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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Life’

Church Attendance Is Good For Your Health

Posted by addisethiopia on July 10, 2017

The latest in a long line of studies, now numbering in the hundreds if not thousands, has found that church attendance is good for your health.

Published by researchers from Vanderbilt University, the study found that middle-aged adults who attended religious services at least once in the past year were half as likely to die prematurely as those who didn’t.

Using data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study’s researchers examined 10 biological stress markers among 5,449 men and women aged 46 to 65. Then they compared those markers with respondents’ self-reported religious-service attendance — and found a correlation between religious-service attendance, lower stress, and longevity.

The study, released in May, is one more piece of mounting scientific evidence on the subject. A far larger study published last year, of 74,534 women, found that attending a religious service more than once a week was associated with 33 percent lower mortality compared to never attending religious services.

A documentary probing findings similar to these — released just recently — is airing on many PBS stations this weekend. But even as the studies pile up and the literature appears close to conclusive, many questions about the association between religious-service attendance and health remain unanswered.

For one, people attend religious services for all kinds of reasons. So what is it about faith-focused services that might impart better health? The prayers? The social connections? The coffee and cookies afterward?

If, as so much evidence suggests, religious attendance is correlated with positive health outcomes, does that mean doctors should prescribe a weekly service to their patients?

“Religion is incredibly complex,” said Neal Krause, a retired professor of public health at the University of Michigan who is the lead investigator in a landmark spirituality and health survey. “To say, ‘Church attendance is good for your health’ does everything and nothing at the same time. The question is, ‘What exactly is going on here?'”

But some studies at the intersection of religion and health might help clinicians do a better job of caring for patients.

For example, studies have shown that chaplain visits in hospital settings are associated with better health outcomes. This stands to reason, say researchers; when patients’ spiritual needs are met, they are more satisfied with their overall care. Another study suggested patients that take advantage of chaplain visits are more peaceful and feel more in control of their health.

Source

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The Church Forests: What If Churches From Around The World Learned From Ethiopia?

Posted by addisethiopia on June 28, 2017

The Church Forests, mainly concentrated around the source of the Blue Nile, were created as a physical reminder of God’s creation, symbolic Gardens of Eden in areas where much land has been cleared for agriculture. Administered by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, they’re home to much of the country’s biodiversity, and while they’ve always served a spiritual purpose, now the church is working with conservationists to help preserve the country’s flora and fauna. And that has a knock-effect for communities, with plans to engage the children involved with the churches with mini-conservation surveys based around insects, projects that are simple and cheap and therefore sustainable and replicable in the future for more on this, check out the work of Dr. Margaret Lowman, who has been working with local churches to help preserve the forests.

It’s funny how, in that last paragraph, I drew an implicit distinction between the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘physical’. That’s a failing of the Western Church, I think, where concern for the environment is seen as something New Agey and has a negative impact on how we approach issues like climate change. When we adopt an attitude of domination rather than genuine stewardship, the church can be embedded as part of the problem rather than contributing to a solution.

But the Church Forests have been doing this for over 1,500 years. And while they’re now having to build protective walls around their forests, there’s still a challenge here – what if churches from around the world learned from Ethiopia? What if this was one of the models by which the church engaged with environmental issues? What if one of the priests who look after the Church Forests was asked to speak at one of our big conferences? That raises a lot of questions and issues, around perceived authority and colonialism, and the environment is a lens through which we need to confront this. The question at the root of it all, though, is simple:

What if we became better at learning from each other?

Source

“Church Forests” of Ethiopia

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Ethiopian Monasteries – Relevant or Relic?

Posted by addisethiopia on December 1, 2010

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is struggling to maintain its monastic traditions in the wake of the Marxist nationalization of monastic properties in the late twentieth century.

Under Marxist Derg rule, which lasted until 1991, the government seized and redistributed church-owned land,” ONE Magazine reports. “Monasteries, which traditionally operated relatively large farms, were forced to forfeit much of their property and, as a result, lost their economic sustainability. Stripped of their resources, monks and nuns also surrendered their vital roles as producers, employers, educators and leaders in their communities.”

0.8% of Ethiopia’s 77.2 million people are Catholic, according to Vatican statistics; 51% are Ethiopian Orthodox, 33% are Muslim, and 10% are Protestant. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church ceased to be in communion with the Holy See following the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Sunrise at the Meskaye Hizunan Medhane Alem Monastery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, feels anything but contemplative. A cacophony of roaring bus and car engines interrupts the early morning calm. A blur of red brake lights eclipses the rising sun’s soft rays. The compound, which includes a church and an elementary and high school, sits at the heart of the bustling Sidist Kilo neighborhood, home to Addis Ababa University’s main campus. The neighborhood’s urban energy is palpable, even when the city has barely awakened.

Inside the church, worshipers and monks have filled the pews to celebrate the day’s first liturgy. Chants drown out the noise of the street. Incense meanders through the candlelit nave.

As the service concludes, Abbot Melake Girmai leads the monks to the monastery’s refectory. A small army of kitchen staff serves a hearty breakfast — fluffy white injera (spongy bread made from teff), wat (a traditional vegetable and meat stew), fruit, coffee and tea.

Though hardly the lap of luxury, the monks at this urban religious house enjoy comforts unthinkable in the far more ascetic rural monasteries for which Ethiopian Orthodoxy has long been known.

No one bears witness better to this contrast than Abba Kidane Mariam Arega, who has just arrived in the capital from the rural Georgis of Gasicha Monastery in Wollo. He is on his way to visit old friends at the Ziquala Monastery, a day’s journey from Addis Ababa.

Before dawn the next day, Abba Kidane sets out for Mount Ziquala, an extinct volcano whose peak is home to the monastery. For the next two hours, he drives along the dusty highway that cuts through the golden plains of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley.

Little by little, the sun’s morning rays illuminate the landscape. Nearing Mount Ziquala, the two-mile-high peak casts a wide shadow on the valley. As the sun climbs above the mount, its shadow gradually draws back as though a stage curtain, revealing an ageless vignette — peasants with donkeys tending their fields.

Arriving at the base of the mountain, Abba Kidane pulls into Wanbere Mariam, a small farming village whose outward appearances have not changed in centuries. Only pop music pulsating from an unidentifiable source situates it in the new millennium.

The drive may be over, but the journey is certainly not. The summit of the mountain may only be reached by hiking three hours on a winding trail. Despite the steep, rocky terrain, the monk displays no physical strain, even as his flowing black cassock absorbs the sun’s now blistering rays. The trail’s switchbacks steepen as they climb the mountain; the thick shrubs give way to forest.

Finally, the trail levels out and opens onto a swath of terraced fields. Sweeping panoramic views of the countryside are visible in almost every direction. A weathered sign welcomes visitors to the Ziquala Monastery, where some 230 monks and 120 nuns make their home.

As do Ethiopia’s better known monasteries — Debra Damo in Tigray, Debra Libanos in Shoa and Debra Hayk in Wello — Ziquala exemplifies Ethiopia’s ancient monastic tradition. Its remoteness and the communal and strictly ascetic lifestyle of its residents recall Ethiopia’s first monasteries, which appeared in the fifth century.


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