Brethren

Modesto Bee punts when it comes to basic reporting on pastor-turned-politician

Modesto Bee punts when it comes to basic reporting on pastor-turned-politician

Normally I’m happy when smaller newspapers cover religion news. And the 33, 522-circ. Modesto Bee does qualify as a small newspaper.

The second newspaper I worked for was that size. The first one was even smaller, so I know what it’s like to be in the smaller markets. But when a big religion story is staring you in the face, it would help to provide more than the minimum of coverage.

Fox example, when a local megachurch pastor decides to run for public office, that calls for decent coverage. What did run, in this case, was pretty lackadaisical.

The senior pastor of Big Valley Grace Community Church — which is one of Modesto’s biggest churches — confirmed Monday that he is running for mayor in the November 2020 election.

“I love this town. I love the people of this town,” Rick Countryman said in a phone interview. “This is literally the right time to get involved. (If elected), I will use my energy, my passion and leadership to make Modesto a better place.”

Countryman, 58, declined to discuss his top issues or what he hopes to accomplish if elected. He said there will be plenty of time to talk about those things during the campaign. But he did say he gets tired of how Modesto ends up on the “bottom of lists of crummy towns” and wants to change that.

So here is the crucial question: What happens to the church, if he is elected mayor? How does one do both jobs?

Countryman said he has thought about running for mayor for about the past couple of elections but the time was not right. He said he now is at a stage in his life and Big Valley is in “healthy place” where running makes sense.

He said if elected, he would continue with Big Valley but his role may change as he takes on the demands of being mayor. Countryman said about 3,000 people attend Big Valley, which he said places it among the five largest churches in Modesto for attendance.

So this guy essentially runs a corporation servicing 3,000 people and he has the free time to want to run for mayor?

Something is very funny here.

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Yakima, Wash., sheriff dying of Lou Gehrig's disease gets sympathetic treatment

Yakima, Wash., sheriff dying of Lou Gehrig's disease gets sympathetic treatment

I sure do appreciate it when smaller papers put out a good religion story and the Yakima Herald (out of central Washington) does not disappoint with its latest.

The theme, a dying sheriff who has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease -- is done with generous dollops of the 58-year-old officer’s faith . That is what's keeping him going after getting some very bad news.

I reported a few weeks ago about an imam who has the same disease. No matter where you are on the theological spectrum, the thought of this living death would test the strongest believer.

Early on, readers learn that he has three to five years to live and was diagnosed in December. He has been in the area much of his life, starting from when his father, a Grace Brethren pastor, was sent to a local church.

Fortunately, the reporter asked the sheriff what’s keeping him going.

Facing death is challenging but he believes God and friends will look after his family.
“You can throw your arms up and say oh my God ... You can quit and start blaming God, or you can try to live the way in accordance, in a way you’d want someone else to handle the challenge. I don’t want to be the guy who says you should handle it this way and then do something different,” Winter said.
“Even though from the human side of this it’s hard to see how anything good can come out of this, but I know God loves me and my family. I’m not worried about dying. I’m not worried about where I’m going.”

At present, he’s feeling fine but that may not last long. Interestingly, he’s not asking for healing --  but for light at the end of his tunnel.

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