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Compelling television viewing from
the National Council of Churches

New York, May 25, 2010 -- War, natural disasters and humanity's furry friends. These topics are no strangers to television viewers, but programming presented by the National Council of Churches adds many new dimensions to familiar themes.


The Conscientious Objector, presented by the NCC and produced by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on many NBC stations beginning June 13. (If your local station isn't carrying this important show, call the station management and tell them how much you'd like to see it.)

Though not a member communion of the National Council of Churches, the Seventh-day Adventist Church sends representatives to the NCC Communication Commission and is active in the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. "The Conscientious Objector" is the true story of Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who overcame ridicule for his refusal to carry a weapon, then distinguished himself as a fearless saver of lives on the battle fields of the Pacific during the Second World War.

In one of the battles for Okinawa, the unarmed and unprotected Doss saved the lives of 75 wounded men as well as that of his commanding officer, dragging them one at a time in the face of certain death to a cliff side where he lowered each of them by rope to the camp below.

Some of the GI's he saved, including his Captain, were those who has mistreated him. His unselfishness and concern for their lives won him the respect of the Army and the nation, which awarded him The Congressional Medal of Honor. More information is available at www.desmonddoss.com.



Ministry of Animals,
produced in cooperation with the National Council of Churches, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, the Union of Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis, on CBS beginning June 13. John P. Blessington is the executive producer of the special and Liz Kineke is the producer.

Among the topics explored in the program are dogs that the clergy uses as a means of pastoral care.  Also known as "ministry dogs," these assistance dogs are formally trained at the National Education for Assistance Dog Services' (NEADS) Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans in Princeton, Massachusetts. 

Founded in 1976, this non-profit organization trains service dogs for the deaf and disabled as well as animal-assisted therapy, such as those used in ministry.  

The program talks with Rev. Debbie Blanchard, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Littleton, Massachusetts, who agreed to have "Mosby," a NEADS-trained dog, as part of her church community.  She encourages churches to explore ways to use animals in ministry because she's found that dogs are helpful to people during times of tragedy, counseling or sorrow.  

The program visits Lynda and Larry Fisher, who are Mosby's caretakers. Lynda is a Deaconess and Larry volunteers for the church's food pantry.  Ministry dogs are usually designated for members of the clergy, but NEADS made an exception after seeing the Fisher's love for dogs and their tireless service to church and community.

Also featured in THE MINISTRY OF ANIMALS are the monks of New Skete, formerly part of an Byzantine-Rite Franciscans who are now a separate Eastern Orthodox monastic community in Cambridge, New York.  Viewers will meet Brother Stavros and Brother John, two monks who breed and train German Shepherds in order to support their order.  "Because we're living a life here at the monastery that is essentially dedicated to seeking God and exploring the deepest mysteries in life, one of the things that's been most surprising and wonderful has been that the dogs have played an important impact on our spiritual lives in ways that we never could have imagined," says Brother Christopher, the order's chief dog trainer.   

The program also visits Harvard Divinity School professor, Kimberley Patton, who explains the roles animals have played within the various world religions. Animals, birds and reptiles have long been seen as part of the human-divine mystery by many religions, who regard the animal kingdom as reflecting a oneness within the divine. 

 Finally viewers will witness part of "The Annual Blessing of the Animals" at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.  People bring pets of all sizes and types to the church, including birds and even circus animals, to reflect a union of the human and the other-than-human lives within our natural universe.



Coming Home: Hurricane Katrina 5 Years Later, presented by the National Council of Churches and produced by the Presbyterian Church (USA), on many NBC stations beginning September 12. (If your local station isn't carrying this important show, call the station management and tell them how much you'd like to see it.)

"You have to remember one thing when you drive through my city: behind every broken window...behind every boarded up empty house...There is a family trying to come home.”

Wanda was one of the thousands of families left homeless or displaced following Hurricane Katrina. Five years later, some of these families are still trying to return home. The most destructive hurricane in
U.S. history inspired a movement that brought thousands of volunteers from all over the world —taking leave from their jobs, their families— to work alongside families and communities desperately trying to return home.

The new documentary, "Coming Home: Hurricane Katrina 5 Years Later," gives insight into the relationships between volunteers and hurricane survivors and includes stories of how they have touched each other’s lives. DVDs are available from 800-524-2612.
Wesley M. "Pat" Pattillo, NCC Associate General Secretary, Justice, Advocacy and Communication, represents the NCC on the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. Shirley Whipple Struchen is the NCC's Coordinator of Electronic Media Programming.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's member faith groups — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell), pjenks@ncccusa.org

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