Category Archives: CT@Prayer with Tracy Simmons

What would Jesus do this Advent season?

By Tracy Simmons
I didn’t learn about Advent until I became a religion reporter. At first, to me, Advent meant that Christmas was coming and my job was about to become very, very busy.  Over the years though, I’ve come to recognize it as a significant part of the religion calendar; and as a significant reminder in my own faith journey.

This morning I went to church at Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Pullman, Wash. and the rector, Rev. Kristine Zakarison, delivered a memorable sermon, one that I needed to hear.

Advent is the first day of the new year of the liturgical year. And who doesn’t like a new year, or a new anything for that matter? Fresh starts are nice. But this holy day isn’t just about new beginnings.  It’s about preparing for the birth of Jesus.

Yes, you read right. Advent is about preparing for the birth of someone who came to this earth almost 2,000 years ago. Hmm, so how do we prepare for something that’s already happened?

I’ll be honest, it was Zakarison’s children’s sermon that got me thinking about this.  Sometimes the most simple messages are the ones that get your wheels cranking. Thankfully, the pastor expanded on this during the adult sermon.

“What was Jesus like?,” she asked.

He was kind (to EVERYONE), he took care of the sick, befriended the outcasts and fought for justice. He was the 99 percent! OK, I added that last part, but it’s true. Zakarison said Advent is a call to be outraged that the gap between the world’s poor and the world’s rich, is growing wider and wider. It’s a call to stand up for all mankind – regardless of age, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. That’s what Jesus would do, and that’s how we can welcome him this Christmas.

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Creedible’s sister site in Washington

I’ve been working as hard as I can in Spokane trying to make my new site as successful as Creedible’s been. Thank you all for continuing to support Creedible while it’s in this transition. I promise the re-designed site will knock your socks off when it launches next year. (We’re looking for an editor still, by the way).

I wanted to show you what I’ve been up to in Washington, as it’s what you can expect with the new Creedible. The Spokane site, which for now we’re calling Religion News Spokane, launches in January. So for now we have a blog up (like this) that’s serving as our Construction Diary. Here we’re introducing our bloggers, giving site updates, posting local news items, etc. Check it out here (please and thank you)!

We’re also on Facebook here, and Twitter here, and Foursquare here. I hope you’ll follow us or “like” us on these sites. Even though I’m across the country now, I think what we’re writing about in Spokane could be of interest to Connecticut folks as well! I miss your comments and feedback.

You can also support this project (more info on the project here) by checking out our Wilmington site!

– Tracy

CT@Prayer: Some Changes

If you visit Creedible regularly, then you’ve probably noticed that the site’s a bit different than it was four months ago.  That’s because the site’s in a transitional phase right now.

In August I was hired by Religion News LLC to launch Religion News Spokane, a site similar to Creedible. So, I live in Spokane now and am trying to do exactly what I did with Creedible – make it a dependable online source for religion news in this area. That means I’m not in Connecticut to cover all the religious happenings there. But Creedible is still live, and its wonderful bloggers have taken it over while we wait for the site to be redesigned and while we search for a new editor. Soon Creedible will be part of Religion News LLC and will be far better than it’s ever been.

So, on that note, I won’t be continuing my CT@Prayer on a regular basis anymore. However, I will post on occasion to point you to significant things that may be going on.

I’ve enjoyed the digital conversations we’ve had,

Tracy

CT@Prayer: Americans don’t know Romney is Mormon

I thought it was common knowledge that Mitt Romney was a Mormon. The media’s been all over it. He’s put Mormonism in the spotlight, just like Sarah Palin put Evangelicals in the spotlight in the last presidential election.

However, according to a recently survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only 42 percent of Americans can correctly identify Mitt Romney’s religion as Mormon. That means four in 10 Americans can’t.

I shouldn’t be surprised at this news, since almost 20 percent of Americans still think our president is Muslim.

Surprised or not, though, one can’t help but wonder what this says about our society. Is it a reflection of our ignorance? Or perhaps it shows our lack of interest? Laziness? All of the above?

I’m curious, readers, what are your thoughts are on this?

Tracy Simmons is the founder of Creedible.com, which is an online magazine that covers religion news in Connecticut. 

CT@Prayer: Clergy to march with Occupy protestors

Wikimedia Photo

At first I wasn’t so sure about this whole Occupy movement.

The TV snippets I saw made it seem like a bunch of hippies camping out and waving protest signs because they could. But then I took a closer look.

Sure, there are hippies participating. But so are young moms, students, middle-class workers, grandparents, republicans, democrats, clergy and the list goes on and on.

It’s amazing really.

People from across 900 different cities worldwide are finally saying “enough.” They’re camping in parks, waving signs and marching in the name of justice. In a non-violent way the world is coming together, protesting social and economic inequality, corporate greed, the power and influence of corporations, and the financial service sector.

According to Adbusters, which inspired the movement, the goal of the protests is to “ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.” But protestors across the U.S are saying it’s about more than that, it’s about coming together as a community and finding ways to set aside differences and relate to one another.

I, for one, can get behind that. And I’m proud of our religious leaders for getting behind it as well. Sure, I’d love to hear a statement from some of the big dogs, like Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, or Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, for instance. But on the local level pastors are making their voices known and are showing that they stand with the 99 percent. Heck, clergy are part of the 99 percent. Trust me, most don’t make a whole lot.

On Monday at 10:30 a.m., clergy from all across the map are joining the protestors. They’re going to march along side them, in their vestments, to show that they too have had “enough.” And to show the protestors that they aren’t in it alone, that the church is ready to have a voice again and be relevant in making change happen. You can find more on the Facebook event page here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=161988007225292

According to the Facebook page, “Many of us have been moved by the moral voices calling for corporate and political accountability being lifted up by the various Occupy demonstrators across the country. Many of us have already taken time to visit these sites to express support and solidarity.  On Oct. 24, religious leaders are beginning to plan a time to do so, together.”

This is an opportunity for religious leaders to be leaders, to be a voice and an example and it’s a chance for the church and the un-churched to walk side-by-side for a cause.

And hopefully, it will inspire conversations about ethical investing.

In Hartford, religious leaders are planning meet at Asylum Hill Congregational Church at 10 a.m. to march to the Occupy site. If your community is planning something, post it in the comments below.

Tracy Simmons is editor of Creedible.com, which is an online magazine that covers religion news in Connecticut. Her column on CtWatchdog, CT@Prayer, covers the consumer aspect of religion in Connecticut, reporting on the good deeds being done at different houses of worship, where they are falling down, and she will be looking into complaints from members of congregations. Please contact her at <a href="mailto: <!– var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addy84819 = 'tsimmons' + '@'; addy84819 = addy84819 + 'creedible' + '.' + 'com'; document.write( '%E2%80%98 ); document.write( addy84819 ); document.write( %E2%80%98%E2%80%98 ); //%E2%80%93>n <!– document.write( '‘ ); //–> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it <!– document.write( '’ ); //–> “> tsimmons@creedible.com if you have story ideas.

CT@Prayer: Seminary Builds Muslim Leaders

By Tracy Simmons

Kudos to Hartford Seminary for once again being a leader in interfaith scholarship.

The institution announced this week that it’s launching a Graduate Certificate in Imam and Muslim Community Leadership. This is the first program of its kind offered specifically to imams and other Muslim leaders in the U.S. Christian clergy and lay leaders have constant opportunities to enhance their education, but until now U.S. Muslim leaders haven’t had an academic setting to further their leadership skills.

According to a press release, by the end of the program, students will be “better prepared to encounter the theological, pastoral and organizational challenges of providing excellent religious leadership to the growing Muslim community in the U.S.” And, according to the Washington Post, most American mosques are led by imams from overseas who aren’t fluent in English. They speak Arabic and have memorized the Koran — the sole requirements of imams in most Muslim-majority countries. So, to have a theological setting where imams can go and learn more about American culture is crucial.

“It is vitally important to prepare religious leaders to lead their faith communities in the American context. Hartford Seminary is a key player in this effort, through our various interfaith initiatives and now through this certificate in community leadership,” President Heidi Hadsell  said.  ”For more than 100 years we have offered education in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. In the last decade we have launched Islamic Chaplaincy and Building Abrahamic Partnerships programs. Now we are meeting the educational needs of imams and Muslim community leaders in the United States.”

I think this program is genius and I’m not at all surprised that our very own Hartford Seminary is behind it. The certificate is offered in cooperation with the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, VA.

Further information on the program is available athttp://www.hartsem.edu/ or by writing to admissions@hartsem.edu.