Amanda Greene

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Wild Goose Festival Puts Spotlight on Visual Arts

by Amanda Greene 06-24-2014

Artist Ted Lyddon Hatten’s work reflects the spiritual stories of birds in “Ornitheology.” RNS photo courtesy Ted Lyddon Hatten.

Words and music are the stock-in-trade at most Christian festivals, but the Wild Goose Festival is adding another component: the visual arts.

This year’s progressive Christian smorgasbord of culture, justice, and spiritual exchange June 26-29 in Hot Springs, N.C., near Asheville, will feature plenty of speakers. Keynoters include newsmakers such as the Rev. William Barber, leader of the state’s Moral Mondays campaign; Jim Wallis, poverty activist and founder of Sojourners magazine; and Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist minister who was defrocked in December for performing his son’s same-sex wedding.

Run River North and Jars of Clay will headline the musical offerings.

But as with last year, the festival is making an intentional shift to include more visual art; more than 13 artists and arts groups will present their work.

This year’s theme of “Living Liberation” will attempt to challenge conventional Christian art with liturgical painting, a collaborative mural project, experiential storytelling, and an exhibit called Faithmarks that explores spirituality and tattoos.

In WikiWorship, Church Members Help Edit the Sermon

by Amanda Greene 03-14-2014

The crowd sings hymns and prays during WikiWorship. Photo: Amanda Greene/WilmingtonFAVS Via RNS.

Turning part of the message over to church members is the concept behind a new worship model called WikiWorship.

Yes, that’s wiki as in Wikipedia.

It was developed by the Rev. Philip Chryst, pastor of a United Methodist mission in Wilmington, as part of an evangelism course when he was finishing his degree at Duke Divinity School. He’s using it as part of a Lenten series at 9:45 a.m. each Sunday through April 13 in the bar called Hell’s Kitchen.

The week before each WikiWorship, participants submit questions on religion, ethics, life, or God via the mission’s website. Then Chryst chooses one to spur discussion at each service.

Seminary Buys Robot to Study the Ethics of Technology

by Amanda Greene 02-17-2014

A humanoid NAO robot (pronounced ‘now’). Photo courtesy of Southern Evangelical Seminary

Seminaries have a reputation for being late adapters when it comes to modern technology.

Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College in Matthews, N.C., wants to change that. On Friday it introduced a humanoid NAO robot (pronounced ‘now’).

The 22-year-old Christian apologetics school claims it’s the first in the world to use a robot to study the ethics of emerging technologies.

The white robot with an orange cap from the French company Aldebaran Robotics stands 23 inches high and includes voice and facial recognition and full mobility. It translates text to speech in seven languages. The robot retails for $16,000, but Southern got an end-of-the-year deal at $9,300.

NC Pastor to Kick Off Second Year of Demonstrations

by Amanda Greene 02-04-2014

The Rev. William J. Barber II consults with church member Shyrl Hinnant Uzzell. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

North Carolina’s weekly protests against Republican-backed legislative initiatives last year brought thousands of people to the state Capitol in Raleigh each Monday chanting, “Forward together, not one step back.”

Now the movement is ready to reprise its demonstrations, which recall the tactics of the civil rights era.

The Rev. William J. Barber II and his Moral Mondays team are making final preparations for the kickoff event, dubbed the Moral March, scheduled for Saturday. Barber hopes it will be bigger than the Selma march for voting rights in 1965 that drew 25,000 people.

Kwanzaa Radio Program Continues 20-Year Tradition of Instilling Values

by Amanda Greene 12-27-2013

“A Season’s Griot” show host Madafo Lloyd Wilson and storyteller Joyce Grear Amanda Greene/ Via RNS

Kwanzaa began Wednesday but two veteran storytellers began planning for the weeklong celebration of the Western African diaspora back in October.

That’s when Wilmington, North Carolina, storyteller Joyce Grear and Madafo Lloyd Wilson, host of A Season’s Griot, met to decide what story Grear should read this year.

They sat in the wide, barren conference room between radio studios at WHQR Public Radio, where A Season’s Griot has been produced for more than two decades as the only nationally syndicated Kwanzaa radio show in the country.


N.C. Clergy Seek Release of Senate Report on Torture

by Amanda Greene 09-20-2013

Senator Richard Burr photo courtesy US Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Citing the need for transparency in the U.S. record on human rights, nearly 200 clergy and religious leaders from North Carolina are seeking the public release of a 6,000-page Senate intelligence report on U.S. torture of terrorism detainees after 9/11.

The letter, dated Aug. 27 and released to the media on Thursday, was sent from the North Carolina Council of Churches in Raleigh to Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The letter, signed by 18 bishops, including the leaders of both of the state’s Catholic dioceses, stated that in light of conflicts in Syria and around the Middle East, transparency on U.S. torture practices was needed.

What One Businessman Learned About Success from Trappist Monks

by Amanda Greene 07-18-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

The monks of Mepkin Abbey. Photo courtesy RNS.

Driving through the Spanish moss-draped gates of the Mepkin Abbey Trappist monastery in Moncks Corner, S.C., businessman August Turak felt as if he had just lost a whole lot of weight.

Not physical weight, but the weight of emotional and spiritual burdens.

After a corporate career with companies like MTV, Turak sold two successful software companies for $150 million, but shattering his ankle in a skydiving accident “brought me face to face with my own mortality.”

Humanists Find Ways to Say ‘I Do’ Without God

by Amanda Greene 05-20-2013

Amanda Holowaty holds a photo of she and her husband Mike Holowaty on their wedding day in May 2012. Photo courtesy RNS.

Amanda Holowaty didn’t need God to get married. She just needed her husband Mike.

When the Wilmington atheist couple decided to join their lives a year ago, they knew they wanted a secular wedding celebrant, but their families weren’t so sure. Her family is Methodist and his is “generally spiritual.” And they worried about even telling Mike’s grandmother, who is Eastern Orthodox. So they found a wedding celebrant ordained through the Humanist Society, Han Hills, who allowed their family members to read a spiritual poem.

“Nobody seemed to notice that we didn’t mention God,” Holowaty said. “People came up afterward and said it was one of the best weddings they’d seen.”

North Carolina Minorities Remain Worried After Religion Bill is Pulled

by Amanda Greene 04-09-2013
Lori Howard / Shutterstock

Minority faiths remain nervous over the attempt to regulate a N.C. state religion. Lori Howard / Shutterstock

WILMINGTON, N.C. — A resolution to allow North Carolina to defy the Constitution and establish a state-sanctioned religion may be dead in the state capitol, but minority faiths say there’s more than enough reason to remain nervous.

Some worry about the implications the bill has for North Carolina, a majority Protestant state with growing Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist populations.

Manzoor Cheema, a Raleigh resident and board member of the Triangle Interfaith Alliance, said he believes the resolution should be a wake-up call.

“I think this is a very disturbing development; very bad for our state. In my opinion, as a Muslim, a minority community member and immigrant from Pakistan, I believe that separation of church and state is fundamental and grants us many freedoms,” he said.

“But it’s a blessing in disguise to mobilize the interfaith community in North Carolina.”

On 200th Birthday, There’s No ‘Bah Humbug’ for Charles Dickens

by Amanda Greene 11-28-2012
Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert /

Photo: Christmas tree, © Jennifer Nickert /

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.” 
– Ebenezer Scrooge from
A Christmas Carol.

WILMINGTON, N.C. — ‘Tis the season for “Bah Humbug” and “God bless us every one,” especially as the world caps off a year of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of novelist Charles Dickens.

Starting this weekend as the Christmas season begins with Advent, cities will transform their streets to Victorian English landscapes with strolling carolers and stage different productions of Dickens' most famous yuletide work, A Christmas Carol.