I don't mean to be snarky about this, and I don't think that all Godbeat stories must be driven by some statistical formula, but does anyone else think that this major feature story in The New York Times is a little bit strange? The headline is sweeping: "A Guiding Light Leaves His Church in a Reborn Bronx."
The opening paragraphs by reporter David Gonzalez are big stuff:
The Rev. Eddie Lopez Jr. always pursued a ministry that went against the currents of politics and popular opinion. Since becoming pastor of La ResurrecciÃ³n United Methodist Church in the South Bronx in 1988, he has started a needle exchange, supported Puerto Rican nationalists, opposed wars abroad and fought for jobs and housing at home.
It was a journey of faith and feet, with a congregation that moved three times as it grew, starting in a storefront and finally settling into a 19th-century brick church in Melrose. That neighborhood was once bombed out, but has been rebuilt.
Then it turns out that this congregation has grown and grown and grown and today is has -- 65 members?
I kept reading on to see if one or two digits had accidentally been dropped from that membership total. I mean, in light of recent growth trends in New York City religion -- a gigantic story, believe me -- surely that was supposed to be 650 or 6,500? The rebirth of the Bronx (the photo with this post is a classic from the past) is also a major religion story. More on that in a minute.
So there is some kind of story here.
A popular pastor of a small, struggling congregation is moving on. In this case, he may even be moving out of one oldline Protestant flock (United Methodism) and into another (the Episcopal Church). We are also told that he is an active leader in all kinds of protests and social movements, but we don't really get any details. We find out that the tiny church is struggling to pay his salary and benefits, without aid from regional conference leaders, but we don't find out how that is affecting Lopez's family or if he even has one.
If this man is a rebel of some kind, what is he a rebel about? What is the story here? Above all, why is this a major story?
Like I said, I am trying not to be snarky. I am really curious. What was it about this particular little church and event that so inspired editors at the Times, in the midst of their efforts to be more diverse and religion friendly? What am I missing in this story? What is the X factor?
It isn't as if there are not big, inspiring, growing religion stories to be told in the Bronx and in the city as a whole. I mean, click here and check out a recent Christianity Today story on this topic.
Read this CT story and then the Times story and then do the math.