• GRACE NOTES: Getting home for Christmas

    Flip on the radio this time of year and chances are you’ll hear the same dozen or so Christmas songs, including “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” ... and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

  • GRACE NOTES 12/14/13: Jesus vs. religion

    About 10 years ago, I attended a seminar for religion writers, “How Religion Shapes Regional and Community Identity.”

    A panel of prestigious people with prestigious titles from prestigious institutions and organizations came to talk to us about how in the world we should cover this thing called religion.

  • City, Jewish congregation in legal wrangle over building

    SUNNY ISLES BEACH — A simple, five-paragraph historic plaque on the front portico of an Orthodox Jewish temple in south Florida honors a 2004 gathering of Holocaust survivors, but it signifies much more. It’s the linchpin of a federal court battle pitting a city’s powers to designate historic buildings against the free exercise of religion.

  • The darkest night

    When you’re a  pastor or spiritual leader, people look to you for any number of things. When you are in trouble, your pastor walks with you, counsels you, prays with and for you, finds you resources. When you are sick, your pastor sits by your bedside, anoints you with oil, tells you stories and shares scriptures to encourage your faith.

  • GRACE NOTES 12/7/13: After the fog lifts

    Recently, local church pastor Lloyd Bertine stopped by the newsroom to talk about depression — his.

    He had just come through a second bout of it and thought it was important to tell people that Christians and Christian pastors are not immune to it.

    It’s not a character thing; it’s a chemical, brain thing, he said.

  • GRACE NOTES 11/30/13: The curse of the perfect turkey

    The year was 2002, a year that lives in infamy, or at least extreme annoyance, in my daughter Alison’s life.

    That was the year of the cursed perfect turkey.

    Prior to that, Alison’s Thanksgiving turkeys ranged from dry to just OK. But in 2002 she took a madcap leap of faith, risked everything and brined the bird — and it came out brown and crisp on the outside, moist and succulent on the inside. Perfection with drumsticks and wings.

  • The populist pope

    VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis denounced the global financial system that excludes the poor as he issued the mission statement for his papacy on Tuesday, saying he wants the Catholic Church to get its hands dirty as it seeks to bring solace and mercy to society’s outcasts.

  • GRACE NOTES 11/23/2013: Giving thanks!

    Editor’s note: This is Nancy Kennedy’s annual psalm of thanksgiving, a tradition she thinks started in 2000. She didn’t keep track.

    Dear God,

    Here I am again, with a blank page in front of me, attempting to put into 750 words or less all the ways in which I am thankful. Where do I even begin?

  • Never-ending debate

    AUSTIN, Texas — Long-simmering ideological objections to teaching evolution in Texas boiled over at a late-night meeting, as the Board of Education extended preliminary approval of new science textbooks but held up one biology tome because of alleged factual errors.

  • Pastor has a passion for preaching

    A little more than five years ago, James Coker spent his free time writing letters that detailed his aspirations for the ministry and visiting churches in Jacksonville and St. Augustine to deliver his pitch in person.

    During the week, Coker worked as a welder. But by the weekend, he was a salesman. 

    “The product I was selling was me — my passion for Christ and my desire to share it,” he said.