It’s mid-December as I sit down to review the content published by Canadian Mennonite over the past year. Here are a few observations.
Once again, the longer features anchoring the print issues made it possible for Mennonite contributors from across the country to share inspiration and information. I am grateful for the writers, pastors, academics and others who inspired and challenged us all through the features. It you want to catch up on features you missed, check out that section of the website.
There was also plenty of content to populate the Opinion, News and People sections, thanks to our correspondents, columnists, and the readers who wrote letters and comments. Occasionally, attentive readers suggested stories in their own communities that merited an article. Thank you for those leads.
As I give oversight to the magazine’s content, I wonder: Which pages do readers of the print issues turn to first? It’s easier to see what interests our online readers. (But don’t worry, our analytics don’t allow us to see what you as an individual read.) Looking at the top online stories of the year, I get an idea of topics that interested readers.
People are interested in people. Many readers responded to “Giving back,” the story of a former refugee who generously “paid it forward.” Readers of “Planting trees, nurturing a dream” praised the Saskatchewan couple who have spent decades preserving nature. The story “Viral theology” profiled a young Mennonite who creates internet memes about theology and philosophy. “Remembering Rachel Held Evans,” a reflection piece about an influential writer who died unexpectedly last year, appealed to online readers.
As in years past, readers responded to content about Mennonite identity. In this category, two well-read pieces were “12 organizations worth recognizing during Mennonite Heritage Week” and the editorial, “Between ‘Pure’ and Mennonite Heritage Week.” In “Once Round the Barn: Cheap Edition,” senior writer Will Braun’s rant challenged the Mennonite tendency toward extreme thriftiness.
Online readers wanted to learn about the opportunities and challenges of life in the church. Three popular stories are “Hope Mennonite Church navigates growing numbers,” “When it’s hard to go to church” and “Queer hymns now online.”
Many readers like to read stories about contemporary issues Christians face. In 2019, popular pieces were: “Faithful practices on a dying planet” (climate crisis), “Taste and see that stuff is good” (consumerism), “A disarmed heart” (peace), “If you’re not hungry, your neighbour shouldn’t be hungry” (social justice), and “‘Passing quilt’ gives dignity in death” (respect for elders).
You care about what’s happening in Mennonite organizations. Many read the report, “Boshart next AMBS president despite expressed concerns,” about leadership at the U.S. seminary that also serves Mennonites in Canada. Readers were also interested in “Holy Spirit fire and imagination,” CM’s report on Gathering 2019, the first nationwide assembly since Mennonite Church Canada’s reorganization.
We worked at increasing communication with readers online—both within Mennonite circles and beyond—so Canadian Mennonite hired an online media manager earlier this year. In this role, Aaron Epp has helped CM gain a more consistent presence on the internet. We revived our blog, with weekly posts by a variety of writers. Also, because of Aaron’s curation of videos, you were able to see inspiring, informational and fun videos—a new one every week.
Hundreds of followers joined us on Facebook and Twitter last year. Thank you for reading, liking, commenting and sharing our content through social media.
My year-end reminiscing also includes the comings and goings of some important people. All of them applied their skills and experience to creating valuable content for you to read. We bid farewell to Alberta correspondent Donita Wiebe-Neufeld, contributing editor Rachel Bergen, and Joelle Kidd, who reported occasionally from the Greater Toronto Area. We said hello to new correspondents Janet Bauman (Eastern Canada) and Joanne De Jong (Alberta). We welcomed Zach Charbonneau, who reports occasionally from the Leamington area.
From our roster of columnists, we said goodbye to Melissa Miller, a long-time contributor, and we began carrying new columns by Christina Bartel Barkman, Randy Haluza-DeLay and Arli Klassen. You will find columns, both old and new, in the Opinion section.
Occasionally, I am reminded of the incredible privilege I have of witnessing news being made and helping to share it with readers in many places. Reading the articles and viewpoints, I am inspired and challenged in my own Christian walk. I hope you are, too. We Mennonites in Canada are an interesting bunch of people, as evidenced by both our shining deeds and our miserable foibles. On the road of discipleship, let’s remember: The God we follow invites us to let go of past mistakes, cling to a strong vision and aim for new acts of faithfulness.
This is the last issue of 2019, our fourth digital-only issue of the year. The Canadian Mennonite team is already hard at work preparing new things for you in 2020. Watch for the January 6 issue, with more stories and viewpoints of Mennonites in Canada and beyond. In the meantime, we thank you for following CM on our various platforms: in the printed magazine, on the website and through our social media presence.
During this Advent and Christmas season, may the reality of God-with-us sustain us all and give us courage for the coming year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!