uuworld.org: liberal religion and life

Coming to the end of a chapter

Major staff transitions.
By Tom Stites
Fall 2006 8.15.06

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Among the most challenging things writers have to learn is how to know when they’ve gotten to the end of the chapter. After all, going on and on bores the reader, which is to say, you. This column is to let you know that I have gotten to the end of a chapter in my life: With this issue I am retiring as the editor of UU World.

At this juncture in my life, I have many feelings, but gratitude leads the list. I was blessed to be looking for a job a decade ago when the universe smiled and this position happened to open for the first time in ten years; I was blessed again when I was selected. And I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with fine colleagues and writers to serve deeply curious readers like you.

Since I arrived in 1997, World magazine has been reborn as UU World, with a new logo and design throughout as well as eight additional pages per issue that present an array of material with much more religious content than the smaller World could manage. And many Unitarian Universalist writers have come into our pages—among them established authors including Mary Pipher (see page 20), William J. Doherty, and Frances Moore Lappé (see page 14); newer voices including Kimberly French and Michelle Bates Deakin, both now contributing editors; emerging writers including Jonah Eller–Isaacs and Hafidha Acuay; and a parade of our ministers. UU World’s new partner publication on the Web, uuworld.org, is off to a roaring start. And a talented staff has come together as an effective team that finds great enjoyment in working together.

I have learned a lot over the years, much from patient and generous colleagues, and much that I learned the hard way. I feel special gratitude to teacher–colleagues Warren Ross, a contributing editor for two decades whose wisdom suffuses these pages; Rosemary Bray McNatt, a contributing editor whose deep skills first shaped the Reflections and Bookshelf sections; Amy Hoffman, the executive editor when I arrived; and Christopher L. Walton, today’s executive editor, who will succeed me at the helm (and who will introduce himself in the next issue).

And I am deeply grateful to you, the readers, because I have learned much from you as well. Your letters and emails have been so numerous that I could never answer them all, but they have meant more than I can express. From you have come great ideas for articles and constructive scolding when the magazine missed the mark. Time and again, thoughtful letters have made my day.

How do I know I’m at the end of this chapter? My vision for UU World has been fulfilled; it’s time for fresh vision to keep the magazine dynamic and in tune with its times. A new chapter is straining to be born as Chris’s vision finds expression.

What will be my new chapter? This fall I will be on sabbatical as a resident fellow at Harvard Divinity School, learning all I can about the ethics and psychology of power and of the conscience, in preparation for two books I’m planning to write. After my sabbatical I will remain at the UUA until I turn 65 after the 2007 General Assembly, working part time on publishing projects—including at least one feature article for UU World. After that, I hope to continue a relationship with the magazine—and with you, dear readers, by contributing an article from time to time.

The chapters of Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist publishing began their long march to the present with Vol. 1 No. 1 of Universalist Magazine in 1819. There have been countless of these chapters, and I am honored to have been able to contribute one. May there be many more, and may they get better and better and better.

We welcome Scott Ullrich to the masthead as UU World’s new business manager and Joshua De Gregorio as our design production assistant. And we say goodbye to advertising and production assistant Teresa Schwartz. Teri received her M.Div. degree in June from Harvard Divinity School and is now serving as intern minister of Unity Church, Unitarian, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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