How do you measure the success of welfare?

Program Cost or Human Benefit? A very brief history of welfare and work in the USA

Posted in Educational resource, Overheard, Web resource

Overheard: Blessing the Ploughs

Old English Plough Blessing 2018As a Yank descended from a long line of farmers and village craftspeople, I was delighted this week to learn that in England bishops still perform plough blessings (in January, no less) as a liturgy in the agricultural year (see image). Festivities include Morris dancing and vintage tractors, no less! Could it be that North Atlantic blizzards and prairie winds put off religious folk this side of the water? Learn more.

Posted in Overheard

The Bell Tower viewed from the Bell Tower


If you find this view of folks having tea dull and boring, and/or feel an urge to climb out of winter, take a virtual trek higher in this video (warning: you may not wish to view if you get queasy in high places). More views from this particular bell tower here.

Posted in Marketplace photo

Remembering Fred Norris and Heather Adams (update)

In October 2016 I lamented the passing of two profoundly inspiring friends, colleagues, and amazing human beings. One was patristic scholar, Frederick W. Norris (left), who inspired many of us to creatively “re-read” (or, just plain read) Gregory of Nazianzus. The other was Heather Adams (right, with her son), founding director of the Harvard FXB Center’s Program on Empowering People with Intellectual Disabilities. Fred and Heather didn’t know each other (and inhabited very different worlds), but they shared a common spirit of hope, encouragement, and healing. Both actively devoted their lives to making the world a better place–and did! Read more about each of them by clicking on their names or images above, and the 2017 update (below).

Thank you again, Fred and Heather, for being in my life.

2017 UPDATE: More about Heather Adams

Posted in Reflection

Learn Global Health from Ancient Bones

Here’s an advance peek at a new free online teaching tool of 9 mini-cases now “in press”; this 20-page case set, illustrated stories from the past and lessons for global health today, was conceptualized and developed with the support of the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University:

Visit the Incubator’s amazing free online Resource Repository to view and search for cutting-edge recent research, teaching tools, case studies, and more!

Posted in Educational resource, Web resource

“Health” and “Social Care” belong together

This short article by an experienced health care advocate (and food writer) in the UK should remind all of us — no matter what country we live in — how important (and how much our health systems tend to fail at) integrating what passes for “health” funding (wherever the money comes from) and the nitty gritty details that are “social care.” Thank you Ella Risbridger. For more on health politics and food, see also her new essay, “Flour power: Why every revolution begins with a piece of bread.”

Posted in Op-Ed, Overheard, Web resource

John Chrysostom the Winter Optimist

From his final letter to the deacon Olympia, written from forced exile in the mountains of Armenia, winter 407:

Even with the exceeding severity of the winter, and our stomach’s infirmity, and the raiding of the Isaurians, do not let your cares for us make you overly anxious. For the winter has been simply what it naturally is [and] we have devised many ways to fend off being harmed–having a fire burning continually, having the little room where we’re staying screened off all the way around, being wrapped in many blankets, and staying inside all the time. All of this causes us to suffer, but it’s bearable because of the beneficial results. …

“And neither the inclemency of the weather, nor the desolation of the region, nor the scarcity of goods, nor the dearth of attendants, nor the unskillfulness of the doctors, nor the absence of baths, nor being confined all day long to one room as in a prison, nor being continually unable to move even when I have need to do so, nor constantly abiding in the smoke and near the fire, nor the fear of robbers nor their ceaseless raids, nor any other similar thing has prevailed over us.”

-John Chrysostom, Letter 17, from Saint John Chrysostom: Letters to Saint Olympia, trans. David C. Ford, Popular Patristic Series 56; Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2016, pp. 159, 167.

Posted in Booknote, Overheard