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CULTURE DIGEST: Airplane passengers practice ‘prayer flying’ over Ohio

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some pilots took the mandate to pray for the salvation of their neighbors seriously on Good Friday when 10 single-engine airplanes flew over Ohio, carrying people praying for the 11 million residents of the state’s 88 counties.

“A plane is a good way to cover a lot of ground,” Kenneth Wortman, 73, a pilot from Lima, Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “In the Bible, God tells us the fields are ripe for the harvest. From the air, a person can see a lot of fields.”

Wortman got the idea for PrayerFlight last fall while talking with a friend about praying for the lost. His love of flying helped him visualize the mission field, The Enquirer said, and he soon got others to join him for two regional prayer flights before the statewide effort April 6.

“You see rows and rows of houses, and you know they are full of people you are praying for,” Samantha Ciminillo, 18, a member of Teens for Christ, told the newspaper. Ciminillo was one of six youths from the organization to join the pilots on their December prayer excursion.

The pilots from various denominations donate their time and the cost of fuel. Groups pray silently and aloud while in flight, and they pray for the state’s leaders, for people in schools and hospitals, and for the salvation of people who don’t know Jesus.

Pilots from California, Alaska, Indiana and Michigan who stopped at the Bluffton, Ohio, airport where Wortman works as a maintenance supervisor decided to join the effort by flying in their states with the specific purpose of prayer, The Enquirer said. Wortman hopes the effort will be nationwide soon.

“When you have God on your side, think big,” Wortman said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

EARLY CHILDCARE AFFECTS LONG-TERM BEHAVIOR — Children who received higher quality childcare before entering kindergarten had better vocabulary scores in the fifth grade and were not as likely as other children to have behavior problems in the sixth grade, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.

The study, which appears in the March/April issue of the journal Child Development, tracked 1,364 children from birth and found that the more time children spent in center-based care before kindergarten the more likely they were to have their teacher report problems such getting in fights, being disobedient at school and arguing a lot.

“These findings add to the growing body of research showing that the quality and type of childcare a child experiences early in life can have a lasting impact on their development,” James Griffin, the NIH science officer for the study, said.

Researchers emphasized, though, that the behavior problems they observed in children for the study was within the normal range and were not considered clinically disordered.

Children with greater early exposure to adult language were more likely to score higher on measures of language development, the study said, and children with more experiences in childcare centers continued to show through the sixth grade a greater frequency of what researchers called teacher-reported externalizing problem behavior.

In related news, early childhood expert Gigi Schweikert has written a book advising church preschool volunteers on how to make the most of opportunities with the children in their care. “Church Nanny SOS: Teaching Discipline Essentials for Preschool Ministry Volunteers” is published by New Hope Publishers, a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Woman’s Missionary Union.

The book is a reference guide for volunteers who often are frustrated with the behavior struggles they encounter with preschoolers at church. Subjects include making and teaching rules, working with a challenging child, communicating with other volunteers and praying for the ministry.

ANOTHER LARGE EPISCOPAL CHURCH LEAVES — This time it’s Grace Church in Colorado Springs, one of Colorado’s largest Episcopal congregations, that has chosen to sever ties with the Episcopal Church for moral reasons, The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs reported March 26.

The vestry of the church with 2,000 members and an average attendance of 800 voted for the church to join the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which is a missionary diocese of the Church of Nigeria, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola.

The Colorado church is one of at least 45 in the United States that have parted ways with the Episcopal Church recently, mostly over the issue of homosexuality stemming from the 2003 ordination of an openly homosexual bishop.

“We didn’t leave our faith. The Episcopal Church left our faith,” Teri LaTulippe, a member of Grace Church, told The Gazette. “We’re not willing to give up the faith of our fathers.”

In response to the vestry’s decision, a spokesman for the Episcopal Church reiterated the church’s openness to changing doctrines.

“Human understanding is constantly increasing,” Robert Williams told The Gazette. “What is known about medicine at the present moment is far greater than what physicians knew even 50 years ago. To think that understanding of the Bible and the human experience does not continue is inconsistent with the constant unfolding of God’s creation.

“… There are many lesbian and gay Episcopalians who live lives of great faithfulness and holiness,” Williams added, “and they are most certainly welcome and valued members of the Episcopal Church.”

Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Church have asked Episcopal bishops to reverse their stance on homosexuality, but the bishops have refused, leading some to predict a split between the two bodies.

EU DECLARATION IGNORES CHRISTIANITY — Pope Benedict sharply criticized the European Union for not mentioning God and Europe’s Christian roots when the multinational alliance marked the 50th anniversary of its founding March 25.

The pope said excluding the values that helped shape its existence meant Europe was committing a form of apostasy and risking ultimate failure, Reuters reported.

“A society in which the Christian conscience does not live anymore loses direction, does not know anymore where to go, ends up empty and bankrupt,” the pope said.

The Berlin Declaration focused more on individual rights, cooperation, diverse cultures, fighting poverty and averting climate change. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi had fought for the inclusion of Christian roots in the declaration, but he was opposed by France and other nations, Reuters noted.

In his book “The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God,” George Weigel, a Catholic theologian and public policy expert, wrote about the dangers of Europe jettisoning its Christian roots.

“European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and free, he must be radically secular,” Weigel writes. “That conviction has had crucial, indeed lethal, consequences for European public life and European culture. Indeed, that conviction and its public consequences are at the root of Europe’s contemporary crisis of civilizational morale. That crisis of civilizational morale, in turn, helps explain why European man is deliberately forgetting his history.”

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  • Erin Roach