For over two years, I have written a weekly column for the North Little Rock Times and its affiliated newspapers. My column this week is my last one. While it was fun to write and offered great exposure for our church, I no longer feel good about providing free content to a newspaper that has chosen to employ fewer and fewer paid staff members.
I understand that newspapers are in the business to make money, but the idealist that exists somewhere deep inside of me (covered by several layers of cynicism and suspicion) still believes there is money to be made by a weekly newspaper truly dedicated to covering local news.
I think newspapers and churches have something in common (says the pastor with the journalism degree). At a time when both have seen better days, it seems each can choose one of two paths: to be the best local newspaper or church they can be—serving the people of their community, living what they believe and working for justice—or to live with laser beam-like focus on the bottom line. The former may not always be a recipe for long-term success, but the latter generally seems to guarantee that the paper or church will go out with a whimper and not with a bang.
I realize, that for any business or religious organization, there are bills that must paid, but when profits become more important than people and take precedent over being true to your calling, then everyone loses in the end.
The Eikon Church in downtown Little Rock has has been true to their calling. For five years, the church has welcomed the stranger, helped the hungry and the homeless, returned lost sheep to the fold and done their best to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in about four weeks, they will close their doors. This particular community in this particular time and place is not sustainable for the long term. They are not a failure, but a success story. They have shattered the notion that individual churches are made to last forever, but (like people) have a life span. A life that is to be celebrated even as the loss is mourned. And now those who have nurtured and built their faith at Eikon over the past five years will go out and bear fruit in many, many different places. It’s kind of a familiar story. I seem to remember something about a community of twelve men who followed Jesus for three years and then scattered to the four winds to spread the Gospel.
The jury is still out on our own faith community. We may or may not be here in ten years, but we are here now, doing our best to be the church in this time and in this place. As long as we are here, we will work to welcome the stranger, help the hungry and the homeless, bring lost sheep to the fold and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And as long as we are here, I will continue to write my weekly column and post it on our church Web site. I hope my “fans” (all five of you) will be pleased.
Rev. Anne Russ