Dear Unitarian Universalist friends,
Earlier this summer, after almost 21 years on the UUA staff, I stepped down as editor of UU World magazine. This milestone marks the end of 25 years of professional service to Unitarian Universalist organizations and communities. As I say good-bye, I want to say thank you for the extraordinary opportunity I’ve had to serve among you.
I started work at the UUA in July 2000 as the first editor of WorshipWeb. At first, I had only a legal pad and a box of readings collected by the UU Ministers Association. After a few months—and with the expert guidance of my HTML coach and office-mate Kasey—the WorshipWeb was live. It has grown into an indispensable resource.
I joined the magazine staff in December 2000 and immediately went to work on a feature story about the discovery of a recording of Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon about James Reeb’s murder in Selma in 1965. I had started contributing to the magazine a few months earlier for the very first issue of UU World, which under the visionary leadership of Tom Stites had been reimagined and relaunched after more than a decade as WORLD magazine. (Side note: A lot of people never stopped calling it The World, but the new name was actually a revival of its original title, Unitarian Universalist World, the newspaper the UUA began publishing for all members in 1970. I still think President Bob West’s decision to launch a newspaper, in the midst of denominational conflict, and to provide a subscription to every member, was one of the most consequential decisions in modern UU history.) I contributed as a writer or editor to 89 of the 90 issues of UU World (and there almost all of them are, in the accompanying photo!). We redesigned the magazine four times, switched printers three times, invested in online publishing to reach a broader audience, and created the Seeker issue in 2016 that sold more than 30,000 copies.
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In 2005, when the UUA administration cut the magazine’s frequency from six issues a year to four, I led the team that created uuworld.org, the weekly web magazine. (It won a best-of-class award for religious organizations from the Web Marketing Association.) We started a weekly email newsletter at the same time. Despite this pivot to “digital-first” publishing—which also included our online-only columnists, blogs, and social media publishing—I was amazed when, almost ten years later, a readership survey confirmed that the overwhelming majority of our readers still relied on the print edition. In 2014 we introduced a tablet-friendly app version of the magazine, thinking it might entice some significant number of subscribers to switch from paper to an electronic (and less expensive to distribute) version. But only a handful of people switched, and we ended that option after five years.
From 2007 to 2021—when the administration reduced the publishing frequency from four issues a year to two—I served as editor and director of the Periodicals team. We were “Periodicals” because for many years we also published a how-to newsletter for congregational leaders called InterConnections. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I had to serve alongside so many dedicated colleagues at the UUA, and will miss them.
The relationships I developed over the years include many extraordinary writers, artists, photographers, editors, and individual UUs who made UU World what our team wanted it to be: smart, provocative, and inspiring.
I loved working with essayists such as Hafidha Acuay, Meg Barnhouse, John Buehrens, Forrest Church, Dan Cryer, William Doherty, James Ishmael Ford, Richard Higgins, Jeffrey Lockwood, Air Nonken Rhodes, Jane Rzepka, Thandeka, and Fred Wooden.
I was so lucky to get to adapt and excerpt books by William Barber, Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker, Adam Lawrence Dyer, Robert Fulghum, Everett Hoagland, Scotty McLennan, Dan McKanan, Mark Morrison-Reed, and Cornel West.
I can’t even begin to name the many preachers (ordained and lay) whose sermons jumped out at me as worth sharing with the magazine’s audience, and wished there had been more space to publish even more of them.
And I’m especially proud of work I did with our contributing editors Kimberly French, Rosemary Bray McNatt, Doug Muder, Warren Ross, and Kris Willcox, who proposed and wrote some of our most important articles.
I am particularly grateful to the members of the Periodicals staff, who were dedicated, kind, funny, thoughtful, and resourceful partners. I want to thank past members of our team: Kathy Blank, Sybil Carey, Joshua Craft, Tina Gleason, Joshua De Gregorio, Dennis Paiva, Laura Randall, Christian Schmidt, and Teresa Schwartz, as well as our bloggers Heather Christensen, Shelby Meyerhoff, Michelle Richards, and Rachel Walden. I also learned so much from UU World’s original designer Daniel J. McClain, art director for the 2001 Selma issue; Bob Delboy, who redesigned the magazine in 2003 and served as art director for several years; and from Matt Rogers and Amy LeBow, who completed the 2021 redesign.
Most of all, I thank my past editorial colleagues, with whom I worked most closely: Michelle Bates Deakin, Jane Greer, Donald Skinner, Kenny Wiley, and Tom Stites (who first invited me to work at the UUA). I will keenly miss the current team but feel profoundly honored to have spent so much of my career alongside Sonja Cohen, Sarah Hickok, Elaine McArdle, Kenneth Sutton, and Scott Ullrich. My colleagues have been real blessings in my life.
I came to work at the UUA shortly after completing an M.Div. at Harvard Divinity School. I considered my editorial work a public ministry, rooted in my love of congregational life, Unitarian Universalist history, and liberal theology. It is time for me to set that ministry down, as the UUA charts a new course for its communications work.
But I will always cherish the good work I got to do at the UUA. For me, that work remained rooted in the congregations I served while in seminary – King’s Chapel in Boston, where I was a summer tour guide, trying to help tourists appreciate the complexity of America’s religious history; First Parish in Concord, where I worked with wonderful youth and their parents and magnanimous Coming of Age mentors; and First Church in Jamaica Plain, where I led worship and provided pastoral care during a minister’s sabbatical. Finally, it was anchored in the deep well of kindness, good humor, and public service that I experienced at First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City, whose people welcomed me into Unitarian Universalism as a college student 30 years ago.
Thank you all for the privilege of watching and listening to and stretching alongside and sharing the stories of your congregations and communities.
With great affection,
Originally published on Facebook, August 9, 2021