The City, the Church, and the Future

City to City Europe held a  conference in Paris in October with over 500 in attendance from dozens of countries. Besides me, one of the other speakers was Professor Grace Davie, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Exeter in Great Britain. Professor Davie’s lecture on “Religion in Modern Europe” was a great encouragement to European Christian leaders who are incessantly told that religion on their continent is dying out and that a Christian mission there is a hopeless cause. I think it also should be encouraging to us here in New York City. 

Acting, Improv and Public Faith

On February 16 the Downtown Congregation sponsored an afternoon performance by the Improvised Shakespeare Company. The company takes a title or theme from the audience and then improvises a full Shakespearean play, complete with couplets, iambic pentameter, and the use of Shakespearean plot-lines. When asked for a title someone in the audience called out “Cat food for Breakfast.” The company proceeded to improvise a multi-act play based on that unifying theme, bringing it to a satisfying and hilarious conclusion. Most of the people in the audience I talked to afterwards said they couldn’t remember the last time they laughed so long and hard. 

Saint Augustine on Prayer

Anicia Faltonia Proba (died  AD 432) was a Christian Roman noblewoman. She had the distinction of knowing both St. Augustine, who was the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Christian history, as well as John Chrysostom, who was its greatest preacher. We have two letters of Augustine to Proba, and the first (Letter 130) is the only single, substantial treatment on the subject of prayer that St. Augustine ever wrote. 

Pascal’s Method for Presenting the Christian Faith

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.
Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th century French mathematician and physicist who had a dramatic Christian conversion experience and thereafter devoted much of his thought to Christianity and philosophy. He began to assemble notes and fragments that he hoped would be woven into a book called “The Defense of the Christian Religion” but he died just two months after his 39th birthday and it was never written. Those fragments, however, were published as Pensees (“thoughts”) and it has become one of the most famous Christian books in history.