Monday, November 25, 2013

Palin will sign books at Billy Graham Library

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be at Charlotte's Billy Graham Library on Dec. 6 to sign copies of her new book about Christmas.

She'll autograph books from 10 a.m. to noon. The library is at 4330 Westmont Drive.

Palin's book, "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas," is a call to defend and openly celebrate Jesus' birth in public displays and in school pageants.

The 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate and frequent guest on the Fox News network also calls in her book for people to say "Merry Christmas" at a time when many, noting the growing religious diversity of the country, prefer "Happy Holidays."

Those who want to reserve a signed book must come to the library's book store, Ruth's Attic, and purchase up to four books there. They will be given receipts and wristbands, which they will need to bring to the book signing to gain access and get a book. No books purchased elsewhere will be signed.

Details: 704-401-3200. Click here for the library's Web site.

Palin was among the celebrities who attended Billy Graham's 95th birthday party on Nov. 7 at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville. She also spoke, recounting how her mother was influenced by televised Graham Crusades to bring the family to evangelical Christianity.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Billy Graham Library will, for the sixth consecutive year, host a nearly month-long "Christmas at the Library" celebration.

Starting Dec. 2 and continuing through Dec. 23, from 5 p.m. on each day, the library will treat visitors to a live Nativity, horse-drawn carriage rides, live music from carolers, Christmas story time for children, a lights display and a large Christmas tree with ornaments.

The library's operating hours in December will be extended, from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It will remain closed on Sundays.

Admission to the library is free. But there will be a $10 parking fee per vehicle after 3 p.m.. And there will costs for the carriage rides and for a Christmas dinner that will be available at the adjacent Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters, Thursday through Saturday.

ONE FINAL NEWSY NOTE: The library will be closed Jan. 6-11 for maintenance and updates. It will reopen Jan. 13.

-- Tim Funk  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Charlotte churches starring in 'Homeland'

I never miss TV’s “Homeland.”

Showtime’s CIA drama, shot in Charlotte, offers suspense, complex characters – and the thrill of watching the Queen City pass as Our Nation’s Capital.

So I’m watching it Sunday night, riveted by the cleverly plotted doings of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) and then – Whoa! Wait! CIA agent Carrie is holding her clandestine meeting with a shady go-between for Iran in … Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral!

As a religion reporter, I notice such things.

Two scenes were shot inside the Dilworth church – one of Charlotte’s most stunning, with its awesome icons. And viewers got to see the outside of the church on East Boulevard – site of the Yiasou Greek Festival – as Carrie waited in her car to follow said go-between down the streets of “Washington.”

Why did Holy Trinity get this shot at stardom?

“These things are all script-driven,” said Michael Klick, co-executive producer of the Emmy-winning series. “The script said, ‘Carrie meets somebody in a Coptic Orthodox church.’"

The producers settled for Greek Orthodox. “Everybody knows about Holy Trinity,” Klick said. “And it’s beautiful inside.”

Father Michael Varvarelis, the Greek-born dean at Holy Trinity, OK’d the filming – with one stipulation.
“We wanted to make sure the language was clean,” he said.

“Homeland” is on pay cable, so Carrie and other characters have been known to spout the F-word. Klick said the show made a small change in the dialogue.

And to show its gratitude, “Homeland” wrote a nice check to Holy Trinity, founded in 1923 and spiritual home to 870 families.

“It was a good donation,” Varvarelis said. And though he’s never seen the series, he was impressed with the show’s crew.

“They were very careful,” he said. “And they had all these lights outside to make sure the church looked good.”

His flock, Varvarelis said, was excited at the national exposure.

Holy Trinity is one of at least five local churches to get “Homeland” cameos.

Last year, the series shot a scene – another clandestine meeting – in the meditation garden at St. Peter Catholic uptown. That one starred the show’s other major character, Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a Marine POW in Iraq who returns home.

In the first season, Avondale Presbyterian was used for a “funeral service,” and Sharon Presbyterian starred as the church Brody’s family attended.

And Myers Park Baptist has provided sets and production help for the "Homeland" crew since it started filming in Charlotte. The current season's premiere included several scenes shot on the church's campus, including a "congressional hearing" and some bits of romance and drama featuring Brody's troubled daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor). See the church's "Homeland" photos here.

-- Tim Funk

Friday, November 15, 2013

On the red carpet at Billy's bash with Palin & Co.

Prior to Billy Graham’s 95th birthday party last Thursday night, we in the working press gathered, mob-like, behind a rope, waiting to shout questions at and snap photos of celebrity guests at Asheville’s grand Grove Park Inn.

Think Hollywood’s red carpet. But instead of movie stars, we got Republican politicos, Christian musicians and Sarah Palin.

“Hey, Governor,” I called out as the one-time leader of Alaska and her husband Todd strode into view, “what’s Billy Graham’s legacy?”

As the cameras click-click-clicked, she jumped right in with a 17-second answer.

“Oh, he is one who has been able to message what truth is, with the solutions to our world’s problems, our individual problems, and our nation’s challenges,” she said. “He’s been one to articulate what it is and what it will take to get everybody on the right track.”

Before Palin, we got to throw questions to Ricky Skaggs.

“It’s awesome to be at anyone’s 95th birthday, and especially Dr. Graham’s,” the bluegrass picker-singer said. “I’ve got a lot of heroes. But his picture is the biggest one I have in my studio.”

Christian music star Michael W. Smith, who would sing “Happy Birthday” to Graham at the party, had the most succinct take on the Charlotte-born evangelist as he strolled past the press.

“He’s finished well,” Smith said, echoing that first-century evangelist, Paul.

Democrats Bill and Hillary Clinton were invited to Billy’s party, but didn’t show, leaving the best seats in the ballroom – and the most time logged on the red carpet – to Republicans.

Press-shy (at least Thursday) Donald Trump and Glenn Beck stayed in their seats.

But U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., met the press, recalling when he was 22 and caddying for Billy at the 1971 Byron Nelson Golf Classic. “He was playing with Bob Hope and Arnold Palmer, and there were golf balls flying everywhere.”

And GOP Gov. Pat McCrory told us about the time in 1996 when he and Graham came into Panthers Stadium, site of the farmboy-turned-preacher’s last hometown crusade to win souls for Christ.

“There were 75,000 people cheering,” said McCrory, who was then mayor of Charlotte. “And (Graham) turned to me and said, ‘I think they’re confused – this is not about me.’”

Then, before moving along the rope, McCrory added: “Billy Graham was the one guy who knew it wasn’t about him. … And, you know, we all need a little humility in this celebrity world we have today.”

-- Tim Funk

Friday, November 1, 2013

Billy Graham's 95th birthday will be marked by party, celebs, books and TV message

Billy Graham turns 95 on Thursday.

To put that in perspective: His life began in Charlotte four days before the end of World War I.

Quite a milestone, quite a life. And a lot of things are happening to mark Graham’s birthday:

-- A private party is planned for Thursday night at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Graham will be there, as will 600 or so others, including Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, Rick Warren and Ricky Skaggs.

-- A DVD featuring what is likely to be Graham’s final public message will be shown in the coming days at 25,000 churches as part of a national evangelical effort called “My Hope America with Billy Graham.”

-- The program will also air Thursday night at 10 on the Fox News Network. Murdoch, the network’s owner, traded letters with Graham about showing the video of him preaching from his Montreat home. Nearly 500 local TV stations are also set to show it. In it, Graham talks about the need for a spiritual awakening in America and how the cross of Christ "demands . . . a new lifestyle."

-- And there are two new books out: Graham’s own, “The Reason for My Hope: Salvation,” and “Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures,” from former Observer religion editor Ken Garfield and a corps of Observer photographers who’ve covered Graham over the decades.

Book rich in pictures, anecdotes

But "Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures" ($19.99) is more than a photo collection. Garfield has tapped into his 12-plus years on the Billy Graham beat (1992-2005) to offer a rich supply of anecdotes and historical detail. Together, they tell you all about the Charlotte farm boy who became a globe-trotting evangelist and pastor to presidents.

“It’s meant to be an Everyman’s appreciation,” said Garfield, 60, now director of communications at Myers Park United Methodist. When he used that “Everyman” phrase with Graham aide David Bruce, Bruce replied, “That’s who Billy preached to.”

Garfield covered five Graham crusades – including in Germany, Charlotte and New York – and interviewed him a dozen times. In person or on stage, Garfield said, Graham was able to “make this connection. … His tenderness and humanity came through.”

Graham’s legacy? “His integrity,” Garfield said. “He got used by Nixon. But there was never any financial or sexual impropriety. … He figured out how to use all media. And he never really swayed from his basic message.”

Recently, in a letter from Montreat, Garfield’s book got a rave review – from Graham.

Garfield will speak and sign copies of his book at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 6) at Sharon Presbyterian Church, 5201 Sharon Road. Also, at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St. Reservations:

-- Tim Funk