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The beauty of a cathedral

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A traveller came upon a group of three hard-at-work stonemasons, and asked each in turn what he was doing.

The first, a labourer, said, “I’m sanding down this block of marble.”

The second, a detail person, said, “I’m preparing a foundation.”

The third, a visionary, said, “I am building a cathedral.”

I love this anecdote. It inspires me toward greatness for God, and pushes me to reach for something beyond my current circumstances.

As an editor, I’ve always felt my job was something akin to building a cathedral. Each month, my task is to craft something beautiful and God-honouring for the glory of his kingdom. I’m called to put words, ideas, and stories together in a way that allows God’s light to shine into the everyday workings of our denomination. I’m also charged with creating a space where everyone feels comfortable – where all MBs can congregate together. A cathedral is an appropriate metaphor for a denominational magazine!

Our particular “cathedral” has been under construction for five decades. Yes, it’s our 50th anniversary – a time to look back at grand architecture built with ink and paper; a time to dream about the future.

Looking back, still on track

This past December marked my fifth wedding anniversary. Over dinner, Jason and I teasingly asked each other: What were those vows we recited again? And, more seriously, do we still feel bound by them?

This January, the Herald staff is asking: What was the original purpose of our magazine? And, more importantly, are we on track with our goals?

In its inaugural issue, J.H. Quiring introduced the Herald as a periodical “which enters your home…as a silent messenger, charged to perform a great mission and to proclaim a glorious message. It…endeavours to befriend young and old.”

Our current masthead charges us with a similar task: We seek to 1) share the life and story of the church by nurturing relationships among members and engaging in dialogue and reflection; 2) teach and equip for ministry by reflecting Mennonite Brethren theology, values, and heritage, and by sharing the good news; 3) enable communication by serving conference ministries and informing our members about the church and the world.

How are we doing with our mandate? If responses to our recent reader survey are any indication, we’re still moving in the right direction. Harold Jantz, editor of the Herald from 1964–1984, comments on this very question in “A quick read of our readers.”

Change, change, and more change

One blessing of looking back is acknowledging the many ways God has led, directed, and intervened in our lives. The bottom line is this: change happens. Within our pages, the hues and textures (both literal and figurative) have shifted, changed, and transformed. Speaking of change, Walter Unger (who has been writing for the Herald nearly four decades) offers his thoughts on growing older – and wiser – over the years.

What’s different since January 1962?

1. As a denomination, we’re less connected than we’ve ever been. With a more diverse family tree and weakened East-West connections (many feel more linked with American Christians south of the border than we do to with MB churches a few provinces over), the importance of the Herald seems even more urgent.

The connections we’re building today don’t centre easily around family news or cultural ties – today, they’re more deliberate and hard fought. They’re about shared beliefs (Have we pulled out our international confession of faith lately?), shared experiences (Are we planning to attend Gathering this year?), and shared conversations (Have we engaged a discussion through the Herald website or letters to the editor?).

2. MBs are more comfortable with interdenominational partnerships than ever before. That’s saying a lot coming from a denomination that once excommunicated members for marrying “other” Mennonites! Even our church planting efforts are moving beyond traditional denominational lines (see “Speaking the truth in love”). This reality is increasingly reflected in the pages of the Herald.

3. Technological advances have dramatically changed the way we do things as a magazine. In 1962, the Herald published 48 issues and was the primary vehicle for communication to English-speaking constituents. Now, with other ways to communicate and reach out to constituents, the Herald carries less breaking “news,” and only appears in mailboxes 12 times a year. As well, we must find ways to compete with piles of other information and material out there. Technology continues to challenge and refine us.

Forging ahead

So, in celebration of our 50th anniversary, permit me to dream a little. I dream that we’ll find ways to draw in all members and attenders of our MB churches across Canada, especially those folks new to our “tribe.” I dream we will find creative ways to use the internet and other social media. I dream we will continue to celebrate what God is doing through our 240-plus churches across Canada! (This month’s feature entitled “50 ways to share the good news of Jesus,” compiled by Karla Braun, is a great way to start.)

Hoorah for 50 years! Old? No way! 50 years young and still dreaming big!

–Laura Kalmar, editor

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