Cover Story: Help us make this a truly Happy New Year

YOUR IDEAS MATTER 

Chapel in the Alps.

PLEASE, HELP—As we end 2016, our staff wants to hear from you about stories you wish journalists would cover in 2017 about religious and cultural diversity. Now more than ever, our world needs journalists to highlight hopeful stories—lifting up individuals, communities, books and films that point us all toward the creative and compassionate possibilities of diversity. Please, read this brief column asking for your ideas. (And, yes, if you are reading these words, we’d like to hear your ideas.)

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FORCE OF FAITH

cc-being-flown-to-shepherd-hospital-to-undergo-rehab-1GOD SIGNS—Speaking of stories we all should read—and share—in the new year …

Each week, author and columnist Suzy Farbman brings us true stories about men and women whose lives take inspiring turns through love and faith. This week, she writes about a nearly fatal auto accident and its aftermath for a young family. (Go on! You won’t want to miss this amazing story.)

 

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END THE ‘BAIT & SWITCH’

th Third Way Newsletter logoTHIRD-WAY NEWSLETTER—Author and pastor Ken Wilson, a nationally known champion of diversity, publishes an appeal on LGBTQ inclusion as a new year approaches: “End the Bait and Switch.” Ken writes about the many congregations nationwide where LGBTQ folks seem to be invited, and only later discover some painful barriers.

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th Hanukkah_candlesHOLIDAYS!

Check out all the holidays! Visit www.InterfaithHolidays.com

CELEBRATE FREEDOM—One of the major themes of this eight-night Jewish festival of lights is religious freedom. Our Hanukkah story is packed with intriguing information about the holiday, plus a link to a FeedTheSpirit column about making latkes. And, of course, we have a link to that Maccabeats Hanukkah song that’s now been viewed on YouTube more than 12 million times!

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th Kwanzaa-party-celebrationKWANZAA TURNS 50!

STILL CELEBRATING—In recent years, Kwanzaa observances reportedly have declined in the U.S., but journalists are predicting a wider awareness this year as participants reach the Golden Anniversary of this African-American festival. Holidays columnist Stephanie Fenton has the story, including newsy links to several other publications covering the 50th anniversary.

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FEED THE SPIRIT

green-bean-queen-1YOU’LL LOVE THIS! Food-and-culture writer Bobbie Lewis brings us a column (and recipe) that you’re sure to savor: “Green Bean Caserole—the true story!” As various New Year’s parties—and, in January, Super Bowl parties—loom, we all know that tons of this traditional hot dish will soon be bubbling away in ovens nationwide. It’s a tried-and-true standard in countless church potlucks and holiday dinners, as well. But, did you know that the recipe was popularized by a Jewish woman?

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org.

passengers-movie-still-1Among Ed’s latest movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Good news for the holidays …

chef-matt-prentice-with-jewish-and-muslim-mitzvah-day-volunteers-in-2015-2

GOOD CHEER …
… WITH INTERFAITH COOPERATION

MITZVAH DAY—Depending where you live around the world, you may be familiar with “Mitzvah Day” programs that take place each autumn, especially in the UK, encouraging interfaith volunteerism. In Michigan, where ReadTheSpirit is based, Mitzvah Day is something else: Because of metro-Detroit’s large populations of Muslims and Jews, community leaders put out an annual call to step forward on Christmas Day. Since Muslims and Jews don’t celebrate that holiday, religiously mixed groups from these two communities step up and fill many roles usually covered by Christians. This lets more Christian families celebrate the holiday—and Muslim and Jewish men and women pitch in, side by side, running everything from soup kitchens to hospital wards. Suzy Farbman has this inspiring story for us. This event holds special meaning this year for Jewish volunteers, since Christmas is the first full day of Hanukkah in 2016.

Check out all the holidays! Visit www.InterfaithHolidays.com

th Hanukkah_candlesHAPPY HANUKKAH!

CELEBRATE FREEDOM—One of the major themes of this eight-night festival of lights is religious freedom. Our Hanukkah story is packed with intriguing information about the holiday, plus a link to a FeedTheSpirit column about making latkes. And, of course, we have a link to that Maccabeats Hanukkah song that’s now been viewed on YouTube more than 12 million times!

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AND FROM BOB ALPER—Given the convergence of these two global holidays, this year, let us also recommend that you enjoy author and humorist Bob Alper’s story, Mrs. Steinberg’s Christmas Tree. In this delightful true story, Bob looks back to confusion over the holidays when he was a kid growing up in the 1950s. Don’t miss it!

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las-posadas-procession-1

HISPANIC CHRISTMAS—The elaborate Hispanic countdown to Christmas officially began December 16 with Las Posadas—or Posadas Navidenas—across Mexico, in Guatemala and in regions of the United States.

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SPREAD GOOD NEWS

readthespirit-dot-com-bookstoreWANT INSPIRATION? This is a perfect time to order ReadTheSpirit books! You’ll be encouraging our authors—and doing something good for yourself and friends by sharing books like This Far By Faith, the inspiring (and funny) memoir of pastor and pioneering “green” activist Faith Fowler. Our opening Mitzvah Day photo, this week, was taken in 2015 at Faith’s Cass Community Services center in Detroit.

visual-parables-december-2016-issue-1LOVE MOVIES?
Consider ordering a year’s subscription to Visual Parables Journal. Visit faith-and-film columnist Ed McNulty’s home page and click on the link at the top of the page to “Visual Parables Journal.” Each month, you’ll get a new issue of the Journal packed with complete study guides to popular movies. It’s fun for individuals who love to think about the movies they are seeing—and a sure-fired way to spark discussion in your small group.

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la-la-land-movie-stillFILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org.

Among Ed’s latest movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Give the gift of Spirit this holiday season

IT’S NOT TOO LATE

readthespirit-dot-com-bookstoreSPREAD THE GOOD NEWS—There’s still time to order ReadTheSpirit books before the holidays! You’ll be encouraging our authors—and doing something good for yourself and your friends by giving books like This Far By Faith, the inspiring (and funny) memoir of pastor and pioneering “green” activist Faith Fowler. That’s one of our best sellers, guaranteed to provide hours of reading enjoyment—and a spiritual boost that makes readers want to get up, get out and help other people, just like Faith herself. Or maybe you prefer a book with spiritual wisdom—and recipes, too! Perhaps you want to learn more about immigrants to America in the new year, a vulnerable group in this era of global tensions. Or, you simply want some good news about all the values that truly do unite Americans, even now. Please, check out our ReadTheSpirit bookstore. On behalf of all of our authors—we appreciate you thinking about these books as year-end gifts.

visual-parables-december-2016-issue-1LOVE MOVIES?
Another gift to consider for friends who enjoy making faith-and-film connections is a year’s subscription to Visual Parables Journal. Visit faith-and-film columnist Ed McNulty’s home page and click on the link at the top of the page to “Visual Parables Journal.” Each month, you’ll get a new issue of the Journal packed with complete study guides to recent movies (and often more than one classic film as well). Plus, with a year’s subscription, you get access to all the back issues, too. It’s fun for individuals who love to think about the movies they are seeing—and a sure-fired way to spark discussion in your small group.

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Remembering heroes …

kim-marsella-and-astronaut-neil-armstrong-1GODSIGNS—Columnist Suzy Farbman brings us a heartwarming, real-life story of a convergence that reaches to the stars—yes, quite literally. At the loss of astronaut John Glenn in recent days, most Americans are remembering those courageous fellows who took us into outer space half a century ago. In fact, many of those early astronauts have been models of gracious behavior throughout their lives. This week’s GodSigns column is about one woman’s friendship with Neil Armstrong—sparked because of a special memory of her late grandfather.

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las-posadas-procession-1HOLIDAYS

Check out all the holidays! Visit www.InterfaithHolidays.com

HISPANIC CHRISTMAS—The elaborate Hispanic countdown to Christmas officially begins December 16 with Las Posadas—or Posadas Navidenas—across Mexico, in Guatemala and in regions of the United States.

WARM YOUR HEART—Here’s a holiday gift idea (for yourself or someone you love) that we guarantee you won’t find in other American magazines this year: The terrific new Winter collection from Ruth Burgess and the Iona Community’s Wild Goose Publications. And, the book includes one of the all-time most popular columns by our own Benjamin Pratt: Angel in the Dump.

pocket-church-stillPOCKET CHURCH—This free Christmas gift is one of the most creative ideas we’ve heard about from readers nationwide, this year. Pastor Sarah Teichmann and her husband Erik of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are the creative force behind this mini-video series they call Pocket Church. Sarah emailed us this explanation: “Pocket Church began as a way to connect people to their faith while they were on vacation or on the road. Take church with you! These little videos are right there in your pocket—on your phone or tablet. Faith formation can happen in the pew as well as on the run.” Intrigued? The easiest way to explore this idea is right here. If you dig a little bit, you’ll also discover—and enjoy—Sarah’s Cooking with Clergy video series! No kidding!

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la-la-land-movie-stillFILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org.

Among Ed’s latest movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Life Lessons from the Native Way

TIMELY VOICE FROM INDIAN COUNTRY

Voices in the Stones_cvr-fnl.inddKENT NERBURN RETURNS—For months, readers around the world have been asking us about the spiritual issues swirling around the Standing Rock pipeline protests in Sioux country south of Bismarck, North Dakota. News on Sunday (Dec 4, 2016) of a major victory for the protesters is electrifying environmentalists and Native leaders around the world—but the “victory” could be reversed by an incoming Trump administration. In light of news events, many of you have asked us to publish a ReadTheSpirit cover story to highlight the much deeper issues unfolding in the Great Plains. With perfect timing, Kent Nerburn—a best-selling interpreter of Native American life—offers us a 200-page collection of stories and reflections on Indian culture, called Voices in the Stones. Please, read this interview of Kent Nerburn—and consider reading his new book with friends, this winter.

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St. Nicholas & Christmas

AN ADVENT TALE—In the midst of growing darkness in our Northern Hemisphere, we offers this column contrasting the latest news from New York and Rome on darkness, hope and the need for compassion.

wpid-1203th_St_Nicholas_from_Turkey.jpgEASTERN ORTHODOX Christians began their annual Nativity Fast on November 15. Holidays columnist Stephanie Fenton has that story. Western Christians began Advent, their liturgical period anticipating Christmas on November 27.

THIS WEEK, many Christian families around the world also are looking ahead to the Feast of St. Nicholas, the forerunner of our pop-culture Santa Claus.

Check out all the holidays! Tell friends about the simply Web address: www.InterfaithHolidays.com

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winter-book-cover-wild-goose-publications-iona-books-2HOLIDAY IDEAS FROM BEN PRATT

WARM YOUR HEART—Here’s a holiday gift idea (for yourself or someone you love) that we guarantee you won’t find in other American magazines this year: The terrific new Winter collection from Ruth Burgess and the Iona Community’s Wild Goose Publications. And, yes, the book does include one of the all-time most popular columns by our own Benjamin Pratt: Angel in the Dump.

AND, STIR YOUR HEART—Our readers also tell us they’re looking for ways to stir their consciences this holiday season, as well. Once again, Benjamin Pratt offers two suggestions: First, he reviews the documentary film, The Homestretch, from Icarus Films. The movie takes us deep into Chicago’s homeless community to follow young people struggling to make it through school, despite long odds. Second, he reviews Talent Has Hunger, by First Run Features. This documentary is “pure joy,” about the life of a master music teacher. Either film would make an unusual and spirit-stirring gift this holiday season.

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kim-candace-and-jennifer-1Of Light (and Darkness)

GODSIGNS—Suzy Farbman’s column this week tells the story of three sisters, who lost their mother in a tragic accident. Fond memories of their mother are marked by both light—and unexpected darkness.

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pluralism-hands-karlahuber-1Thank you, Karla

A VOICE TO FOLLOW—One reason we remain a strong community of readers and writers after a decade of publishing ReadTheSpirit is the support of colleagues like writer Karla Huber. A big “Thank you!” goes out to Karla, this week, for calling attention to the cross-cultural publishing work of the team at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. If you haven’t discovered Karla’s website, please check it out. She shares thoughtful columns and also some of her own inspiring artwork. The world is a little better because compassionate voices like Karla’s are part of the chorus.

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th Third Way Newsletter logoAnd speaking of compassion …

THIRD WAY—Another team of colleagues doing good in the world, each week, writes under the collective name: Third Way Newsletter. This week, Ken Wilson offers some helpful reflections on the challenges of life and faith in the midst of an ascendant Trump culture. You may be surprised by Ken’s pastoral voice on these issues. Please, check it out.

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visual-parables-december-2016-issue-1FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. The Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with complete study guides on recent films—enjoyed by individuals and small groups—is the one resource Ed sells to support his ongoing work. The December 2016 issue is now available. Please consider subscribing.

Among Ed’s latest movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: An Advent Tale of Two Cities … New York and Rome

‘Comfort, Comfort my People’

pope_francis_visits_the_united_states_capitol-2015-2AN ADVENT TALE—In the midst of growing darkness in our Northern Hemisphere, the world’s Christians begin Advent. ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm offers this column contrasting the latest news from New York and Rome on darkness, hope and the need for compassion. There’s even a suggestion of an inspiring quote you may want to print out and carry with you through the weeks preparing for Christmas.

wpid-1203th_St_Nicholas_from_Turkey.jpgEASTERN ORTHODOX Christians began their annual Nativity Fast on November 15. Holidays columnist Stephanie Fenton has that story. Western Christians began Advent, their liturgical period anticipating Christmas on November 27.

MANY CHRISTIAN families around the world also are looking ahead to the Feast of St. Nicholas, the forerunner of our pop-culture Santa Claus. We have that story, as well.

Check out all the holidays! Tell friends about the simply Web address: www.InterfaithHolidays.com

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INTERNATIONAL ARTS COMMUNITY

kresge-arts-in-detroit-website-1GODSIGNS—Columnist Suzy Farbman brings us an inspiring story, this week, about Michelle Perron, a tireless promoter of the arts who finally landed in Detroit, Michigan. Through various organizations in Detroit, she is actively developing resources for the international community of artists gathered in this city. This is a good-news story about one remarkable woman making a big difference in our world.

 

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

arrival-movie-still-4ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org.

Among Ed’s new movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Welcoming St. Nicholas, the ‘real’ Santa Claus

th St NicholasNICHOLAS STILL INSPIRES

COVER STORYHolidays columnist Stephanie Fenton reports on the Dec. 6 holiday celebrating St. Nicholas—the “real” Santa Claus. This ancient bishop’s generosity—and his courage in helping the vulnerable—is an inspiring example in our world today. Stephanie also highlights links to online resources for Do It Yourself crafts from the St. Nicholas Center.

AND THERE’S MORE! Stephanie Fenton and RTS Editor David Crumm called on St. Nicholas Center creator Carol Myers to help journalists around the world more accurately cover the very popular figure of St. Nicholas. Here is that combined column on the website of the International Association of Religion Journalists. Especially if you are a teacher or communicator, you’ll find that column very helpful.

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WHAT CAN WE BE THANKFUL FOR?

carrie_everything_is_everywhere_black_jacket_guitar_0-1CARRIE NEWCOMER—As Thanksgiving approaches in 2016, we’re recommending a new book and a new album. This new set was created by Indiana-based Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker musician and writer whose persona is defined by the American heartland.

Please, read our interview with Carrie Newcomer.

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ellen-kahn-and-granddaughter-kira-thompson-thSURVIVAL AND TRIUMPH—Each week, Suzy Farbman’s GodSigns column brings us an inspiring real-life story, often with remarkable convergences. In this season of thankfulness, Suzy tells the story of Ellen Kahn. As a girl in Berlin, Ellen and her Jewish family experienced Kristallnacht first hand and managed to flee Germany. Suzy’s story takes us all the way to contemporary America. Read—and be thankful.

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patricia-montemurri-story-for-duke-university-leadership-magazine-on-cass-community-services-faith-fowlerFAITH FOWLER TRANSFORMING DETROIT—At ReadTheSpirit, we are giving thanks this week for a terrific profile of Detroit’s Faith Fowler by veteran journalist Patricia Montemurri. The magazine story was published in an online Leadership journal from Duke University. To put it simply: We need stories like this now! Thanks to her deep faith and boundless energy, Faith Fowler continues to transform the city one person and one home at a time. (We’re also pleased to recommend Faith’s own memoir as a terrific holiday gift for friends!)

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MICHAEL TWITTY’S KOSHER SOUL

michael-twitty-kosher-soul-1FEED THE SPIRIT—Amazing but true! Michael Twitty is both a highly respected African-American chef and teaches Hebrew and keeps Kosher in his Jewish home. FeedTheSpirit’s Bobbie Lewis brings us a guest column this week that profiles this remarkable teacher and bridge builderPlus, Michael shares with us his recipe for black-eyed pea hummus. Might be a terrific new offering for your Thanksgiving guests!

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Thanksgiving table with folks serving (1)And the holiday …

THANKSGIVING—Sure, we’ve got the whole holiday story! That’s the specialty of our holidays expert Stephanie Fenton, who tells the whole story … and provides some wonderful links to recipes (including vegetarian options) and Thanksgiving crafts. Enjoy!

 

Check out all the holidays! Tell friends about the simply Web address: www.InterfaithHolidays.com

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FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

whats-cooking-movie-dvdED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org.

THANKSGIVING-theme movies:

Among Ed’s new movie reviews are:

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Cover Story: Carrie Newcomer reminds us of thankfulness

WHAT CAN WE BE THANKFUL FOR?

carrie_everything_is_everywhere_black_jacket_guitar_0-1COVER STORY—As Thanksgiving approaches in 2016, all Americans are anxious. Half of Americans are hurting. Even the half of our neighbors who “won” the White House, though, are deeply concerned about what comes next. In such an unsettling season, ReadTheSpirit does what we do best: We’re recommending a new book and a new album. This new set was created by Indiana-based Carrie Newcomer, the Quaker musician and writer whose persona is defined by the American heartland.

Countless readers have contacted our magazine over the past week, expressing a wide range of concerns about our lives as Americans—and the future of our world. A central theme of Carrie Newcomer’s music is returning to the solidity of our roots in personal relationships and local communities—and renewing our strength and inspiration to face the world. This is already “the holiday shopping season,” and we can think of no better gift for friends than this unique set from Carrie of music plus her slim book of poetry and essays.

Please, read our cover story this week, an interview with Carrie Newcomer.

Thanksgiving table with folks serving (1)What about the holiday?

THANKSGIVING—Sure, we’ve got the whole holiday story! That’s the specialty of our holidays expert Stephanie Fenton, who tells the whole story … and provides some wonderful links to recipes (including vegetarian options) and Thanksgiving crafts. Enjoy!

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GUSHEE: ‘Debunking an imagined past’

th-Changing-Our-Mind-cover-with-author-David-P-GusheeMISSING ‘CHRISTIANS’—Two top scholars of religion in American life—David Gushee and Stewart Hoover—are both stepping forward to talk publicly about “white Christian” nostalgia that fueled Donald Trump’s campaign. Gushee talked with Publishers Weekly magazine. Hoover posted columns on his own website. Here’s a roundup of what they’re saying.

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HOLIDAYS and FESTIVALS

Check out all the holidays! Tell friends about the simply Web address: www.InterfaithHolidays.com

NATIVITY FAST

nativity-orthodox-icon-1CHRISTMAS BEFORE THANKSGIVING? Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world begin thinking about the Nativity, better known as Christmas in the U.S., before American Thanksgiving rolls around. That’s because they are called to a lengthy Nativity Fast in preparation for the holiday. Stephanie Fenton has the story.

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‘Family Tree Will Always Grow’

fullsizerender-2GODSIGNSSuzy Farbman’s column this week is about how her family remembers a beloved member each year. Her inspirational stories always involve remarkable convergences; and this one involves a song you’ll be pleased to discover: The Family Tree.

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Of tombstones … and weddings …

debra-darvick-column-on-tombstonesDEBRA DARVICK—Advice columnist Debra Darvick specializes in advising Jewish families about everyday troubles in life—but, hey, we’ve all got troubles whatever our faith! This week, she responds to a question about a tombstone … and wedding invitations.

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visual-parables-journal-november-2016-issue-2FILM, FAITH
& POPULAR CULTURE

ED McNULTY—Enjoy all of the free resources from Ed McNulty’s faith-and-film website: VisualParables.org. The Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with complete study guides on recent films—enjoyed by individuals and small groups—is the one resource Ed sells to support his ongoing work. The November 2016 issue is now available. Please consider subscribing.

Among Ed’s latest movie reviews are:

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