Via a food truck, a Lutheran clergy member delivers hot calzones — and nuggets of Scripture.
Two Roman Catholics in their 80s provide spiritual care for immigrants facing deportation. An Assembly of God pastor battles prostitution and pimps.
Weeks after contracting the often-deadly Ebola virus, an evangelical Christian missionary leaves the hospital in good health. A Hasidic Jewish rock band tries to reach a broader audience.
What do they have in common?
They're all women.
For your weekend reading pleasure, here are five compelling religion stories (some pulled from my GetReligion guilt folder) that feature women of faith. No, not those Women of Faith, although I hope they check out the links, too.
1. St. Paul pastor's pulpit? A food truck (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
This piece reminded me of an Associated Press feature I wrote a decade ago about "Soupman," a nondenominational Christian who fed the Dallas homeless out of a rickety white van (and apparently still does).
The lede of the Pioneer Press story sets the scene:
There are a couple of clues that the mobile kitchen parked every Thursday at lunchtime on Payne Avenue on St. Paul's East Side this summer isn't just another food truck.
First of all, the food -- hot calzones -- is free. And the person who drives the truck is a young woman in a clerical collar who likes to say, "Peace be with you."
Her name is Margaret Kelly, a 33-year-old preacher's kid, ex-French chef and former mental health case manager. She's now a pastor, and the food truck is her church.
2. Minister is on a mission to save girls from prostitution (Los Angeles Times)
Again, my own experience reporting a similar story piqued my interest in this one. I wrote a piece for Religion News Service a few months ago on ministries trying to help women escape the sex industry.
Times columnist Steve Lopez (who perhaps you've heard of) provides a big-picture perspective but does not ignore the important religion angle:
But (Dist. Atty. Mike) Ramos said a key piece of the strategy involves the spiritual rehabilitation of girls who are often on the run from abusive families when they're scooped up by traffickers who methodically groom them and ultimately enslave them.
"We can't do this without the Pastor Paulas of the world," Ramos says. "We need that help on the spiritual side, because it helps replace all of the horrendous, horrible situations some of the girls have been through."
3. Out of the habit, into the fire (Al Jazeera America)
With another excellent piece of in-depth reporting on religion, Al Jazeera America goes behind the scenes of immigrant detention in the Chicago area and highlights the ministry of two nuns:
On this Tuesday, Sister JoAnn Persch quietly surveys the proceedings, writing checks for those whose commissary balances have fallen below $10.
With her soft voice, slight stature, and propensity to greet jail guards and prisoners alike with a hug or a touch on the hand, it may be hard to imagine that Persch, 80, is one of the most fierce and effective advocates in the Chicago area for detained immigrants, and one of the architects of the hard-won pastoral care program at McHenry.
Persch and her colleague Sister Pat Murphy, 85, both nuns with the Sisters of Mercy religious order, have fought a dogged, years-long battle to secure rights and improve conditions for those in the crosshairs of the United States’ much-lambasted deportation policies.
I met Persch and Murphy in 2012 when I did a Christian Chronicle profile of Bobby Lawson, a Church of Christ preacher who serves alongside them. In fact, I interviewed the nuns in Lawson's church van as they took a break on a chilly morning.
4. Charlotte's Nancy Writebol, other Ebola patient released from Atlanta hospital (Charlotte Observer)
My post Thursday focused on Dr. Kent Brantly since he was the Ebola patient who faced the cameras in Atlanta as fellow missionary Nancy Writebol avoided the spotlight.
But in Writebol's North Carolina hometown, the Charlotte Observer had a nice front-page story today in which Brantly was the "other Ebola patient."
Some of the jubilant reaction from Writebol's fellow Christians:
The news that Nancy Writebol was released from the hospital and on the road to full recovery brought a jubilant reaction from the couple’s friends and fellow members of Charlotte’s Calvary Church.
“We’re excited, and we see it as an answer to prayer,” said the Rev. Jim Cashwell, pastor of missions and evangelism at Calvary, the Writebols’ home church since 1994. “Nancy is cured and alive. And we’re just grateful what the Lord has done.”
Bill Bailey, an elder at Calvary and one of the Writebols’ closest friends in Charlotte, said hearing that Nancy is Ebola-free “is among the happiest moments of my life. To think that my dear sister in Christ has been brought back from the brink of death confirms my great hope in our great God.”
5. Hasidic 'rocker chicks' Bulletproof Stockings seek broader audience (Wall Street Journal)
At this point, I wish I could provide a link to a story I wrote on Jewish rocker chicks. Sadly, I've got nothing (although I did once cover the profanity-laced memorial service for a slain rock star).
In closing, enjoy the WSJ's lede and feel free to leave comments — positive or negative — on all the articles highlighted:
On Thursday, the Lower East Side rock venue Arlene's Grocery closes its doors—to men.
Its act that night, Bulletproof Stockings, is a Hasidic, all-female band, and while its members follow the rules of Orthodox Judaism—covering their hair, knees and elbows, and only performing for women—it aims to rock, and fill, the room.
"We were hesitant, because of their limited experience in the NYC live scene, and the fact that we would have to turn men away from the band room during their set," said Julia Darling, Arlene's Grocery's general manager. "However, the band literally hit the pavement to get signatures from women who vowed to come to the show if we booked them. They called me and said 'We can guarantee a full house.' "
The two lead members of Bulletproof Stockings (a reference to the opaque hosiery that some Hasidic women wear) are drummer Dalia Shusterman, originally from Maryland, and vocalist/keyboardist Perl Wolfe, from Chicago. They left their traditional homes as teenagers and experimented in the secular world before rediscovering their spiritual roots.