assignments apart from the personnel board. This policy was recognized and affirmed in the 2006 guidelines for the Priest Personnel Board, approved by the Archdiocesan priest council.

What I’ve been told by priests close to the situation is that the Personnel Board had minimal input on any of the reassignments. This is coming from several sources who should know.