When Ruth Everhart was a senior at a small Christian college, she and four of her roommates were held captive and brutally raped at gunpoint by two masked intruders.
Although she survived the ordeal, she was filled with shame and worried that she had been “ruined” — in the eyes of God, her family and the man she might one day marry. Her devastating experience shook her faith in God, and eventually led her to break with the conservative Protestant denomination in which she had been raised.
The creche is unlike those commonly seen in churches and front yards beginning the month before Christmas, typically featuring figures of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the stable, often joined by shepherds, angels, wise men and animals.
Instead, the scene is an imaginative, highly detailed, miniature representation of life in the city of Bethlehem. Townspeople are seen going about their daily business of baking bread, weaving fabric and even taking a nap. As the holiday approaches, more figures will be added to the scene to illustrate the Christmas story.
Over the past two decades, Brian Whelan has created countless paintings of holy cities, which he describes as “thin places where heaven and Earth seem so close as to actually touch.”
Whelan, who lives in the western Loudoun County village of Waterford, is particularly fascinated by the idea of cities where shrines, temples, cathedrals and mosques attract pilgrims of the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — coexisting in peace and harmony.
“Thanks” was the theme, but the event was also a celebration of Loudoun’s cultural diversity. Many of the organizers and guests emphasized the importance of people from different faith groups coming together to gain understanding and build relationships.
More than 200 people gathered in front of the old courthouse in downtown Leesburg Thursday, Dec. 17, in a silent vigil for a diverse and united community. Participants represented a diverse blend of faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Bahá’í, Unitarian, Hindu and Buddhist groups.
The participants convened at Leesburg Presbyterian Church before walking three blocks to the intersection of Kind and Market streets, where they stood silently during the vigil.
The event was the most recent in a series of Community Table dinners organized to provide a fine dining experience for low-income individuals and families. Members of two or more faith communities have joined to host most of the dinners, giving them the opportunity to build interfaith friendships while serving people in need, organizers said.
When the Rev. John Ohmer was named rector of the Falls Church Episcopal in September 2012, he faced the challenge of rebuilding a historic church that had lost most of its membership in a split with conservatives, primarily over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy.
In late 2006 and early 2007, more than 90 percent of the 2,200 members of the church — which dates to Colonial times — voted to leave the Episcopal church and form the Falls Church Anglican.
It feels like death is being shoved in my face today.
I’ve been reading a book called Listening to Your Life, a compilation of daily meditations by Frederick Buechner. The reading for today was about Jesus’s death on the cross, and how that was a good thing for humanity. This is a concept that, try as I might, I have never been able to fully understand or appreciate.
This awakened memories of the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech that occurred exactly eight years ago, a murderous spree that hit very close to home. I would like to think that something good came from that awful tragedy, but for the life of me I am coming up empty.
I opened the Washington Post and read about the suicide of a sophomore at William and Mary, my son’s alma mater. The young man, Paul Soutter, was to have appeared in a play about the stresses of college life. He was the fourth W & M student to take his own life this year.
On Instagram, I saw freshly posted images of my friend Lacey, who took her life almost two years ago. Her friends still regularly send messages through social media saying how much they loved and miss her. She had seemingly been unaware of how many people cared about her.
I circle back to the reading from Buechner, and try again to understand how anything good can come from the death of young people. If anything, for me, it is this awareness: Life is precious. Protect it, cherish it.
He is a familiar sight, smiling and waving to drivers as they pass the Church of Our Redeemer on Route 50. He is the Rev. John Sheehan, the waving priest of Aldie.
Fifteen minutes before the start of each worship service, no matter the weather, Sheehan stations himself outside the front doors of the 125-year-old church and waves to passersby. He keeps waving until the service begins, pausing only to greet worshipers as they arrive.