After 12 years of writing about religion, art and education in our tri-county area, journalist Amanda Greene is taking a bold first step with a Religious Art Walking Tour in downtown Wilmington. Her narrative tour of six historical worship spaces will begin at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and walk to First Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal Church, the Temple of Israel, First Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Evangelical Church. The tour will be given on two sequential Sundays, August 19th and August 26th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Greene, newly recruited as the director of Wilmington Faith and Values (WilmingtonFAVS.com), heads up the second of only five nationwide bureaus of the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA). The Religious Art Walking Tours will not only educate the public about the history and beauty of art in church and temple, but also help fund further explorations of faith and values in our communities.
“I was working for the StarNews and got a call from the RNA,” Greene explained. “The rep said, ‘Hey, you want to start this crazy venture with us? It’s a nonprofit. It’s scary, but let’s do it!’”
There are news sites funded by various religions, but the RNA is not one of them. It is foremost a news service that trains its reporters to showcase the impact of faith and values in our communities.
A half dozen years ago, when the economy began to tank, newspapers thinned their ranks by cutting art, education and religion columns, and journalists lost their jobs. It provided RNA the impetus to fund local bureaus thanks to an endowment from the Lilly Foundation.
“Ministries in a community need oversight,” Greene said. “If something good or bad happens in a faith or values group, it needs to be reported. People live and breathe their faith. We act on what we’ve been taught as children, and that informs the rest of our lives. The South has the most religious communities in the nation with churches 300-plus strong in our tri-county area, and a river of faith running through everything that happens in our community. When churches or other organizations take a stand for or against particular issues, such as same-sex unions or gun control, politicians pay attention, and it impacts our legislation.”
WilmingtonFAVS.com educates the community online whether it’s featuring the faith-based groups that are helping rebuild the Virgo School community or talking about prayers said at the County Commissioners meetings. Media partners republish this work on various platforms. Every week Greene broadcasts a short segment on WHQR’s local news. The StarNews publishes timely news stories.
WilmingtonFAV.com’s contributors remain topical bloggers. One writes about addictions and how her faith has helped her battle alcoholism. A Catholic family blogger writes about home-schooling her children. A Jewish blogger informs the public about festivals and holidays.
The 30 contributors Greene has onboard span the faith and values spectrum from evangelical to atheist. “Wilmington is a port city, and we have a very diverse number of belief systems: Hindu, Moslem, Sikh[ism], pagan, nondenominational, as well as Christian and Jewish faiths,” she said. “I tell everyone who writes for us, ‘Think of this as your ministry to the world.’”
Greene perceives Wilmington faith groups as being very giving and willing to share with “the least of these.” “I fully believe that our civil services could not stem the needs of the poor without faith-based services such as the Salvation Army, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Good Shepherd Center,” she said. “The more enlightened we can be about what our neighbor down the street believes, the better we can get along. When I talk with a person about their religious or ethical views, I prepare myself by becoming a tabula rasa—a blank slate. I am open enough to listen and record whether I agree or not. If someone slaps me in the face with racism or bigotry of any kind, he will not know that I will go home shortly thereafter and wash myself clean. I must adhere to journalistic principles.”
Greene has been on hand when several pieces of art were installed in various churches and thinks of them as “lovely synchronicity” between religion and art. Unique and powerful, the narrated tour will showcase the best of our historic city’s many places of worship.
“Some of them are one-of-a-kind,” she said. “There are several different eras of stained glass alone. It used to tell a story for those who could not read. St. Mary’s arched domes were built by the Spanish architect Guastavino, who used no wood, nails or scaffolding, but a very strong tile and mortar combo instead. There are paintings and sculpture, such as the Ecce Homo, the bound Christ at St. James Episcopal Church.”
Tours on August 19th and 26th begin at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 412 Ann Street. For tickets, call 910-520-3958. A donation of $10 is suggested, all of which helps fund the nonprofit, www.WilmingtonFAVS.com.