Monday, July 7, 2008

The business of religion: are demographics driving church relocations?

My little corner of Southwest carmel is beginning to look like a mini-Jerusalem.

Within the area of 106th Street to the South, Michigan Road to the west 116th St to the north and Towne(Township Line) to the east, there are three religious congregations building a sanctuary. These are actually joining three churches that already exist in this rectangular area.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me is that Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which is building a Byzantine-style facility with an amazing golden dome as well as Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, which just completed its synagogue off 116th and Towne are actually re-locating from central Indianapolis.

As someone who thought congregations are composed of the people who live within a certain diameter around its worship space, what is happening here? Are the congregations moving with the buildings, or are the buildings relocated to be closer to its people? Another way to put the question, what’s driving these transplantations? Size or demographics?

According to Holy Trinity’s website, it is a parish that has been on a journey for over 90 years. Founded by immigrants who had journeyed themselves to this country, the parish’s first temple was on west 16th Street. By 1961, the Holy Trinity parish had outgrown those facilities and moved to our present location at 40th and Pennsylvania Streets.

Church officials claim they have again outgrown their facilities, home of the well-known Greek Festival in September. Holy Trinity purchased twenty acres in 2001 at the NE corner of 106th and Shelborne and has spent the last two years building its Byzantine-style temple. It’s really cool on a sunny day since it features a unique dome that reminds me of the Golden Dome atop Notre Dame’s Main Building.

The reason I ask about demographics is that my church, St. Monica is undergoing its second dramatic population shift in less than 20 years. The parish welcomed the rapid influx of young families as Pike township families filed into new apartment and track home developments in the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve seen many, mostly “anglo” families moving to Carmel, Zionsville Avon and Fishers as we’ve seen a huge increase in Hispanic families.

Does your church look like it did 10 or 15 years ago? Do you think these congregations are moving for space reasons or because its leaders discovered so many of its flock were moving north as well?

ISO 'Ask Your Mama" put the weight of the black struggle on my shoulders

(photo by Mike Magan)

I walked into the “Ask Your Mama” performance of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra last night feeling pretty full of myself. Here I am a white-bred Southern Indiana boy taking his 11 year-old daughter to a high-brow event. Dad’s of the world and civil rights leaders are patting me on the back as we take our seats. After all, I was exposing her to a cultural trifecta: music, poetry and African-American history in a month that isn’t February.

As the lights flashed then dimmed above the (score one more for me) multicultural crowd, Ruby Bridges gently put her hand on my shoulder and whispered “thank you” into my ear. After all, I was saving my daughter’s generation by heroically delivering this sheltered white girl to a Langston Hughes poetry reading.

And as it so often is, my ego was deflated quickly when Ice-T started reading lines like this:
“Bitter was the day
When I saw my children unschooled,
My young men without a voice in the world,
My women taken as the body-toys
Of a thieving people.

That day is past.”

OK, I’m getting uncomfortable now, and Annie is transfixed.

“Bitter was the day, I say,
When the lyncher's rope
Hung about my neck,
And the fire scorched my feet,
And the oppressors had no pity,
And only in the sorrow songs
Relief was found.

That day is past.”

I was hoping intermission would never come. My lightening-sharp 6th grader will have questions about the history of the black struggle in America. She wasn’t going to ask about whats and whens on the historical timeline. She would be asking “why.” Why did white people lynch black people? Why did white children throw rocks and tomatoes at black children? and why did police dogs rip into peaceful protesters?

There were more instruments on display than bassoons and French Horns, Ice-Ts voice was unwavering and powerful, the Ron McCurdy Quartet's trumpet and bass were silky smooth and the piano player, while tickling the ivories with his right hand was at times controlling a powerful video slideshow with his left.


I felt the weight of history on my shoulders; I didn’t want to misrepresent the struggle and the deaths of black people. For the first time in my life I realized the civil rights movement impacted me. Could a white guy accurately portray Langston Hughes’ America?

Actually the answer was right in front of me . . . it was in the eyes of my 11 year-old. She didn’t have to unlearn and reprogram born-in prejudices like I did. In her eyes everyone: men, women, blacks and whites were equal. I still make unwitting mistakes because I’m still ignorant in many ways, but Annie is already more attuned than I will ever be.

“Dad, why did the audience laugh whenever (Langston Hughes) would say ‘Ask Your Mama?’” Annie asked.

Here it goes: “Annie, think about the belittling questions white people asked just before ‘Ask Your Mama.’ was given as a response,” I said.

“You mean like ‘Can you recommend a good maid,’” Annie said. OK so far, so good.

“Just because Hughes was black, white people assumed he could recommend a good maid.," I told her. "Hairs on neck firmly standing up straight now. "So he told them ‘Ask your Mama,’ because he didn’t know any more maids than they did.”

Feeling confident I continued, “Ask your Mama” was a revolutionary response because Hughes was rejecting what white society expected him to say; where they wanted him on the totem pole. Hughes was just another servant to The Man. Annie rolled her eyes the more I talked. So whether I was right or wrong, I was losing her. But at least I wasn’t embedding a new set of prejudices.

Annie and I also came to the conclusion that the singular voice of the reader; the louder voice of the jazz quartet and the thunderous voice of the orchestra reflected the ebb and flow of the evolution of civil rights. At times there was but a single voice like Martin Luther King or Malcom X; at times there were more voices such as the NAACP, and finally a crescendo of voices from thousands of black protesters.

Thank you ISO for taking a chance with the McCurdy Quartet and Ice-T on an unconventional and unbuttoned performance. You gave us more than a concert, you gave us all a reminder of how sacrifice and struggle shaped our lives into what they are right now.

The Death of Tim Russert: NBC forgets about HIPPA

As a news and politics junkie and as a former reporter, I was shocked to hear Tim Russert died today. I grew up watching NBC nightly news with Brokaw and as my interest in politics grew, I never missed Meet the Press. Who didn't think it was cool that he broadcast the show from downtown Indianapolis a few weeks ago?

In watching the tributes and coverage of his death, I think the coverage even on NBC is getting a little out of hand. While he is a very public figure, should his personal physician be giving details about his health history only hours after he died? Don't you think it's weird that his employer is the one broadcasting the information that HIPPA rules and regulations is supposed to protect. Even if there's something in his contract that allows his health info out, Shouldn't his wife give he OK first? If so, why bother her with that just after his passing.

Maybe I'm the one getting carried away, so decide for yourself: Here's a link to NBC's coverage of one of journalism's brightest and most influential people. Watch the video from his doctor and tell me if this IS or IS NOT out of line.

Welcome to NHL v2.0

On a night everyone is talking about tornadoes and an Obama nomination, I am witnessing the resurgence of the National Hockey League. Even though pro hockey is not the "hottest" ticket in Indiana, the resurgence in popularity of the Indiana Ice and the NHL nationally is intriguing to me.

After all, it was only four years ago that the 88th season of the National Hockey League was lost to a bitter labor dispute. THE PUCK WASN'T DROPPED ONCE! At least the IRL and CART kept racing. As a Detroit Red Wings fan for 20 years I was crushed and disgusted. I had no problem downgrading my allegiance since I live in the Colts, basketball and racing capital of the world.

But this year, as my eight-year-old son Charlie starting taking an interest in Hockey all on his own, I decided to take him to an Indiana Ice game. We had a blast, so we went to another, and then another. He banged on the glass and was stared down, in jest, by an opposing player. I even dusted-off the EA Sports NHL '99 . . .I must say the dormant Hockey fan inside of me began to wake from its four-year slumber.

Then the NHL started to do some things that the casual and die-hard hockey fan thought was cool: like playing a game OUTSIDE in the SNOW. The NHL on NBC meant cooler camera angles, in-game interviews and the emergence of players with a Gretzky-like aura such as Sindey Crosby.

All of this on top of aggressive franchise expansion in the South and West and traditions such as the original eight, hat tricks and sprawled octopuses have rekindled this fan's interest.

And as icing on the cake, both the NHL brass and fans got the series it wanted, the tradition-steeped and defensive juggernaut Wings vs. the sleek and Crosby-captained Penguins. Even though it ended in six instead of seven games, the teams gave us a nail-biting 3-OT match Monday and an exciting game tonight that ended with a last second S-T-R-E-T-C-H by Wings goalie Chris Osgood to keep the puck in the crease but out of the goal.

So what do YOU think? Is the NHL better than ever?

Or should we care since Indiana has no major league hockey team? Since so many of us follow and take interest in brands and public perception, I'm interested in your take.

Helmet Cam feed from bike-to-work day

I promised to ride my bike into work last last Friday as part of the national bike month as well as my effort to get healthier. I was motivated, but out of shape. I'd like to exercise more and save gas $$ so I was out to prove to myself that I am physically capable of biking the six miles from home to work.

What got my heart pumping was not the 20 minutes of cardio, but the utter disregard drivers have for bike riders. Also, pot holes become POT HOLES! because they look a lot bigger when forced with a choice between them and the lane of busy traffic snuggling up to you.

An opportunity to meet a fellow smoosier, Erin Jump of Fancy Fortune Cookie, Inc, came later that day. Luckily for me the the "World's Original Gourmet Flavored Fortune Cookie Bakery" was less than a mile away. The video below shares footage from my helmet cam (HD cam bungeed to the top of my helmet) of the commute to her office and back.

Friday is 'bike to work day,' and I'm gearing up for it

How can you embrace Mother Earth while sticking it to the oil companies at the same time?

Ride your bike to work!

This Friday is actually Ride Your Bike to Work Day and there is actually a day of events planned by various government and business entities:

As I was researching this, I discovered that a group called "Central Indiana Commuter Services" can pair you up with Bike Buddies or carpool buddies. They also offer emergency rides homes, where a taxi will pick you up and take you home if you are sick or your bike/bike seat is stolen. I was impressed that Indy has a program like this. They don't/can't promote it nearly enough.

I'm a big guy and a need help ridding myself of my spare tire(s), so to speak. Biking the 7 miles to my office once or twice a week would amount to a trifecta for me. I live at 106th and Michigan and will need to ride all the way to my office at 71st and Georgetown. I have ridden this before and the section between 96th and 86th never ceases to scare the s#!@ out of me.

But I AM going to do this despite the fact that some commuters will confuse me with a circus bear who escaped the big top.

I promise to post a video of my journey, so check back soon!

Call it 'Ballapalooza': Indiana needs an intra-state college basketball tournament

This idea as been rattling around in my head for some time: Why not have an early-season college basketball tournament where all Indiana-based colleges play each other?

All the D1 programs are in a bracket and all the D2 D3 schools are in a bracket. There would be multiple locations around the state culminating with an elite eight or final four "festival" in Indianapolis. The elite 8 or final four would be playyed at hinkle with the championship game at Lucas Oil or Conseco.

Imagine Evansville vs Butler, Valpo vs Notre Dame, IU vs IUPUI, Indianapolis vs IPFW, Depauw vs Wabash, etc.

Yes there would be basketball, but the festival would celebrate not just our basketball heritage but a place where fans from all over the country would come to celebrate the sport. Kind of an Indiana-based bracketbuster, or annual Woodstock for basketball in its natural home - Indiana.

I understand most schools set their schedules years in advance, but surely, all of us in SI can figure out how to get this rolling in the next couple of years.

There's the idea, come on Smoosiers let's Brainstorm this mug. How to we get this from idea to implementation?