This Thanksgiving we are grateful for the published word. We are thankful for Mennonite writers, publishers and the readers who support them. Our gratitude is tinged with sadness, as the death of a Mennonite magazine reminds us we cannot take our books and periodicals for granted.
As we reported two weeks ago, the 57-year run of MB Herald, published by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, will end next year. Denominational leaders are shutting it down due to low circulation (its quarterly print edition has 3,500 subscribers) and lack of funds.
MWR columnist John Longhurst believes church leaders doomed the Herald by denying it editorial freedom. Lacking an independent voice, readers lost interest.
Especially as the Herald’s end signals the fragility of religious publishing, we at Mennonite World Review Inc. are thankful for the opportunity that lies before us in the coming year. Our merger with The Mennonite Inc. next September is beginning to take shape. The new organization will continue MWR’s tradition of independence and commitment to serve diverse Mennonites and Anabaptists.
We are grateful for readers who affirm this inclusive vision and show their support by renewing subscriptions, giving gift subscriptions and contributing to our fund drive. For an update on the campaign, please see page 3.
We believe the MWR-TMI merger — which will create a flagship U.S. Anabaptist magazine and digital media — will be one of the things to be thankful for in Mennonite publishing next year.
Another will be the new hymnal from MennoMedia, Voices Together. Expert musicians and editors have put years of work into this essential collection of worship resources.
About every 25 years — 1969, 1992, 2020 — the hymnal that serves the largest Mennonite groups in North America is due for an update. Combining new music with old favorites keeps our worship fresh while anchored in tradition.
Adding to the gratitude, the hymnal’s publisher is thankful that early orders have exceeded expectations. When presales passed 10,000 in October, MennoMedia extended to Dec. 1 its offer of a quantity discount, hoping to surpass 20,000 copies by that date. Another discount, for prepayment, remains in effect until May 1 at voicestogetherhymnal.org.
We are thankful for the wealth of new books on the Bible and theology from Herald Press, the publisher for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. These books give everyone access to some of the best teaching and writing by Mennonite pastors and professors. Recent favorites include:
— Fire by Night: Finding God in the Pages of the Old Testament by Melissa Florer-Bixler.
— Unraptured: How End-Times Theology Gets It Wrong by Zack Hunt (with a foreword by Rachel Held Evans, the acclaimed author whose death on May 4 at the age of 37 shocked the progressive evangelical world).
— Speaking of God: An Essential Guide to Christian Thought by Anthony G. Siegrist (reviewed on page 7).
— The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today by Meghan Larissa Good (available free from MWR for giving a gift subscription; see page 13).
More popular theology is in the works: A new series, “The Jesus Way: Small Books of Radical Faith,” debuted this fall with What Is the Bible and How Do We Understand It? by Dennis R. Edwards and Why Did Jesus Die and What Difference Does It Make? by Michele Hershberger.
The series, which will continue with eight more books in 2020 and 2021, promises to be a rich resource for Sunday school classes and study groups. It digs into big questions about God’s work in the world concisely: The first two books have fewer than 100 pages.
Today’s writers of popular theology stand on the shoulders of scholars like the late Willard Swartley, whose books — notably Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women — made an impact beyond academia.
We are thankful for a church that values biblical literacy and diverse voices. We are grateful for all who cherish Mennonite books, periodicals and hymnals, on paper or on screens. As we read, we love God with heart, soul and mind.