Letters to the Editor

Published December 27, 2005

As the Anglican Journal marked its 130th anniversary this year, we asked readers to tell us about their favourite stories and features — what the newspaper has meant to them as Anglicans. While only excerpts of their reflections could be printed in the Anglican Journal, their full comments are below.

Professionalism and sensitivity appreciated

Dear editor,

On behalf of the chaplains and chapels of the Canadian Forces, I would like to use this occasion to thank the Anglican Journal for it support to our communities. Throughout the years, Anglicans and many of other denominations within our chapels have looked forward to the regular arrival of the bundle of Journals, bringing us news of not only the wider Church throughout Canada but of the Anglican Communion around the world. Chaplains of all denominations have been impressed with the coverage that the Anglican Journal has given to our ministry throughout the years, and we have been elated that the Journal has seen it possible to continue to provide distribution to our chapel communities. Please be assured that those attending our multi-denominational chapels truly appreciate this gift and thoroughly enjoy the professionalism and sensitivity with which your journal captures the significant issues confronting all people of faith. In closing, I thank you for the Journal‘s continued support to military members and their families through the regular provision of papers to each of our Protestant Chapel communities and wish you God’s blessing as you celebrate this significant milestone in your history.
Rev. Col. S.G. Johnstone
Principal Chaplain Protestant
Canadian Armed Forces***

“Here comes trouble!”

Dear editor,

The door opened to reveal two bare rooms with a telephone on the floor and I was informed that, actually, there was no budget but it was approved that I might go $60,000.00 in the hole in the first year. Such was my welcome to Church House when I became editor and general manager of the Canadian Churchman (now the Anglican Journal) in 1958, under the authority of an independent Board of Trustees and with a mandate to produce it as a tabloid newspaper, to work out a new distribution system and to introduce a new editorial approach. Thanks to a friend, an executive at a major bank with a warehouse of discarded furniture, our furnishing needs were met. Since there were few lay journalists who would have been interested at the time, staff was recruited from among clergy who had journalistic backgrounds – Rev. M.A. Stephens and Rev. Bill Portman – or interests in publishing, like Rev. H.R. Rokeby-Thomas. A young layman, Bruce Rathbone, became the business manager. Once recruited we were off and running. The circulation began to build as we worked out a plan of integration with diocesan papers across Canada and advertising revenues grew accordingly. Planning editorial expansion is filled with memories. As we introduced special interest columns I can never forget the warm and encouraging response I received from professional lay journalists such as Michael Barkway, Maurice Western, Robert Redford, Arnold Edinborough, and others who cheerfully wrote columns on politics, economics, social policy and laypeople’s views for much less than the going rate, sensing the vision behind the new endeavour to produce a church paper to engage the attention of Anglicans generally and not just the clergy. It was in line with this goal that a most daring policy had been endorsed – that the paper would be the official publication of the Anglican Church of Canada but with an independent editorial policy. This was certainly venturing into uncharted waters. It is memories from those uncharted waters which are the clearest in my mind now nearly 50 years later. The policy of “editorial independence” was not universally welcomed. Bishops and others though that it was fine so long as views expressed agreed with theirs, but had a rather contrary view if they didn’t measure up to their expectations. It was a policy that needed constantly to be defended before synods and committees as has been the case ever since. My most vivid memory is the experience which grew out of an editorial criticizing a pamphlet entitled Ideology and Co-Existence produced by an organization known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA) and delivered to every home in Canada. MRA was the successor to the Oxford Group (not to be confused with the Oxford Movement) which had been founded by an American Lutheran pastor, Frank N.D. Buchman, in the 1930s to reform society from the top down through the promotion of certain absolutes in behaviour by utilizing the names of prominent figures in combination with the latest psychological and advertising techniques. The pamphlet claimed to be the absolute Christian answer to all problems and especially the threat of the spread of communism. However, while claiming to be Christian, it managed not even to mention Jesus Christ. Our editorial challenged the omission and the claim. Little did I know what was to follow. There were rumblings from some of our leading church figures, clerical and lay, but the first real challenge came from a layman who was both a member of General Synod and of the House of Commons (and later senator) who phoned and after talking to me about the laymen’s program of the church asked that we might meet in Toronto. As I had planned a trip to Ottawa I suggested we could meet there and a date was set. Expecting his interest to be in some lay initiatives being planned, and expecting only to be meeting with ‘hi,’ you can imagine my surprise as he opened the door to his office and said, “Oh! By the way, I’ve invited a few friends to join us.” Indeed he had. There were two generals, a rear admiral, two senators, a couple of other members of Parliament, with an archdeacon thrown in for good measure. They proceeded to point out how misguided I had been and demanded a retraction of the editorial. I respectfully suggested that the Letters to the Editor section was open to them, but that could lead to a further editorial. After about an hour I escaped gracefully without making any commitments. But this was not the end. In keeping with their policy of working from the top down, they proceeded to lobby the Bishop of Toronto, my bishop, which included disturbing two or three of his Saturday mornings with their special lobby group flown in from Washington. The bishop was not pleased and pressed for a special meeting of the Board of Trustees to deal with the issue. At that time, all the bishops were ex-officio members of the board. A meeting was called for a Saturday morning and since there had been committee meetings the previous week, most of the bishops stayed to attend. As I left the streetcar at Bloor and Jarvis on that sunny Saturday morning I shall never forget a figure standing on the steps of Church House waving a newspaper in the air. It was the Primate, Archbishop Howard Clark, and in his hands was that day’s Globe and Mail, which featured a statement released by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) with an in-depth analysis of the pamphlet that fully supported our editorial position. To this point no other Christian bodies or publications had made any comment. The board meeting was short, editorial independence was confirmed although some cautionary remarks were expressed. And I shall be forever grateful to the CCCB for its unknowing support. Editorial independence is always fragile, in need of committed vigilance as I am sure each succeeding editor has discovered. But it is the key to representing and speaking to the whole church in the face of pressures from partisan vested interests. One memory lingers on – one bishop from that time has greeted me ever since with, I believe humorously, “Here comes trouble!” Surely not!
Gordon Baker
Editor 1958 -1967***

Such sacred trusts

Dear editor,

I have just completed a public memoir, Picnics On The Volcano, about how profoundly the column I wrote twenty years for the Anglican Journal affected my church-driven existence. Little things creep now and then into our lives that we never think for a moment will disrupt all that we are and ever may be. The Journal column was like that, allowing me to write once a month to all the Anglicans in Canada about whatever was kicking around my neighbourhood or on my mind at the moment. During my first fifteen years of marriage, while writing the column, I moved 30 times till no doubt, they began scribbling down my new address in pencil. My mandate was to write about the world outside the church with colour, humour and perspective. I came in at the height of the hippie movement, a time of change and confusion. The way I earned my living, running a group home for street teens, a vibrant downtown bookshop, working in prison for awhile, all impacted heavily on what I wrote. At last, like Frodo with the ring, I discovered, one awful spring, the responsibility that came with the column and what I must do. Because of it, I was thrown into the hardest battle of my life. If it hadn’t been for the column I might’ve walked away from picketing a cathedral but I owed too much for the privilege of having been able to say what I needed to say all those years. And that, of course, was the end of my association with the Journal. This is, in short form, what it has just taken me 375 pages to say in greater detail, about how a small monthly writing assignment can have consequences that affect you forever. Perhaps we all have such sacred trusts in our lives, resting lightly in our pockets as we go about our business in the world until one day, the account comes due. I was privileged to have been part of something glorious. I shall always be grateful.
Rose DeShaw***

Awareness is good but unsettling

Dear editor,

The Anglican Journal has kept me aware of what is going on in other parts of the Anglican Church of Canada, and in other Anglican churches worldwide. This is good, but also unsettling. The good part is the uplifting feeling of being part of a huge body of believers. The unsettling part is that frequently, the church I see depicted bears little ressemblance to the congregation I belong to, or to what I think the Anglican church is. Sometimes I see things I wish were happening here; often I am puzzled or disturbed by what other Anglicans are saying and doing.
John DosSantos ***

We thought we could change the world

Dear editor,

It was called Canadian Churchman, not “the” Churchman. I had seen it for years around my father’s various rectories and mission houses and it was too boring for a kid but my dad didn’t read it much either. By the time I got there in 1967, Gordon Baker had turned it into a tabloid with a huge free circulation. It was pretty good except they never made the best use of what a tabloid format could be. Gordon loved taking on the establishment and poking holes in some of the more archaic of Anglican customs and contradictions. That was in the 1960s. Most of them are still around, delightfully eccentric. I was working for the (Toronto) Telegram which concentrated on sex, crime and the race results plus Marilyn Bell’s swims across Lake Ontario. It later became the Sun but the Tely pay was awful so I needed some freelance to pay the rent. Baker knew a good thing when he saw one and made me managing editor for about $50-a-month which meant I worked at the Tely from 4 a.m. to noon, nipped into the press club on King Street for an eyeopener and then worked all the rest of the day for Canadian Churchman using much of the Telegram‘s fetish for big boxes, big pictures and big headlines whether the story was worth it or not. We desperately wanted to look secular even if the story was some lengthy tome from the Vatican Council. There were some interesting people there including Gordon Baker who really took seriously his mandate to make the paper interesting and anti-establishment. We had a guy called Bill Wheeler writing about theological things and he produced reams of not bad stuff but I always had to cut it to fit and that caused ructions and language more atune to the Telegram than 600 Jarvis (the church’s national office). Then there was our ad manager who freelanced doing funerals and kept a surplice rolled up in his briefcase ready anytime an undertaker called looking for a priest. He also had a bad habit of falling asleep on the phone (I was editor by then and never noticed the snoring until I found out one day it was a client’s ear he was snorfling into when the poor guy was trying to buy advertising, something very few people wanted to do, outside of holy hardware stores and Preparation H.). Carolyn Purden, who also worked at the Telegram joined us (we all knew the Tely was folding and fled like rats) and then Jerry Hames, ex-London Free Press. Baker, having set up good circulation, good editorial independence, went off to a parish and in a moment of madness (there were a lot of those at Church House in those days) left the Churchman to the tender mercies of an entirely lay staff (including me as editor). We loved it, worked 24 hours a day, spent too much time at the press club, redesigned it to look more like the Sun and took up radical social justice with a vengeance. Howard Clarke was primate. I think he loved us secretly. He once told me in the elevator that I made it hard for him to defend editorial independence when we used swear words in big bold type on page one. “Damn your charity, give us justice.” Carolyn and I looked for the swearword for hours, then it struck us – the first ‘damn’ in print since 1875 (but not the last). Purden, Hames and I worked the place like an old-fashioned newsroom with the worst old fashioned typewriters we’d each brought from previous dailies. There was a lot of weekend work to make up for the long lunches at the press club or down Jarvis Street where our designer, Des English, hung out at the Celebrity Club. It was counter-culture time and we decided we needed to get the youth (when did you hear that before?) so we hired an ex-Globe and Mail youth known universally as Fearless Francie (Healy). Trend was the section and it really was a shocker but the few counter culture types around the church read it. Francie liked to travel with a teddy bear (but it was secret). We all got off a plane in 1969 from Sudbury, her bag burst open on the carousel in front of a bunch of bishops and out popped some interesting personal effects and a teddy bear. She refused to claim her bags until (bishops) Jimmy Watton and Bill Wright left the baggage area. It was great, we thought we could change the world and change journalism. Independence from the church was the watchword and the subject of many loud discussions. I imagine it still is. Don’t ever let them get it back. But we paid for that, too. I lobbied Howard Clarke to let us cover the House of Bishops. We were sure some skullduggery went on in there that our readers were dying to know about. In his wise way, he said we’d be sorry. “It’s very boring,” said the last man I ever called ‘your grace,’ “and once you get in, you’ll have to keep coming. He was mostly right, it was mind-numbingly boring but there was also some skullduggery too and that made it worthwhile.
Hugh McCullum
Editor, 1968-75***

Reruns, perhaps?

Dear editor,

I remember the columns of Rose DeShaw. I used to cut them out regularly. I wish I had kept them. Is there any chance you could rerun some?
A.C. MacDowell***

The church beyond our local borders

Dear editor,

I have become extremely well informed about the Anglican Church of Canada because it became my habit to read the church paper from cover to cover every month. That would have begun in the mid-1950s with the Canadian Churchman, and continuing to the present with the latest issue of the Anglican Journal. I was always interested in the work of the church, and reading about the Anglican church’s involvement regionally, nationally and internationally simply gave me a wider understanding of how our efforts at the parish level were in some ways interlaced with what the church was doing in the world beyond our local borders. That gave deeper meaning, not only to weekly worship experience, but also as we took part in various study groups offered by our then-rector.Perhaps that is because over the years I have come to know how important communication and access to information is to the people in the pew, if they wish to take advantage of those areas to understand how they can participate effectively in the mission of the Church. However, I know many churchgoers do not recognize this fact. Many will say, “oh, I never bother to read that.” I find this sad, since I think an informed church membership offers a community the opportunity to grow spiritually as well as becoming more aware of what God is calling us to do as we follow our baptismal vocation. So thank you, Canadian Churchman cum Anglican Journal (that change of name was overdue!) and all your editors, staff writers and contributors who have enhanced and enriched my Christian journey in the Anglican tradition over this past half-century!
Jean Koning***

A window to the Anglican world

Dear editor,

Reflecting back as a 40-year-old, the Anglican Journal has been a constant part of my life. I often hear my mom refer to the BCP as a “comfort” when she was in her youth, the Journal was the same for myself. I recall my parents thoroughly reading it at the dinner table, remarking on the current issues of the day, female clerics and the “new” rites. I would rummage through those well-read pages, often picking out stories of our worldwide communion. In retrospect, that was the Journal for me, a window to the Anglican world. As a teen I remember once thinking how very diverse we all are, with arguments and varied interpretations, yet together. Maybe, in part, I felt called to priestly ministry wanting a role in this broad church of ours, due to the Journal and what it articulated so very well: continue that broad work to which you have been called. Congratulations!
Rev. Douglas Painter***

A great comfort

Dear editor,

Congratulations on the 130th celebration of excellent journalism and great editorials. I write on behalf of my husband, a priest of the church, long retired and now in poor physical health. The Journal provides his only link to the outside Anglican Communion. He is able to keep up to date in these interesting if difficult times for our church. The Journal is a great comfort to ease the loneliness of being separated from his working brothers and sisters.
Pam Turpin

Love and appreciation for the Anglican church

Dear editor,

About 50 years ago, I a staunch member of another Christian denomination, married an Anglican and became a reluctant member of his communion, a member with little knowledge or appreciation of Anglicanism. Over the years, regular church attendance, friendships with fellow Anglicans, and detailed reading of the Anglican Journal, has helped me to form a love and appreciation for the Anglican church which I would never imagined to be possible 50 years ago. Rose DeShaw was and still is my favourite writer. She says that her mandate was to write about the world outside the church with colour, humour and perspective. This she admirably did, teaching me that all those people she literally fell over daily, addicts, hookers, the mentally and spiritually ill who never darken any church door are nevertheless full fledged members of humanity, and therefore worthy of any Anglican’s attention and love. I would say that Rose also wrote with grace, and I welcome this belated opportunity to tell her so.
Carole Whitehead***

A blessing

Dear editor,

A dozen years ago, I had a rather bold idea – one that I really did not assume would fly. Aware that there were tons of columns containing reviews of “Christian” music in “Christian” publications but virtually no reflective columns on theologically significant, spiritually rich secular music in any of these publications, I hoped to change that. What thrilled me then – what has thrilled me since – and what thrills me today – is that the Anglican Journal‘s editorial leadership “got it” from the outset. Others did not. They ranged from different Christian newspapers that I approached about a possible column of this sort to the Anglican Book Centre, who rejected a book concept because contemporary music was “too ephemeral,” I recall. I still remember how excited I was when the Anglican Journal‘s editor, Carolyn Purden, promptly and enthusiastically replied to my early 1993 letter to her. My review of Leonard Cohen’s The Future – which I sent “on spec” – was my first column for this paper one month later. There have been times when the pieces which I wrote for these pages were deeply personal and visceral – columns on Bruce Cockburn’s The Charity of Night, Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind and the Grateful Dead boxed set So Many Roads leap to mind – and I still recall their genesis as columns this day. Always, however, I have found that my Music Notes were joys to write, giving me a deeper sense of my love for my Lord and His Creation. Through the years, my contact person has changed — Janet Macmaster, David Harris, Sam Carriere and now current editor Leanne Larmondin – and this then-young parish priest who wanted to combine his secular music writing sideline with his ministry is now a worker priest and became the paper’s longest-running columnist. Things have changed. What remains, though, is God’s goodness and the blessing that writing for this paper continues to be for me.
Rev. Wilfred Langmaid


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