The Roman Catholic Church could use a little good news for a change, so here it comes: Thousands of new members will be joining Sunday as part of the Easter Vigil.
The biggest turnout is going to be in Dallas, where more than 3,000 are expected, a turnout bolstered in part by an influx of immigrants. The country's largest archdiocese, Los Angeles, is anticipating nearly 2,400. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis expects to gain nearly 800 new members.
There was more good news for Catholics from the National Council of Churches, which released its annual membership survey. The number of Catholics was up 1.49 percent, reversing the membership loss reported in the 2009 survey. With a tad more than 68 million members, it remains the nation's largest denomination.
On a less rosy note, the council's report also confirmed that the recession continues to put the squeeze on church finances, with worshipers putting $26 million less into collection plates than in the previous 12 months.Going green
A Wisconsin monastery has been named the nation's "greenest" building, and part of the credit goes to Minnesota-based Andersen Windows.
The Benedictine Women of Madison's Holy Wisdom Monastery earned 63 out of a possible 69 points on the rating system used for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. That's the highest score recorded to date.
Andersen Windows provided 370 windows and patio doors with a special glazing that cuts 80 percent of the heat from sunlight without the need for blinds, reducing dependence on electric lighting and air conditioning. That was a major part of the monastery's 60 percent reduction in energy costs.
The sisters aren't done yet. Their next goal is to go to 100 percent solar power.Mind your manners
A group of religious leaders has issued a "covenant for civility," condemning "deplorable and unacceptable" actions by protesters during last weekend's debate over the health care bill.
Citing news reports that members of Congress were subjected to derogatory and racist heckling -- including a report that a protester spat on Emanuel Cleaver, a representative from Missouri who is a Methodist minister -- the covenant signers called on fellow religious leaders to become "a model of respectful behavior."
"The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences," reads the statement, which was signed by more than 100 people. Quoting the Bible, the covenant says political debaters should be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
Among the signers was the Rev. Leith Anderson, senior pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie and president of the National Association of Evangelicals.An Easter 'tag'
If you drive past New Hope Church near the intersection of Hwy. 169 and Rockford Rd. and notice "taggers" spray-painting graffiti on one of the walls, don't call the police. Stop and take a look.
The church hired the artists to create a mural in honor of Easter.
"The theme for Easter this year is 'The war of the lamb,'" a reference to a biblical passage about the battle against evil, said the Rev. Jeff McCoy, worship pastor. "We thought that graffiti and tagging captured that sense of conflict."
The mural, which actually is on a giant tarp made to look like the western wall of the church, will be left up until Monday.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392