Newspaper was as much a gathering place as a publication


By MARK WESTMORELAND (Editor 1993-98)
Perhaps more wishfully than realistically, I always thought of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate as more of a place than a publication, a place where, for five years in the mid-90s, I was privileged to serve as pastor/editor.
In my days here the Advocate still published weekly and covered both the North and South Georgia conferences.  Once a week, I like to imagine, Georgia United Methodists gathered here as surely as on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night, and we did what church folks do — we shared what was going on.  
   Sure, sometimes the news was more important to the sharer than to the reader, but that’s how it is in church. We talk; we brag a little; we share our hurts; we pray and study; and together we wrestle with the questions of the day.  We did all of those things in these pages.
But times change. Today our community is both larger and smaller than a sheet of newsprint — larger because we can be anywhere we wish in an instant, smaller because we can be far more selective in the company we keep.  No longer is there one meeting place; rather, there are as many as we choose to create, and whenever we choose to create them.
I don’t bemoan our progress, but with every step forward, something is left behind—something worth leaving, certainly, and something worth grieving. The only thing certain is that there is no going back.  I don’t know what will follow the Advocate in our conference, but something will.  We will always need news, won’t we?  And our souls will always crave connection. I hope Glenn Hannigan will be a part of that future.  His work here has been excellent, and I believe he can bring the best of what was to what will be.
I look back at my time at the Advocate with thanksgiving.  For a little while the state was my parish, and I enjoyed working with folks from both conferences (Where do we all meet now?).  I was blessed to work with wonderful people, and I am especially thankful for the work of Alice Smith, who, even before her time as the only female editor, was the journalistic backbone of the paper.
I wish I had been more creative in my time here, or at least more daring.  I always wanted to sponsor a contest, “YOU Make the Appointments,” in which everyone would be allowed two entries—what the appointments SHOULD be, and what they WILL be.  I probably should have done a really tacky gossip page (As H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people.”), and maybe we could have done a “Girls of the North Georgia Conference” edition … or maybe not.
Or maybe, maybe, I could have found the real answer—a way to guarantee the long-term health of the Advocate and keep this day from happening.  But I didn’t.
Change comes on cat’s feet, quietly diminishing or transforming what is and revealing what will be.  And so the Advocate was diminished over time and communications transformed.  But for more than 170 years, the Advocate had its place and WAS a place—a holy place, I would argue—for Georgia United Methodists.  I am proud that my name is a part of its history.  And I look forward to meeting you in the place that will be.

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