On/File: A Continuing Record of People, Groups, Movements, and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

     Source: F3 – Basilica of Saint Mary.

1) F3 is a fast-growing network of men’s fitness programs that joins exercise with faith-based social gatherings that are seen as helping to ward off loneliness, especially during and after the pandemic. The workout groups are often seen as an extension of church life, though they are not necessarily all Christian-based. F3, started in 2011 as a free outdoor workout group, has grown from 1,900 chapters before the pandemic to 3,400 groups since then. In these groups, usually gathering in early morning hours, members not only encourage each other during workouts but also pray and build friendships and support for their everyday trials and difficulties. After workouts, members (who do not pay any membership dues) will engage in conversation sessions about life issues. F3 groups are especially strong in the southern U.S., where mild weather permits year-round participation. Sharing and mutual encouragement often concern masculine identity issues, such as support for new fathers and questions about careers, marriage, and divorce. The emphasis on healthy male bonding gives members strong loyalty to their group, with some wearing F3 tattoos and maintaining their own jargon for group activities. (Source: New York Times, September 25)


2) Father Mike Schmitz has been launched into social media stardom with his initially little heralded podcast, “The Bible in a Year.” The show has been the most popular religion podcast on Apple for much of 2021 and 2022, and in a few instances the show climbed to the number one spot among all podcasts on Apple’s platform. It has been downloaded 350 million times and an average of 750,000 times a day. Each 20–25 minute installment features two or three short scriptural readings and a reflection by Schmitz. The 47-year-old Midwesterner, known as Father Mike, has a regular ministry as chaplain at the University of Minnesota at Duluth and the director of the youth ministry for the Duluth diocese. He travels the country giving speeches, with some of his YouTube videos drawing up to millions of views. Schmitz sees much of his ministry in his podcast and with youth as permitting people to ask questions about the faith. He de-emphasizes politics in his podcasts while being upfront on church positions on abortion and LGBTQ issues. (Source: New York Times Magazine, September 4)