Publishing good news

Wendy McFadden speaking at Inspiration 2017.

By Wendy McFadden, publisher of Brethren Press and Communications

The other day, Esther, a faithful supporter of the denomination, called to say how much she liked the April issue of Messenger. A call like that is always a pleasure, but in this phone call I also learned two fun facts: 1) Esther was turning 100, and 2) she has a life subscription to Messenger magazine.

What is a life subscription? Well, long ago Messenger offered a couple of special prices—a two-year subscription for $5 and a life subscription for $25. At the time, Esther did the math and thought the life subscription sounded like a good deal, which it certainly was. For those with enough foresight to pony up, that subscription has paid dividends!

From the business side, life subscriptions were a short-sighted decision, and it’s no surprise that the offer didn’t last long. But I love encountering the folks who bought them so many years ago. They represent a long-term commitment not just to Messenger, but to the Church of the Brethren. When the communication staff prepare each issue of the magazine, we are heartened by feedback from readers like Esther.

While Messenger magazine is just about the oldest communication medium in our church, it’s not the only one. In fact, in recent years there’s been an explosion of ways to communicate with each other—print newsletters, electronic newsletters, emails by interest group, websites, blog posts, social media, video, podcasts, webinars, exhibits. Nobody sees everything, but everybody can see something. In a church with a wide range of ages and interests, it’s necessary to communicate through as many channels as we can.

The tools are up-to-the-minute, but the ministry of publishing is nothing new. After all, the Old Testament prophet reminds us: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7, RSV).

Even though life subscriptions no longer exist for Messenger, faithful supporters like you have life subscriptions to the great work we do together. When you give to the Church of the Brethren, you help publish good news. When you subscribe to Messenger, newsletters, or any of our emails, you share in bearing witness to the work of God among us. Together we “proclaim the good news” (Matthew 10:7, NRSV).

Will you give to the Church of the Brethren today?
www.brethren.org/give

Watching for the Spirit

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Gardeners gathered for the Going to the Garden retreat and vision meeting. Photo by Growing Power

A reflection by Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness

It was late March a few years ago, and the winter chill seemed to be breaking. Since the day was beautiful and I was feeling good, I decided, mid-run, to go a little farther. After crossing the Anacostia River at the 11th Street bridge, I continued along the riverside trail. The morning sun was shining on my left shoulder and my back as I trotted on the bike trail, tall and dry meadow grass on both sides. I then saw a red-winged blackbird. It was perched and wobbling on a plant. The bird tipped toward me and then—as I caught a full view of red-orange patches illuminated in direct morning sunlight—it took flight.

A few days before Pentecost this year, I was running in the morning, again. This time it was in Wisconsin at a Going to the Garden retreat and vision meeting. On this particular run through the farmland I noticed a wild turkey take flight—fast, heavy, barreling through the sky just above the field. Upon returning to our lodging, I paused next to a flowering bush and watched hummingbirds flit and dip.

We had gathered to watch for the Spirit with gardeners from the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, Maryland, Alaska, and near a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Going to the Garden began several years ago as a way to encourage and support congregations to engage their communities and address food insecurity and hunger. This project has been a joint effort between the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., and the Global Food Initiative (formerly the Global Food Crisis Fund).

Most of the gardeners did not start with a grand plan but caught a glimpse of a new possible reality. In Alaska, a connection with people from the Gwich’in First Nation was formed through a shared experience of hunting, which led to a new relationship and an invitation to return. Through this relationship, we learned about the health challenges of the Gwich’in community, and consequently drew Brethren to garden there every summer for nearly 10 years.

From the Wisconsin gathering emerged the idea of garden advocates. Several interested Going to the Garden partners will be able to apply for funding through the Global Food Initiative to fund a member of their local community to become a garden advocate. These advocates will work to expand the capacity of the projects, engage with the Office of Public Witness in local and national level advocacy as it relates to food security and hunger, and provide additional support for publicity and outreach.

We have heard stories of efforts meeting community needs for food, connections forming between churches and their communities, youth being empowered, grandparents in Native American communities sharing food-growing knowledge with youth, and how valuable denominational staff have been for support. The movement of the Spirit has been evident and noted. Many of these stories have and will continue to show up in places likes Messenger magazine, the Going to the Garden Facebook page and webpage, and on YouTube.

The Holy Spirit often is pictured as a dove. I don’t want to claim too much for the red-winged blackbird, the hummingbird, or even the turkey, but the flight of these birds is a reminder of the movement of God all around us. While denominational structures shift, individuals in leadership change, and programs morph for new vision, the Spirit continues to move.

As we continue to watch for the Spirit, I invite you to support the ongoing work of the Office of Public Witness, and all of the ministries of the Church of the Brethren, both financially and prayerfully. Your partnership is essential for the ongoing work of these programs, and it is only through your support that these ministries continue.

Learn more about the work of the Office of Public Witness at www.brethren.org/witness or support it today at www.brethren.org/give .