Editor's Note: Kathleen Koch is a Washington-based freelance journalist, author and speaker. Her best-selling new book, “Rising from Katrina,” traces her Mississippi hometown’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and her experiences covering it. For 18 years, she was a CNN correspondent.
By Kathleen Koch, Special to CNN
I just returned from another visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where gratitude is as plentiful this Thanksgiving as the “For Sale” signs that dot the beachfront. It might seem puzzling in a region where the recovery is still very much a work in progress.
“We are busier than ever, particularly since the oil spill,” acknowledged the smiling, silver-haired nurse at a fundraiser this week for Biloxi’s Bethel Free Health Clinic. The clinic sprang to life in 2005 to meet the needs of Mississippi residents who after Hurricane Katrina no longer had the money to pay for health care.
“This job was an answer to a prayer of mine,” said 70-year-old Bethel director Judy Jones. The retired nurse had been helping hand out cleanup supplies, but prayed for a paying job that better fit her skills and would help pay for repairs on her hurricane-damaged home.
For two and a half years, Jones ran the clinic out of a Lutheran church with volunteer doctors and nurses from out of state. But then the post-hurricane state of emergency was declared over. Jones introduced me to the tall, bespectacled doctor who came out of retirement to fill the gap.
This year's Thanksgiving Day proclamation from the White House has a distinctly religious ring to it, referring to the "gifts of a gracious God" to the nation.
"A beloved American tradition, Thanksgiving Day offers us the opportunity to focus our thoughts on the grace that has been extended to our people and our country," President Barack Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation begins."...We also pause our normal pursuits on this day and join in a spirit of fellowship and gratitude for the year's bounties and blessings."
A long-simmering battle between the Vatican and China over control of the Chinese Catholic Church blew up this week over the creation of a new Chinese Catholic bishop without the pope's permission.
The Roman Catholic Church said Beijing forced bishops to participate in the ordination of Joseph Guo Jincai, while China charged the Vatican with interfering with religious liberty in China.
Guo was ordained a bishop on Saturday, the Vatican said, calling the unauthorized act "a grave violation of Catholic discipline."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday that the Chinese Catholic Church was independent and that any "intervention" constituted "restriction of freedom and non-tolerance."
Bristol Palin's abstinence web ad for the Candies Foundation is drawing mixed reviews. The reality TV star and daughter of former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, appeared in the spot to promote safe sex with Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from the MTV reality show/morality play The Jersey Shore.
In the web spot, "The Situation" hits on "B-Palin," who rebuffs his advances and then encourages him to practice safe sex. The teen mom says in the ad she won't be having sex anymore until she's married.
The ad has been a viral hit on Youtube racking up over 630,000 hits.
But Jo Piazza at the religion blog TheRevealer.org writes:
Abstinence educators certainly didn’t get the joke. “The commercial was unprofessional and lacked clarity of message. It failed to deliver any lasting or meaningful value in addressing the problem of teen sex,” Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association told The Revealer in an email.
Editor's Note: CNN's Kim Uhl and Chris Ford filed this report from Washington. Sacred Spaces is an occasional series on the Belief Blog taking an inside look at worship spaces from unique perspectives.
For Joe Alonso, the National Cathedral in Washington is a work of art.
In part, his own art.
Alonso has been working as a stone mason at the cathedral since 1985. He was part of the team that finished the construction on one of the most recognizable buildings in an already iconic skyline.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.