Profiles in Spirituality: Unitarian Universalism with the Mid-Shore’s Reverend Sue Browning

According to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s own data, the U.U. Church currently has just under 200,000 members in the entire United States, and about two hundred of them attend church in Kent County or Talbot County on any given Sunday.

In comparison, the Episcopal Church, another relatively small denomination, has about 3,500 active members in the same region, while the Catholic faith comes close to having 7,000 adherents.

These numbers may suggest that the Unitarians represent a tiny part of the religious fabric on the Delmarva, but those statistics do not account for the extremely high level of activism these small congregations — one in Kent and the other Talbot County — participate in during the year in their communities. In fact, when one factors in contributions that the U.U. Church make locally in such critical areas of concern for social justice, immigration, and the environment, one then can one see the full impact of the Unitarian Universalists on the Mid-Shore.

And one person who sees that impact on an almost daily basis is the Reverend Sue Browning, who is in the unique role of being the minister of both the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton as well as the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River in Kent County.

The Spy sat down with Rev. Browning to talk a bit about Unitarian Universalism as a faith, which is liberal by nature and characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” In other words, Unitarian Universalist members do not accept a creed per se but are unified by a shared search for spiritual growth.

We also talked to Sue about the important role that faith, unconventional as it may be in the U.U. Church, plays in the life of its members, the spiritual dimensions of aging, and the need to exercise one’s compassion and gratitude like a muscle which will only gets stronger with time.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Mid-Shore Unitarian Universalist Churches, please go here for Chestertown and here for Easton




Profiles in Spirituality: Fred Israel on Jews, Jesuits, and Natural Laws

Since the early 1980s, Fred Israel and his wife, Lesley, have been well-known citizens of  Talbot County. Having moved here after Fred’s brilliant career as an engineer, lawyer, entrepreneur, and advisor to Vice President Hubert Humphrey in Washington, the Israels have been active participants and philanthropists with area schools, cultural institutions, the Democratic party , as well as devoted members and leaders of the B’nai Israel Temple  in Easton.

But its only after one digs a bit a deeper with Fred Israel and his experiences that you begin to understand his remarkable spiritual journey. A practicing orthodox Jew all his life, Fred nevertheless found himself chairing the academic committees of two highly regarded Jesuit schools, as well as a long time role with his alma mater, the Jesuit-run Georgetown University Law Center.

These experiences, combined with an intense intellectual curiosity on morality, natural laws and the philosophy of religion, would lead anyone to have strong ideas about  and therefore the Spy was eager to sit down with Fred, who recently turned 90 years old, as part of our ongoing series on spirituality to talk about his early life, experiences and points of view.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length




Profiles in Spirituality: St. Peter and Paul’s Father James Nash

The idea of being the leader of Saints Peter & Paul Parish could easily strike urbanites as the equivalent of being the classic country priest, whose time is spent leisurely ministering to a small flock of the faithful in a beautiful rural setting. But it didn’t take long for Father James Nash to dispel that myth very quickly from his modest office on Route 50 in Easton when the Spy caught up with him a few weeks ago.

In fact, Father Nash oversees an enterprise that is counted as one of the largest employers in Talbot County and includes an elementary school, high school, and three churches with membership in the thousands. And each week, he not only faces the normal challenges that come with any man of the cloth, but must manage over one hundred employees, fundraise for substantial building projects, and administer a $6 million annual budget during his spare time.

And yet none of this seems to weigh too heavily on the priest who left a successful accounting practice to find his real vocation within the Catholic Church. In our Spy interview, Father Nash talks about the business of St. Peter and Paul, but also about the timeless beauty of his faith, the teachings of Pope Francis, and his humble philosophy of leadership in caring for his parish.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Saints Peter and Paul Church and School, please go here.


Profiles in Spirituality: WC Professor Joseph Prud’homme Connects Politics, Religion and Culture

For almost the entire length of his academic career, Joseph Prud’homme, Easton resident, Washington College professor, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture, has investigated the extraordinary links that connect our country’s political life with its religious and cultural heritage. While he is the first to say that he is not a preacher nor a politician, but “just a professor,” he believes the time is right for his institute to move beyond the college classroom and enter into the much larger orbit of public discourse with outreach programs and lecture series designed to inform the Mid-Shore community of these multidisciplinary links.

In his first Spy interview, Joseph highlights how these three of these components interacts in our current state of affairs by using the example of the abolitionist movement in the early part of the 19th Century, where  politics, religion, and American culture were vividly seen as important and co-equal influences on how the United States saw the institution of slavery. In Professor Prud’homme’s mind, that trinity is just as important to consider when talking about abortion rights or the Black Lives Matters movement in 2017.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Washington College’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture please go here

Profiles in Spirituality: The Shore’s New Bishop on Christianity and Reconciliation after the Election

It’s safe to say that Santosh Marray, the newly installed Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton. is the most diverse leader they have had since its founding in 1866. But you could also say he is one of most diverse in the entire Church with his extraordinary life story.

Having started his spiritual journey while growing up in Guyana, South America, Bishop Marray’s life in the Episcopal Church has since taken him to virtually every part of the globe. And it is this unique background that Marray brings to the Diocese at a time of unique challenges for his church and this country.

In his first Spy interview, Bishop Marray talks at great length about his experience in some of the farthest corners of the world as well his role with his church in Eastern North Carolina and Alabama. The net result of this extraordinary depth and range of experience can be found in his vision for the diocese, as well as his confidence that his church will be seen as he says as a wreck and ceiling reconciler. In our post-election America

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about the Episcopal Diocese of Easton please go here.

Profiles in Spirituality: A Chat with Temple B’nai Israel’s Peter Hyman

From helping launch Washington College’s Hillel House in Chestertown to playing a very public advocacy role on social and racial issues in Easton, Temple B’nai Israel’s Peter Hyman has committed himself to playing a very engaged civic role since arriving from Pennsylvania eight years ago. As the first full-time rabbi in over fifty years for the Mid-Shore, Rabbi Hyman has watched with amazement the growth of the Jewish community and its aspirations in the region.

One of those aspirations is the construction of a new temple near Saints Peter and Paul Church in the southern part of town. With nearly $6 million raised towards a $6.5 million goal, the Rabbi tells the Spy in our first interview with him about the need for such a facility and the impact it will have on the Mid-Shore for the Jewish faith and community service. He also talks about the rent Confederate Memorial controversy in Talbot County through the lens of his faith.

This video is approximately six minutes in length

Profiles in Spirituality: Millington Gets a Saint

That’s right, Millington, one of the smallest towns on the Mid-Shore, is in line to have one of their natives sons be turned into canonized saint soon. That’s if Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has his way since he formally the canonization process in September of last year.

The son of Episcopal priest, Father Paul was born in Millington at the end of the 19th Century. In 1898, twelve years after his own ordination as an Episcopal priest, Father Paul and an Episcopalian nun, Sister Lurana White, co-founded the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor ln Garrison, New York.

In 1908, Father Paul initiated the Church Unity Octave to promote and pray for unity among all Christian communities. Today, the Church Unity Octave is celebrated around the world as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 18-25.  And one year later, the Society of the Atonement became the first religious community to be received corporately into the Catholic Church since the Reformation. Father Paul was ordained a Catholic priest in 1910.

In addition to his zeal for Christian unity, Father Paul is known for his great works of charity. He began St. Christopher’s Inn to care for and assist homeless men and those who suffer from addictions. He founded the Union-That-Nothing-Be-Lost to dispense funds to other charitable causes, co-founded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and helped launch the Catholic Medical Mission Board.

Father Paul also published a monthly magazine, The Lamp, devoted to Christian unity and missionary work, and produced the popular “Ave Maria Hour,” a radio program that aired nationwide from 1935 until 1969.

“Although he was born five years before the establishment of the Diocese of Wilmington and did most of his ministry in New York, Father Paul is one of our native sons,” said the Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington. “As the first person born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to have his cause for canonization opened, Father Paul of Graymoor holds a very important place in the history of our Diocese. When one considers all that Father Paul accomplished in his life, work that continues to this very day, it is a source of great pride to native Marylanders like me.”

“Father Paul’s life and ministry has had tremendous international and interdenominational impact,” said Mr. Robert G. Krebs, Chancellor and Director of the Office of Communications of the Diocese. “Our goal was to offer people, especially Catholics from the Diocese of Wilmington, a short, concise telling of the Father Paul story and I think that Father Brian Terry does this well in our video. It is our hope that viewers will become interested in the life and cause of Father Paul and be inspired to learn more about this great Marylander.”

Until Rome gets around to confirming the canonization, Millington will need to settle for Father Paul’s current title, a Servant of God.

A video on Father Paul provided by Diocese of Wilmington


Profiles in Spirituality: A Plan for a Mid-Shore Interfaith Library and Graduate Center for all Faiths

When Bishop Joel Johnson retired as the leader of the Anglican Diocese of The Chesapeake last year, there were a number of projects that he listed as top priorities for his “golden years.” Many fell into the category of continuing his social activism in the community, including his involvement with Talbot Association of Clergy and Laity and more recently helping to facilitate a series of community discussion groups on the topic of race.

But one project, which seemed at first more like a housekeeping task, was figuring out what to do with the Bishop’s 6,000 volume personal library on theology and religion. With most of the books in storage, there was frustration on his part that these extremely rare editions focused on spirituality were not being used by the scholars that needed them.

In his Spy interview, the Bishop talks about the extraordinary circumstances that has led him to his recent decision to use that collection as the foundation of a new interfaith theological library and graduate center to be based in Easton. The new academic center is to be named The Oaks of Mamre, a biblical reference to the location where Abraham had entertained the three angels some 5,000 years ago.

For more information about The Oaks of Mamre Project or contact Bishop Johnson please call at 410-819-0731.

The Future of the Episcopal Church on the Shore Update: Rev. Dan Gross

Almost four years ago, the Spy took an interest in the special challenges facing the Episcopal Church. The Spy did so because those challenges highlighted in very local terms the social changes that faced the country at the time, including the blessing of same sex relationships and the relevancy of Christianity with a quickly growing secular population.

As a consequence of this interest, the Spy sponsored a forum in the fall of 2009 to discuss the state of the Church with the rectors of Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. As our coverage clearly shows, the Episcopal Church, at least locally, was still very much in transition.

Now we return to this complex issue of spiritual and cultural change with some of the original panelists to see how our local churches are moving forward with this extraordinary transition.

We begin this occasional series with the Rev. Dan Gross of the Emmanuel Church in Chestertown. Rector Gross talks about Emmanuel’s special appeal for newcomers, its ability to remain relevant with unprecedented growth in the volunteer hours and commitment of his current congregation, and the slow and careful acceptance of gay clergy and and gay relationships within the Church.

The video is approximately five minutes in length

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