“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.
“Former Pope Benedict XVI dies at 95” – Emily McGarvey at the BBC: “Former Pope Benedict XVI has died, aged 95, almost a decade after he stood down because of ailing health. He led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years until, in 2013, he became the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415. Benedict spent his final years at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the walls of the Vatican where he passed away at 09:34 (08:34 GMT) on Saturday. His successor Pope Francis will lead the funeral on 5 January. The Vatican said the body of the Pope Emeritus will be placed in St Peter’s Basilica from 2 January for ‘the greeting of the faithful.’ Bells rang out from Munich cathedral and a single bell was heard ringing from St Peter’s Square in Rome after the former pope’s death was announced. The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said Pope Benedict was ‘one of the great theologians of the 20th century.’ In a statement he said: ‘I remember with particular affection the remarkable Papal Visit to these lands in 2010. We saw his courtesy, his gentleness, the perceptiveness of his mind and the openness of his welcome to everybody that he met.'”
“Real Christmas” – Kenneth Tanner at Medium: “I have come to appreciate when the retail-driven Christmas draws to a close and the more ancient celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas begins. Our cultural routines are lately predictable: on December 26 the easy listening channels stop broadcasting 24-hour Christmas music, Valentine candy replaces Christmas candy in the grocery and drugstores, and folks post pictures of their packed-up ornaments and tossed-out trees on social media and everyone — including a lot of Christians — simply ‘move on,’ as we say. You say ‘Merry Christmas’ on December 27 or January 3 and for some folks it just does not compute. I get it. And I do not wish to judge this way of keeping Christmas. Below the tinsel and lights and shopping malls and parades, there is a genuine longing to connect to the deep hope offered by the real Christmas. And this anonymous desire for Christ, these pursuits of joy in disquise, indicate that many still understand that something authentic needs to be celebrated even if they cannot name the hope and peace and love they long for, and Christians need to rejoice that this is so. But when the rest of the world — and too many of my brothers and sisters in Christ — moves on, when the hustle and bustle of pre-Christmas frenzy comes to that abrupt close on December 26, then the church can get down to the authentic work of worship, of communion, of contemplating the unfathomable mystery that God has become human so that humanity might participate in the divine life.”
“A Poet for ‘Bruised Evangelicals'” – Kara Bettis in Christianity Today: “On a cool, drizzly summer day in Vancouver, a few Regent College students trailed after their visiting lecturer into a standard American-fare restaurant. But their 65-year-old professor’s tweed jacket, his shoulder-length white hair and full beard, the tap of his black cane, and the sweet, lingering scent of his pipe tobacco seemed to transport them to a smoky British pub where they were slowly imbibing Guinness and dialoguing about theology and literature. Malcolm Guite tends to create such worlds. Much like the sonnets he writes, he lives wholly in this world yet transports those around him to an ethereal one.’ The teacher in me, the poet in me, the priest in me who’s administering the liturgy, the pastoral counselor in me, it all turns around words,’ Guite told me. His calling, he feels, is ‘to kindle my own and other people’s imagination for Christ.’ Guite is an anomaly that somehow makes sense: He’s an Anglican priest, poet, academic, and singer-songwriter. He enjoys smoking a pipe and rides his Royal Enfield café racer through the English countryside. He meanders on lengthy daily prayer walks and sings and plays guitar in a blues band called Mystery Train.”
“Some of the most magnificent frescoes can be found in the ‘Paris of the Balkans'” – Ben O’Donnell at National Geographic: “Deep in southeastern Albania, a tiny hamlet holds five churches that have one of the most magnificent concentrations of Orthodox Christian fresco art in the world. From the outside, the churches in Voskopojë resemble stone barns, a reflection of their 18th-century heritage as Christian gathering places in the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Inside, however, they reveal painted masterworks of brilliant blues, reds, and yellows that come to life in themes both awesome (Christ the Almighty, or Pantocrator) and eccentric (St. Nicholas outsmarts the goddess Artemis). ‘For us, it’s like the Louvre,’ says Albania’s Minister of Culture, Elva Margariti. There are no other sites in Albania or in the world quite like the Voskopojë churches and their 43,000 square feet of frescoes. The government designated them Cultural Monuments and, in 2020, it recognized the village center where most of them are located as a Historic Ensemble. Perhaps more importantly, the frescoes are a striking East-meets-West artifact of a multicultural, multireligious Albanian identity many feared would be extinguished under the former Communist regime.”
“Congress’ new class has much higher percentage of Christians than American public” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service: “The religious makeup of the new Congress bucks the trends seen in American religious life, a new report finds. The Pew Research Center says the Senate and House members are ‘largely untouched’ by the continuing decrease in the portion of Americans who identify as Christian and the comparable increase in the share of those who say they do not have a religious affiliation. Christians comprise 88% of the voting members of the 118th Congress who are expected to be sworn in this week (week of Jan. 3), a number that has not changed much since the 1970s, when 91% of members said they were affiliated with that faith. The American population, on the other hand, has seen a drop in those identifying as Christians, from 78% in 2007 to 63% currently. Close to 3 in 10 Americans (29%) say they are religiously unaffiliated — atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ — a far larger portion than 16% in 2007. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona, remains the only member of the new Congress who uses the description of religiously unaffiliated. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., described himself as humanist. Huffman also said he was ‘the token humanist in Congress’ when he spoke via videotaped remarks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s annual convention in October.”
“Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry” – Marg Mowczko at her blog: “Some Christians think that only people who have a ‘loose approach to scripture,’ or who reject its authority, can believe that women should be leaders and teachers in the church. I doubt any evangelical Christian would regard these scholars and theologians as having a loose approach to scripture, yet each of them believes that appropriately gifted women can and should be leaders and teachers in the church. Here is a sample of various statements made by these prominent scholars some of whom are now deceased.*” The list goes on to look at eight widely revered scholars, including: F. F. Bruce, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, I. Howard Marshall, Leon Morris, John Stott, Ben Witherington III and N. T. Wright.