No, I wasn’t there, but you can watch Joel Osteen at the Stadium

Ugh. People keep asking me if I went to Yankee Stadium last Saturday to see Joel Osteen.

I interviewed him beforehand and wrote a preview of the big night, after all.

But I couldn’t go. Just too much going on that weekend.

Truth is, if I had known what kind of reaction I would get to the preview (a lot), I would have done whatever it took to get to the stadium.

Boy, people LOVE this guy.

I can tell you this: You can see much of the Yankee Stadium gig on YouTube right here.

And here is the beginning of Joel’s sermon:

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Mass by radio in Mexico

Is anyone talking about anything other than the Swine Flu?

Things sound pretty scary in Mexico, including this from the AP:


The local Roman Catholic Church recommended that priests shorten Mass; place communion wafers in worshippers’ hands, instead of their mouths; and ask parishioners to avoid kissing or shaking hands during the rite of peace. The Archdiocese also said Catholics could fulfill their Mass obligation by radio.


In the Archdiocese of NY, an annual “flu letter” has been sent to clergy, reminding them that if they distribute Holy Communion under both “species” (body and blood), Communion wine should not be given to those who are ill.

Watch out for random acts of kindness

I mentioned recently that the United Methodist Church is starting a new national ministry called RETHINK CHURCH,  which begins Wednesday, May 6 with a major advertising campaign.

As the denomination explains it: “RETHINK CHURCH seeks to redefine the church experience beyond the church doors and invite people to become engaged in the world. The campaign aims to spark a global conversation around the rhetorical question, “What if church were a verb?””

They say the idea is to inspire church members AND the unchurched to become more engaged in their communities and the world.

Here in the New York Conference of the UMC, the campaign will begin on Wednesday with YouTube, iPod and other digital media aimed at people 18-36. RETHINK CHURCH ads will also appear in subways, train stations and on taxis.

And then there is this: 200 volunteers will spread out across Manhattan and perform random acts of kindness.

How will New Yorkers respond to random acts of kindness? I hope to find out.

Oh, those Jewish divisions

The different movements within Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist — can be at odds on so many things.

I sometimes wonder if the divisions may, at some point, overwhelm what holds the Jewish world together.

The Westchester chapter of the American Jewish Committee apparently wonders the same thing. It will present a program — “Does our unity still outweigh our divisions?” — tomorrow (April 30) at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains.

The 7:30 p.m. program is open to the public, but space is limited. To attend, call 914-948-5585 or email

The panelists representing the four teams:

In the Reconstructionist corner, Rabbi Lester Bronstein of Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains.

For the Reform, Kol Ami’s own Rabbi Shira Milgrom.

Batting for the Conservatives, Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman of the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck.

And standing in for the Orthodox, Rabbi David Israel of the Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford.

The referee (moderator) will be Rabbi Noam Marans, the AJC’s associate director of contemporary Jewish life.

Dolan out to change perceptions

Just got back from a one-on-one with Archbishop Dolan.

Truth is, it flew by. The guy is simply engaging. And he likes to get to heart of the matter on most issues.

If he doesn’t want to talk about something, he tells you instead of talking in circles, which I, as a reporter, appreciate.

He had interesting things to say on several issues, which I’ll get to after I transcribe my notes. There will be a full write-up on later today and in the paper tomorrow (ADD: Make that over the next few days).

I’ll say this, in general: Dolan wants to change the perception of Catholicism. He talks about perception quite a lot. He knows, I think, that the church is sometimes seen as an old and tired institution, doing what it’s always done. He wants people to know that Catholicism is alive and kicking and that Catholic practice should be exciting, meaningful and life-changing.

On the lack of vocations to the priesthood, for instance, Dolan said it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more people talk about how overworked all those aging priests are these days, the more reason young Catholic men have to not consider the priesthood. The church, instead, has to promote the meaning and fulfillment of the priestly life.

He does acknowledge that the archdiocese will have to deal with the declining numbers of priests at some point, possibly by assigning some priests to more than one parish. But he’s not throwing in the towel on vocations.

Mark Vergari was there with me to take pictures and record the interview. You can see some of it on the LoHud report at 4:30 p.m. today.

More to come…

Dolan starts tour of his turf

Archbishop Dolan was up in Kingston last night for his first stop around the 10-county archdiocese.

He was there to greet clergy and parishioners from across Ulster County.

What did he tell them? “You are as important to me as Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.”

I’m sure it went over well.

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, St. Joseph’s Church was overflowing.

“It’s tough for an Irish boy to come to Ulster County,” Dolan said.

You can see plenty of photos HERE.

Next stop? Next Tuesday at St. Francis of Assisi in West Nyack, where the new boss will meet folks from across the county of Rockland.

PHOTO: Karl Rabe, Poughkeepsie Journal

Still no gay clergy for PCUSA (at least, officially)

Presbyterian Church (USA)’s offical ban on gay clergy lives on.

The denomination’s regional bodies have voted down a proposed change to church law that would have allowed gays and lesbians to be ordained.

Delegates to a denominational assembly approved the change last year, but a majority of presbyteries — 87 out of 173 — had to support the move.

Presbyteries have been voting for several months. As of Saturday, 88 presbyteries voted against the change, meaning that the closely watched vote is over.

Back in 1996, denominational law was changed to prohibit the ordination of anyone who wasn’t married or chaste. The move was aimed at prohibiting the ordination of gay clergy.

This was the third unsuccessful effort to overturn the law.

The Hudson River Presbytery, which represents 91 congregations in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and four northern counties, voted in favor of rescinding the ban. Delegates in the gay-friendly region voted back in February: 94 yes, 12 no, 1 abstention.

The proposed new amendment looked like this:


“Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate’s sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.”

On the eve of pope’s trip, an interreligious forum at Graymoor

Next Thursday evening (April 30), on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Garrison will host a forum on the always interesting and complicated subject of interreligious relations.

It’s at 7:30 p.m. Open to all.

Every step the pope takes and every word he says will be immediately scrutinized by Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and others. For reasons obvious and not-to-obvious.

Talk about interreligious relations.

The friars are committed to promoting ecumenism and interrreligious understanding, so this is a good opportunity to explore where things stand in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Participants will include:

Father James Gardiner of the friars;

Father Anthony Falsarella of St. Basil Academy in Garrison, a Greek Orthodox residence for children in need;

Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan of the Westchester-based American Muslim Women’s Association;

The Rev. Adolphus Lacey, pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Peekskill and president of the Peekskill Area Pastors Association;

And Rabbi Lee Paskind of First Hebrew Congregation in Peekskill.

The moderator will be me.

For information, call 845-424-2111. Graymoor is located on Route 9, just over the Westchester/Putnam border.

The program will be at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. Follow the signs to the top of the hill. (NOTE: They always have real good cookies.)

By the way, I talked about my life as a religion reporter on Sunday at Maryknoll, and I thought things went quite well.

We had a nice audience for a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon in APRIL.

Everyone at Maryknoll was very nice and accomodating and I got to answer a lot of thoughtful questions. My thanks to everyone who asked them.

Around the world (religions) in 4 hours

Not many people are rushing to Queens today — with the Swine Flu and all — but I just got back from a fast-paced day in Flushing.

I went on my first class trip in some time, tagging along with several “world religion” classes from the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry.

A couple of years ago, I visited the Masters School to write about a Buddhist monk who was creating a mandala, an artwork of sand. One of the teachers told me that “world religions” is a required course at the school and that each class takes a one-day field trip to houses of worship from several traditions.

I thought it would make a good story. And now it is.

Two busloads of students, teachers and parents (plus me) headed out this morning to Flushing, believed to be one of the most diverse places in the world. (When I covered Billy Graham’s last crusade there in 2005, I certainly got the sense that this was true.)

We went to a Russian Orthodox Church (located in a former Lutheran church), a Daoist temple, a mosque and a Hindu temple.

Since this was a one-day crash course (crash trip doesn’t sound right) and the students had to get back to Dobbs for afternoon sports, we could only spend about 45 minutes at each stop. So we got a brief introduction at each house of worship before students got the chance to ask questions.

Then we were on to the next stop.

It was a great, if brief, education for the students, who got to see people who practice the religions they study in class.

I’ll write more about it at some point this week.

The weekend line-up

Today: Archbishop Dolan visited Ground Zero.

As he walked out, he said he felt an “overwhelming sadness at the horror, suffering and pain that the site still carries.”

Tomorrow: Joel Osteen at Yankee Stadium. Will he fill more seats than the Yankees?

Sunday: I’m speaking at Maryknoll at 2:30 p.m. about covering the religion beat.

Monday: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life releases a major study on people who switch faiths.