Religion News: August 2017

Ignacio Becerra and Maria Garcia with the Virgin of Candelaria statue from their hometown in Jalisco, Mexico, which traveled to U.S. towns in July. Photo: Mike Marshall.

Patron saint honored

Virgin of the Candelaria. Photo: Mike Marshall.

With rolling hills and open country, the small town of Quitupan, a municipality in the state of Jalisco in Mexico, looks very much like Crozet in many ways, said Ignacio Becerra. Becerra, who owns Las Cavanas with his wife Maria Garcia, comes from the town. Along with other people from Quitupan scattered throughout the United States, they observe some of the religious traditions of their home. One is to honor their town’s patron saint, the virgin of Candelaria. She’s represented in the town as a small statue encased in glass, holding a candle in one hand and the infant Jesus in the other, with beautiful blue robes edged in gold.

On the second of February each year, the citizens of Quitupan have a big parade to honor their patron saint, with music and dancing and prayers, followed by food and drink. In the summer months, a replica of the statue is passed from church to church, and then it journeys northward, to be received by former residents of Quitupan in churches and homes in the United States. This year, the statue traveled east to Colonial Beach, then to Charlottesville, then to Crozet, where it was displayed at Las Cavanas on July 14, and then to the home of Garcia and Becerra, where friends and neighbors met to pray, listen to music, sing hymns and enjoy Garcia’s famous tamales and mole.

Hymn singers make a joyful noise. Photo: Clover Carroll.

Hymn singers make a joyful noise

Nearly 50 music lovers gathered at Tabor Presbyterian Church in July for an old-fashioned Hymn Sing and Ice Cream Social. The idea originated in the Tabor Church choir and was organized by Robin McElwee, Diane Lewis, and Molly Jones. Jones led the singing through a microphone with her sweet soprano voice and even added a descant or two. Last month’s event was the second of the well-attended series.

“A lot of churches have gone to praise songs, but people still love to sing the old hymns. Gathering in the evening like this to sing used to be a tradition,” Lewis explained. Church member Susan Craig came “because I love to sing. I prefer these songs to the high-falutin’ kind you often get these days. But my husband, I think he came for the ice cream!”

If you’d like to join but are not sure you’ll remember all the words, they’re projected on a screen to help. Those who read music use a book containing both words and music. The singers created a spirit of community as well as vocal harmony as they sang old favorites such as “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Morning Has Broken,” and “Whispering Hope.” Pianist Nila Khakimova provided lively accompaniment, and Bucky Bailes lent strong tenor support on “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.” In addition to an opening prayer, five choir members led a soothing benediction by singing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” The next Hymn Sing at Tabor will be Sunday, August 27 at 6:30 p.m., and all ages are welcome.

“Faith in film” encourages dialogue

When the Wayne Theatre opened in Waynesboro last year, Barrett Owen wanted to find a way to support it. The Rev. Owen had just come to Waynesboro’s First Baptist Church, and it seemed to him a film series examining universal spiritual themes was a perfect way to learn about the community as well as fulfilling the mission of the church in Waynesboro.

“I wanted to show contemporary films with theological underpinnings,” Rev. Owen said. It wasn’t hard to find suitable films, although some of them didn’t at first seem overtly religious. For instance, he chose “Selma” to examine race and reconciliation, and “Chocolat” to discuss the church and community. Youth coming of age was examined in “Brave” and will be again in “Moana,” scheduled for August 13. Owen said the symbolism of a journey, stretching back as far as the Odyssey, is especially relevant to people searching for something greater than themselves, and this theme will also be repeated in the October offering, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”

The films, followed by discussion groups composed of community members who have standing regarding the issues raised, have been well-attended, and are offered on a “pay what you will” basis. Rev. Owen expects the films to continue after this season.

Besides encouraging honest dialogue on important matters, Rev. Owen said the films have benefited him. “As someone new to the community, this helps me understand city dynamics on a larger scale than I see in my role as pastor.”

Find times and dates at

East meet west

Dr. Vasilea Digidiki spoke at the second annual East-West encounter. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Two churches—St Nicholas Orthodox and St. Thomas Acquinas Catholic—use the timing of a nearly thousand-year-old break to make a simple local effort to come together. In mid-July, near the anniversary of the great schism, “we meet other Christian brothers and sisters, share what we have received in our own Eastern Orthodox tradition, and explore issues of mutual concern,” said Father Robert Holet of St. Nicholas.

This year’s event was the second in the series. Last year’s speaker, Dr. Gayle Woloschak, participated in the Great Council of the Orthodox Churches held just weeks earlier, and reported on issues of unity in the churches, Father Robert said. “This year’s event (see separate story) was prompted not only by the Syrian refugee crisis itself, but also the visit of Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (Istanbul) to minister to the refugees who landed on the island of Lesvos, Greece.”

Next year, Father Robert said the event will be held at St. Thomas if the new facilities are completed. He said the two churches have also discussed other smaller gatherings in the interim, to explore the issues that serve as obstacles to unity.


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