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About this issue

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This issue of the Herald deals with endings. It’s easy to cheer when a new church plant is launched, or when a congregation reaches a milestone anniversary – 50, 75, 100 years! But we’re often silent when a church closes after decades of ministry, or when a new church plant fails to reach its fifth birthday. We’re not sure whether to hang our heads in shame – fearing we’ve somehow disappointed Jesus, and worrying we’ll soon join the list of North American denominations in decline – or whether we’re just experiencing the natural life cycle common to any living organism.

We don’t end well. Our statistics on church closures are inaccurate, likely because we have no consistent standards or mechanisms for reporting these events. The reports we do have are fraught with underlying hurts, fears, and things left unsaid.

When a church closes (due to failure to thrive, congregational conflict or sin, or just a natural church life cycle), we tend to bury the story under the rug. We prefer to focus on church revitalization or ReFocusing programs, and avoid mentioning the pastor who has permanently left church ministry. We hope this month’s articles will help us face head-on the topic of church closure and discover, as John Longhurst writes, a “theology of retreat.”

This issue also marks several new beginnings. We are featuring an interview with Canadian conference executive director, Willy Reimer, who is now serving full-time in his national role (check out Willy in his younger days on Page from the Past). In Crosscurrents, you’ll find a fresh layout with shorter book reviews – and online links to the expanded versions.

Finally, on pages 19–20, there’s a reader survey for you to complete. Our last evaluation was conducted nearly a decade ago. Since then, we’ve seen several different editors at the helm of the magazine, and a redesign that launched us into full-colour. Please take some time to tell us what you think of the Herald, so we can serve you better in the coming years.

—Laura Kalmar

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