September 24th, 2014
12:34 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog editor
(CNN) - According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana, God decides who will live and die during the next year. For Cantor Shlomo Glick, the holy days - which begin the Jewish new year - are particularly poignant.
Not only does Glick, who lives in Jerusalem, stand at the front of synagogues and sing solemn prayers on Rosh Hashana, but he is an EMT for United Hatazalah, a volunteer emergency service.
Glick, 36, spoke to CNN via email about his spiritual and secular roles - including a time he stopped religious services to treat a man in cardiac arrest.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: For people who might not know, can you explain a bit about the role of a cantor?
A: A cantor leads Jewish congregations in prayer. We are professional singers who have extensively studied the order and meaning of the prayers in addition to how to carry our voices. A good cantor tailors the tunes and style of prayer with the audience to ensure that everybody sings in unison and finds meaning in the service.
Q: Which job, EMT or cantor, do you think is more important?
A: I love performing and inspiring people in prayer, but there is no greater feeling than saving a life.
Q: You work closely with human frailty. Does that make the High Holy Days more poignant for you?
August 9th, 2014
06:01 PM ET
By Daniel Burke and Ashley Fantz, CNN
(CNN) - It wasn’t as if God's voice boomed through sun-parted clouds, telling Kent Brantly to move his family to Liberia.
Still, the young doctor said, the call was clear.
It echoed through the congregation where he was raised, Southeastern Church of Christ in Indianapolis.
Standing before the church community in July 2013, months before he left for Africa, Brantly said he heard the call in the teachers who urged him to memorize Scripture and the neighbors who funded his first mission trip years ago.
He saw it in the aunts and uncles who spent their vacations running Bible camps, organizing youth groups and serving missions themselves in Africa.
“It may not seem like much,” Brantly said in an emotional address to the Southeastern congregation, “but when you connect the dots you see a grand design that God has used to draw my life in a certain direction.”
For Brantly, that meant serving a two-year medical mission in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization. But in a grim twist that garnered international headlines, the 33-year-old contracted Ebola while treating patients and was airlifted back to the United States.
Brantly and a fellow missionary, Nancy Writebol, who was serving with SIM, another Christian aid organization, are being treated for the disease at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
After Liberia's outbreak began in March 2013, Writebol volunteered at a hospital in Monrovia, where she disinfected doctors and nurses working with patients stricken by the disease.
Despite their weakened health, their trust in God remains strong, family members said.
“Mom is tired from her travel, but continues to fight the virus and strengthen her faith in her Redeemer, Jesus,” said Jeremy Writebol, Nancy’s son.
On Friday, Brantly said that he felt a spiritual serenity even after learning his diagnosis.
“I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding,” he said. “God was reminding me of what he had taught me years ago, that he will give me everything I need to be faithful to him.
Though Brantly's wife and children had been in Liberia with him, they had returned to the United States when he became ill.
January 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Amid the iconic art in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis told mothers that it's acceptable to breastfeed their children in public, even in holy sites like churches.
Children's voices, even when crying, make "the most beautiful choir of all," Francis said during a service in which he baptized 32 children.
"Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry," the Pope said. "If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus."
The Sistine Chapel, with its famous frescoes by Michelangelo, is the official chapel of the Apostolic Palace, traditionally the papal residence. Francis, though, lives in the Vatican guesthouse, Casa Santa Marta, saying it better suits his low-key style.
The Pope's remarks echo statements he made to an Italian newspaper in December in which he tied breastfeeding to the problem of global hunger.
December 19th, 2013
01:49 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - While controversy swirled around Phil Robertson Wednesday evening, the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch was at his longtime church, praying for a young woman who suffers from cancer, the TV star's pastor told CNN in an exclusive interview.
"Phil led us in prayer," said Mike Kellett, senior pastor of White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, Louisiana. "There were greater things on our minds than the firestorm of controversy about this article."
Asked how Robertson is taking the fierce criticism of his remarks on homosexuality, Kellett said, "He's very calm, and very confident that if he serves the Lord, God will take care of everything."
October 9th, 2013
07:07 PM ET
Opinion by Kate Bowler, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Money. Women. Fame. Church.
That's a day in the life of “The Preachers of L.A.,” a new reality show centered on the lives of megachurch pastors of the so-called “prosperity gospel.”
The show, which premiers Wednesday night on the Oxygen Network, is a chaotic mix of prayer, "house porn," and neatly orchestrated dust-ups between senior pastors and their “first ladies.”
In some ways, the combination of the prosperity gospel with the “Real Housewives” format is a match made in Oprah-produced heaven.
September 17th, 2013
10:24 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren is one of the country's most influential Christian leaders.
But Warren and his wife, Kay, have nearly disappeared from public view since their son's suicide in April.
That changed Tuesday night, when Rick and Kay Warren spoke with CNN's Piers Morgan about the death of their son, how their faith has changed and their new mission in life.
Here are five things to know about the Warrens.
August 29th, 2013
01:24 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) When Amy Arden joined Eagle Mountain International Church in 1997, her 11monthold daughter had received all the recommended vaccinations. But in the six years the young, single mother worked and worshipped at the evangelical megachurch, Arden didn’t take her child to get a single shot.
“There was a belief permeating throughout the church that there is only faith and fear,” Arden said. “If you were afraid of the illness enough to get vaccinated, it showed a lack of faith that God would protect and heal you.”
Members of Eagle Mountain International Church also believed that childhood vaccinations could lead to autism, said Arden, who is 35.
Arden said she was taught by a supervisor at the church's nursery how to opt out of a Texas law that requires most children to be immunized. She now regrets passing the same lesson on to other parents.
“I didn’t know a single mother who was vaccinating her children,” she said.
August 14th, 2013
09:12 AM ET
Photographers Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni rode with 600 pilgrims and volunteers as they took the “white train” from Reggio Calabria in southern Italy to the French town of Lourdes. Disabled believers make the journey annually in hopes of a miracle.
August 4th, 2013
09:49 AM ET
By Slma Shelbayah, CNN
(CNN) This Ramadan, Amina Jabbar faced a difficult decision.
The University of Toronto medical student’s rotation at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre began around July 9, the start of the Muslim holy month.
That meant working unpredictable shifts for as long as 26 hours while fasting from eating and drinking during the day.
The fast-paced hospital environment was already challenging Jabbar’s ability to keep up with colleagues and patients. As a new physician, she felt more “error prone” and said fasting would increase her anxiety on the job.
July 11th, 2013
11:47 AM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - On Monday morning, a Catholic parish in Virginia posted an urgent message from its priest on Facebook.
A couple was pregnant with a child diagnosed with Down syndrome, said the Rev. Thomas Vander Woude of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Virginia.
If they didn't find a couple willing to adopt the unborn child by the end of day, they would abort it, according to the priest.
Within hours, hundreds of couples had contacted the church with adoption offers, according to Holy Trinity staffers.
About this blog
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.