For the last five years, I’ve been part of the editorial staff at The High Calling. We are a part-time, mostly virtual group, living in Texas, West Virginia, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania and a few places I’m likely forgetting. We’ve had staff members from as far away as Ireland, South Carolina and Australia.
Working with these writers, editors and fellow pilgrims on the journey of faith has been a remarkable, unforgettable experience. It’s one of those experiences that you cherish each day, knowing that it can change and perhaps end, but while you have it, it is a remarkable thing. What started as an idea in the mind of Howard Butt Jr. created a major presence in the faith and work area.
The announcement of change – that should probably be change in all caps – was made Friday night. A lot of discussion ensued this weekend, mostly on Facebook but some, too, on the post itself. The announcement generated some misunderstanding as well, and I’ve personally received a lot of email messages and private Facebook messages asking for any clarification possible.
Here’s what I know:
The High Calling will cease publishing as it has been at the end of August. Some form will continue – a couple of reflections each week and the Facebook page. But the regular posting of stories built around weekly themes will cease. The site will remain live and accessible.
The Butt Family Foundation, led now by Howard Butt’s son-in-law David Rogers, has decided to go in a different direction with other initiatives. It’s that simple. The High Calling uses the Foundation’s resources and attention, and the Foundation has every right to choose what initiatives it will pursue. My personal feelings, and those of the other staff members, are important to us, but really don’t have any bearing on what strategy the Foundation’s leadership decides.
The understanding of faith and work – living one’s faith in the context of work, including and especially in the secular world – is just now beginning to take hold. It is not a done deal that everyone understands and “gets.” Too many of us still separate Sunday from the rest of the week when it comes to faith. And considerable work remains and, I would argue, is going to become more important as Christians find themselves increasingly at odds with the prevailing culture.
Other groups are actively working the faith and work concept – LeTourneau University’s Center for Faith and Work, the Theology of Work Project, the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, and several more. None of them, however, has the online presence that The High Calling has. And the reason for that may well be that The High Calling was envisioned from the beginning as an online presence, and not only the web and social media properties for an organization or initiative.
The reality is that the change at The High Calling will leave a significant gap in the faith and work area. It’s an exaggeration, but perhaps not much of one, to say that, for faith and work, it would be analogous to The Wall Street Journal announcing it would no longer cover business news.
What I will miss will be the people I work with. We’ll find ways to keep in touch – we already do a lot outside the official High Calling channels via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. But losing that regular interaction, that opportunity to work almost every day with people who have come together to create something of value, not for themselves, but for the thousands of people who've participated in what we’re doing via the online world – that’s the part that’s hard.
So: Ann Kroeker, Charity Craig, Sam Van Eman, Deidra Riggs, Marcus Goodyear, Bob Robinson, Cheryl Smith, Dan King (#Fistbump), David Rupert, Dena Dyer, Kris Camealy, Laura Boggess, Tina Howard, and Katie Cherniss – thank you.
Marcus, Deidra, Katie and Tina – best of success with new Foundation initiatives.
To the thousands of members of the High Calling Network – thank you for those blog posts you created, those posts I read every day and tweeted on behalf of The High Calling. This was an incredible community of people, who were so open and caring that virtual always seemed real.
To all of you: thank you for how much you taught me. Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for the opportunity to work alongside of you and create something wonderful. Thank you for living your faith through the work we did – and doing it over and over again.
Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. Bottom photograph: one of my favorite photos of The High Calling staff.