A priest who grew up in the Lutheran faith, a college professor who brings to light the "other" gospels and a semi-retired journalist/ marketing executive who loves to cook kosher have something in common.
They are all authors and speakers for the 2013 Matter of Faith Summer Series. The annual series, sponsored by the Interfaith Committee of the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesdays from July 2 to 23 at the social hall of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 778 Lower Brush Mountain Road, Hollidaysburg. The location of the series has been changed from the one originally announced.
Each session will include round- table discussions and direct conversations with the authors.
The sessions are as follows:
July 2 - Father Anthony Roeber, an early history and religious studies professor at Penn State University, will speak about his book, "Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran Theological Conversation." It speaks of his conversion from the Lutheran faith to Orthodox Christianity.
Roeber, who is also a supply priest for the Orthodox Deanery of Western Pennsylvania, co-wrote the book with Mickey L. Mattox, who converted from the Lutheran faith to Catholicism.
If you go
What: 2013 Matter
of Faith Summer Series
When: 7 p.m. July 2, 9, 16, 23
Where: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 778 Lower Brush Mountain Road, Hollidaysburg
Sponsor: Interfaith Committee of the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona
In their introduction, the authors note that many Americans change faith traditions from the one they knew as children, but the book is written for people who would thoughtfully consider the intersection where the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and other traditional Protestant churches meet.
Roeber and Mattox said the book follows a theological, spiritual and personal reflection on the gains and losses that led them to leave Lutheranism.
"Thoughtful consideration of the question whether one should remain or become Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran is, as we both well know, a sometimes bewildering process marked by the fundamental conviction that all choices are not created equal, and that the freedom to choose includes an obligation to do our very best to discern the truth."
"When the process of discernment leads ultimately to the decision to change churches, as it did in both our cases, then the path to change must be paved by asking and then answering as best we can a series of difficult theological questions," the introduction states.
"The sorrows of separation, too, must be endured. Yet the ecumenical journeys the two of us have made have been marked even more profoundly by the joys of discovery, by moments of grace, by inner peace and in the end by a renewed commitment to work for the unity of the church," the authors wrote.
July 9 - Attorney and author James Kimmel Jr. will discuss his novel "The Trial of Fallen Angels."
It is a spiritual thriller that features a former central Pennsylvania lawyer who dies and joins an elite group of lawyers who prosecute and defend souls at the Final Judgment.
Although he was a successful lawyer, Kimmel began to experience a conflict between his spiritual beliefs and his profession.
In an email, he explained that as a litigator, it was important for him to win justice for his clients.
"People come to litigators when they've been wronged or harmed in some way," he wrote. "They want back the level of peace and happiness they enjoyed from their relationships, wellness or possessions before they were victimized."
"The brand of justice that litigators offer people in this situation is based on the idea that if somebody wrongs you or causes you to suffer, the way to get your peace and happiness back is to make that person pay for what they've done.
"But there's a problem here. When you finally get hold of the perpetrator of your suffering, how do you take back your happiness? It's nowhere to be found," he said in the email.
"But what you can do is take away that person's happiness. As a good litigator, that's what I did. I went about gathering up clients who were wronged and, in exchange for sometimes obscenely large sums of money, took away the happiness of those who wronged them.
"I did this with the tacit promise and belief that by taking happiness from the wrongdoers, my clients' happiness would be restored."
"Well, after doing this for many years, I discovered that this is a lie. Happiness comes from within and is available in infinite supply - for free. And, importantly, when you become the instrument of other people's suffering, you by definition experience their suffering. Ironically, the more you seek justice, the more your happiness actually decreases."
Kimmel said he began searching for a way to restore happiness.
"The method I found, taught by the great spiritual masters of all of the world's great religions - is first by practicing "nonjustice"- which means to abstain from seeking justice in the form of revenge - and then, ultimately, forgiveness," he wrote.
Forgiveness is an act of strength and self-preservation that you give yourself to restore your peace and happiness, he said.
"This conflict between justice and forgiveness is the conflict that I experienced between my duties as a lawyer and my spiritual beliefs," Kimmel wrote.
He said, he hopes the novel opens the door for readers to question their own beliefs about justice and forgiveness.
July 16 - Robert Miller, Rosenberger chairman of religious studies and Christian thought at Juniata College, will focus on "What the 'Other Gospels Tell Us about Early Christianity."
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the four Gospels that are part of the New Testament, but several dozen gospels were produced during the early years of Christianity.
Miller said the other gospels have much to tell about the early Christian centuries.
July 23 - Don Clippinger will clear up misconceptions about a kosher diet by highlighting his book, "Real Jewish Men Cook Kosher."
Clippinger and his wife, Rabbi Audrey Korotkin of Temple Beth Israel in Altoona, keep kosher although they are not bound by Jewish law in the Reform Jewish movement.
"We have a kosher home so that any Jew of any level of observance can share our table," he said. "We also maintain kosher to keep alive a worthy Jewish tradition."
"Kosher is important to us as a reminder with every meal, with every bite of where our food comes from," he said.
"Three times a day, our kosher meals remind us of our covenant with God," he notes in the book.
Clippinger said kosher is not difficult once the family kitchen is equipped with two sets of everything. Two sets of pots, pans, utensils and other items are needed because meat and milk never mix in any food preparation.
He shares his recipes for entrees, appetizers, sides and desserts with many of the dishes having the flavor of his western Pennsylvania upbringing.
Clippinger said he and Korotkin find it easy to keep kosher in the Altoona-Tyrone area because kosher meats are available in State College as well as Pittsburgh.
He said a kosher diet can be healthy because the meat intake can be limited.
"We emphasize fresh or frozen vegetables in our meals and try to keep a limit on the starches. Those principles, drawn from a kosher diet, should benefit everyone," he said.
The series is made possible by a grant from the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation.