Category Archives: Arts & Media

BRIEF: Church presents “The Seven Last Words of Christ”

By Tracy Simmons

The  Chancel Choir of Central Lutheran Church will present a Lenten Cantata, “The Seven Last Words of Christ” on March 28.

The cantata, written by Theodore Dubois, portrays Jesus’ finals hours.

Soloists are Shannon Baker, Matt Johnson and Chuck Zimmerman.  Paul Brueggemeier will be conducting and Alice Hostetter will be at the organ.

The performance begins at 7 p.m. at the church, 512 S Bernard St.

Media fuels The Polar War

By Contributor Rev. Todd Eklof

Rev. Todd Ekloff

“I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to take him out!” This lone sentence, spoken by Newt Gingrich about President Barack Obama, is a succinct example of the verbal warfare that has become the primary form and function of communication today. The Polar War, a war of opposites and extremes, began gearing up even as the Cold War was winding down more than 30 years ago. At the time America’s greatest perceived threat was considered external. But when Mikhail Gorbachev became the head of the Soviet Union in 1985 and introduced his doctrines of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), the iron curtain parted and most of us realized the Russians weren’t such a bad lot after all.

Communism collapsed like cascading dominoes across the globe and we seemed destined for an unprecedented era of world peace. But, alas, in order to continue winning elections and influencing voters, the fear mongers among us would need to find a new enemy to fill our lives with dread. Tragically, this time they chose an internal enemy upon whom to project our darkest fears: the liberals. In addition to turning Americans against Americans by demonizing anyone who values social equity and equality, this cleared the way for the unfair and unbalanced national news media that now controls the flow of mass information.

Even while promoting an exaggerated air of paranoia and mistrust toward our nation’s news organizations, by labeling them the “Liberal Media” (which, by the way, is synonymous with “Free Press”), the Reagan Administration abolished the time-honored Fairness Doctrine which required broadcasters to act in the “public interest” by “covering important policy issues and providing equal time to both sides of public questions.”

Reagan’s chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Mark Fowler, also deregulated the industry, making it possible for just a handful of corporations to begin monopolizing it. Since then, according Robert Kennedy Jr., “The right-wing radio conglomerate Clear Channel, which in 1995 operated 40 radio stations, today owns over 1,200 stations and controls 11 percent of the market. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is the largest media conglomerate on the planet, one of seven media giants that own or control virtually all of the United States’ 2000 TV stations, 11,000 radio stations, and 11,000 newspapers and magazines.” Since 2004, when Kennedy wrote these words, the number of corporations owning our nation’s press has fallen to just six.


Although Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are by far the worst at taking advantage of this new paradigm, more “progressive” mediums like MSNBC and The Rachel Maddow Show aren’t helping matters. Very recently, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California democrat, sounded about as extreme as Newt Gingrich when she referred to House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican colleague, Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as “demons.” She went on to defend this extreme characterization by mentioning their political agendas. After launching this verbal grenade, a Fox News host fired back by telling Waters to, “step away from the crack pipe.”

In our nation, as a whole, we no longer communicate for the purpose of working out our differences, or seeking solutions to problems or answers to questions. We communicate in order to destroy our enemies and win the argument, with little regard for ascertaining the truth. “Hence, the word most often used to describe such interaction,” explains philosopher Lou Marinoff, “is ‘discussion,’ whose etymology is shared with that of ‘concussion’ and ‘percussion.’” Discussion is verbal warfare, compared to its opposite, genuine dialogue, through which differing parties both speak and listen to each other, in the interest of genuinely acquiring new understanding, and not merely in defense of old ideas. Talking has become a form a battle, conversation a war of words.

Recently, however, Rush Limbaugh, a powerful veteran and commander in the Polar War, may have inadvertently provided us with the best opportunity to begin turning things around. His blatant attempt to destroy the good name of Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke has backfired, as if his verbal grenades were tossed back his direction before they could explode and have now blown up in his face. But then, as a wise man once said, that’s what eventually happens in warfare, those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

It seems to me the time has come for religious leaders to help put a stop to this devastating civil war by both modeling and calling for genuine dialogue. We can put an end to the Polar War the same we ended the Cold War, through restructuring and openness, through reestablishing the sacred Fairness Doctrine and promoting a culture in which we listen respectfully to one another again. Perhaps, sometime soon, we’ll all watch in amazement at the Rush Limbaugh Show, and Fox News, and MSNBC, and other propaganda machines, fall like dominoes and a new era of civil discourse and peaceful dialogue emerge to take their place.

Building community through social media

By Contributor Rev. Jim CastroLang

Rev. Jim CastroLang

I am a “social media writer” for SpokaneFAVS. I care about the ways social media can help spiritual communities. For many years I have been advocating the potential for good that can come from the tools of technology. I am a veteran of almost 30 years through “trial and error” dating back to 1984 when I got my first computer. Less than a decade later, I was spending countless hours online in the Ecunet Community.

A spiritual community needs to focus on developing its communication tools for sharing, relationship building and living out its vision. I will discuss some of these tools in this space. I will use the phrase “spiritual community” to describe any church, denomination, synagogue, temple, mosque, or group of people who organize themselves around common spiritual beliefs, practices or principles.

As a pastor in the United Church of Christ, I have heard people lodge two key criticisms of the use of social media. First, all this social media is distracting people from building the meaningful relationships we focus on in our spiritual community. And second, face-to-face communication is what spiritual communities are about — everything else offers so much less.  I am not interested in social media for marketing purposes. I am interested in social media for its potential for bringing people together and enhancing the development of spiritual communities.

Last summer when the United Church of Christ had its national gathering (General Synod) in Tampa, Fla., I brought the church I pastor to the conference without ever leaving our town of Colville. I wanted the people in my church to connect to the energy of the people gathered in Tampa. With the live feed coming from the synod and the big screen in our sanctuary, I encouraged the people in my church to “attend the synod” from our pews. We downloaded and printed the bulletins for worship and shared in singing the songs and contributing our voices to the common responses. We had a table with synod resources such as resolutions up for a vote. I used Twitter and Facebook to interact with those in Tampa and around the country who participated in this great five-day event. As synod was coming to a close, one of the delegates in Tampa from our conference told me how much it meant that we were participating from afar. He said, “We felt connected to you back home. So often we go to these events.  We get energized but back home no one understands. This time we didn’t feel alone.” Through the use of social media, there were people in Tampa who were certain that I was there in the hall with them.  My church was not in Tampa but my church did attend the synod.

My writings will explore the ways we can strengthen our connection with each other, even when we are not in the same room. I hope to hear your stories and learn of areas you would like me to address.  Strengthening our connections one to another and building our spiritual communities can bring hope to a hurting world.

Advancing your church in the Digital Age

Flickr image by James at Uni

Many churches are struggling to figure out this whole Internet thing. Does a church need a website? What should be on it? What about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest?

Overwhelmed yet?

On April 10 SpokaneFAVS editor Tracy Simmons will lead a workshop, “Advancing your church in the Digital Age” where she’ll discuss how churches can develop a true Web presence.

A new report by Faith Communities Today shows 69 percent of congregations have websites and 40 percent use Facebook.

“Ministry should be, even must be, a technological hybrid venture in this day and age. But technology is not an end in itself. It has to be employed strategically and intentionally as a component of the overall ministry effort of the congregation. It is not a matter of having a webpage, a Facebook account or projection screens, but of using these to enhance and expand the activities and communal life of the congregation,” said Scott Thumma, author of the FACT study.

Another study, by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, shows 79 percent of Americans belonging to a faith group are active Internet users. Millions of Americans are on Facebook, the average user spending 15 hours and 33 hours a month on the site. Twitter is adding 500,000 users a day, according to the Search Engine Journal.

To stay relevant to today’s digital world, churches need to meet people where they are — online (in lots of places). Find out how at the workshop, which is SpokaneFAVS first fundraiser. It will be at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Cathedral, 127 East 12th Ave. Donations are appreciated.

RSVP on the Advancing your church in the Digital Age Facebook page.

SpokaneFAVS is an online publication that covers faith news in the Spokane area through news stories, multimedia and blogs. Simmons has worked as an online journalist for nearly a decade and has studied social media, multimedia and Web design.


BRIEF: Symposium to focus on poetry and scriptures


By Tracy Simmons

On March 23 and 24 Dr. Willis Barnstone will speak on “Poetry as the Voice of the Divine in the Gospels and Gnostic Scriptures” as part of the Roger Williams Symposium at Washington State University in Pullman.

Barnstone is a translator and poet, a Guggenheim Fellow, Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry and professor emeritus at Indiana University.

The event is sponsored by Interfaith House at WSU and the Common Ministry. It is free and open to the public.

The event will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 23 on the WSU campus in CUE Room 203. On March 24 it will be from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Community Congregational United Church of Christ.

Spokane’s religion wrap-up: St. Pat, books, congrats and an eye-opener

By Tracy “Irish” Simmons



Tomorrow is St. Patty’s Day, which for many means green beer, green clothes and red hair. A parade begins tomorrow at noon downtown, and marchers will go right by Auntie’s Bookstore, whose staff will be giving away free books.

Speaking of books, The Book Parlor suggests a few good reads, “How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels” and “The Jesus Discovery: The New Archeological Find That Reveals The Birth of Christianity” are two of the texts the store has on sale this week.

This doesn’t really have to do with religion news, but I thought it was a good idea to let our lady readers know the Spokane Police Department is offering free self-defense classes for women in the community. Enhancing the Survival Mindset Level 1 will be held at the Spokane Police Academy from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on March 22. For info call (509) 742-8100.

Rev. Martin Elfert

OK, back to faith stuff. Congratulations to one of my FAV contributors the Rev. Martin Elfert, who will celebrate his Ordination to the Priesthood at 7 p.m. on March 23 at Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

And another kudos to Whitworth University for being recognized as one of the top schools in the U.S. for its commitment to community service. “More than 90 percent of the Whitworth student body engages in community service, with service-learning opportunities incorporated into every academic department,” the school reports.

In case you didn’t already know, Catholic Charities of Spokane is celebrating its centennial year. Lots of festivities are planned throughout 2012, including a Volunteer Appreciation Event on April 26.

The Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church published an eye-opening piece this week on elder abuse. “But what you may not realize is elder abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes in our society.  My theory is that elder abuse is so frequently un-reported because it reeks of scandal.  No older adult wants to admit that he or she is being abused in some way because it makes him or her seem so powerless, “ The Rev. Paul Grave writes. In his article he suggests ways you can help put a stop to this.

Have something you think should be included in next week’s wrap-up? Email it to

Art bridges social, cultural, generational gaps

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

In East Central Spokane I’m discovering how art has the power to bring different cultures, generations, backgrounds and social classes together.

Over the last six years working in this neighborhood my church has hosted numerous artistic events designed to celebrate, educate and nurture artistry and beauty here in this community.

Poverty can often produce a chronic underlying depression, a subconscious drain on motivation, the  great “whatever” of disempowerment and hopelessness.

One of the dead fruits of such debilitating vision is ugliness.

Ugliness manifests itself in many ways around my neighborhood. Graffiti, trash accumulation and careless distribution, overgrown or uncared for vacant houses decaying from years of absent out-of-state landlords, over worked single parent homes, fear based need for guard dogs that result in destroyed yards, a tapestry of tarps draped on countless roofs, cars and buildings — cheap fixes for welfare budgets. Boarded, barred, fenced, and darkened drug dens, broken down Jalopy land are the results of little cash, no repairs and purchasing habits that reflect low-income realities and predatory auto sellers.

Then there’s ‘Pajama Pant Syndrome;’ one of the ills of welfare, unemployment and neighborhood violence. Many people live ‘inside lives’ and hardly come out into public. When they do it’s from necessity, not pleasure. Many folks around here  live isolated, lonely, nervous and secluded lives all because of poverty’s power.

On and on I could go. Lack produces an environment and mentality of disbelief and despair.

Group works on community art project/contributed by Eric Blauer

Art is one way to awaken hope and joy in communities where seeing beauty is often an act and practice of faith.

We do a lot of work with refugees, who in struggling economies and with limited education and english skills, are often living in the center or the margins of poverty.

We’ve found that creating art together is one way to develop friendship, teach conversational English, tell life stories and give back the gift of beauty to one another.

Creating art becomes a potent weapon in the fight against poverty. Teaching and learning to see goodness worth retelling in different artistic mediums is an empowering skill for those who often feel like they are imprisoned.

Last night I attended our “English Language Experience Group” for refugee kids run by three awesome women volunteers. During this quarter they are focusing on art. I was invited to come and share my art, answer prepared questions from the kids and join them in creating something together.

I talked about the ins and outs of ‘Impressionism‘, explained its impact on me and the freedom I think it gives budding artists. We viewed work from various famous and then  created our own masterpieces.

A group of refugees work on art project together/contributed by Eric Blauer

I’m reminded of the artist Robert Henri‘s scathing, but often true, critique of religious leaning souls as I think about sitting there talking, laughing, making messes, exploring new skills, practicing communicating and nurturing creative minds and hearts.

“I am always sorry for the Puritan, for he has guided his life against desire and against nature, he found what he thought was comfort, for he believed the spirit’s safety was in negation, but he has never given the world one minute’s joy or produced one symbol of the beautiful order of nature. He sought peace in bondage and his spirit became a prisoner,” he wrote in his book, “The Art Spirit.”

Last night, and through our the last six years we’ve been proving Henri wrong. Faith and purity are powerful sources of transformation.

In East Central Spokane, I’m seeing art change lives picture after picture, painting after painting, poem upon poem and song upon song.

BRIEF: Blue Like Jazz coming to theaters

By Tracy Simmons

The New York Times best-seller, “Blue Like Jazz,” will hit the silver screen on April 13.

The story is about  Christian author Donald Miller’s journey as an evangelical Christian. After nearly losing his faith he discovered Jesus’ relevance for everyday life.

Details about the movie are available on the Blue Like Jazz movie website.

BRIEF: Third Day coming in concert

By Tracy Simmons

Christian rock band Third Day will perform in Spokane at 7 p.m. on May 9.

On its Make Your Move Tour, the band will show off its new album “Move.” The record can only be classified as classic, southern rock, though the band mixes in a few acoustic folk songs here and there.

Matt Maher, Trevor Morgan and The Neverclaim will also perform at the concert.

The concert will be at the Hub Sports Center. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.

Jewish Film Festival coming to local theater

Tracy Simmons

A movie about Ruth Gruber will be shown at the Jewish Film Festival/Wikipedia Photo

The annual Jewish Cultural Film Festival is just a few weeks away.

Movies about notable Jewish academics, entertainers and events will be featured beginning March 22 at The Magic Lantern. On March 24 at 7:30 p.m. a reception will be held to celebrate the festival’s eighth year.

Rabbi Tamar Malino, executive director of Jewish Area Family Services, will facilitate a discussion following the final film on March 25.

The event is sponsored by Jewish Area Family Services. Tickets for each movie are $10, or $7 for seniors and children. They can be purchased at the Lantern or online.

Ahead of Time,” 7:30 p.m., March 22

This film documents the life of Ruth Gruber, who became the world’s youngest Ph.D. recipient at the age of 20.

Mahler on the Couch,” 8 p.m., March 24

This film is about the real-life marriage of Gustav Mahler and his tempestuous wife Alma Schindler Mahler.

Viva Espania: A Tale in Four Octaves,” 6:30 p.m., March 25

This film explores the life of Israeli singer Hanna Aharoni.

Degania: The World’s First Kibbutz Fights its Last Battle,” following the first film.

This is a documentary about the privatization of the world’s first kibbutz, Degania.