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RELIGION | SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FILE

Taking Lessons From Rosie O'Donnell

March 14, 1998|JOHN DART

Can churches learn from popular daytime television host Rosie O'Donnell?

Yes, particularly when it comes to creating community, making charity fun and paying attention to children and senior citizens, says Laura Simmons, a doctoral student at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Simmons said that the actress and TV talk show host helps create a sense of community by handing out small cakes to her audiences sitting in the studio or waiting in line before her shows.

"Breaking bread together, even if it's chocolate cakes shared on a sidewalk, is a bonding experience," Simmons said in a paper she will give Sunday in Claremont at the joint regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. The scholars are meeting Sunday through Tuesday.

Although Oprah Winfrey has slimmed down after years of diets, NBC's O'Donnell is one of the few "celebrities to embrace her weight" even as she struggles with it, said the seminarian.

Recently, O'Donnell raised money for breast cancer research by securing a large matching grant from Warner Bros., then inviting her audience "to make them pay up," Simmons said. She also used a running gag on the show to raise half a million dollars for her own "For All Kids" foundation, while making donations to other charities, according to Simmons.

Although perky youngsters and elderly achievers have been frequent guests of hosts Johnny Carson and Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight Show," Simmons noted that O'Donnell "actively recruited children and seniors with interesting talents" this season.

"[These are] two communities which are often marginalized in the church," Simmons said. As for drawing lessons from daytime TV, Simmons cited Fuller President Richard Mouw and faculty member William Dyrness, who both "emphasize the importance of listening to the culture and rituals by which people communicate their values and beliefs."

ST. PATRICK'S DAY

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Looking ahead to Tuesday, two Orange County groups plan celebrations of faith, music and Irish merrymaking.

* An "evening of Irish spirituality" is planned today at the St. Joseph Center Auditorium, 434 S. Batavia St., Orange, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Sister Margaret Scharf, musician and vocalist, Dennis and Paula Doyle with songs and stories, plus Irish dancers are featured. $20 at the door.

* The ninth annual St. Patrick's Family Festival run by the Brothers of St. Patrick, a worldwide missionary organization, will open Sunday with an Irish breakfast, starting at 7:30 a.m., and a Mass at 11 a.m., at the order's grounds at 7820 Bolsa Ave., Midway City. The festival begins after the Mass. $7 at the gate.

* On Wednesday night, a dramatic musical, "The Passion of St. Patrick," written by television producer Greg Perkins, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, 16221 Mulholland Drive. Free. (818) 788-4200.

CORRECTION

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The Sheraton Universal Hotel at Universal City is the correct site for the sixth annual Movieguide Awards on Wednesday night. (805) 383-2000.

DATES

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Jetsun Pema, younger sister of the Dalai Lama, will speak Sunday in Westwood about her life in exile in India. Pema's autobiography, "Tibet: My Story" was recently published and she acted in the film "Seven Years in Tibet." Los Angeles Friends of Tibet, which is sponsoring the 6:30 p.m. talk at Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., is asking donations of $15 to benefit the Tibet Fund. (310) 289-4654.

* Former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who walked on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission, will speak on "A New Cosmological Model--A Contemporary Look at Reality" on Sunday at the Philosophical Research Society, 3910 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles. Founder of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Mitchell will speak at 11 a.m., then lead a 90-minute workshop at 2 p.m. Donations of $10 and $15, respectively. (213) 663-2167.

* Purim carnivals, celebrating the happiest Jewish holiday of the year, will continue Sunday at many synagogues, including Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.), Temple Akiba, 5249 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City (9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) and Temple Beth Ohr, 15721 Rosecrans Ave., La Mirada (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.).

* Alan Andrews, newly installed president of the Navigators, an evangelical ministry, will speak at 10 a.m. Sunday at Grace Cambodian Church, 3590 Elm Ave., Long Beach. The Navigators began in Long Beach 60 years ago and now have 3,000 staff members in 105 countries. (310) 831-9721.

CONFERENCES

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Author Neale Donald Walsch, whose "Conversations With God" books are religious bestsellers, will be among the speakers at a four-day inspirational conference opening Thursday at the Westin Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. The event, hosted by the Rev. Michael Beckwith and his Agape International Center of Truth, will include an award to Della Reese, co-star of CBS' "Touched by an Angel," next Saturday. $249 registration. (310) 829-9173.

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