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Q+A: Jonathan Falwell’s Caribbean Vacation Turned into Hurricane Relief Ministry

After Irma disrupted his 25th wedding anniversary, Baptist pastor shares how he got Samaritan’s Purse to come to the rescue of St. Martin and why he went right back.

When Jonathan Falwell saw the first signs of what would become Hurricane Irma swirling on the weather map, he moved up the dates of his Caribbean vacation—a surprise trip to St. Martin with his wife for their 25th anniversary—just in case.

He never imagined they’d be sleeping on pool loungers in a makeshift hotel shelter, coming face-to-face with the destruction of a category-5 storm, or flying home on a Samaritan’s Purse plane.

Falwell—son of the late Jerry Falwell and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia—helped coordinate early relief efforts while stranded for days on the island, one of the hardest-hit by Irma.

“In a situation like this, I had the opportunity—and I do believe it was an opportunity—to be right smack dab in the middle of it,” he said. “I think it’s just a great reminder of how truly urgent that it is that we get the gospel out to let people see that yes, we live in a broken world, but yes, there is an answer and that answer is Jesus.”

In an interview with CT, Falwell shared his prayers, stories, and theological lessons from his time stranded on St. Martin and his involvement in the recovery since then.

What went through your mind when you realized Irma was going to hit the island?

We got down there, and we were watching the storm. The storm was picking up speed and certainly picking up power. On Monday night, we got a notification that the flights were canceled, the airport was closed, and we weren’t going to get out of St. Martin on the flight that we had intended. It wasn’t until Monday that we knew we were going to have to hunker down and make it through.

I just assumed it would be a bad storm—some ...

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Southern Baptists Back Confederate Monument Removal in Memphis

Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee’s former church votes to change its name.

After Charlottesville, more Christians are aligning with efforts to remove Confederate names and landmarks. In the past week, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and about a dozen of its pastors called for the removal of a Confederate statue in Memphis, Tennessee, while members of a historic Episcopal church in Lexington, Virginia, voted to remove Robert E. Lee from its name.

The SBC’s Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, joined more than 150 Memphis-area clergy in a letter requesting the state historical commission relocate a statue of Memphis native Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader is buried in a city park that bore his name until 2013.

Gaines also spoke out in favor of removing Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s statue from another downtown location, formerly called Confederate Park.

Both “are a source of offense to many citizens of Memphis due to Forrest’s and Davis’ support of the enslavement of African Americans,” he told Baptist Press. Two Civil War battles took place in the city, including a failed raid led by Forrest.

Confederate general Lee’s former parish, which was named R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church more than 110 years ago, voted on Monday to change its name to Grace Episcopal Church. The church’s leaders were split 7–5 in favor. Their decision followed a contentious attempt to revert back to the earlier name in 2015, after the Charleston church shootings.

“It’s been a very divisive issue for two years,” rector Tom Crittenden toldThe Roanoke Times. “But Charlottesville seems to have moved us to this point. Not that we have a different view of Lee ...

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‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ Gets Cosmic Conflict Disturbingly Right

David Lynch’s cult-classic revival is exactly as imaginative—and as uncomfortable—as it always needed to be.

“Should we watch Twin Peaks: The Return?”

Now that all 18 episodes of David Lynch’s long-awaited television series are available for binge-viewing on Showtime, I’m fumbling with insufficient answers to this question. As I formulate replies, I feel myself fracture into three distinct personalities:

(1) The Twin Peaks fanboy who spent a quarter of a century dreaming of new episodes.

(2) The film student who finds Lynch’s movies and television difficult to parse.

(3) The Christian whose conscience is troubled, because the show’s imaginative brilliance is tainted by graphic scenes of violence—particularly sexual violence.

There’s no easy answer.

David Lynch doesn’t mean for this to be a comfortable ride. Twin Peaks: The Return is, in fact, about a man split into three personas—possibly more. While the original 1990–91 series began by whispering “Who killed Laura Palmer?” and then asked “Can law enforcement stop an evil spirit?” this sequel series asks “Can multiple manifestations of an FBI agent be reconciled into one human being, healed and whole?”

This theme won’t surprise Lynch’s fans. In his book of reflections on creativity, Catching the Big Fish, Lynch expresses his desire to see human beings overcome divided minds and pursue lives of integrity. (He prefers the word “unity.”)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who need it, here’s a quick review of what preceded The Return.

The Story So Far

It begins: In the first episode of the original Twin Peaks, a fisherman discovers a popular high school girl dead on the riverbank behind his Eastern Washington home. The resulting investigation leads ...

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How Do You Solve a Theological Problem Like Maria?

Record hurricane season challenges believers in paradise to trust God amid life’s literal storms.

Christians across the Caribbean are turning to God during a hurricane season like no other. On Wednesday morning, Hurricane Maria landed on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the strongest to hit the US territory in at least 80 years.

The night before, pastor Gadiel Ríos prayed and read the Bible during a Facebook Live broadcast with more than 100 of his congregants, asking that God intercede to protect them and allow them to bless their island in the aftermath.

“As a congregation, we help each other during the preparation time, pray together a lot more, and help on relief efforts after the event,” said Ríos, lead pastor of La Iglesia del Centro, a congregation of about 350 in Arecibo. “The evangelical church is an ever-present force before and after these dire situations.”

Evangelicals make up about 15 percent of the population in Puerto Rico, where Catholics remain the majority, according to the Pew Research Center. Many churches, including Calvary Chapel of Puerto Rico, held special prayer nights this week to pray for their island and others in Maria’s path.

In practical ways, Caribbean churches have become better prepared for the annual threat of storms each hurricane season: Buildings are constructed to endure hurricane-force winds, forecasters can better predict a hurricane’s path, and social media networks allow congregants to quickly share warnings, pray, and coordinate relief efforts.

“We deal with the hurricane season as a ‘normal’ thing in our region, but the giant scope (size, force, rapidness of development) of Irma and Maria are just of another league,” Ríos explained by email.

Maria arrived about two weeks after Irma skirted Puerto ...

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