Tag Archives: Tracy Simmons

Spokane’s religion wrap-up: sex, end times, soup, oh my

By Tracy Simmons

Relationships and sexuality will be the topic of discussion next weekend at Victory Faith Fellowship. Jim Anderson, author of “Unmasked” will be leading a conference there March 30 and 31. His book is about sexual sins in today’s culture. More info on the free event can be found here.

There’s really no good way to segue from sex to this next topic: Easter. SpokaneFAVS needs your Holy Week and Easter listings stat! If you want your church included on our list of services then please email your service times to tracy.simmons@religionnews.com.

Perhaps you’ve heard by now that Harold Camping apologized for his inaccurate rapture prediction. But he’s not the only who thought the world would be ending soon. The Mayans thought 2012 would be humanity’s last chapter. Rev. Clare Austen, of Unity Spokane will preach about the end of days in her sermon on Sunday, titled “2012 & The Rapture.” Services will be at 9 and 11 a.m.

I thought maybe I’d take my grill out of hibernation this weekend, but then the weather turned. So much for grilled veggies, how about a nice bowl of soup instead? Cup of Cool Water ministries posted a recipe this week for Asparagus Leek Soup. Yum!

A variety show on April 5 will benefit Transitions ministry. Transitions is a program that helps local women in need. You can support the program by buying a $10 ticket for The Angry Woman Cabaret, which will be at Bing Crosby Theater. The show features “the massive scope of women’s contributions to the entertainment and the arts.”

And speaking of fundraisers, I hope you’ll attend SpokaneFAVS first one on April 10, “Advancing your church in the Digital Age.” I’ll be leading a workshop at St. John’s Cathedral explaining how your place of worship can have an online presence. A website isn’t enough anymore folks. You don’t need tickets, I only ask that you make a donation. Hope to see you then!

Have something you think should be included in next week’s wrap-up? Email it to tracy.simmons@religionnews.com

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.


Kosher dinner expected to draw thousands

Tracy Simmons

Challah,the traditional bread eaten on Shabbat, will be served at the Kosher Dinner/Contributed Photo from Lisa Lowhurst

It started 71 years ago as a way to reach out to the gentile community, and it’s been a hit ever since.

The annual Temple Beth Shalom Kosher Dinner will be Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Last year, like in previous years, 2,300 people feasted on roast brisket, Carrot Tzimmes, Challah and other Jewish delicacies.

“It pretty much started as a way to familiarize people with the Jewish faith, with the practices and customs,” said David Williams, event chairman. “It was a way to get people from other cultures to recognize that we’re really no different from them. Yes, we have different holidays and such, but we’re all of the human race.”

Jews were a minority in the area seven decades ago, and they still are today. According to the Association of Religious Data Archives, there are approximately 1,500 Jewish adherents in Spokane County.

The Kosher Dinner is a fundraiser for the temple and will feature Mediterranean spiced apples, Rugelach, potato knishes and Kosher meat (which has to be shipped from the East Coast). It will also feature live entertainment, including an appearance in the late afternoon by the Spokane Community Gospel Mass Choir.

“There will be everything from Jewish folk music to Klezmer music to soloists,” Williams said.

The gospel choir, Williams added, was invited because the choir is made of people of all faith backgrounds.

He said the dinner’s been successful for 71 years because the Spokane community has proven to be supportive of other faiths.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $9 for children ages 3 to 11 and can be purchased at the door or online. Takeout will also be available.

Practicing prayer during Lent

By Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons

I’m all about deadlines, which is probably why I didn’t decide until this morning what I was going to do for Lent.

Last year I gave up Dr. Pepper. Resisting from carbonated water and artificial flavoring, though, didn’t exactly create more space for God in my life.  Reaching for iced tea instead of soda quickly replaced my Dr. Pepper habit and I didn’t make it very far into the 40 days before I stopped thinking about pop, Lent and Jesus.

Instead of fasting from something during Lent, many people have decided to do something for 40 days — like be kind, participate in a daily good deed, etc. I like this idea, but shouldn’t we be doing these things anyway?

RNS Photo

Lent is still fairly new to me. I didn’t go to a liturgical church growing up. In fact, I didn’t even know what liturgy was until I began studying theology as an undergraduate.  Obviously I became a religion reporter and began reporting on Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. I was probably in my mid-20s when I realized how much I relished this theology I had been writing about: ashes — the bodily reminder that our time on this earth is impermanent; and the 40-day fast — a way to replicate Jesus’ resisting temptation. The symbolism in this Christian tradition is something people of all faiths can appreciate.

I’ve thought about this a lot the past few days. I don’t want to do something simply because it’s tradition. Whatever I decided to do for Lent needed to enhance my spiritual life. For me, giving up something isn’t the way to go. Maybe I’m not disciplined enough for that. Seeing a Dr. Pepper isn’t going to make me think about my faith. I’m not going to miss the beverage so much that I replace that emptiness with devotion. Some people can do that and I admire them.

So I began to think more about this 40 days of kindness thing (which seemed really popular last year). Yes, of course, we should be nice to all people all the time. But we aren’t are we?

Buddhists meditate and constantly work on disciplining their mind. They call this ‘practice,’ which is so appropriate. Every day I attempt to become a better journalist, I exercise my mind and body and I try to be a good person. It’s all practice. I’m never going to be a perfect human being, but I can, and should, keep trying to be.

Some scientists say it takes more than 40 days to create a habit. According to UK Health Behaviore Research Centre , it takes 66 days to develop a habit. The organization reports, “If we can do something for 66 days straight, we can do it for a year, five, or 30.  Twenty one or 28 days seems to be just enough time to make it questionable, or make you confident but not be able to stick to it.”

So this Lenten season I’m going to try to resuscitate and an old habit. I’m going to use this time to transform my prayer life. I’m going to talk to God for 40 days, which will hopefully turn into 66 days, and then a year, etc. In the end, if I can be as disciplined as Jesus was in the desert, then prayer will become a vital part of my daily life.

And, lucky for me, I have plenty of cues ahead of me if I begin to stumble. Ramadan begins in July. This is when Muslims fast for 30 days. The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is in September, which is when Jews fast for 25 hours. It doesn’t matter if I’m Christian, Muslim or Jewish — all sacred calendars can be reminders of the decision I made today, to pray daily.

You can find out how SpokaneFAVS panelists view Lent here.

Welcome to SpokaneFAVS!

Notice something new on this page? The lovely new banner perhaps?

That’s right, we now have an official name! Say goodbye to Religion News Spokane (zzzzz) and hello to SpokaneFAVS. It stands for Spokane Faith and Values and is pronounced with a long ‘a’ — as in craves.

That makes you my FAV readers, and I guess that makes me your FAV editor. I can get used to this.

Tracy Simmons

Please update your bookmarks to our new URL, which is www.spokaneFAVS.com. The former URL will also redirect you. And, for mysterious Internet reasons we had to get a new Facebook page. Please like our new page here.

This is just the beginning of an exciting year for SpokaneFAVS! This spring we’ll unveil our full website, which will look similar to the Religion News Service site.

See you online!

– Tracy Simmons

Meditating in 2012

By Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons

This year I’m going to pray more. Go to church each Sunday. Read the Bible everyday. Be more compassionate.  Try yoga. Meditate each morning.

Well, we may not be able to help you with the first five, but Religion News Spokane blogger Tamara Milliken may be able to help you if want to give meditation a shot in 2012.

Meditating is a wonderful spiritual practice that’s valued in many religions. But it’s not easy, which is why it’s called a practice. The first time I tried meditating my foot fell asleep, my mind wandered, my stomach growled and disturbed the silence. So, I’m especially thankful for Milliken’s post “Om Ananda Atman (a blog about meditation).”

If meditation is one of your spiritual goals this year, or if you’re just curious about it, you won’t want to miss her post here.

Happy New Year everyone!

What you can expect in 2012

By Tracy Simmons

Hiya readers,

The past few months have been busy ones. Since August, we’ve launched this Construction Diary, have recruited 27 bloggers (and counting) to write for us, and one-by-one have been letting Spokanites know about SpokaneFAVS.

Tracy Simmons

Behind the curtains, it’s been even busier. Our talented designers and web gurus are chipping away at creating the official website. I’ve seen pieces of it and I can confidently say you’re in for a wonderful surprise. This measly blog is nothin’ compared to what’s ahead.

Our administrative staff has picked two locations for our sister sites. Religion News Wilmington (North Carolina)  is in the works and soon we’ll be working on Religion News Columbia (Missouri). And in 2012 even more sites will be rolling out!

So what can you expect in the coming year? Well, for one, you’ll be seeing a lot more local stories! I’m going home to Texas for the holidays, but when I get back I’m snatching up my pen and notepad and hittin’ the streets! I have a story list sitting above my desk with 18 items on it and am eager to start reporting. As editor of this site I obviously still have lots of administrative duties, but I finally have some time to write which I’m very much looking forward to. And our bloggers have lots of story ideas too!

Soon we’ll have tons of content for you to keep up with, which is why it may be easier to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and through our weekly newsletter.

Happy holidays everybody, I’ll see you next year!

– Tracy