Friday Five: Lent trends, Methodist fight, Alabama tornado, Ira Rifkin update, epic NYT correction

I’m traveling to Israel next week on a tour with a group of religion reporters. So spoiler alert: My next few posts will allow me to clear out some of the items in my “guilt folder” as I analyze a few stories that I’ve been wanting to mention for a while.

If you have a comment or a question about those posts, I’d love to hear them. But it may take me longer than normal to get back to you.

I believe that GetReligion Editor Terry Mattingly also will be traveling a bit next week, as well, and sources say he, too, may be a bit preoccupied (read: playing with grandchildren). So things may be a little bit looser than normal around these parts.

In case you missed it, there’s a piece of major news involving our team. I’ll mention it below as we dive into the Friday Five.

1. Religion story of the week: It’s wonderful to have Sarah Pulliam Bailey back covering religion at the Washington Post.

I’m no fan of paper straws, but I really enjoyed the former GetReligion contributor’s timely piece on “The latest Lent challenge for churches: Give up plastic.”

Other Lent-related stories to give a click this week (Eastern Orthodox churches start Great Lent this coming Sunday) include Kelsey Dallas’ Deseret News delve into “Can a good meal bring people back to church? A growing number of congregations think so” and this Southern California newspaper’s report on a church offering drive-thru ashes, which is turning into an annual feature topic somewhere or another.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Last week’s big story was the high-stakes United Methodist meeting in St. Louis.

The post-meeting coverage sparked our No. 1 most-read commentary of the week: Julia Duin’s post titled “When covering the United Methodist split, remember that there's two sides — not one.”

Check it out. And last week’s “Crossroads” podcast dug deep into the future of this ongoing doctrinal fight. See this: “Question as reporters look ahead: How many United Methodists are there? Are all created equal?

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): I highlighted the faith angle in news coverage of the Alabama tornado that claimed nearly two dozen lives.

Here’s a piece from longtime Birmingham News religion writer Greg Garrison on relief efforts by faith-based groups.

4. Shameless plug: Our dear colleague Ira Rifkin is facing some serious heart issues and stepping away from GetReligion.

Rifkin underwent quadruple-bypass surgery Wednesday and has months of healing ahead of him. He is sounding realistic and upbeat. That’s a good combination.

Read his farewell post with the headline “The universe sent me a message. It’s time to heed” — a typically eloquent way to put it, as is the normal Rifkin style.

Also, see tmatt’s earlier post on Rifkin’s situation.

5. Final thought: Who doesn’t love a good New York Times correction!? Anyone want to try writing a one-column headline about that proper noun?

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!

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