Revisiting the newsletter

I have one, valedictory issue of the Liberal Christian to publish. At this point, I’m looking towards a spring date.

That 2009 experiment was helpful, for me, for a couple of reasons and one was an appreciation of print publications for certain settings. Also my current Esperanto studies, since that community has been heavily dependent on print and web publications. (Liberal Christian is a web-only publication, and I think that was one of its problems.) Contrast the mode of work of a dispersed religious group — say, like one of the former independent affiliates of the Unitarian Universalist Association — and something more immediate, like a conventional church. A church is made real in ways we see and touch. Spiritual realities are manifested in physical gatherings, in a particular space with recognized tools and artifacts. Information — more than just the date of this meeting or that potluck — need not come in a newsletter, though it may, because people will learn what it means to be a part of the church primarily from living in it. A congregation that publishes its news in a RSS feed isn’t too far in my mind that one — as was the norm not many decades past — the announced all its news in worship.

Groups that don’t regularly meet — that appeal to a commonality, by web and mail — must be more intentional about how people (literally) sense them. Some have real-world meetings or retreats. Many send some kind of artifact — televangelist were famous for this — but most rely on a news publication.

One ministry I particularly like is the Saviour of All Fellowship. Universalist in theology, but never structurally a part of the Universalists. Indeed, its readers seem to have more affinity for the Concordant Publishing Concern, with its own biblical translation and theological works. The physical manifestation of the Saviour of All Fellowship is a one-page monthly newsletter. It comes in a long envelope with my bills and fliers, and I’m always happy to get it. Far more happy than if the same content were mailed to me.

The format is simple. A fragment of devotional literature, notices of future in-person conferences, obituaries and the like. One page per month. So simple, but a lifeline for that community.

More on this subject next time.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 44, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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