Like many of my generation, I remember how much newspapers informed my early worldview. Every adult I knew read “the papers” daily. In New York City, where I grew up, there were at one time at least seven daily newspapers as well as papers printed in languages other than English.
As a boy riding the subway, I would look around and see every rider, standing or sitting, reading a newspaper. In fact, there was even a “New York fold”: New Yorkers had a way of folding a newspaper so it was only a few columns wide, making it easier to read while standing in a crowded bus or subway car.
Before the advent of television, reading the newspaper served as a daily ritual that structured our conversation for the day. It was such a tradition for my mother that when I became an adult and moved to other states and she visited us, I had to provide her with a copy of a New York paper!
Since then America’s information sources have widened considerably, and fewer people than ever rely upon newspapers to stay updated on world events. We can now get news online through our home computers or smartphones, and go directly to specific articles without having to turn through pages that aren’t of interest to us.
Despite this technological and informational revolution, I still love reading the paper and I still find myself relying on that “New York fold”!
But times are changing, and churches are not immune to such trends. News and information sources in the United Methodist Church, as well as other denominations, have been impacted as much as the secular media.
The discontinuance of the United Methodist Reporter comes as sad news to all of us. I was especially privileged, through this publication, to have the opportunity of sharing reflections with thousands of readers on a variety of issues. This column has been a place for ponderings on faith and spirituality, in a world that has grown more complex and challenging each day.
Writing down my thoughts sometimes produced no answers—only more questions. Occasionally, I felt I had failed. But those efforts, I believe, also yielded moments of profound spiritual insight and revelation. Even healing.
I often thought of Reporter readers as a marvelously diverse congregation that I was honored to serve. Like every pastor, my greatest wish was to serve their needs, not my own. I wrote no “editorials” as such, only “reflections” on life. Mostly I tried to speak to the heart. I hope, on occasion, our hearts connected even if our minds struggled to do so.
Then again, struggle, too, is a part of growth.
This is Annual Conference season, and in many places pastors and congregations are saying “goodbye” and “hello.” Some clergy are coming to the end of their years of ordained ministry, so for them it is only “goodbye.” Or, “God be with you.”
That, I suppose, is how I will end the relationship the Reporter has allowed me to have with you for more than eight years. God be with you through the remainder of your journey. Through the challenges that changing times bring. Through the joys, sadness, failures and successes that are part of every journey.
God be with you, as you seek to be a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. And, oh yes, pray for our beloved United Methodism as it faces an uncertain and challenging future.
Indeed, the Church exists for such a time as this!
Retired Bishop White is bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology, in Atlanta.
Note: Bishop White’s commentary was written for the print edition of The United Methodist Reporter, and before the announcement regarding the continued future of www.unitedmethodistreporter.com. We look forward to working with him in the future.