On Faith: Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council

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Eric Spitz speaks at the Interfaith Council meeting
Eric Spitz speaks at the Interfaith Council meeting

Five new clergy members were introduced at the September meeting of the Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council’s September’s meeting held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church.

“We had 72 people in attendance, including three Rabbis, three Catholic priests, members from Bahai, Buddhist, and just about every denomination,” explained Jim deBoom, Executive Director and Secretary of the Interfaith Council. “It was our New Clergy Luncheon, where old clergy welcomes new members. New clergy usually take their assignments July 1, so they’ve settled into their new positions. We invite them to our September meeting, where we get to know each other, and there was a lot of that going on.”

“The new clergy members are from Christ Church by the Sea, Newport Center United Methodist Church, University Methodist Church, Orange Coast Unitarian and Temple Bat Yahm. It was a full and very informative program.”

The event included lunch, introductions around the room, talks by Eric Spitz, President of Freedom Communications and publisher of the Orange County Register, and Cathleen Falsani from the Register, and a brief video announcing the upcoming Annual CROP Hunger Walk.

Spitz spoke about what has happened in the newspaper business, and the many changes at the Register, including the new sections, new community newspapers, new writers, new structure, magazine and the pay wall.

“There are two revenue streams for every media company: advertisers and subscribers,” Eric said. “We found that the operating model that works best is to focus on subscribers first, and to create content that’s substantial. The advertisers will show up. This is a very involved consumer society. We know what quality looks like, and we know what value looks like. If you aim at quality and value, people appreciate it. When your content is essential, people are willing to pay for it. We are in the product business, not the advertising business.”

Spitz then invited Cathleen Falsani to join him up front.

“I’m excited to talk about our new Faith and Values section and to introduce our star columnist Cathleen,” he said. “She is a double Masters Degree earner in journalism and theology, and author of several books.”

“I describe my job as God-girl on the God-beat,” Falsani said. “I don’t usually say religion because if you say religion to a lot of people, they think institutions, structures, and rules, and not things they are terribly interested in. But if you start talking about spirituality, or belief, or identity, or why you do what you do, how you raise your children, why you buy the things you do, or watch the things you do, then they listen.”

“I had a mentor who said to look for the God-factor in the other news stories,” she continued. “If you do it right, the God beat is the biggest beat at the paper because it touches every area of life. I don’t see a lot of competition between faith traditions. It seems a lot of people are working together to make this community as healthy and vibrant as possible, whatever their faith tradition might be, even if it’s none.”

After some questions and answers, the audience viewed a brief video which gave an example of one way local faith communities working together every year in the annual CROP Walk, the 25th Annual United Interfaith Hunger Walk on October 27.

“I thought that Eric’s comments about delivering a newspaper that is essential applies to faith communities as well,” DeBoom noted. “If we can learn what is essential to the people who attend our congregations, as well as those who don’t, then maybe we can truly make a difference.”

For further information, go to nminterfaith.org.

Cindy can be reached at [email protected].


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