Highlights for October

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‘Darkening Age’ explores a missing history

Review by Shelley Crook

Are you sitting comfortably? I’m going to tell you a story. You’ve heard it before. It’s a narrative that most of us grew up with, and if we haven’t thought about it too deeply, it’s quite likely the narrative we unquestioningly accept.

Once upon a time, Christians were horribly persecuted by the evil Romans. Usually fated to a grisly end in an arena full of hungry lions — except when they were torn apart by dogs or set on fire instead — the early Jesus-followers were stoic and brave in death. In life they typified godliness, peace and every other positive attribute, in contrast to the sexed-up, gluttonous and violent Romans. So it was no wonder the pagans signed up for Jesus in droves. Skip forward a century or several and Christianity, now a huge movement, manages to topple the evil Roman Empire through the sheer power of the love of Christ. The End.

And the rest is history, right? But what about the rest of history? While it’s obvious, on reflection, that the accepted narrative of the early Christian period is a gross simplification, what isn’t obvious is the nature and depth of what’s missing. “The Darkening Age” is a book that fills in the gaps. In doing so, it challenges the foundation myths of our faith.

I want the whole story:

Perfect Paws Pet Ministry therapy dogs pose with their owners in Danvers, Mass. Photo/Fran Weil
Therapy dogs are soothing ambassadors for Massachusetts church’s pet ministry

By David Paulsen
Episcopal News Service

Paxton may not understand the full significance of his calling, but the 10-year-old Westie is one of All Saints Episcopal Church’s most dedicated ministers serving as Jesus’ paws in the world.

As a therapy dog dispatched by Perfect Paws Pet Ministry at All Saints in Danvers, Mass., Paxton and his human, Fran Weil, have brought the soothing presence of a canine companion to students of all ages, nursing home residents, hospital patients and recovering addicts in drug-rehabilitation centers. Weil says she always is amazed by the sense of calm that can be conveyed from simply patting her dog’s head.

“As terrific as the response is to our dogs wherever we go, it’s so rewarding for us,” Weil said. “It is really God’s work, and we are so blessed to use one of God’s creatures to do this amazing outreach.”

I want the whole story:

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