A few years, I covered a meeting of preachers in Las Vegas and wrote a story titled "Saving Sin City."
In reporting that piece, I was fascinated by how local church leaders and members approached the all-encompassing gambling industry in their home city.
I was reminded of that story when I read a front-page Philadelphia Inquirer report this week on clergy members supporting casino workers about to lose their jobs in Atlantic City, N.J.
The newsy lede:
ATLANTIC CITY — When gambling was being proposed for Atlantic City 38 years ago, most religious denominations opposed casinos. They viewed gambling as a vice that could destroy families and communities.
Now, many of the same churches are standing firmly by the casino workers, a number of whom fill their pews on Sundays, who are expected to lose their jobs in massive numbers, starting Labor Day weekend with the closure of the Showboat and Revel.
Many houses of worship are offering counseling for the affected workers, increased food pantry hours, or just someone to pray with.
"There are going to be a lot of people hurting," said John R. Schol, bishop of the United Methodist Church Greater New Jersey Conference, based in Ocean Township, which has 572 member churches. "No matter what industry, we want to be there to support them."