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Read Pope Francis’ TED talk; pontiff warns of danger of power, need for ‘tenderness’

Pope Francis gave a surprise TED talk on Wednesday, telling those listening that the future has a name, and it is “hope.”

The pontiff went on to say that while Christians should be optimistic, they should not ignore those who are suffering.

Here is the text of his TED talk:

Pope Francis: “Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there. Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference.

I very much like its title – "The Future You" – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a "you."

"The Future You:" the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others. Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone's existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: "Why them and not me?"

I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today's "discarded" people. And that's why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: "Why them and not me?"

First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent "I," separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.

We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.

Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don't lock our door to the outside world.

Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.

And this brings me to my second message. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion.

How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.

Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the "culture of waste," which doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.

Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and every one. Yes, a free response! When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?

In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The "you" is always a real presence, a person to take care of.

There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who'd rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you have heard it before. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

When Jesus was asked: "Who is my neighbor?" - namely, "Who should I take care of?" - he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren't even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People's paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves "respectable," of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.

Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: "One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense."

We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts.

Now you might tell me, "Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta." On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God.

Through the darkness of today's conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.

To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness.

A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another "you," and another "you," and it turns into an "us." And so, does hope begin when we have an "us?" No. Hope began with one "you." When there is an "us," there begins a revolution.

The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness.

And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.

Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication.

This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.

There is a saying in Argentina: "Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach." You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.

The future of humankind isn't exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a "you" and themselves as part of an "us."

We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. 

Thank you.”

 

Russia's Supreme Court bans Jehovah's Witnesses

UPDATE: Russia's Supreme Court issued a ban Thursday on the Jehovah's Witnesses religious group, labeling them extremists.

The court also ordered the group’s property to be seized, according to The Associated Press.

Russia's Supreme Court heard a government request earlier this month to ban Jehovah's Witnesses from practicing in the country.

According to the BBC, Russia's justice ministry has already designated the Christian-based group as an extremist group.

According to a New York Times report, the religious group is viewed by the Russian government as deviating too far from traditional norms that President Vladimir Putin has promoted. Jehovah's Witnesses do not vote or otherwise participate in politics, do not serve in the military and recognize God as the only true leader.

>> Read more trending news 

There are approximately 175,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.

It's not the first time the religious group has faced opposition in the region. During Soviet rule, Jehovah's Witnesses were targeted as spies by the KGB.

Easter 2017: When is it; what is it; why isn't it on the same date every year?

“Hey, do you have any idea when Christmas is?” is not a question you usually hear in late November or early December.

Major holidays are stamped on our calendars, often with little symbols, in case you don't know, for instance, that a turkey means Thanksgiving. 

Easter, however, is different. The date of Easter, when Christians celebrate the risen Christ, is different every year. 

Many factors have contributed to keeping the date a guessing game, but the rolling calendar on Easter is due mainly to astronomy and a group of men who got together in the ancient city of Nicaea to come up with a system of deciding when to celebrate the holiest day in the Christian calendar.

Here is a look at the origins of the remembrance, the reason for the floating date and when Easter will be celebrated this year.

What is Easter?On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter who became an itinerant preacher at the age of 30. For the next three years, he drew thousands of followers in the relatively small area where he preached. 

When Jewish leaders and Roman officials began to feel threatened by his growing popularity, he was arrested as he came into Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. He stood trial, was found guilty by a crowd and was mocked, beaten and eventually crucified. Followers believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Old Testament prophecy of a messiah being persecuted, then executed, then resurrected – all for the sins of his followers -- is believed by many to have been fulfilled with Jesus’ death.

Where in the Bible is the story of Jesus’ execution?The story of Jesus’ death appears in all four of the Gospels of the New Testament. You’ll find them in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 18.

When is Easter this year?Easter is on April 16 in 2017.

Why is it on different dates every year?

The answer is not a simple one. In 325 CE,  the Council of Nicaea, a gathering of Christian bishops, decided that there should be a more organized and universal way to decide when Easter would be celebrated. The council decided that the remembrance would be held the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.

The date for the vernal equinox was based on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is delayed a week.

How early and how late can Easter be celebrated?Easter can come as early as March 22, and as late as April 25 in the Gregorian calendar.

What does the word Easter mean?It could be from the name of the fertility goddess Eostre. It could be from the Norse "eostur" or "eastur," meaning “the season of the growing sun,” or some combination of those terms and others from pagan festivals and ceremonies.

When was Easter first celebrated?It’s not known when the first remembrance of Jesus’ death took place, but there are records of ceremonies beginning in the 2nd century. The celebrations were held around the Jewish Passover each year, a date that was dependent on the vernal equinox.

What are Good Friday and Maundy Thursday?Good Friday commemorates the day on which Jesus was crucified. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

How did a bunny become a symbol?No one is really sure about how the Easter Bunny came into being, but, he/she likely is a combination of several ancient harvest festival symbols. History.com says the bunny could have come from the pagan festival of Eostre. Eostre is a goddess of fertility and, because of the rabbit’s reputation for, shall we say, productivity, the animal became the symbol for Eostre.

Historians believe it is likely that the festival with its bunny symbol made its way through Europe and gave birth to the Osterhase, or Oschter Haws – an egg-laying rabbit popular in German fiction. German immigrants brought with them to America the tradition of laying colored eggs as gifts in nests built by children during a spring festival. 

Eventually, the bunny started to bring candy and other gifts with the eggs on Easter morning as a sign of the celebration of new life.

Years after anti-semitic remarks, Mel Gibson continues donating to Jewish organization

Mel Gibson has worked to make up for his infamous anti-semitic rant while he was being arrested for a DUI in 2006 by quietly helping Holocaust survivors in the years since.

The actor, who said, “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” during the incident, has reportedly been working with the charity Survivor Mitzvah Project.

The Survivor Mitzvah Project works to “bring emergency aid to Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe who are in desperate need of food, medicine, heat and shelter,” according to the founder of the organization.

>> Read more trending news

“Mel Gibson is helping Holocaust survivors in eight countries; it’s remarkable. I have a great respect for people who turn their lives around, and I think that everyone makes mistakes in life, and I think the real proof of what kind of human being you are is what you do with that mistake,” Zane Buzby, founder of the organization told Extra. “He’s educated himself. He’s done philanthropic work now, and I think that actions speak very loudly … and his actions have helped a lot of people.”

An unnamed source close to the actor told People magazine that Gibson has been working with Survivor Mitzvah Project for a few years now.

Last year, Gibson reminisced on his “unfortunate” incident, saying, “I’ve never discriminated against anyone or done anything that sort of supports that reputation. And for one episode in the back of a police car on eight double tequilas to sort of dictate all the work, life’s work and beliefs and everything else that I have and maintain for my life is really unfair.”

“Mel wants to be remembered for his work,” the unnamed source told People magazine. “He has worked on his issues and has definitely shaped up.”

Pope may allow married men to become priests

In an interview this week, Pope Francis said he is open to the idea of married men being ordained as Roman Catholic priests, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

Speaking with the German newspaper Die Zeit on March 9, the pontiff said the lack of Catholic priests was an "enormous problem" for the Church, and indicated he would be open to a change in the rules governing eligibility for the priesthood.

"We need to consider if 'viri probati' could be a possibility," he told the magazine. "If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities."

Viri probati is the Latin term for "tested men" or married men of outstanding faith and virtue.

The option of viri probati allows married men to be ordained as priests, but single men who are already priests would not be allowed to marry, Francis said.

"Voluntary celibacy is not a solution," Francis said.

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes is reportedly pressing to allow viri probati in the Amazon, where the church counts around one priest for every 10,000 Catholics, ABC News reported.

The Catholic Church already allows some married men to be ordained priests.

Protestant married priests who convert to Catholicism can continue to be married and be a Roman Catholic priest, providing they have their wives' permission, CNN reported.

And Eastern Catholic churches that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church can also maintain their tradition of married priests. 

Filet-O-Fish sales surge at McDonald's during Lent

Every March, McDonald’s sees a surge in sales of its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

According to a company spokesman, it’s primarily because of Lent.

Nearly 25 percent of the sandwiches sold during the year are sold during Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and runs for 40 days, ending just before Easter Sunday.

>> Read more trending stories  

The dish’s existence dates back to the 1960s, when Cincinnati franchise owner Lou Groen noticed a drop in sales on Fridays when his Roman Catholic customers were observing Lent. 

Groen convinced the food chain to launch a whitefish sandwich as an alternative menu item to its popular burgers.

>> Related: What is Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and how do we celebrate? 

Since its inception, the wild-caught Alaska pollock fish sandwiches have become a McDonald’s staple.

Social media users are jokingly taking to Twitter to express their excitement for “Filet-O-Fish Season,” some celebrating the discounts that many McDonald's restaurants offer on the sandwich on Fridays during Lent. 

Take a look:

Commence Filet-O-Fish season. #Lent— Caitlin N. (@catealli_15) March 1, 2017

It's Ash Wednesday. Which means it's gonna be lent fridays and Filet O Fish are gonna be sold for $1.59 again pic.twitter.com/XXghnR6AQT— HvyMtlLvr (@Artenomics) March 1, 2017

The filet-o-fish is truly a staple in the Catholic community during Lent.— Ally (@allyportz11) February 27, 2017

Pope denounces hypocritical Christians who 'live a double life'

Pope Francis called out Christians in a sermon Thursday, suggesting it would be better to be an atheist than to lead a double life, exploit people or manage a greedy business.

>> Read more trending news

"So many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others," Francis said during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, CNN reported, quoting Vatican Radio. "How many times have we heard — all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere — 'But to be a Catholic like that, it's better to be an atheist.' It is that: scandal."

"But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another."

The Vatican later issued a note clarifying that the pontiff was simply saying that God's grace is free to all, even atheists, CNN reported.

Francis' sermon was an extension of Thursday’s Mass readings, which include a passage from the Gospel of Mark. In it, Jesus says it is better to be drowned than to cause others to sin.

Drawing on that passage, Francis gave a blunt example.

He said he imagined a wealthy Christian knocking at the gates of heaven and saying, "Here I am, Lord! ... I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this ... Don't you remember all the offerings I made?"

To which Jesus may reply, according to Francis:

"Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don't know you.' That will be Jesus' response to these scandalous people who live a double life."

It is not the first time Francis has referenced atheists. In 2013, he said that heaven is open, potentially, to all people.

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” he said. "'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone!"

Naked and afraid: Pastor flees after man catches him in bed with wife

A Florida pastor is under the scrutiny of his congregation -- and of social media users -- after his illicit tryst with a married woman sent him running naked from the woman’s furious, gun-wielding husband.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported Monday that the Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons, pastor of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee, was sent running from the woman’s home without his clothes, wallet or car keys on the afternoon of Jan. 17 after the woman’s husband came home unexpectedly and found them having sex in their daughter’s bedroom. The newspaper reported that the man had picked up their sick son from school after the school had been unable to reach his wife. 

The man, upon interrupting Simmons and his wife, yelled, “I’m going to kill him,” and retrieved a gun from the master bedroom.

Simmons fled naked and hid behind a nearby fence, the Democrat reported.

The woman called police and told them her husband had left with Simmons’ belongings, which he threatened to bring to the church. He also threatened to expose the affair on Facebook, the newspaper said.

It took telephone negotiations with police officers for the husband to return Simmons’ property, the Democrat reported. He turned his handgun over to the president of the Tallahassee branch of the NAACP.

The woman told police her husband never threatened her with harm and declined to press charges, as did Simmons. Citing the interests of all involved, the state attorney decided not to prosecute the man.

>> Read more trending stories

Simmons, who has served as Jacob Chapel’s pastor since late 2005, said he does not plan to step down as pastor. He addressed the scandal with his congregation in a sermon, which was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

In the address, the husband and father of a young son told those present that he had already received what he sought from God -- forgiveness. He asked his congregants for their forgiveness, as well as their prayers.

“I’m hurting because I’ve hurt you. I can’t speak for people on the outside, because I’m not Tallahassee’s pastor,” Simmons told church members Jan. 22, to applause and murmurs of approval. “I’m not Florida’s pastor. I’m not the world’s pastor. I’m Jacob Chapel’s pastor.”

Scroll down to the end of the story to watch the entire video.

“It hurts me that you have to defend my actions,” he continued. “Because, when you love somebody, you want to fight for them. You want to defend them. But let me be very clear. You cannot defend sin.”

He told the congregants that they couldn’t get defensive or try to justify his sin, saying that the situation was not about anyone but him.

“The world doesn’t operate like we operate. And so you will be attacked for loving me.”

He said there were likely people in the church at that moment there solely to see what was going to happen when he addressed his indiscretion.

“Come on, pastor! Come on, pastor!” several people shouted in agreement.

Simmons likened the internet to an ocean full of sharks.

“The sharks eat you up because that’s their world,” he said to more applause. “I know you and I dive in and out of social media and all that stuff, so every now and then when we jump in, we get bit. You can’t defend sin. You’ve got to defer to your savior. The same Jesus I preach to you every Sunday.

“You defer to him. Because when you love somebody, it’s tempting to jump out there. My baby brother’s here, sitting on the end there. I have to keep him from shooting people, because he ain’t all the way saved yet. (I have to) talk him down.”

At the end of the address, the congregation stood and applauded Simmons for several minutes.

Simmons often posts inspirational messages to his Facebook page, where he posted an image the day of the Jan. 17 incident that advised his church members not to let problems paralyze their progress in life.

Be Inspired...Posted by O Jermaine Simmons on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Earlier this month, he posted about using time wisely to make dreams come true.

Monday Inspirationojermainesimmons.com#dreambig#makeithappenPosted by O Jermaine Simmons on Monday, January 9, 2017

Simmons' sex scandal occurred during a weeklong celebration of his 11th anniversary as pastor of Jacob Chapel. The celebration included a Jan. 20 book signing for Simmons’ first book, “I Need a Man.” 

The book is described on Simmons’ personal website as offering “a fresh perspective on the issues of godly manhood and mentoring.” It was published through Certa Publishing, a Christian partner publishing company. 

Muslim man receives heartwarming note from neighbors after Trump's inauguration

A heartfelt letter left on the door of a Muslim man's Ohio home after President Donald Trump's inauguration is going viral.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

According to WCPO, Abubaker Amri, who immigrated to the United States from Libya nearly 40 years ago, was concerned about some of Trump's comments on the campaign trail. But on Friday, a surprising letter note from his neighbors in Cincinnati lifted his spirits.

>> Read more trending stories

"Dear Neighbors," the note read. "Today begins a new stage for our country. No matter what happens, please know there are still a lot of people who will fight for your right to practice your religion, to continue your lives without discrimination. You are welcome in our neighborhood and if you need anything – please knock on our door."

Amri's niece, Hend Amry, shared a photo of the letter on Twitter, where it quickly went viral. Her post was retweeted more than 140,000 times and "liked" more than 415,000 times by Sunday morning.

>> See the post here

After the Trump inauguration, some neighbors left this letter on my uncle's door in Cincinnati, Ohio. pic.twitter.com/jnlXewv7ej— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) January 21, 2017 <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

"There's no way I could express my feelings when I got that note," Amri told WCPO, calling it "the best, best, best experience."

Read more here.

Eddie Long death: Memorial service set for controversial megachurch pastor

The metro Atlanta megachurch led by Bishop Eddie L. Long has set a date for a memorial service for the controversial pastor. 

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, will hold services for Long at 11 a.m. Jan. 25, Elder Craig Heath said during an early morning international prayer call. Long died Sunday at age 63.

>> PHOTOS: Bishop Eddie Long through the years

The church had said Sunday that an email would be sent to members with further details.

Heath read from the New Birth in a statement Sunday that Long "is now spiritually healed and home with the Lord.”

>> PHOTOS: Notable deaths 2017

“Bishop Long, senior pastor of New Birth, transitioned from this life early Sunday morning after a gallant private fight with an aggressive form of cancer,” the statement said.

Leaders on the prayer call, which opened and closed with music, at times seemed emotional as they talked about how Long had always “sowed seeds” in them and in others. Heath said the service would celebrate his life, sacrifice and service.

>> Controversial Atlanta megachurch Bishop Eddie Long has died, church says

He acknowledged that members were still is the midst of working out their thoughts and feelings considering the life and legacy of Long.

Also on the call was Elder Carla Stokes and Bishop Kenneth Pearman.

>> Men who sued Eddie Long for sexual misconduct address bishop's death

Long was absent at several services during recent months but was present during Christmas and New Year’s Eve services. His last sermon was during Watch Night Services to usher in the new year.

New Birth members were told of Long’s death Sunday. Some sobbed and cried. Others prayed and leaned on those near them in support.

“Even though we don’t know the details right now, Bishop Long wouldn’t leave us in a lurch,” said longtime member Lela Brooks, a member for 29 years. “His legacy will live on. He did a lot of good and we won’t let that fade.”

>> Read more trending stories

Talis Burrell hadn’t been a member as long. Having joined in 2006, she said even though the congregation held out hope that Long had won the battle with his illness, she wasn’t completely caught off guard at his passing.

“He hadn’t really come back physically," she said.

“I’ve been a member here for 34 years and it’s just devastating,” said Keith Crowley. “It’s sad for the world.”

Crowley, like many members of New Birth, found out about Long’s death when it was announced during Sunday’s service.

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