Glue and rough drafts

November 5, 2013 | Editorial | Number 22
Dick Benner | Editor/Publisher

“Canadian Mennonite is the glue that holds Mennonite Church Canada together,” Larry Cornies, a journalism professor and former chair of this publication’s board of directors, told our staff and regional correspondents during a two-day workshop held last month at our Waterloo, Ont., office.

While this was great affirmation for those of us who labour to put this product together every two weeks, the compliment came with a caveat. Journalism is undergoing a sea change, “a metamorphosis that has not occurred for more than one hundred years,” he said. “The last time such a change happened was when big presses got installed in big-city newspapers capable of printing hundreds of thousands of copies and having them delivered to thousands of homes in a day.”

But rather than fear or be intimidated by these changes, he urged us to embrace them, experiment with the new communication tools and venues, and be adventuresome, “even if you fail.” He asked us to be playful and whimsical in our work, as well as investigative and informational, whether it be in word, artwork or photography. “Test your reputation, your muscularity and your responsiveness to these challenges,” he said.

“Be part of a process. Canadian Mennonite was here before we got here and will likely be here after you are gone,” he said, paraphrasing the publisher of the Washington Post, Phil Graham, who opined when selling his iconic enterprise to the billionaire CEO of Amazon: “So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a world we can never really understand.”

Indeed, part of a process we are. Every two weeks, as our writers, correspondents and columnists tell their stories, probe a particular issue or reflect on our daily life together, we are writing a rough draft of our history that is never really completed about a world we are grappling to understand. No one has the final word. At best, we are, as N.T. Niles has so famously said of Christians, “one beggar telling other beggars where to find bread.”

We do this as partners in the Mennonite Church Canada faith community. No other similar church publication in Canada or the U.S. has paid correspondents in every area church location across the country. In return, every area church gives us financial support to carry out an Every Home Plan that makes Canadian Mennonite available directly to home addresses in our member congregations.

We do this under a partnership agreement with each area church and with MC Canada that is terminating this year and will hopefully be signed for a new three-year term.

As editor and publisher, I have been asked to visit each area church to see that our goals are in sync, that Canadian Mennonite is giving adequate coverage to our life across Canada, and to hear each other out on just what the narrative is as we attempt to write this “first draft of history.”

Part of this sounding came through at our workshop in Waterloo. It gave me sheer pleasure to hear our correspondents, in a story/feature ideas sharing session, wanting to dig courageously into the issues confronting their congregations, issues such as how we secure pastors in our churches, the changing patterns of Sunday morning attendance, the role of para-church organizations in our faith journey, new outreach models called “neighbouring,” and, “Are we vacationing ourselves to death?” among many others.

In the process, we hope we are living up to Cornies’s affirmation that Canadian Mennonite is the “glue that holds us together.”

New Saskatchewan correspondent

Donna Schulz of Rosthern is our new Saskatchewan correspondent, succeeding Karin Fehderau, who served in the position for the past 13 years. Working part-time at the Rosthern public library, Donna is a member of Eigenheim Mennonite Church, a mother of two and is married to Leo Schulz, an insurance broker. An alumna of Rosthern Junior College and Swift Current Bible Institute, she holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Lethbridge, Alta.

Donna Schulz, new regional correpondent for Saskatchewan. She lives in Rosthern and can be reached at 306-232-4733 or at donna.schulx5360@gmail.com.

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