Thursday, February 23, 2006

Chicago Catholic Church Plans Revivals & Evangelism

By Margaret Ramirez, Tribune religion reporter
February 15, 2006

To some, the assignment may have seemed impossible. But Rev. Bob Barron chose to accept it.

His mission: help revitalize the nation's third largest Roman Catholic archdiocese as it struggles with lower Sunday mass attendance, new allegations of sexual abuse by priests and piercing questions about faith. The straight-talking boss in the red skullcap offered Barron just one weapon: the power of the Gospels.

So began an ambitious effort by Cardinal Francis George focused on inspiring devout believers and drawing inactive Catholics back to the church.

The resulting project, called Mission Chicago 2006, is a yearlong series of masses, prayer novenas, discussions and other events that kicks off Thursday with the three-day Catholic Festival of Faith in Rosemont. It is being touted as one of the largest concerted evangelization efforts among Catholics in recent memory.

To lead this revival, the cardinal tapped Barron, a popular theology professor from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein who often mixes religious lessons of life with his love of classic rock.

As part of Mission Chicago 2006, Barron will lead six revival talks or "special missions" at parishes across the archdiocese beginning Feb. 23 and culminating on Palm Sunday, April 9. In those talks, Barron said, he'll be using a Billy Graham-type approach for Catholics, asking them to consider what's missing in their lives, why they are unhappy and why turning to Christ is the answer.

Barron is also spearheading another unique event next month called "24 Hours of Grace," where five parishes will stay open all night to offer round-the-clock confession. Participating priests will wear purple stoles blessed by Pope Benedict XVI.

With new allegations of child sexual abuse against Chicago priest Rev. Dan McCormack emerging in recent weeks, there is undoubtedly some concern about their possible effect on the evangelization effort. Yet, for Barron, the crisis makes it even more important and relevant to remind Catholics about the essence of their faith.

Business of evangelizing

"My take has been throughout this thing, even before the more recent allegations came forward, that the church has to be about its business," said Barron. "The business of the church is proclaiming the Gospel. The business of the church is evangelizing, it's the liturgy, it's the Eucharist. We should be about that business."

"I would hope people still find that attractive and find that compelling," he added. "We're always going to be sinful. There's always sin in the church. But yet we still bring the treasure of the Gospel forward."

Though the campaign had been planned months before the recent abuse allegations were revealed, archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said the events now take on a new significance.

"All the more reason why people will want to attend these masses; all the more reason why people will want to attend these prayers and talks," Dolan said. "It's a time like this that our faith is challenged, and we really need some spiritual guidance to help us through."

Best known for his dynamic preaching style and his broadcasts on the Catholic station Relevant Radio, the 46-year-old Barron may be the right man to help bring Catholics back to their roots.

Despite a heavy-duty academic background--he holds a master's degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Institute Catholique de Paris--he speaks like a regular guy and possesses an ability to translate serious theological scholarship into lessons everyone can understand.

During a recent interview at the cardinal's residence, Barron used a rock classic to make a point about the themes for his upcoming talks.

"Did you catch the Super Bowl?" Barron asked excitedly. "The Rolling Stones seemed to be singing what it's all about, right there. `I can't get no satisfaction.' It's something we're all feeling. It's a deep Augustinian impulse."

Barron said the Stones are a personal favorite, as is Bob Dylan.

"I'm a classic rock kind of guy," he said.

In his sermons, Barron says, his main message is to remind people about the core of Catholic evangelization, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evangelization is most effective, Barron said, when a person is looking to fill a void in his life.

"In some ways, I want to revitalize the old message. In some ways, evangelization is very old business. Paul's form of evangelization was `Jesus is Lord,'" Barron said. "So, your whole life has to belong to Jesus Christ. He's the Lord of your mind, your will, your body, your passions, everything in your public life or private life. He's the Lord of it."

Barron is concerned that contemporary Catholic debates on abortion, homosexuality and sexual teaching have blurred the core message of the church.

"We've become preoccupied with the sexual moral teaching of the church in a way that has become all-pervasive. People believe that's what it means to be a Catholic," he said.

"I think the sexual teaching of the church is very important. But I think you get to it, you begin ... with the beauty of the New Testament and the beauty of Jesus Christ; then you draw people toward an acceptance of, `yes, that flows from this commitment.' The sexual life that becomes not one of self-preoccupation, but one of self-giving. That's what the church's teaching is all about.

`My life should become a gift'

"It's often construed as finger-wagging, limiting people's pleasure. The whole idea is more to draw people through Jesus Christ to a deep sense of `my life should become a gift.'"

Barron concedes that drawing lapsed Catholics back to the pews will be challenging. But he said he hopes to move them by explaining why being in church is key to calling oneself Catholic.

"You can't be in relation to the Lord without being in relation to his body of the church, which means the sacraments, it means the liturgy, it means the Word, it means the Eucharist, all of that is the way you meet the Lord Jesus.

"It's in the church that we meet Christ."
- - -

•Mission Chicago 2006

Mission Chicago 2006 is a yearlong series of events designed to deepen the faith of Chicago-area Catholics. More information is available at Events this week include:

Catholic Festival of Faith

Thursday through Saturday, Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont. Liturgies, prayers, concerts, art exhibits, speakers and more than 180 workshops. See or call 312-751-8388. Some highlights:

12:45 p.m. Thursday: Opening address by Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller.

11 a.m. Saturday: Conversation about Pope Benedict XVI hosted by Cardinal Francis George.

5:30 p.m. Saturday: George celebrates the closing liturgy.

Special Missions of Rev. Bob Barron

Six talks asking Catholics to consider what is missing in their lives and why conversion to Christ is necessary.

"What's Missing in My Life?" 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23, St. John of the Cross Church, Western Springs.

"The Drama of Conversion," 7 p.m. March 1, St. John De La Salle Church, Chicago.

"Christ, the Center of Your Life," 7:30 p.m. March 9, St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church, Chicago.

"The Church and the Eucharist," 7:30 p.m. March 15, Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago.

"The Power of the Cross," 7:30 p.m. March 22, St. James Church, Arlington Heights.

"Your Life Is Not About You," 7:30 p.m. April 9, Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago.

24 Hours of Grace

Confessions will be heard from 9 a.m. March 3 through 9 a.m. March 4 at St. Mary, Lake Forest; St. Monica, Chicago; Holy Trinity Polish Mission, Chicago; St. Frances of Rome, Cicero; and St. Catherine of Alexandria, Oak Lawn.
Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Why Are 38 Pastors Uniting for Action?

On Tuesday, February 28, 2006, our Featured Cities’ Conference Call will focus on Coachella Valley, CA.

What would cause 38 pastors from various denominations in an area with a population of just over 200,000 people to commit to walk together on a three year project? That is what has happened in the Coachella Valley area of California (including Palm Springs). These pastors are halfway through a three year commitment to follow the “prayer, care, share” template of corporate ministry. Paul Cedar and another pastor or two will be on the call to give a report of how God has and is leading them in this wonderful journey. You will want to hear their excitement!

Join us on Feb. 28, at 9:00am Pacific time, by calling 563-843-7429 (access code: 643706#).

P.S. Save the date! Our March call (Mar. 28) will highlight Birmingham, Alabama.

International Renewal Ministries
5511 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97215
===>Click headline to access website . . .

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Chicago Neighborhoods Become Your Classroom

Join us in Chicago for an exciting line-up of in-depth courses taught by nationally respected CCDA practitioners and conveniently scheduled in a five day intensive format.

The community is the classroom for this Leadership Institute - courses will be held in Chicago neighborhoods, hosted by Christian community development organizations – Lawndale Community Church and Bethel New Life.

For further details on program and registration, please visit the LICCD website or contact Carol Ann McGibbon.

Web: Email: Phone: 773.244.5643

•MACD 5110, Faith and Politics: Understanding Christian Engagement in Politics
Dr. Helene Slessarev-Jamir; Wheaton College * May 15-19, 2006.

Discover how community transformation happens as Christians understand and engage in key policy areas that affect the quality of life on the neighborhood level.

•MACD 5950 Gentrification with Justice: Christian Community Development through Housing Initiatives
Dr. Robert Lupton; FCS and Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) * May 15-19, 2006

Explore ways for the church to undertake neighborhood restoration through resident-based housing initiatives

•MACD 5510, Christian Faith and Community Development
Dr. David J. Frenchak; Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education * May 22-26, 2006

This course is intended to give participants an appreciation of the rich resources within a variety of Christian traditions that can form a foundation and rationale for community revitalization.

•MACD 5330, Christian Community Economic Development
Dr. Mary Nelson; Bethel New Life * May 22-26, 2006

Designed for practitioners wanting to move to the next level of community economic development.

•MACD 5320, Wholistic Christian Community Development May 30-June 3, 2006
Dr. John M Perkins & Dr. Wayne L Gordon; Christian Community Development Association (CCDA)

The course provides biblical foundations and “best practices” for congregational engagement in wholistic community development.

•The Leadership Institute for Christian Community Development
May 15-June 3, 2006
Partners: Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) * Eastern University * Evangelical Covenant Church * Master of Arts in Community Development at North Park University/SCUPE * North Park Theological Seminary * Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) * Wheaton College *

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Prayer Leads to Increase in Baptisms

On December 13, 2005, SEW Ministries began sending out e-mails to anyone who was willing to pray. Specifically for the staff and congregation of New Life Community Church. After thirty days of lavishing them with prayer, we finished it off with an amazing night of corporate prayer and worship at New Life. We want you all to know that your prayers and the feedback you shared has really helped encourage New Life. So this e-mail is being sent as an encouragement to all of those who set aside time to pray for this wonderful church. During our last meeting with the staff leaders of New Life, we were told that they've had a vision for missions teams and now there are three missions teams that are going to be sent out in the summer. The second service prayer team has been birthed. There has been an influx of passionate people in prayer: Up to seven in the first service and five in the second service. Now all the services are covered in prayer! Salvations: The three previous years there were 15, 14 and 15 baptisms in water. They have had twelve salvations already this year-following financial messages. Also, 24 people are being schooled and then will be baptized in water.


On behalf of New Life Community Church, Lakeview, I would like to thank all who participated in some way in the Night of Holy Fire on January 13, 2006. Our church was so blessed by those of you who prayed for us, interceded on our behalf, fasted or joined us with SEW Ministries on the night of January 13...a night to remember. We are indeed grateful to you, our brothers and sisters in Christ who ministered to us during the 30 days that lead up to that night.

The power of your prayers is now evident in our church. Many people were deeply touched that night as we experienced an out-pouring of GOD's presence in our midst. As a result of your ministry to our church, we have recently seen an increase in people coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. On January 7, 2006 we started our 2nd team of people praying through our 10:45 service. We had previously only had a team praying through our 9:00 service since November, 2001. The Spanish congregation started a team of people interceding prior to their service as well. At a recent meeting introducing this summer's 4 short-term mission trips, 50 people attended inquiring of those trips. For several years now it has been my heart's desire to see our church become a praying church. Thanks to all of you, a spark has begun to turn into a flame. May the Lord continue to fan that flame at our church, in your life and in the region of Chicagoland to His Honor and Glory!

Thank you and God Bless You!
George Mosher, Prayer Ministry Leader
New Life Community Church, Lakeview, Chicago, IL

During the thirty days of prayer, we receive many testimonials from the staff and members of New Life's Congregation. Here are a few examples:

"I knew you all were praying for thirty days for New Life, but I didn't know it was thirty days prior to the Night of Holy Fire. I had been struggling in my prayer life and finally experienced a breakthrough, like someone had been praying for me. We've had an increase in attendace for the Spanish congregation....Pastor has been on fire....The Youth Group was blessed on Friday. ...Thank you for your ministry and interceding. So that's who's been interceding on my behalf, I thought. It's been awesome, thanks again for your prayers, of which I have felt directly."

"I could sense a deeper change in the prayer team this morning. ...Those who are discerning noticed a difference also.... We appreciate so much the lavishing prayer that we received on Friday and the past thirty days for our church."
"I was very encouraged and refreshed and thankful for your faithfulness to come and minister to us and pray for us as a part of the body of Christ....From a grateful sister in the Lord."

"Thanks for supporting and joining our church in this venture. It has been a prayer answered...

Again, we would like to thank all of the intercessors from various churches that attended that night! Especially those who diligently prayed for the thirty days and were not able to join us. It truly was a most blessed evening. Many prayers were answered and wonderful doors have been opened! We will be sending notices for the next church God wants to bless. Grace and peace be to you from the One who is, who always was, and who is still to come!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Conference Call ~ Black History Month Focus

We invite you to join the "third Thursday cityreaching conference call" this Thursday, Feb. 16th, with a special focus on Black History Month as we discuss Racial Reconciliation and City Reaching.

This will be an open mike (as in microphone) call, so please join us either to contribute or listen to the hearts of city reachers who have a passion for righteousness and justice.

Here's the dial-in #: 641-297-4600, then code 604 096
at 11 a.m. Eastern time, 10 a.m. Central, 9 a.m. Mountain, 8 a.m. Pacific, etc.

Your brother in Christ,
Jarvis Ward
National Faciitator for City/Community MInistries

===>Click headline to access the resources of City Reaching dot Com

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Wheaton Christian Center in Chicago Trib on Spiritual Formation

Has the race to faith passed you by?
January 29, 2006
By Patrick Kampert / Tribune staff reporter

She has been a member of Wheaton Christian Center for 20 years, but Linda Richardson remembers initially steering clear of the predominantly African-American church when she began her spiritual journey because she saw "too many white people" streaming out . . .

===>For the complete article, click headline to access Chicago Tribune webiste, then Search for "Spiritual Formation"

{From page 3} . . . The University of Chicago study on spiritual transformation may suggest that some of the transformed are still having difficulty dealing with life's troubles. Lead researcher Tom Smith said his research team is puzzled that the people who had experienced religious change didn't report better health, a more positive outlook on life or even more job satisfaction. "We've now tagged that for follow-up examinations," he said.

But Dallas Willard, a USC professor and an expert on spiritual formation, says the conundrum may be a symptom of a faith experience that lacks depth. After lawyer-turned-preacher Charles Finney held revival meetings in Rochester, N.Y., in the 1800s, Willard said, the jails and courts were empty because the residents were truly changed in character. He doesn't see that happening in the U.S. today, despite the study's numbers, and wonders whether words such as "transformation" and "born again" have been politicized and emptied of meaning.

"One of the problems with current contemporary Christianity is that every Sunday, churches are offering `life-transforming experiences,'" he said. "It's kind of like the blurbs you read on book [covers]--you just wonder what the world would be like if all that were true, if all the people who went to these life-transforming churches came out saints. It would certainly impact the world."

--Patrick Kampert

Here are some steps to take toward peace and fulfillment

Faith is more than a conversion. It's a process. And that comes straight out of the Bible, says Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, author of "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us" (InterVarsity Press, $16).

"There are all kinds of illustrations in the Gospels that our relationship with God, like any other relationship, has cycles and seasons and high points and low points," she said.

Calhoun, director of spiritual formation at Christ Church of Oak Brook, offers a bounty of tips for spiritual growth. Though her book is geared toward Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox groups, a number of her suggestions can be applied to other faith traditions. Together, her hints spell out an acrostic called WORSHIP:

W: Worship. Embrace classical disciplines such as celebration, gratitude, community and sabbath.

O: Open yourself to God. Journaling, going on a retreat, simplifying your life, self-care and unplugging from the modern world can be helpful.

R: Relinquish the false. This involves confession of sin, detachment from addictions and welcoming silence and solitude.

S: Share your life with others. A spiritual journey, Calhoun says, is meant to be done in community. Small groups, hospitality, mentoring and discipling are paths in this direction.

H: Hear God's word through Bible study, devotional reading, memorization and meditation.

I: Incarnate the love of God, witnessed by service in the world, justice, stewardship, humility and care of the Earth.

P: Pray. Calhoun's book offers 14 ways of entering into prayer, including conversational, liturgical, centering prayer, breath prayer, healing prayer and pilgrimage prayer.

--P. K.

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School of the Prophets: Safe at Home Author Asks Hard Questions

The School of the Prophets was pleased to welcome Bob Muzikowski to its gathering on February 4, 2006. What the Lord is doing through him in his work on the West side of Chicago and beyond is significant.

In 1991, Bob founded the Near North Little League in the Cabrini Green Housing Projects. He also founded the East Harlem Little league in 1993 and the Near West Little League (the largest inner-city league in the United States) in 1995. Bob is the founder of Chicago Hope Academy (===>Click headline to access )), a Protestant Christian High School beginning in 2005, and he is also the founder of a drug and alcohol rehab program on a 342 acre farm in Southern Illinois.

He has written a book of his life story called Safe at Home (Zondervan-2001) to rebut how he was portrayed in the movie Hardball with Keanu Reaves. He and his wife Tina have 7 children and live on Chicago’s west side where they have been living since the late 80’s. In 1991, while jogging through the neighborhood on his way to work in downtown Chicago, Bob was haunted by the shortage of places for young people to play, especially those living in Cabrini Green, and that’s when the Little League began.

Bob spoke to our group with an edge meant to make Christians of the dominant culture uncomfortable with how we are living our lives. He quotes the more difficult passages from Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 and asks questions like, “if this is God’s word, and these are commands, why is it OK that we don’t obey them?” He sees himself simply as a Christian that is trying to live out what it means to be “in the world but not of the world.”

Bob believes that as Christians we don’t do more to impact our world because we are overwhelmed with the size of problems in our society and then end up doing nothing, when in fact it is the small and vital things that make a community stable that are needed most. Things like, “girl scouts and boy scouts, little league or other community sports activities, good schools, and of course healthy and active churches.”

Our discussion time was limited today, but we did begin to tackle a challenging question. Why is it that someone like Bob Muzikowski is held up as a hero in Christian circles as though what he is doing is somehow “super Christian?” Don’t the commands to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God apply to all of us that call on the name of the Lord?

We also began to discuss why the work and ministry being done by Reverend Eugene Flowers, West Englewood Christian Community School, the ACBC little league, and others are known by so few, and are so severely under sourced.

Next Month (March) Arloa Sutter, who founded Breakthrough Urban Ministries ( in 1992 as a response to homeless persons in the Edgewater and Uptown neighborhoods has tentatively agreed to be our presenter/discussion leader.

In Christ, Bob Marsh
323 West Chicago Ave.
Hinsdale, IL 60521

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

TeleTraining for Your Prayer Team

. . . Announces Three Teleseminars -

Call: 1 (641) 985-1133
Pass Code: 2756#

•January (Re-cast):
Topic: Developing a Prayer Strategy for Your Church-Part 2 "How to Mobilize and Motivate Your People To Participate in Prayer"
Presenter: Jonathan Graf
Time: Monday, February 13, 8 PM EST

•February Teleseminar:
Topic: Steps to Becoming a House of Prayer
Presenter: Rev. David Butts, chairman, America's National Prayer Committee; President of Harvest Prayer Ministries
Time: Monday, Febraury 20, 8 PM EST

•March Teleseminar:
Topic: Jesus: Our Prayer Champion (Lessons from Jesus on Leading Others in Prayer)
Presenter: Rev. Phil Miglioratti, Director of The National Pastors Prayer Network, facilitator of CPLN Networks
Time: Thursday, March 23, 8 PM EST

Note: We soon may be sending a follow-up email with a new phone number. We are checking into costs for using an 800 number, which is slighty safer from a technology standpoint, but more expensive for us and If the phone number changes, we will quickly get word to you and post it on our website.

Jonathan Graf

~ ~ ~> Join the Church Prayer Leader's Network @ < ~ ~ ~

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Meeting to Fulfill John 17:20 - Greater Unity Among Believers

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

For those who are receiving this announcement for the first time, welcome! The School of the Prophets is an ecumenical group of men and women from many backgrounds who have been meeting together since January 2000. We meet this Saturday Feb. 4, at 7 a.m. at Austin Corinthian Baptist Church at 823 S. Cicero Ave., which is 2 blocks south of the Eisenhower Expressway on the east side of the street next to Marvin’s Soul Food Restaurant.

Our aim is to pursue the unity of believers that Jesus prayed for in John 17:20:
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

This Saturday our teaching and devotional time will be led by Bob Muzikowski, the founder of inner-city little leagues in Chicago and New York. Bob is the author of Safe At Home (Zondervan 2001), a personal account that tells the real story of his life and his work with needy children and their families after he was misplayed by Keanu Reeves in the 2001 movie Hardball.

Bob is the President of Chicago Hope Academy, a Christian high school on the Near West Side that opened in the fall of 2005. Bob and his wife Tina still live on the West Side of Chicago where they are raising their seven children.

We will begin our time together at 7 a.m. with worship and prayer. Please pray with Brother Muzikowski as he prepares to bring us a word from the Lord. We will allow plenty of time for discussion and questions.

If you can stay, breakfast will be served at around 8:30 a.m. for a cost of $5.

To the glory of God!
Bro. Bob Marsh
323 West Chicago Ave., Hinsdale, IL 60521

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