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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Covet not sermons of thy online neighbor?

By Jeff Strickler




JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Ministers moving to a new house of worship have a long tradition of dusting off some of their favorite homilies from the past. But in these electronic days, that's just where the recycling begins.

Clergy who run short of time or inspiration can turn to a plethora of Web sites offering ideas, outlines and, if necessary, entire sermons that can be downloaded in a ready-to-read-Sunday-morning format.

Users can search for sermons based on denomination (Assembly of G0d to Wesleyan), event (marriage or funeral), topic, Bible passage or even a particular day (from Yom Kippur to Mother's Day). SermonSearch.com has more than 100,000 subscribers paying $21.95 a month to search and download from its library of 20,000-plus sermons.

We know what you're thinking: Isn't this plagiarism?

The arrival of downloadable sermons throws religious leaders into the debate that has bedeviled college campuses since the first term paper went online. But where taking a term paper is clearly cheating, the sharing of sermons apparently isn't. Some preachers see it as a compliment. Even seminaries have a love-hate relationship with it.

"We used to trade information face to face, now we do it online," said the Rev. Dave Ridder, dean of Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. "But that raises the question of when does borrowing cross the line, and that can be a very thin line to walk. We encourage students to acknowledge the source of an idea, even if they make it their own. They owe that to the congregation."

Some congregations are unforgiving. "I have heard of ministers getting fired for this," Ridder said. "Their congregations say, 'If you're just going to read someone else's writing, what are we paying you for?' "

But at Bethel Seminary, professors rave about the potential educational value the databases offer.

"It's like law students looking at case studies," Ridder said. Through the online services, seminary students "can learn from the best by studying and analyzing the work of some of the most successful preachers in the country. We've always encouraged students to go out and listen to other preachers. Now they can do it online."

Of course, not every preacher who logs on is looking for enlightenment. "A preacher gets in a jam: It's Saturday night and you need a sermon for Sunday morning and, well, there you go," he said.

If a high school or college students did that for their homework, their teachers likely would flunk them. Should we be more forgiving with our clergy?

Recent United Theological Seminary grad Mike MacMillan says an adamant "no." MacMillan, who is serving as a Lilly pastoral resident at Mayflower Community Congregational Church in Minneapolis, said that "using canned sermons is cheating — no way around it." Passing someone else's work off as your own is "unethical in relation to the craft and art of preaching, and also unethical and dishonest to the members" of the church.


It's hard to say how many online sermon services exist, but a few minutes on the Internet turned up nearly 20. They have names such as Sermon Central, Sermon Seedbed and Sermons.com — not to be confused with competitors Sermons.org and Sermons.net or specialists such as Sermons4Kids and BlackSermons.com.

They vary widely in format. Some have annual or monthly fees; a few are free. Some offer PowerPoint presentations to accompany the sermons. Some also provide reviews of how the sermons have been received, including star ratings from pastors who have read them and tallies on the number of hits they've gotten: A sermon that has been downloaded 454 times since February looks promising, but you might want to skip the one that has had only four takers in 31/2 years.

The companies behind them maintain that they are offering pastors a valuable service. iFindSermons.com makes it sound almost noble: "Unplanned events such as funerals, emergency counseling sessions, administrative problems or meetings can create havoc in the perfectly planned week. Instead of ending the week frustrated because your study time has been replaced by other needs, take advantage of our many sermons online."

Copyright laws are taken into consideration, of course. There are services that offer only sermons that are in the public domain. Some pay a small royalty to preachers whose work is downloaded, while others set up agreements with users.

"The contributors choose to upload their content in as much detail as they want," said Andrew Pino, director of marketing for Sermon Search. "Beyond that, we obviously cannot regulate what a user chooses to do with the tools."

Ministers whose work is copied aren't likely to complain. As churches increasingly embrace electronic media to spread their message, they consider a little copying to be a price well worth paying, said Freddie Bell, a spokesperson for Unity East. The church has been using the Internet to grow so effectively that it recently had to start holding services in the Marcus movie multiplex in Oakdale.

"We upload all our sermons so they are out there for people in our community to use," he said. "If other ministers are among the consumers, that's flattering."

The notion of preachers "borrowing" material from one another is as old as preaching itself, Ridder said. "People have been stealing sermons since the beginning of time."

Preachers have long used a vast array of resources, paging through everything from "Bartlett's Quotations" to Reader's Digest, looking for sermon fodder. Or they can turn to books; enough sermon anthologies have been printed over the years — and are still being printed — to fill a mega-church to the rafters.

"Most of this stuff has been available for decades," Bell said. "The only difference now is that it's online."

Even many ministers who disdain the services admit that they have used them. MacMillan logs onto the services to find "things one can tailor or add to a particular sermon. I do not believe there is anything wrong with seeking ideas, as long as a pastor has already done solid exegetical (research of the text), historical and linguistic work."

There's one more pitfall to downloading sermons: "There are a lot of a really bad sermons out there," MacMillan said. "I should know. I probably preached a few of them."

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