We've covered monks making fruitcake and skeptics gathering in the Bible belt. We've covered new traditions (bluegrass, anyone?), new clergy and even a new religion. We've covered hot-button issues – same-sex marriage, for example – with a focus on the faith and values angle.
It's been a busy year of reporting here at Columbia Faith & Values.
Much of the content we bring you comes from community contributors who write commentaries and religious literacy pieces from their faith perspectives. But we also bring you a strong measure of news each week from our small but mighty team of reporters. As we reach our anniversary (join us to celebrate!), we wanted to take a moment to look back at the most-read news and feature stories our journalists did this year.
To make this list, we looked at a Google Analytics report to find out how many people read each story. These stories are those that had the most unique page views – visits from different people (or at least, different computers). It helps that they got shared a lot on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter – if you see something you like, we encourage you to share it with your social circles.
Here are the top 12:
1. Cue Courage: Anti-bullying initiative takes off through social media, by Kellie Kotraba: When Bobby Remis was 13 years old, he started helping kids at his school deal with bullying. Now 23, he's launched a national movement to inspire courage, largely through social media. As the most-read news story of the past year, this piece had more than 450 unique page views – it got shared quite a bit on Facebook and Twitter, which is no wonder, since that's where Cue Courage makes its presence known.
2. Of Mark Twain, Goulash and Mass graves, by Ryan Schuessler: It's puzzling to realize there was a time when someone out there was doing all they could to make sure you and your kind ceased to exist, and that any traces of your culture be wiped away all together. That's what Ryan Schuessler found out as he researched his family history – and then, he went on a journey to find out more. He wrote this story for us during his semester abroad, and we're so glad he did – he shared a piece of history, and at least 300 people benefited from it (the piece had about 300 unique page views).
3. Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J., remembered for insight and encouragement, by Kellie Kotraba: St. Louis University philosophy professor and writer Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J., died in November at age 71. He was full of integrity, and he had a great sense of humor – and the fact that this article had 300 page views speaks to how well-loved he was.
4. Columbia Catholics celebrate, admire Pope Francis: After the big news of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's resignation this February, we felt as if we were on “pope watch,” waiting for the big announcement. And then, the moment came: “Habemus Papam,” or “We have a pope.” This story takes a look at how some of Columbia's Catholics responded to the news of the new pope – the first from South America, the first from the Jesuit order, adn the first to take the name Francis.
5. 10 things to know about Ramadan, by Heather Adams: This is more of a list than a news story, but it did well – it was a useful resource for people to refer to, as the number of page views (about 200!) suggests. And that's one thing we hope to be here at Columbia Faith & Values: A useful resource.
6. Pastor Luke Stockeland brings Open Door Baptist Church back from brink, by Jeong An Choi: As pastor of Open Door Baptist Church since March 2012, Luke Stockeland has increased attendance by more than 60 percent. This story was originally published in the Columbia Missourian, and they shared it with us because of our partnership. (Fun fact: This reporter spent several weeks this summer doing some reporting for us as part of a class, and she'll be back in the fall as a community contributor – she's going to share her Buddhist perspective.)
7. Forging his own path, by Ryan Schuessler: Many traditions have their own forms of prayer and ritual, often learned at an early age as fundamental pillars of belief. But what about those who create their own? That's exactly what Mark Nicolais is doing.
8. Korean congregation finds home, friendship with historical church, by Ryan Schuessler: First Presbyterian Church of Columbia and the Korean First Presbyterian Church of Columbia have been sharing space for many years, but the churches' relationship is a small part of an international friendship that dates back more than a century, as you'll learn from the rich history of this piece.
10. Parish nurses face challenges with adaptation, determination, by Ryan Schuessler: They go by many names, but parish nurses across faiths serve a common purpose: to support the basic physical, mental and spiritual health needs of their communities. But these nurses are facing new social, economic and demographic challenges.
11. Pagans respond to Fox News comments about Wicca, by Kellie Kotraba: A little misinformation caused quite a stir. Long story short, more than 40,000 people were urging Fox News to publicly apologize for comments about paganism, and the University of Missouri had to work to correct misinformation about its guidelines on religious holidays. (Update: Within a few days of publishing the story locally, Fox apologized – you can read the updated version of the story, which ran nationally, here.)
12. Phil Ferguson offers tips for talking to kids about atheism at Skepticon, by Kellie Kotraba: In the parenting category, a national speaker offered advice for how to raise kids as atheists.
Bonus: If we'd gone to 13 most-read stories, the next on the list would be the piece we did about the increase in gay Mormon characters and themes in theater. Read it here: Gay Mormon characters step out of the shadows. (Related: Ten musicals with religious themes.)
To see which articles from our contributors were most popular, click here.
If you have a story idea you'd like to share, email Kellie.Kotraba@ReligionNews.com.