Name: Amy Gingerich
Role: Executive director and publisher of MennoMedia and Herald Press, effective Jan. 6
1. What is one fun or interesting fact about yourself?
Interstate 80 is my life’s highway. I have lived along the highway in four different states—California, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio.
2. Why did you say “yes” to becoming executive director and publisher at MennoMedia and its book imprint Herald Press?
I have a passion for faith formation and discipleship from an Anabaptist perspective, and I am excited about the broad spectrum of readers—from evangelical, mainline and Anabaptist backgrounds that we reach. I feel that MennoMedia’s products offer a “third way” approach between the sometimes contentious camps of the culture wars. Our Herald Press book imprint targets readers and thinkers who seek to live by Jesus-centered principles and values such as community, simple living, social justice and peacemaking, as well as people who are curious about Amish and Mennonite communities. MennoMedia’s curricula and periodicals reach congregations that share these same affinities, and cultivate passion for faith formation and an active life of faith rooted in trusting God and following Jesus. I accepted the job because these are the kinds of things I wrestle with in my own life and faith.
3. Where do you see Mennonite publishing going in the next five years?
MennoMedia’s predecessor publishing houses were created for and sustained by Mennonite congregations. However, in the last five years senior staff have worked to move MennoMedia more deliberately from being a bounded-set agency (publishing by and for Mennonites) to becoming a centered-set publisher (publishing on Anabaptist core convictions but using words like community, discipleship, reconciliation and Jesus more often than language such as, “Mennonites believe…”). Rather than drawing a bounded line that defines our audience around Mennonites, going forward MennoMedia must position itself as a publisher with a strong magnetic center that attracts a wide range of congregations and readers to the topics on which it publishes.
This repositioning as a trade publisher of Christian books and curriculum from an Anabaptist perspective allows MennoMedia and Herald Press to occupy a generative space in the market, one that achieves financial stability and remains true to its publishing vision. This centered-set, magnetic approach gives MennoMedia the freedom to both respond to the needs of the church and also to speak prophetically and creatively to those outside its walls.
4. What’s it like working and managing an organization remotely?
More than 40 percent of Americans now work remotely at least some of the time, and one in three spends 80 percent of work hours outside the office. Personally, I have worked remotely with MennoMedia and its predecessor organization since 2005. There are lots of excellent books and resources about working remotely and managing staff remotely. Many people ask if it’s possible to work from home—or if the lure of home life (things like laundry or other chores) pull me away from work. I find the opposite is true: if you work from home, your work is always nearby. I can always slip into my office to do just one more thing. Working from home means I must be intentional about when I am working and when I am not.
While I love working from home, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings in certain situations. Some things just go better when everyone is around a table together, so I do travel a fair bit. My husband, Ryan Claassen, is a great co-parent to our 4- and 7-year-old daughters, and they have their own routines when I’m gone.
5. I’m asking you lots of questions. Do you have questions you would like to pose to our readers?
What are the kinds of books, curriculum and resources you look for from MennoMedia? What are the topics on which you think MennoMedia curriculum and Herald Press books should be publishing? What are the issues people in your congregation are wrestling with?
6. In what ways can people get more involved with the work of MennoMedia and Herald Press?
I have three ideas.
- Provide feedback: We love to hear from readers. What resonates and what doesn’t? What kinds of books do you want to read? What do you want in curriculum from an Anabaptist perspective? What do you appreciate about Shine or Adult Bible study? What new Herald Press titles have you read? Also, if you have read a Herald Press book, please write a review on Amazon. The more reviews a title has, the more Amazon recommends it to other buyers.
- Donate to support our work: Our publishing ministry relies on both sales and donations. MennoMedia tries to keep prices affordable for congregations, and we can only do that because of the very generous support of donors. We are working to raise between $600,000 to $700,000 to develop a new Mennonite worship and song collection, for example. People have been very generous over the years with MennoMedia. You can donate to support our work at MennoMedia.org/Donate.html.
- Pray for us: MennoMedia welcomes your prayers. It’s so encouraging for staff to know that congregations and individuals pray for our work.
7. Is there something coming soon from MennoMedia that you can tease us with?
You know I cannot pick just one! This year we plan to publish 19 Herald Press books. I’ll tease you with three very different titles.
- Mystics & Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, by Christiana N. Peterson, came out last week. Protestant publishers have released a number of books in the last year on the saints, and Christiana’s prose is lovely. She writes about moving to an intentional Mennonite community in the Midwest—how that was to be a simple and faithful way to follow Jesus and how the challenges of life there led her to discover Christian mystics.
- Worthy: Finding Yourself in a World Expecting Someone Else, by Melanie Springer Mock, is a book about setting aside the shape and weight of expectations that press Christians into cultural molds rather than God’s image. So many people today feel anxious and crushed by expectations. In Worthy, Mock helps us move instead toward God’s heart. I recommend this book for women, especially.
- Reunion: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners, by Bruxy Cavey. This book on the gospel of Jesus came out in hardback in May 2017 and is coming out this May in paperback along with a separate study guide. Because Cavey is a Canadian author, I don’t think the book has received the attention it deserves. Cavey is a brilliant communicator, and he makes understanding the gospel very accessible. I’ve heard it said that this is the best book Herald Press has published recently. I really think this one has great potential for congregational study, too.
Sheldon C. Good conducted and edited this seven question interview. Click here for previous seven question interviews.