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August 14, 2017 - 2:08pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in batavia, news, Zerin Firoze, religion, notify.

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Zerin Firoze grew up in Bangladesh in a secular family with a well-educated father, where 90 percent of the people in the country are Muslims.

She wanted to be like any other kid and use YouTube to listen to music, watch tutorials and study for school. But in 2013, YouTube was banned in her home country after an anti-Islam video was posted.

Firoze said something special happened to her that day. Shortly after it was banned, she watched an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslim” after some of her Muslim friends were sharing the video, asking for everyone to report it.

“After having a few conversations back and forth, I went back and read the Qur’an again,” Firoze said. “I used an adult mind this time and I was shocked. Something happened to me that day.”

Her new attitude toward Islam and problems at home set her on a path that brought her to Batavia for college and she hopes will eventually lead to Harvard Medical School.

Firoze was a high school student who started questioning Islam on social media.

“I sat up straight and thought, ‘What is happening in my country?’ ” Firoze said. “2013 was a turning point in my life. I understood that everything I learned about religions is false and man-made.”

She said she knew it was dangerous to question Islam on social media, but she did not stop. Overnight, she lost her Muslim friends.

“I did not know that my own Muslim friends and family that I have grown up with would try to kill me or harm me, just because I chose to question Islam,” Firoze said. “There are several passages in the Qur’an that instruct Muslims to kill non-Muslims. I didn’t want to kill Christians or non-Muslims because I have loving non-Muslim friends and they’re amazing.”

It's been a year since Firoze came to the United States and settled in Batavia.

She has applied for asylum in the United States because she would be killed by Islamic extremists or jailed by the government for speaking out against Islamic extremism.

“I would love to go back to my home country, but I would be killed,” Firoze said. “I don’t think it will change in the next 10 years. It will not get better. It will get worse.”

After speaking out, Firoze received death threats from multiple terrorist groups in Bangladesh. Her name was on a death-threat list from one of the terrorist groups.

“My country is supposed to be a secular country,” Firoze said. “It’s still secular in the Constitution, but a majority of the people happen to be Muslims.”

Firoze said they don’t understand free speech or secular values.

 “You cannot call a country secular, then have a state religion,” Firoze said. “It makes no sense.”

When Firoze’s father found out she received death threats from terrorist groups, he told her to get out.

 “I fought with my parents a lot and I could no longer take the abuse at home,” Firoze said. “I got in touch with more secular friends from Western countries. I started documenting my miserable condition.”

Firoze received a head injury from her father, which gave her a speech impediment. She told her friends she was forced to drop out of school and was locked in her room. She was not allowed to go out or do anything.

“My mom and dad said they could not keep an outspoken atheist at my house,” Firoze said. “My dad threw me out many times for me wanting an education.”

Her dad was highly educated, so Firoze never understood why her dad denied her education.

“I expected a lot more from my family,” Firoze said. 

After her condition continued to get worse, her friends in the United Kingdom set up a GoFundMe to try to rescue Firoze from Bangladesh, after she began receiving daily threats from Islamist terror groups.

“At the time, it became too dangerous for me to stay in Bangladesh,” Firoze said. “I had started receiving rape threats and death threats just for saying something on my own Facebook page.”

It took Firoze almost two years to obtain her five-year visa to the United States, after being denied by the United Kingdom and Sweden for her single marital status, lack of ties to her home country and lack of funding.

Once in America, Firoze began to adjust to the American life. For the first time, she used public transportation by herself, wearing a short skirt.

In Bangladesh, Firoze said women could not take the bus or train alone because they would be harassed, kidnapped and raped. Women are also expected to follow conservative Islamic dress codes, wearing a burka and veil.

“My mom and my aunt started taunting me to be more modest,” Firoze said. “All my high school friends started wearing burka and hijab. I was expected to dress like them and be like them to fit in. I never cared about fitting in.”

The malls in Bangladesh stopped selling jeans, skirts and Western outfits. Firoze was told she should wear the hijab, but she said she finds the concept degrading and insulting.

“So many of my friends and girls in my country are burned and beaten to death, for not wearing the head scarf,” Firoze said. “The hijab is a symbol of oppression.”

One of her best friends in high school was forced into an arranged marriage, which is common in Bangladesh. According to UNICEF, 66 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and one-third of girls are married before the age of 15. The legal minimum age for marriage is 21 for boys and 18 for girls.

“I raised questions about her marriage,” Firoze said. “I said let her study. Allow her to complete her high school at least. I was the only one brave enough to stand up for her.”

At that point, Firoze was struggling to complete her own education. She was told that because she was a girl, she did not need to study.

“That gave me the courage to speak against Islam, to speak against child marriage, to speak against terrible things happening in my country,” Firoze said. “In 2013, two famous atheists were killed in my country; my country was becoming more Islamic.”

One of her online Bengali atheist friends survived an attack with long-lasting neck injuries after being known an atheist blogger, while another atheist did not.

“In my home country, you can get jailed just for saying something on your Facebook page,” Firoze said. “Ordinary people like you and me have said something on their Facebook page about the government or Islam and they got jailed for it -- or for sharing a cartoon or meme.”

Firoze said there are more important issues that should be dealt with.

“People in my country don’t have access to healthcare or food,” Firoze said. “People are living in the streets. There are so many bigger issues in my country, and the government is after YouTube and Facebook.”

Terrorism has something to do with Islam, Firoze said.

“I have seen this with my own eyes,” Firoze said. “My classmates, friends, they became more radical. They became extremists after going to the mosque regularly. I have seen this in my own family and community.”

Firoze attended a secular school from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., would have lunch at home, then have Islamic classes from 4 until 6 p.m. She said her mom sent her to Islamic classes to “receive her moral values.”

“I started disliking Islamic school from a young age,” Firoze said. “It was horrible.”

While atheists in Bangladesh have used pseudo names, Firoze has not.

“I am different,” Firoze said. “I have used my real name and my real face. I have spoken against Islamic extreme groups for the last three years with my real name and picture on social media.”

Firoze hopes to be a U.S. citizen in the near future and to attend Harvard Medical School to be a doctor. She started a Skeptics and Secular Humanists Club at college and hopes to spread secularism in the world.

“We must criticize and reform Islam,” Firoze said. “We must protect the rights of Muslims, especially under the Trump Administration. Books and ideas do not have rights. Humans have rights. We must fight Islamic extremism from a place of moral strength and unity, instead of using far-right xenophobia, racism, and bigotry.”

Firoze would like to start a secular club in Batavia if she finds enough like-minded secular or agnostic, atheist people in Batavia. If you would like to collaborate with Firoze, contact her via Facebook.

If you would like to support her efforts, click here.

June 1, 2017 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Great Tabernacle Ministries, religion, batavia, news.

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Press release:

Great Tabernacle Ministries announces the second annual “Here and Now Festival” to be held Aug. 25-26 at Austin Park in Downtown Batavia.

This year has grown to include more than 55 vendors and 12 food trucks from the surrounding region, and more than 14 artists and activities for children including face painting, balloon animals, cotton candy, Kona ice, and more!

Music genres vary from '70s rock and folk to rap and hard rock. Friday night features Elevation Worship with an expected draw of people from as far as Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, and Ontario, Calif. There could be up to 4,ooo people visiting Batavia from all around because of this event.

Saturday will start at 11 a.m. running all day till 10 p.m. with a number of artist and speakers, ending with runner-up from last year’s hit TV show “The Voice,” Christian Cuevas.

Great Tabernacle Ministries would like to thank the Genesee area Businesses, churches, and ministries for all of their support in sponsoring this great event! Without you this event wouldn’t be possible and FREE to our community! That’s right admission is free so mark your calendars now.

For a full list of Artists, vendors and food trucks etc., please visit www.greattabernacle.org. If you would like to sponsor this event and advertise your business with us please call 585-297-3155 

Photo: File photo. For more photos from last year's event, click here.

March 19, 2017 - 7:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, law enforcement, religion, batavia, news.

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This morning's service at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Batavia was dedicated to members of the law enforcement community, to pray for them and to encourage them and to thank them for their service to the community. There were representatives at the service from the Sheriff's Office, Batavia PD and the State Police.

Pastor Allen A. Werk officiated. He is also chaplain for the Sheriff's Office.

Pastor Werk read from Joshua 1:9: "Be Strong. Be courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

His message was that God promises to be with us in whatever challenges and difficulties we face, especially those who serve.

“God is your backup," Werk said. "He has your back in every situation you face. Every call out, every domestic, every accident, every traffic stop, every disturbance, every break-in, every rescue, every crisis, every disaster, God promises that he will be with you wherever you go.”

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February 10, 2017 - 2:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Eve Conference, northgate free methodist church, religion, news.

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The women organizing the third annual Eve Conference at Northgate Free Methodist Church are excited about the event next month that they believe will help bring more joy into the lives of all the women who attend.

The conference is March 25 and will feature keynote speaker Pam Washburn, whose talk is titled "Defending Our Joy."

The Eve Conference is open to teen girls and women of all faiths. 

There are also 12 breakout sessions, including three specifically for teens, two worship services, and an optional lunch.

Sessions include "The Interruption of Joy," "Surviving Divorce," "Marriage," "Living the Full Life," "Daughters of Miriam: Hearing the whispered heroism of the women of the Old Testment," and "Jesus 1st."

Registration is $25, $15 for teens and the optional lunch is $7.

“We’ve had people’s lives transformed in here in one day," said Jennifer Berry. "It’s amazing. It’s a day where you walk away thinking anything is possible and you have the tools you need to improve your life.” 

For more information and tickets, click here.

Photo: Jennifer Berry, Jessica Barone, Meg Hoistington, Gloria Roorda, and Julie Varland.

August 25, 2016 - 11:20am

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Jericka, lead singer for the local Christian band Salt of Earth, sings during the opening of Batavia's Great Tabernacle, a three-day event of music and worship at the Genesee County Fairgrounds.

The event continues tonight with free performances by Jim Drew and Jason Upton, and with speakers each night, tonight is Pastor Kevin Traux.

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Last night's guest speaker was Tim Bennett, and Robin Mark performed.

July 25, 2016 - 10:00am
posted by Session Placeholder in religion, Event.
Event Date and Time: 
July 30, 2016 - 12:00pm to 5:00pm

FREE Event in Austin Park! All are invited to be… United: One Cross, One Church! Celebrate our unity in Jesus Christ! Just as in heaven there is diversity without division, in the unity of the Holy Spirit we come to worship Jesus with music, gospel messages, prayer, free food, games, face painting and more!

This event is hosted by Living Waters Apostolic Ministries. For more information, contact Pastor Tim Young at 585) 305-6518.

April 3, 2016 - 8:25pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, living waters church, religion, news.

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Mikayla Radecki, 17, of Holland, speaks with Living Waters Church member Denise Parmenter during the “Girls Helping Girls” prom dress giveaway Saturday at the Le Roy church.

Some dreams came true this weekend at Le Roy’s Living Waters Church.

The occasion was “Girls Helping Girls,” a prom dress giveaway that marked its sixth year on Saturday. A steady stream of girls and parents browsed among racks of dresses displayed in the church sanctuary.

It had a department-store feel. But the beat of Christian rock music was a reminder that the program is a church ministry born out of compassion.

“Girls Helping Girls” was originally suggested by church member Valerie Moore. She saw it as a way to help families who may not be able to afford a new prom dress, which can cost as much as $400 on average and is usually worn only once.

“God just dropped it on my heart one day, to reach out to those who may be in need,” Moore said. “I know how important it is for a girl to be able to attend her prom.”

In the first year, there were about 75 prom dresses available.

On Saturday the number topped 600 — more dresses, organizers pointed out, than at Kohl’s, JCPenney and Macy’s combined.

Most of the dresses were donated, while others were bought on sale by Moore at the end of last year’s prom season.

Although dresses were free, some families have asked to make financial contributions. This year, the church will forward any donations to the House of Hope being built in Moshi, Tanzania, as a refuge for girls who would otherwise be exploited.

“Girls Helping Girls” draws families from across the region. One visitor was Mikayla Radecki, 17, of Holland, Erie County, who both made a donation and chose a dress for her upcoming junior-senior prom.

“This is very helpful,” said Mikayla, who was holding a purple sequined dress in the church lobby. “You can make a donation and find a dress — it makes things a lot easier.”

Moore has received similar feedback from many girls and families over the years.

“A lot of them are very grateful, and very thankful that we do this,” she said.

“Last year, one of the girls left a comment that said, ‘Now my dream can come true.’ If that was the only dress that we gave away last year, it made the entire event worth it.”

Valerie and her husband Henry Moore have been members of Living Waters Church for 12 years, and help oversee its ministry programs.

One of them is Operation Drumstick, which sends church members to New York City. There, they help serve Thanksgiving Dinners to more than 5,000 people as part of an outreach program of the New York School of Urban Ministry. Living Waters is also preparing to send a team to Tanzania to support House of Hope.

Closer to home, Living Waters offers dinners and picnics for residents of local apartment complexes.

“Our biggest goal is outreach ministry,” Henry Moore said. “People think about missions as, ‘I have to go to another country,’ but ‘missions’ is in our own communities; it’s in our own back streets.

“Yes, we want to be able to send people to Tanzania, Africa, and Mexico — and that’s great,” he said. “But where we can connect the best is right here at home.”

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“Girls Helping Girls” was originally suggested by Living Waters Church member Valerie Moore, right, who helps oversee mission programs with her husband Henry Moore.

June 14, 2015 - 1:12pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in religion, St.James Episcopal, authors.

It is a bestselling book. It is a “template for religious dialogue,” according to one of the authors. It is required reading in high school and college religion classes. It is a scandal to some, and an inspiration to others.  Last but not least, it was adapted and performed as a play by folks in a Florida retirement community.

The phenomenon in question is the book titled “The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, a Jew – Three Women Search for Understanding,” by Suzanne Oliver, Ranya Idliby and Priscilla Warner.

Oliver came to St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia Saturday to discuss the book, answer questions, and sign copies of the book at a reception afterward. An Episcopalian Christian herself, Oliver attends a church of the same name in New York City.

“Except we have an apostrophe after the ‘s,’ ” she said, eliciting laughter from her audience.

Her visit was part of St. James’ bicentennial celebration, which will include other events as well.

“When I imagine Batavia 200 years ago,” Oliver said, “I imagine a variety of Christianities, as well as native religions that must have been present. Diversity of religion is not really new. But we have to learn to approach it in new ways that affirm the humanity and divinity in all of us.”

This is what Oliver, Idliby (a Muslim) and Warner (a Jew) tried to do with their book, which was first published in 2006. 

Oliver sees this as part of a nationwide movement to foster interreligious dialogue and understanding in the face of much fear and violence associated with religion. One reason she feels this is especially important and timely is the increasing number of non-Christian immigrants to the United States.

“From 1992 to 2012, the proportion of Christians in the United States fell from 68 percent to 61 percent,” Oliver said. “At the same time, the proportions of Muslim and Hindu immigrants have doubled. It is important that we integrate these growing religions into our American communities.”

According to Oliver, the genesis of the project came in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I met Ranya (Idliby) at our daughters’ school bus stop the week of those attacks,” she said.  “Our girls had started kindergarten together, and 9/11 was supposed to be their school picnic day.”

At the time, Oliver was part of a book club that decided to read about Islam and the Middle East in order to explore who these Muslim terrorists were, and why they hated Americans. She invited Idliby to their talk on Thomas Friedman’s book “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” and found that she “defied my stereotypes about Muslim women.”

Prior to meeting Idliby, Oliver believed Islam was a violent religion that mistreated women. But she was surprised by Idliby’s personal independence and her ability to read the Koran (Islam’s principle religious text) and see connections with Judaism and Christianity.

It was Idliby who conceived the idea of teaming up with a Christian mother and a Jewish mother to write a children’s book consisting of a miracle story from each of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Through a Jewish friend, Oliver met and recruited Warner, whom she described as “open-minded and curious enough” to join the project.

But when they pitched the idea to an agent, the agent wasn’t interested. Instead, she was interested in the relationship these three women had forged among themselves in trying to write what had seemed like a simple children’s book. How they handled their disagreements (some of them major), found common ground, and continued to work together despite tensions and differences were to become the “stuff” of their joint project.

“This was a bigger commitment than any of us had anticipated,” Oliver said. “We would have to be vulnerable, honest, and forgiving with each other. We would have to figure out how three people could structure one story out of a shared, yet individual experience. And we would have to be willing, ultimately, to share this story with the world.”

And this is what they have done. With more than 200,000 copies sold, “The Faith Club” has reached many people throughout the country and garnered much praise.

At the same time, Oliver acknowledged, there are people of all three faiths who have criticized the book for presenting a watered-down version of each faith. One fairly well-known religious leader even compared it to “the coming of the Antichrist.”

But Oliver, for her part, is not only determined to continue the pursuit begun with “The Faith Club,” but also insists on the need to let go of “religious absolutes” and on the “obligation of contemporary religious leaders to prepare their congregants for the inevitability of interfaith encounter by teaching pluralist theologies of religion.”

In fact, that was the topic of her thesis at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she earned a master of arts in Interfaith Theology and Ecumenical Studies in 2012.

“I began to recognize (in my faith journey) that no religion had all the answers,” Oliver said. “As Ranya had said in our conversations, ‘Religion is only as enlightened as the human hands it finds itself in.' ”

For more information on "The Faith Club," visit the book's Amazon page.

June 6, 2015 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, religion, St. James Episcopal Church.

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St. James Episcopal Church celebrated 200 years in Batavia today with a special service highlighted by musical performances and officiated by Bishop William Franklin of the Western New York Diocese and former interim pastor Allen Farabbe.

A six-piece brass ensemble and percussion section, led by Dave Porter, performed “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” “Lift High the Cross” and “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation.”

The Genesee Chorale, conducted by Ric Jones, also performed, with accompaniment by pianist Doug Henson.

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June 2, 2015 - 1:44pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, religion, The City Church, Erin Kelly.

The Batavia City Church will host guest speaker Erin Kelly, oldest daughter of Buffalo Bill's former quarterback Jim and his wife, Jill, as part of their Life Night Service.

The service will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 4. The church's band will start the service and then Erin will share thoughts and personal experiences from her latest book "Kelly Tough." A question and answer session will follow.

The book is a story of love between a father and his daughter. In her book, she emphasizes how her faith in God and ability to find strength in weakness helped her to withstand the challenges of her father's and brother's illnesses. 

Marty Macdonald, senior pastor at The City Church, talked with Jill Kelly's brother, Jack Wagner, to set up having Kelly speak at The City Church. According to Macdonald, the church loves what the Kelly family stands for and everyone is looking forward to hearing her story of family love and the greater love of the heavenly Father.

"I hope it will really bring people home," Macdonald said. "There are so many people in our society that are facing challenges whether it's cancer or broken homes or loss of employment, so many things that bring pain and hurt to people. Our hope is that as Erin is sharing her story it will bring great encouragement and hope to let them know that, hey, you can make it. You can go on another day and you don't have to give up."

The City Church regularly invites guest speakers to share their stories at their weekly Life Night Service. The church will welcome their next guest, Pastor Tommy Reid, for their Sunday morning service at 8:30 a.m. on June 7.

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Photo from The City Church's Facebook page.

April 28, 2015 - 9:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, religion, first presbyterian church.

“The Rebirthing of God”
A Celtic Evening with REV. DR. JOHN PHILIP NEWELL
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 7 p.m.
at the First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia

Come and listen to internationally acclaimed scholar, teacher, retreat leader, author and poet John Philip Newell challenge us to explore a new beginning for Christianity. In the midst of dramatic changes in Western Christianity he offers the hope of a fresh stirring of the Spirit among us.

Tickets are free, required for admission and available atwww.fpcbatavia.org

Speaking directly to the heart of Christians – those within the well-defined bounds of Christian practice and those on the disenchanted edges – as well as to the faithful and seekers of other traditions, he invites us to be part of a new holy birth of sacred living.

For many years now Rev. Dr. Newell has been writing about the sacredness of being, the “of-Godness” that is at the heart of our lives and all life. He is the former Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland and internationally acclaimed for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality, having authored more than 15 books, including his best-known titles, "Listening for the Heartbeat of God," "Praying with the Earth," and "A New Harmony: The Spirit, the Earth & the Human Soul."

Rev. Dr. Newell’s talk will be based on his most recent publication, "The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings." Books will be available for sale and following his talk, John Philip will be signing books. A freewill offering will be taken.

Rev. Dr. Newell is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland with a passion for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. More information about John Philip and his work can be found at www.heartbeatjourney.org

Simply click on this event as it scrolls across the home page. You will be asked to register for the event and instructed to print a ticket. Questions? Call the church office at 585-343-0505.

February 7, 2015 - 9:43am
posted by laurie napoleone in batavia, religion, St. James Episcopal Church.

Step back in time this Sunday and celebrate the first of many bicentennial events being held at St. James Church in Batavia this year.

The Sunday service, which begins at 10 a.m, will recreate its first 1815 service.

In preparation for the event, Chairman Jim Ellison said “we looked through the archives and found liturgy that may have been used.”

The service will be at a Chancel Altar, with candles and a small area of pews as if they were to relive that moment in time -- except for one difference. The Reverend Carolyn Lombard will be presiding over the service.

From 1815 until sometime in 1970, only men were allowed to be priests in the Episcopalian faith.

Many of Batavia’s founding families were the first parishioners of the historic church. Many of the streets in Batavia are named after the original vestryman and founders, such as Ellicott, Trumbull, Ross and Richmond. Some of the current members will be attending this week’s service in costume of the 1815 time period.

The community is welcome to attend the service, to be followed by a free breakfast, serving flapjacks and porridge as they would in days gone by.

This is the first of the many as the celebration continues with the following events:

  • April 12 -- A talk about early Batavia by local historian Larry Barnes. The focus of the talk will be about the founders and early vestrymen who played a prominent role in the formation of our city. Barnes will also enlighten listeners by telling of accomplishments of Mary Elizabeth and Robert Wood.
  • April 24  -- A musical presentation by VoxLumine
  • May 2  --  Thanksgiving in May dinner
  • May 9 --  Period Tea and Fashion Show
  • June 6  --  Festival Eucharist Celebration with choral singing and brass accompaniment with celebrant William Franklin, Bishop of Western New York
  • June 13 -- A presentation by Suzanne Oliver, co-author of “The Faith Club.” Her book weaves the story of three women, their religions (a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew) and their quest to understand one another. There will be several studies relating to this book throughout the community prior Oliver’s appearance.

St. James Church, in addition to celebrating its bicentennial, will be starting their annual Friday Lenten fish fry dinners starting Feb. 20  -- eat in or take out at the church hall, located at 405 E. Main St. Any community member (non-parishioners only), who attends this bicentennial kick-off event and breakfast, will get a free fish fry dinner as well.

So come for breakfast, get a dinner, and step back in time and celebrate 200 years of St. James Church.

May 21, 2014 - 8:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, religion, Center Street.

A rider performs a trick called "The Superman" during a trick riding event Tuesday evening in a parking lot off Center Street put on by a traveling evangelical group called Real Encounter.

The group, led by Brad Bennett, travels the nation performing stunts on bicycles and motorcycles and preaching the Gospel.

About halfway through the program, Bennett delivered a sermon about salvation, led the group in prayer and then asked all those who accepted Jesus Christ as savior that night to come forward. More than two dozen people gathered around Bennett. The group met briefly with Bennett and received a Bible and instructions on joining a local church.

The group performs again tonight in Pembroke and tomorrow in Attica.

May 9, 2014 - 7:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Notre Dame, religion, St. Joe's.

Following a student Mass at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church today, Bishop Richard Joseph Malone toured St. Joe's and Notre Dame, meeting with students and faculty along the way.

At St. Joe's, his tour guide was Principal Karen Green; at Notre Dame, it was Principal Joe Scanlan. His aide Rev. Ryazard Biernat accompanied the tour.

As near as anybody could remember, it's been more than 20 years since a bishop came to Batavia to celebrate Mass and tour a Catholic school. Malone said in Maine, there were 20 schools in his diocese and he made a point of visiting each one at least once a year, but in the Buffalo Diocese there are 40 schools. It would be hard to maintain that annual schedule with so many schools, he said, but when a student asked him if he would come back next year, he said, "if you invite me I will."

Before he left St. Joe's, Principal Green gave Bishop Malone a plate of chocolate from Oliver's.

May 9, 2014 - 12:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, religion, St. Joe's, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church.

Bishop Richard Joseph Malone is visiting Batavia today. The bishop attended the student Mass at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church this morning, then went to St. Joe's School for lunch with students before a brief tour. He will tour Notre Dame High School this afternoon.

May 5, 2014 - 3:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Notre Dame, religion, St. Joe's.

Press release:

Most Reverend Richard J. Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is scheduled to visit Batavia on Friday May 9th. The Bishop will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Church with the students of both St. Joseph School and Notre Dame High School. Following Mass the Bishop will tour both schools.

The public is welcome to attend the mass at 11 a.m.

April 27, 2013 - 1:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, religion, Stan's Harley-Davidson, faith.

Local members of the Christian Motorcycle Association served up a pulled pork feast at Stan's Harley-Davidson today as a fundraiser for the group's various ministries.

Among the CMA's efforts is supporting overseas ministers, including buying them motorcycles for transportation (or horses or boats if that works better where they live). The group also supports a film project to spread the gospel through movies in remote parts of the world. The CMA also travels to the major motorcycle rallies and hands out water and other necessities as a way to open the door to sharing about Jesus.

March 13, 2013 - 5:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, religion, catholic church, Resurrection Parish.

For Father Ivan R. Trujillo, today's election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had a special meaning and brought Trujillo a special joy.

Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis I, is the first pope from South America, and though Bergoglio is from Argentina and Trujillo is from Bolivia, it is a good thing for the church that a new pope was selected from the 455 million Catholics in South America, home to 42 percent of all Roman Catholics in the world.

"I'm very happy that they elected somebody from South America because most South Americans, most Latin American people, are Catholics, I'd say 80 percent" Trujillo said. "They are very happy. I'm very happy."

Trujillo is pastor of Resurrection Parish, which includes Batavia's St. Joseph's and St. Mary's. He was ordained in Jamestown in 1990 and became an assistant at St. Mary's in 1995. Four years ago, when St. Joe's and St. Mary's merged to form Resurrection Parish, Father Ivan was appointed pastor of the parish.

It was a Jesuit, like Pope Francis, who inspired Trujillo to become a priest. In Bolivia, while studying philosophy, the rector of the school was a Jesuit. The priest had a passion, as most Jesuits do, for working with the poor.

A good deal of Father Ivan's work in Western New York is with the poor and less fortunate. He works with the poor and sick in his own perish, ministers to inmates at Attica and Wyoming correctional facilities, and works with migrant workers in Genesee, Orleans and Niagara counties.

Pope Francis -- taking the name of St. Francis Xavier -- has a reputation for humility and caring for the poor, living an austere life in Buenos Aires. For a time, Bergoglio gave up riding in a limo and instead took public transportation around the city, but had to give up the practice for security reasons.

"I believe it is a great sign that he will be a pope for the poor and everybody else," Father Ivan said. "I’m pretty sure he’ll be trying to reach the most needy people."

Trujillo believes that Francis, coming out of the Jesuit Order, will be a capable administrator as well as a spiritual leader, which is something, he said, the church needs now.

"It's a good time to celebrate," Trujillo said. "I know there are many problems with the church, but knowing about Jesuits, I'm sure he's well organized and he'll be a good asset for our universal church."

Trujillo was returning from Wyoming when church staff called him to say that a new pope had been elected. He returned to St. Joe's in time to see Pope Francis introduced to the crowd in Vatican City and a worldwide television audience.

It was an thrilling moment, he said.

"At the moment I’m a little bit shocked and so glad," Father Ivan said. "I wish the best for the pope and the whole church. One thing that impressed me with him was that he asked first to be blessed by the people in Rome and after that he blessed the people. After he was blessed by the people, he blessed them. That was a very nice symbolism that he will be a pope for the people and at the same time he brings some order that we need."

December 17, 2012 - 9:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, religion, Churches, first presbyterian church.

First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., Batavia, is holding a special remembrance service at 6:30 p.m., Friday, to honor those who have passed in 2012 and also to pray for those touched by the recent tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Pastor Roula Alkhouri holds a service annually for those who have lost loved ones during the year, but this year, there's greater sorrow for the nation following the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

"We are reminded once more that Christmas can be a painful time for some," Alkhouri said. "In the face of loss, we struggle to find joy in this season. For some this may be the first Christmas without a loved family member who has recently died."

Alkhouri said she is reaching out to pastors and congregations throughout the county to join in this year's service.

"This will be a quiet service of remembrance and hope," she said. "We will light candles for the loss of loved ones. We will also light special candles for the victims of violence of last Friday’s tragedy. We will hear through Scripture and music that God’s presence is (there) for those who struggle and mourn and how God’s Word offers us strength as a light shining into our brokenness."

July 28, 2012 - 1:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, religion, St. James Episcopal Church.

Bishop William R. Franklin, the Episcopal bishop for all of Western New York, praised God and praised the efforts of the congregation of St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia today at a dedication ceremony for the restored church tower.

The restoration was a difficult financial undertaking for the congregation, but Franklin said the tower was an important symbol of hope in the community.

"When we look upward, we look to the future and it reminds us that the joy of God belongs to us," Franklin said.

The front doors of the church, which have been kept closed for years because of safety concerns from falling masonry, were once again reopened.

"We open doorways of hope," Franklin said. "We open our doors and go out into the community and give people hope."

Previously: Photos: St. James restoration project reaches pinnacle with placement of new cross

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