Faith in 2012: A Prediction
As the New Year begins, so does the resounding chatter of predictions that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012 in accordance with the Maya Calendar. This apocalyptic prediction has doomsayers from around the world preparing for what they are calling “end times”. But The Reverend Andrea Baldyga from the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Sayre, Pa. feels differently, stating, “People have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of the world.”
But the end of time in accordance with the ancient Maya Calendar isn’t the only prediction that has forum’s and blog’s buzzing around the world. A CNN Belief Blog went around the world to ask experts in faith and religion about how the forces of faith
and faithlessness will form 2012. The opinions rendered ranged from being “Muslim in America,” to the honoring of the Sabbath becoming “trendy.”
From the blog, analysts also spoke of religion and politics, and predicted how the Republican Party will tap Mitt Romney as its presidential nominee, and America will finally have its “Mormon moment.”
In this opinion, rendered by Stephen Prothero, Boston University religion professor and regular CNN Belief Blog contributor, he wrote, “As evangelicals try to figure out whether they can support a president who practices Mormonism, the rest of us will try to figure out whether Mormonism is a cult, a form of Christianity, or something in between. Meanwhile, visitors to Marriott hotels will finally crack open some of those nightstand copies of The Book of Mormon.”
Regarding 2012 being dubbed as an apocalyptic year, Margaret Feinberg, author of “Hungry for God,” wrote, “Despite all of the lessons that could have been learned from Y2K and Harold Camping, people will still rally around the idea that apocalyptic events are on the calendar for 2012.”
She continued, “Some will turn to the end-date of the 5125-year-long cycle in the
Mesoamerican Long Count calendar (closely associated with the Maya civilization) and a handful of folks believe cataclysmic events are awaiting on December 21, 2012. But the dates will pass with little fanfare – except for those profiting from the sale of gold coins, generators, and dried food that you’d probably rather want to die than eat.”
Penn State University Professor Philip Jenkins, talked of the Arab world, stating, “Continuing revolutions across the Arab world will raise alarming questions about the fate of the remaining Christians in the region, and will put the issue of religious persecution squarely on the political agenda.”
He also explained that sizable Christian populations now survive in only two Arab countries, Egypt and Syria, both of which could soon be under Islamist rule. For his
prediction, he stated, “At a minimum, expect to see inter-faith violence on the ground. In a worst case scenario, Arab Christians could face large scale persecution, forcing millions to seek new homes overseas. Watch too for religious persecution to be an emotive issue in the U.S. presidential race.”
Other faith predictions included a “coming out” of non-believers, and growing popularity of TLC’s “All-American Muslim.”
But how does all of this affect individuals in their home-life and their belief systems? It doesn’t, according to Reverend Baldyga.
As Reverend to a 200-member congregation in Sayre, Pa., Baldyga talked of faith, and what it means for many in today’s world. She also spoke of predictions made through
various interpretations of the bible – a practice that has existed for centuries.
“Through the millennia,” said Baldyga, “people have used the bible to predict.”
But Baldyga also gave an insight as to her own belief’s on the shape that faith is taking in today’s world, and how it continues to form our communities.
Baldyga was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up Roman Catholic, Baldyga attended the same parochial school that her father attended. According to Baldyga, the masses were in polish, and they sang in polish. Her grandparents, she noted, came from Poland.
She was an average kid growing up in the city in the sixties, she described.
And to elaborate on her ideas regarding religion, Baldyga stepped back in time, to the days when this country belonged to England. At that time, she noted, people began developing religious diversity.
“There were Quakers, and the Methodists arose out of the Anglican Church,” she stated. The Quakers, she added, started out in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania – it was a time of great social and religious change.
And unlike countries where laws are based upon religion, such as in some areas of the Arab World, the United States has for centuries separated religious rule from governing laws.
When we broke away from England, Baldyga recounted, the founders decided this country would not be regulated by religion; a move, she noted, that was considered radical back then.
In 1776, the Constitution became the new way of independence. “We have one law,” said Baldyga, “it doesn’t matter what someone believes.” “Someone can believe in Sharia or
Islamic law,” she added, “but they can’t enforce it.”
Expounding about this diversity that has evolved over the centuries, and the different religious communities taking shape across America, she noted that sometimes people are just afraid of change.
“People are scared of something that is different than what they believe,” said Baldyga. “When people came to this country they were from all over, and it is no different today.”
But in spite of the differing beliefs carried through society today, people are still leaning towards faith. “Most people need something that brings meaning,” said Baldyga. “The why am I here on this earth…. or why have I experienced joy or pain,” she said. “People are always searching for answers or meaning.”
Some of this fear, she added, is also derived from a changing world, or society. “People today think that because of what everyone is doing, that it will bring punishment,” said Baldyga.
And the society, she agreed, is changing.
Returning to her own story of faith, Baldyga, following her parochial education, studied to become a cardiac surgeon at Boston University where she was an undergraduate. She moved on to work at the Cleveland Clinic, and spent the next 15 years as a heart surgeon and critical care specialist.
But soon after, she felt that she was called to serve God in her capacity today as a Reverend.
“However you describe God,” said Baldyga, “when God wants you to do something, you can’t get away from it.”
Baldyga went on to study at the seminary in Cleveland, finished her studies in Boston, and was then ordained in Cleveland. Following a three year assignment in New Jersey, Baldyga soon found herself at the Church of the Redeemer in Sayre, Pa.
The church, which was constructed in the 1880′s, according to Baldyga, was built by the Packer’s. In fact, she noted, the Packer Mansion at one time was located across the street from the church. Mary Packer-Cummings, wife to the late Robert Packer, was primarily responsible for its construction.
The building itself, according to Baldyga, was built from granite extracted from Barclay Mountain, and is very durable. And although durable, she quipped, the maintenance of a hundred year old church is hell.
The Parish house, which at one time sat in the lot facing the hospital, was not constructed as well and is now gone.
But of the church and its community, Baldyga described an area that was at one time ‘bustling” due to the railcar activity. She also noted that, at that time, people would work, and then their social life surrounded their church community.
“The church was the center of the community,” she added.
Today, she noted, people have too many other things going on in their lives outside of church. In fact, she added, many people don’t understand the concept of a church community and faith.
As a member of the Valley Christian Clergy Association, a group that meets monthly and is comprised of close to two dozen members, Baldyga has been able to work with other faiths within the community as she continues to be a good Christian witness…. to serve.
Baldyga noted that through these meetings, she has been able to assess that although the community is growing, as reflected in the rising number of students, the number of people seeking faith is not.
She feels that people are somehow moving away from organized religion. “I’m not sure if they’re finding faith, and I’m not sure if they care,” she added. For kids, she noted, she isn’t even sure if finding faith is on their “radar screen.”
But she also feels that this lack of faith is partly due to the freedom and individualism that so many children are offered today. “Many parents are letting their children make their own decisions about faith,” Baldyga added.
But these realities of a changing world of faith, and the evolved diversity that is offering choices and building a variety of religious communities, does not stop Baldyga, and others, from continuing their work as servants.
Each day, systematically, the Carillion bells resound throughout the community as they ring on the hour. Baldyga, along with other area clergy, continues to perform works throughout the community to include partnering with The Bridge for various missions.
And this former surgeon has also been called out to comfort those nearing end of life on occasion. And coming from one of the largest Intensive Care Units in the country, Baldyga notes that her previous career helps her to understand things better as well as families struggle with life-threatening illnesses.
Baldyga also continually opens the doors to the Church of the Redeemer to other organizations, and holds services both on Saturday evening, and twice on Sunday.