Life's race is a relay: Pass the baton with care
Written by J. Bennett Guess
July - August 2003

J. Bennett Guess

This is issue #183 for the Rev. W. Evan Golder and, presumably, his last as editor of United Church News, the national newspaper he founded more than 18 years ago. As his successor, my first priority is to make sure that #184 is published without Evan being called in to rescue me.

If things do fall apart, I will have no one to blame but myself, because Evan has offered more than enough tutorial time. I am convinced that, with the possible exception of my mother, no one wants me to succeed more than he does. All along, it has been Evan's intent that our transition be seamless, and meticulously, he has honored that commitment.

I marvel at Evan's attention to the small things. As a journalist, he relishes how Òword picturesÓ are conjured when one writes with attention to details. As a photographer, he'll take hundreds of images, even returning to take dozens more, in order to get that one right shot. As a pastor and friend, he remembers your stated weekend plans, and on Monday morning, he asks how things went.

About a year ago, Evan—who has run more than two dozen full marathons—coached me through my first attempt at the daunting 26.2 miles. Afterwards, he seemed as thrilled by my success as I was. In much the same way, our editorial transition has revealed Evan's obvious joy in my being truly prepared for the work ahead. How rare that God's mission would be afforded such precedence in this competitive culture in which we all live.

Following Evan's example, each of us would do well to glimpse, from time to time, that foreboding shadow of the one who will one day, sooner than later, be entrusted with the work to which we now cling with white knuckles.

True, each of us is responsible, in some measure, for the quality of our work, for the care and oversight we give to it. But nothing we produce is uniquely our own. In the church, we can claim little credit for ourselves. The joy of creating something worthwhile comes in creating it together, for the glory of God. Let us all, in humility, be so reminded.

Maybe that's why Evan seems so insistent that those old copies of United Church Herald and A.D., our predecessor publications, remain shelved prominently right outside the editor's office door.

ÒIn good times religious leaders think they have reinvented the church,Ó says Robin W. Lovin, an ethics professor at Southern Methodist University. ÒIn bad times they seek wisdom from those who have gone before them.Ó

In these times, I am learning many things. Among them, I am reminded that ministry is a shared experience across the generations. We are all teachers, all disciples. It is a relay race that is set before us. Let us pass the baton with great care.

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess is editor-designate of United Church News. Beginning next month, his column will appear regularly on the page with the letters to the editor.

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