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March 31 - April 6, 2008 
 Weekly News In Review
 Vol 3, Issue 10
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 March 31 - Rick Warren Launches 'Purpose Driven' Plan in Uganda
 Article: .Emerging Church

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren launched a national Purpose Driven Living program in Uganda over the weekend aimed at helping the country's leaders live purposeful lives that will build up their nation.

Churches, business and government leaders gathered Friday and Saturday to listen to the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life explain how to live a life of purpose and make a difference in the world.

"My message to individuals is to build your life on purpose, instead of prestige, possessions or pleasure. My challenge to churches is to cooperate, not compete," said he added, "and my challenge to business and government leaders is to use their influence for the glory of God and partner with local churches in solving community problems."

"Uganda should be a purpose- driven nation as well," the Anglican archbishop said. "But it takes people of purpose to build purpose driven-churches, purpose-driven communities, and a purpose-driven country. Someday, we will have a purpose-driven continent! "

During a meeting with Ugandan church leaders, the American megachurch pastor said that he believes the future of Christianity is not in Europe or North America, but in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.



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 March 30 - Muslims more numerous than Catholics: Vatican
 Article: Misc.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world, the Vatican said on Sunday.
 
Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican's newly-released 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world's population and Catholics 17.4 percent.
 
"For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us," Formenti told Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in an interview, saying the data referred to 2006.
 
Formenti said that while the number of Catholics as a proportion of the world's population was fairly stable, the percentage of Muslims was growing because of higher birth rates.
 
He said the data on Muslim populations had been compiled by individual countries and then released by the United Nations, adding the Vatican could only vouch for its own statistics.


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 March 27 - Saskatchewan sees biggest population jump since 1952
 Article: Misc.

Saskatchewan is now Canada's fastest-growing province and is attracting people from every part of the country, Statistics Canada says.

According to its population estimates, released Thursday, Saskatchewan's population led the provinces in growth in the final three months of 2007: its population grew by 0.33 per cent, followed by Alberta at 0.32 and British Columbia at 0.25.  (When the territories were factored in, Yukon topped the list at 0.42 per cent growth, followed by the Northwest Territories at 0.40.)

There were an estimated 1,006,644 people in Saskatchewan on Jan. 1 - an increase of 16,492 or 1.7 per cent from the beginning of 2007.

That's the biggest annual increase Saskatchewan has seen since 1952, with much of the boost coming from migration from Alberta. Alberta was still the fasting-growing province over the entire 12 months of 2007, with a 2.0 per cent growth rate, compared to 1.7 per cent for Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, Canada's population estimate crossed the 33-million mark. There were estimated to be 33,143,600 people in the country as of Jan. 1, an increase of 344,926 or 1.1 per cent since the beginning of 2007.



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 April 1 - Researchers: Asteroid Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
 Article: Biblical Archeology

A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for 150 years has been identified as a witness's account of the asteroid suspected of being behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.Researchers who cracked the cuneiform symbols on the Planisphere tablet believe that it recorded an asteroid thought to have been more than half a mile across.

The tablet, found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the royal place at Nineveh in the mid-19th century, is thought to be a 700 B.C. copy of notes made by a Sumerian astronomer watching the night sky. He referred to the asteroid as a "white stone bowl approaching" and recorded it as it "vigorously swept along."

As it traveled close to the ground it would have left a trail of destruction from supersonic shock waves and then slammed into the Earth with a cataclysmic impact. Debris consisting of up to two-thirds of the asteroid would have been hurled back along its route and a flash reaching temperatures of 400 Centigrade (752 Fahrenheit) would have been created, killing anyone in its path.

About one million sq kilometers (386,000 sq miles) would have been devastated and the impact would have been equivalent to more than 1,000 tons of TNT exploding.

"Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of Heaven; and he overthrew those cities and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities ... [Abraham] looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace."  -   Source: Genesis 19:24- 28



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 April 1 - Saints' Prayers for Souls in Purgatory
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

In general most theologians hold that once a person enters into the realm of the beatific vision, they do not have universal access to our thoughts or to earthly reality. Any knowledge they gain is received directly from God, and God most certainly makes them aware of requests for their intercession in a way that we can only imagine but never fully grasp while remaining here below.

Therefore I believe we can confidently affirm that the saints intercede for the souls in purgatory in those cases when someone on earth requests that saint's intercession for a particular soul.

The Church itself invokes the saints in this way, albeit in a universal manner, during the rite of final commendation at the graveside at the prayer of the faithful. If the Church proposes a prayer to implore that the saints come to the aid of the dead, then it clearly believes this aid is possible.

From a theological standpoint it is very difficult to be able to affirm that saints intercede, on their own initiative, so to speak, for the souls in purgatory without some form of earthly intercession. It does not mean it does not happen; it is just that we have no way of knowing.

It is also possible that in a general way the saint's participation in the heavenly liturgy continually glorifying God is also of benefit to the souls in purgatory, but once more we are ignorant of the precise manner in which this might come about.

If we were sure that the saints of heaven were independently praying for the souls in purgatory, perhaps many would defer the act of spiritual charity of praying for the deceased to the saint's powerful intercession. The blessing of ignorance obliges us to continue exercising this intercession on our own, in the hope that others will do likewise for us when we are gone.


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 April 1 - Ted Turner Partners with Churches to Fight Malaria
 Article: Social Gospel

NEW YORK (AP) - Ted Turner, who once called Christianity a "religion for losers," launched a $200 million partnership Tuesday with Lutherans and Methodists to fight malaria in Africa, apologizing for his past criticism of religion and calling faith a "bright spot" in the world. "As I get older, you know, I get more, you know, more tolerant," Turner said at the news conference.

On Tuesday, Turner's United Nations Foundation, which he started in 1997 with a $1 billion donation, launched the anti-malaria project with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the United Methodist Church. The Protestant groups have been working overseas to fight poverty and prevent disease for more than a century.

"Religion is one of the bright spots as far as I'm concerned, even though there are some areas, like everything else, where they've gone over the top a little, in my opinion," Turner said. "But I'm sure God, wherever he is, wants to see us get along with one another and love one another."

He said he has read the Bible "cover to cover twice" even though some of it is "pretty tedious" and considered becoming a missionary as a boy. But he rejected religion after his younger sister died from a form of lupus when they were both young. Turner still has not completely embraced religion.

He said he continues to subscribe to his alternative commandments, which he called the "Ten Voluntary Initiatives." They include caring for people and the earth, promising not to have more than two children and contributing to the less fortunate.

"The religious community is huge and has a very good reputation for being able to mobilize resources," Turner said. "Why not use them and be thankful?"



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 April 1 - Iranian immigrants want Farsi-language Oklahoma driver's license testing
 Article: Misc.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The federal government is investigating whether the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety violated the civil rights of Iranian immigrants by refusing to provide them with driver's license tests in their native Farsi language.

Public safety officials said Tuesday that
offering state driver's license tests in Farsi could force the state to offer tests and other state documents in a host of other languages, creating new costs and administrative burdens.

"The enormity of the situation is overwhelming," said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Chris West. Driver's license tests in multiple languages would create huge composition and printing costs and translators would have to be hired to grade the tests in each language, West said. "It could be a huge financial burden. And very labor intensive," West said.
 
The complaint was filed on behalf of Fardha Sharifi and her husband, Alireza Sanghinmanesh, who immigrated to the United States with their young son, said Hassan Sharifi, Fardha Sharifi's cousin and a restaurant owner in Bartlesville. He said the couple wanted to get Oklahoma driver's licenses last year but did not understand English well enough to take the Oklahoma test.


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 April 3 - Creation of Human-Animal Embryos Crosses the Line, Say U.K. Churches
 Article: Cloning And Genetic Engineering

LONDON - Churches across the United Kingdom have expressed their regrets after researchers at Newcastle University announced this week that they had created human-animal hybrid embryos.

Newcastle University researcher Lyle Armstrong was given the green light to create the embryos by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority in January, in a move that angered Catholics.

The Church of Scotland, meanwhile, expressed in a statement on Wednesday that it "regrets" the creation of the "admixed embryos," which were generated by removing the nucleus of a cow egg and replacing it with human DNA.

John Burn, head of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, defended the creation of the hybrid embryos, saying in a statement that they would "open the door to a better understanding of disease processes without having to use precious human eggs."

Last month, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, faced fierce criticism after he likened research into the creation of hybrid embryos to "experiments of Frankenstein proportion."



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 April 4 - Massive war drill next week
 Article: Wars And Rumors Of Wars

Tens of thousands of Israelis are to participate next week in a nationwide emergency drill that will simulate a massive missile strike on the country's population centers.

The exercise was approved by Israel's security cabinet Wednesday and will be launched with a cabinet meeting conducted as if Israel was at war, and the sounding of air raid sirens throughout the land.

Such a missile strike from Syria, the Lebanese Hizb'allah and perhaps even Iran is considered likely in the next Arab-Israeli war, which high-ranking IDF reserve officers have said will make the 2006 Second Lebanon War look like child's play in comparison.

Last week IDF officials reported that the Hizb'allah now has more rockets than it did before the last war, and that it is now equipped with missiles that can hit much deeper into Israel, even as far south as Dimona, the site of Israel's nuclear facility.

Syria is armed with even more powerful and more accurate missiles, and is known to have non-conventional warheads including those with VX nerve gas in its arsenal.

Also on the same day, in an apparently unrelated development, the Israeli defense establishment announced that it's non-conventional protection kits - against atomic, biological and chemical attacks - are to be upgraded and redistributed to the public.



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 April 1 - 'Deep Shift' hopes to shake things up
 Article: Emerging Church

In his book by the same name, which he is promoting on the tour, McLaren acknowledges that evangelicals have in the past been concerned only with getting people "saved." While he has nothing against being born again, he argues that when evangelicals worry only about getting to heaven, they abandon the mission on earth that Jesus has given to every Christian.

He writes, "The versions of Christianity we inherited are largely flattened, watered-down, tamed ... offering us a ticket to heaven after death, but not challenging us to address the issues that threaten life on earth." (p. 3) Three of the most critical issues, he states, are the environment, poverty and war.

Clawson, however, points out that McLaren, whose roots are evangelical, is trying to move past Christian thinking on both the right and the left. McLaren, he says, is "both post-evangelical and post-liberal." The movement is sometimes referred to as the "Emerging Church Movement."

"Emergent folks," Clawson explained, "tend not to be as phobic about supernaturalism as classic mainline liberals [e.g. needing to "demythologize" the Bible, cast doubt on miracles, or redefine the Resurrection], but at the same time, we're not locked into a rigid biblical literalism either. There's an openness to rethinking a lot of core evangelical beliefs, but not necessarily settling for the liberal answers either."

Both Clawson and Broadhurst referred to McLaren as a bridge-builder who often catches flack from both the right and the left. "Liberals," Broadhurst said, "think he is still too wacky-you know, living in 'Jesus land'-and conservatives in some cases think he has abandoned Jesus altogether and left him by the wayside."



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 April 3 - Cause for celebration
 Article: Signs And Wonders

Thousands of Copts from across Egypt flocked to the Cairo district of Zeitoun to mark the 40th anniversary of the appearance of an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the dome of the church dedicated to her and built originally in 1924. Though the crowds were large -- it took Pope Shenouda's procession three hours to pass through them on the way to the church -- they were nothing compared to the numbers, Christians and Muslims alike, who poured into the district when news of the appearance of the Holy Virgin began to spread in April 1968.

Initially, news of the sighting was restricted to a small circle of mostly Christians. The then pope, Kirolos VI, formed a committee of three bishops to report on the event. When a papal decree was finally issued on 5 May verifying that the apparition was the Virgin Mary Zeitoun was suddenly inundated with pilgrims. The decree made front page headlines and the church became the focus of visits from the faithful from as far away as Europe, the US and Latin America. The area hosted up to 100,000 people a day who stayed up at night chanting praises to the Virgin. And "on the Eve of the Virgin's feast on 21 August that year," Pope Shenouda told Monday's congregation gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary, "at least 250,000 people were present".

Although the Virgin Mary is reported to have appeared in other churches in Egypt the Zeitoun apparition is the most famous.

"This is because it was the longest, continuing up until 1970 when it gradually came to an end," said the pope, who added that the appearance of the Virgin had been accompanied by miracles documented by a committee of bishops and of doctors commissioned to register incidents of healing and verify their authenticity.



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 April 4 - Clinton Says She Will Defend Gay Rights
 Article: Signs Of The Last Times

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would defend gay rights as president and eliminate disparities for same-sex couples in federal law, including immigration and tax policy.

Clinton said states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts are extending rights to gay couples "and the federal government should recognize that and should extend the same access to federal benefits across the board. I will very much work to achieve that."

Clinton said she and her husband have many gay friends that they socialize with when they get the chance. "I've got friends, literally, around the country that I'm close to. It's part of my life," she said.

"I anticipate that there will be a very concerted amount of effort in the next couple of years that will move this important issue forward and different states will take different approaches as they did with marriage over many years and you will see an evolution over time."

Clinton said she opposes a measure that would ban gay marriage in Pennsylvania. "I would be very distressed if Pennsylvania were to adopt that kind of mean-spirited referendum and I hope it won't happen," she said.



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 April 2 - John Paul II was "a sign and witness of the Resurrection of Christ," says Pope
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for a memorial Mass in honor of the beloved pope, whose abiding memory continues to draw thousands of visitors every day to his tomb inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Pope Benedict said that the life and pontificate, was as a whole and in many specific moments, "a sign and witness of the Resurrection of Christ."

The Holy Father said, "Like three years ago, today we are not far from Easter. The heart of the Church is still deeply immersed in the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord. Indeed, we can read the entire life of my beloved predecessor, in particular his Petrine ministry, as a sign of the Risen Christ."

Recalling how today is the day John Paul II died, Benedict XVI said, "His agony was beheld by all this "day," in this space-time that is the new ' "eighth day," desired by the Holy Trinity through the work of the Incarnate Word, dead and risen.

He encountered these words in facing his way of the cross, that of his family and his people. He soon decided carry his cross together with Jesus, following in his footsteps. He wanted to be his faithful servant, to accept the call to the priesthood, and to commit his entire life as a gift. He did all of this through the unique mediation of Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of the Redeemer and effectively intimately associated with the saving mystery of his death and resurrection, Pope Benedict reflected.

Pope Benedict said, "For several days the Vatican Basilica and the square were really the heart of the world. A river of pilgrims made uninterrupted tribute to the venerable body of the Pope and his funeral marked a further testimony of the affection and esteem, which he had won in the souls of many believers and people from every part of the world."



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 April 3 - Christ Being Adored on Mount of Beatitudes
 Article: Roman Catholic Church And The Last Days

KORAZIM, Israel, APRIL 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Christ in the Eucharist will be perpetually adored on the mountain where he preached the Beatitudes, thanks to an adoration monastery built next to a retreat center entrusted to the Neocatechumenal Way.

The monastery is made up of 23 cells surrounding a circular chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. On the roof there is a sculpture by Kiko ArgŁello, the founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, which depicts Jesus and the Twelve Apostles during the preaching of the Sermon on the Mount.

The monastery is also linked to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, founder of the Little Brothers, who almost a century ago, while in Nazareth, wished for a place that would enable perpetual adoration on the mountain where Christ preached. He envisioned a monastic community that would be devoted to imitating the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth.

As a concrete sign of communion with the founder of the Little Brothers,
a relic of Blessed Charles de Foucauld is placed under the altar of the circular chapel.



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 April 3 - Cardinal: Mercy Key for Interreligious Dialogue
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Other Religions Uniting With Roman Catholics

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The rediscovery of divine mercy, which Pope John Paul II promoted, is key for interreligious dialogue, contended the archbishop of Lyon, France.

Mercy is a "theme of primary importance in our dialogue with those of other religions," the cardinal affirmed, analyzing in the first place the implications it has in the relationship with Jews.

Cardinal Barbarin also affirmed the importance of divine mercy in dialogue with Muslims.

In the light of this underlying spirituality, proper to the monotheistic religions, and drawing from the relationship the cardinal has formed with the Islamic community in Lyon, he stated, "We confirm that the notion of tolerance, ceaselessly used intentionally in interreligious dialogue, does not mean much; we must move from tolerance to mutual esteem, and if the Lord gives us the grace, to admiration."

"I have the conviction," Cardinal Barbarin affirmed,
"that only a humble interior attitude, in which each one is attentive to receiving all the gifts that God wants to give, will permit us to be authentic servants of his mercy, servants of the joy in the hearts of man."


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 April 4 - Pope's US Trip Not Just for Catholics
 Article: Ecumenical Movement - Other Religions Uniting With Roman Catholics

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- When Benedict XVI travels to the United States this month, ecumenical and interreligious relations are a priority on his agenda, according to an aide of the nation's conference of bishops.

Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S episcopal conference's Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said this is because "the Pope is convinced that there will be no peace in the world until there is peace among the religions. That is why he comes to the table of dialogue here in the U.S. and in Rome, with hope and abiding conviction."

"Whereas on Friday evening the theme is 'Christ, Our Hope of Unity,' on Thursday evening it is 'Peace Our Hope.' With our dear friends from the other religions, the Holy Father will likely speak about how the great religions must offer a common witness to peace at a time when religiously motivated violence has claimed, as on 9/11, too many lives around the world."

"Interreligious dialogue, especially with Islam, is key to Benedict XVI's agenda for the work of promoting peace and human rights throughout the world." Dialogue is not in conflict with proclamation, but rather a part of the broader program of evangelization that defines our very essence as a Catholic people."

He noted that "the configuration of American Christianity has been changing quite dramatically over the past four decades. The so-called mainline Protestant churches have been shrinking while the Evangelical and Pentecostal communities have seen remarkable growth. [.] Catholics cannot but wonder, and admire, all that explains the vitality of the 'new churches.' That must certainly be on the mind of the Holy Father and other Catholic leaders both in this country and around the world."

"I think we might also hear from him some encouragement to pursue a 'spiritual ecumenism' that involves shared prayer and works of charity and justice in common. Theological ecumenism will most certainly continue, and it has lately made some remarkable progress in the Catholic-Orthodox relationship, as shown in the Ravenna document on the universal Church.


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 April 4 - Religion Must be Saved from Extremism, Says Blair
 Article: One World Religion

In his first major speech on religion, Tony Blair said Thursday night that religion must be rescued from extremism and irrelevance and used as a force for good at a time of global turmoil.
"For religion to be a force for good, it must be rescued not simply from extremism, faith as a means of exclusion; but also from irrelevance, an interesting part of our history but not of our future," said Blair.

"Faith is reduced to a system of strange convictions and actions that, to some, can appear far removed from the necessities and anxieties of ordinary life. It is this face that gives militant secularism an easy target," he added.

Blair declared his strong desire to "awaken the world's conscience" to widespread poverty, illiteracy and poor health, and said that the Tony Blair Faith Foundation would set the Millennium Development Goals as one of its priority areas for engagement when it launches next month.

The foundation will bring together different faith organizations to foster friendship and understanding, and harness people of faith as a force for good in the modern world.



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 April 6 - Pope: Emmaus, the risen Jesus accompanies us to strengthen our faith amid crisis
 Article: Roman catholic Church And The Last Days

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The evangelical account of the "dejected" and "disappointed" disciples in Emmaus is a message for all Christians: through their encounter with the risen Jesus, they are able to return to a "robust faith" that "is nourished not with human ideas, but with the Word of God and the Eucharist". 

But the story of Emmaus suggests instead that it is possible to encounter the risen Jesus "still today".  "Still today", the pope added, departing from his prepared remarks, "Jesus speaks to us in the Scripture; still today Jesus gives us his Body and his Blood".  "The encounter with the Risen Christ", he continues, "gives us a more profound and authentic faith, one tempered, so to speak, in the fire of the paschal event, a faith that is robust because it is nourished not with human ideas, but with the Word of God and the Eucharist".

"This stupendous text of the Gospel", Benedict XVI concludes, "already contains the structure of the Holy Mass: in the first part, the listening to the Word of God through the sacred Scriptures; in the second the Eucharistic liturgy and communion with Christ, present in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.  By nourishing ourselves at this twofold meal, the Church constantly builds itself up and renews itself day by day in faith, hope, and charity.  Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us pray that every Christian and every community, reliving the experience of the disciples in Emmaus, may rediscover the grace of the transforming encounter with the risen Lord".



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 April 5 - Former Birtish PM calls relevance in religion
 Article: One World Religion

But now Mr Blair says religion must be rescued from extremism and irrelevance and that faith can help the west meet the challenges of globalisation.
 
TONY BLAIR: For the first time in centuries, the west will have to come to terms with the seismic change happening about it. In this era of rapid globalisation where power is shifting away from its traditional centre in the west, the world will be immeasurably poorer, more dangerous, more fragile, and above all more aimless - I mean, without the necessary sense of purpose to guide it on its journey - if it is without a strong spiritual dimension.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: Mr Blair was speaking to help
promote his Faith Foundation which has its official launch next month. It aims to help different faith organisations work together.
 
The current Prime Minister Gordon Brown is the son of a preacher and he has in the past described himself as more of a social Christian than a fundamentalist.


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 April 3 - Doing yoga, doggie style
 Article: New Age

That's largely because about half the group was about to walk out on four legs: The Seattle/King County Humane Society now offers 40 minute classes of "doggie yoga."

Brenda Bryan, who teaches human yoga as well as the new class for both dogs and humans, says the dogs react to the gentle energy in the room.

The yoga poses are modified both for the humans of different sizes and abilities and for the dogs. During class, Bryan reminds people not to push their canine partners to perform. "Don't be too ambitious," she said. "Honor where your dog is and remember that dogs respond to our energy."

Bryan calls it "partner yoga," because the class encourages both the human and the dog to increase their awareness of each other.

She said she hopes the class will open up yoga to a variety of people - and dogs - who have never done this kind of exercise before.

Although her voice was yoga calm, her words showed she shared the other humans' amusement. "Everyone is being so good - and the dogs too."



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In Jesus,
Roger Oakland


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