A sad ending

So I had an article yesterday about the theological questions that inevitably come up when a natural disaster — an “act of God” — causes mind-bending destruction.

tjndc5-5sqlrcib5wx1d1bv2orn_layoutI quoted the Rev. Suzanne Rabb of Hawthorne, a United Methodist minister, whose husband, a Methodist missionary, had just been pulled from the rubble in Haiti after 55 hours of being trapped. I didn’t actually speak to Rabb, but my colleague Dwight Worley did and he shared some of her thoughts with me.

She said: “I believe that God is a loving presence, that God is a creator, not a destroyer. What we always need to remember is that even in the depths of despair and rubble, that God is there. God’s presence never leaves. It’s just that things happen.”

And if her husband had perished?

“I would know that there is a presence of God that will sustain me and that Clint is sustained, too, whatever happened to his soul,” she said.

022_100047_234The United Methodist News Service also wrote about Rabb’s amazing survival.

My article ran in Sunday’s Journal News. Little did I know that Clinton Rabb died from his injuries on Sunday morning at a Florida hospital.

His wife and several of his children were with him.

His stepson Daniel Payne told my colleague Aman Ali: “He had a respirator and he could not speak because his body was paralyzed with sedation medicine. My mom said to him, ‘Clinton, we’re all here and we love you.’ He was able to open his eyes bigger and acknowledge her. As she talked to him, he had tears in his eyes, and she knew he was crying.”

All around the world, people who heard about Clinton Rabb’s ordeal are thinking about him and praying for him today.

Yankee hot dogs for those who can’t afford a ticket

Ever wonder what the Yankees — or any sports team — does with their left over concession-stand food?

Since I’m spending a few weeks contributing features for our Yankees coverage, I wanted to mention a really nice story from the United Methodist News Service about a church in the Bronx that is helping the Yankees distribute all those uneaten hot dogs to Bronx people who need it.

Woodycrest United Methodist Church was built in 1913, a decade before the old Yankee Stadium, and seats only about 180 worshippers. But now the church is part of the Yankees’ team.

The UMNS’ Linda Bloom writes:

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If there was a temptation to join critics who see the new stadium as a temple of excess that displaced local parkland, Woodycrest leaders have chosen instead to be thankful for the team’s outreach to the community.

400_090818_234On select days after home games, the congregation sets up tables outside the church to distribute the abundant leftovers from concession stands, usually right around the dinner hour.

(Church member Kenny) Wood, who assists with the distribution, is glad to see the Yankees giving back to their own neighborhood. “It shows they do care,” he says.

The partnership is facilitated by Rock and Wrap it Up, an organization started in 1990 by Syd Mandelbaum, who asked rock bands to donate leftover prepared food from concerts to local charities. The concept has since spread to 31 sports teams, including eight in the New York metropolitan area.

The pastor has nothing but praise for its organizers and the generosity of the sports teams. “We’ve had many more pickups than were scheduled because we’re so close (to Yankee Stadium),” she adds.

Being able to share this food has helped the church fulfill the commandment of Jesus to “feed my sheep,” a scriptural message that Pickett takes “very seriously,” according to Hailey.

A Yankees fan back in the late 1970s when Reggie Jackson was playing, she considers the food the team donates after home games to be “a blessing.” Up to 80 people have been served at a time. One woman tearfully told Hailey that she hadn’t been sure how she was going to feed her family that day “but you have given me my dinner.”

People who can’t afford tickets to the game still get excited about a hot dog or hamburger in a container bearing the Yankee logo, Hailey reports. “It’s been very, very rewarding. I have to respect the Yankees for that.”

Photo: Reed Galin/United Methodist News Service

Army chaplains training to prevent soldier suicide

Army chaplains are on the front lines of preventing suicide in the military.

A solid feature from the United Methodist News Service explains that the Army has tried this year to improve its suicide-prevention efforts. And yet, there have been 88 reported active-duty suicides in the Army since January.

Chaplains receive specialized training and are “gatekeepers for the prevention programs,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Weichl, behavioral health program manager at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

“Many, many folks come and talk to us,” Weichl, a United Methodist chaplain, tells the UMNS. “We are not judgmental, and many who have had serious difficulties just need someone to talk to. We try to discern, to triage who needs to see someone with special training and skills.”

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carleton Birch of the Office of the Chief of Chaplains said that many soldiers, like civilians, are reluctant to seek help. Chaplains are now trained to refer soliders to a host of specialists, he said.

“I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with soldiers with suicidal thoughts and feelings,” Birch says. “Not a single one has said ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ to professional help at the end of our sessions.”

The meaning of the Public Apology

The Public Apology has become a defining event of our culture.

Entertainers, athletes, politicians, preachers, you name it — they do wrong, they get caught and they stand in front of a bank of microphones to apologize.

Then they’re graded by the media. “Contrition? A 7.”

The United Methodist News Service asked several ethicists to consider the “authenticity” of public apologies, a fine idea.

Bishop Kenneth Carder, professor of the practice of Christian ministry at United Methodist-related Duke Divinity School, blamed the superficiality of many such apologies on…the church.

“…when we, as a church, no long practice confession, forgiveness and accountability, we should not be surprised if the broader culture substitutes for genuine confession a political spin or superficial healing of wounds,” he said.

The Rev. Katie Cannon (that’s her), professor of Christian social ethics at Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, Va., said that there is a growing public skepticism about celebrity apologies: “The apologies we hear today are mea culpa. Repentance means being willing to make restitution or reparation and a sacrifice has to be offered and some good faith act needs to follow so that it is not cheap or an action that has no substance behind it.”

The Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, a Christian ethicist and pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church, Omaha, Neb., said that a meaningful apology has to acknowledge that trust has been violated.

“If they (apologies) are very vague in general, it conveys something less than a grasp of why it matters,” he said.