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In the past week, media outlets in mid-Missouri reported on developments in the case against a former Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing minors while serving at a Boonville church.

Gerald Howard has asked for a changed of venue in the case, which is being prosecuted in Cooper County. He has been charged with eight felony counts including sodomy and kidnapping. And, he’s seeking a private attorney.

Read the story produced by KRCG or read more from the Boonville Daily News.

For background on the case, check out some past articles from the Columbia Missourian:

April 29: Former priest indicted on sodomy charges

Aug. 30, 2009: No new abuse allegations received, diocese says

Aug. 25, 2009: Father of abuse victim speaks, urges transparency by Catholic Church

Aug. 14, 2009: Jefferson City Diocese settles priest abuse case

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Sunday marked a farewell for the Rev. Bill Haney and members of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Columbia. After 21 years as minister for the church, Haney retired.

The Rev. Bill Haney of Columbia

The Rev. Bill Haney retired Sunday as minister at Columbia's Unitarian Universalist Church.

As the Columbia Missourian reported Sunday:

Haney also worked to bring young adults into his church. He said it’s important that when young people, such as college students, are seeking their identity, they have an environment to explore, free from guilt or pressure about joining a different religion.

Stephanie Doorman said Haney inspired her to go into the ministry. She said Haney, who allows church members to give guest sermons, was a great listener and source of joy for the church community.

Haney will serve at a Unitarian Church near Tucson, Ariz., for two years and then move nearer to his son in Oklahoma City.

The Rev. Dr. Suzanne Spencer, currently serving in Danbury, Conn., will be the interim minister for the Columbia congregation.

The Faith in Focus blog, authored by students at the Columbia Missourian, is taking a bit of a summer break. We’ll be posting less frequently during June and July, hoping to get back up to speed during August.

Here’s a few news highlights from the past week:

New Catholic school

Columbia’s Catholic community gathered in near 90-degree heat Sunday for a groundbreaking on a new high school. The school has been nine years in the making, and will cost an estimated $16 million to build. It should be open to students for fall 2011.

New worship location

The Jehovah’s Witnesses South Congregation could soon have a new building for its services.

The group won approval from Columbia’s Planning & Zoning Commission last week to build a Kingdom Hall on Old Plank Road, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune report. The Tribune quoted Scott Thomas as saying the south location gives the group an alternative location to its Kingdom Hall on Smiley Lane.

“We try and cover the entire area of Columbia,” Thomas said. “We hoped to put one on the south side to make it more inviting for residents to attend meetings.”

The congregation expects about 75 people to attend services at the outset. Residents surrounding the land in question expressed some concerns with the plan, including potential damage to the tree line surrounding the property.

Donations abound

The Greek organization Pi Beta Phi made a significant donation to Love INC this weekend, helping fill the group’s building with furniture, according to a story in the Tribune. Love INC helps fill the gaps for people in need by offering financial assistance programs, household goods and employment assistance. It’s only been in Columbia for a few years but Love INC has been actively working to help churches partner to serve their community. Last fall, the group began in earnest its Love Seat ministry to help people in need of furniture.

The Greek organization donated all the furniture from its 27 rooms, which are being remodeled with new furniture. The donations will quickly be put to use, Love INC volunteers say.

Expect to read more about the work of Love INC in an upcoming blog post.

New York (CNN) — Plans to build a mosque two blocks away from ground zero have set off an emotional debate among area residents and relatives of victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.”

To read full article click here.

“Guest commentary: 10 things you can do with a cross”

BY MICHAEL GRINFELD

“I’m a big fan of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I’ll defend its important role in our checks and balance system of government to the end. But sometimes, when those five right-wingers on the court get together they can produce some pretty wacky results. After all, it was Chief Justice John Roberts who testified during his confirmation hearing that it’s“my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.” In Salazar v. Buono, however, the conservative band of brothers not only umpired, they took every position in the field, loaded the bases and then hit one out of the park when they decided last week that a cross is not a cross.”

To read the entire article click here.

In case you missed it here are the sermons from this weekend:

Does your faith community post their sermons online? Let us know and we will add them to the list.

Cross Can Stay

Click on image to read full article on cnn.com.

Washington (CNN) — The Supreme Court narrowly ruled Wednesday that a white cross, erected as a war memorial and sitting on national parkland in the Mojave Desert, does not violate the constitutional separation of church and state.”

Click on the above image to read the entire article on cnn.com.