By Bill Webb
Periodically I exercise editorial prerogative to express thanks to literally thousands of Word&Way constituents. This is one such occasion. The gratitude of our staff and trustees is heartfelt, and words do not do our feelings justice.
People relate to Word&Way in many different ways — as readers, subscribers, financial supporters, prayer partners, story contributors, encouragers and critics, just to name a few. We're grateful to every group and to their churches.
It could easily be argued that our readers are the reason we exist. This has been so for something like 142 years now. Baptists in this part of the country have had this yearning to stay in touch with one another for a long time.
Some people don’t know that Word&Way is a merger of two highly regarded Baptist newspapers. One of these papers, originally named Word&Way, was launched in 1896 by editor Sanford Brown. Baptists in Missouri needed a “little paper” to stay in touch and to acquaint themselves about the issues of the day among Baptists, he said, even though another Baptist newspaper already existed.
Thirty years earlier, in 1866, that other publication — The Missouri Baptist Journal — was launched. Later, it became known as The Central Baptist. It was widely circulated across the territory and was highly regarded. Somewhere around 1912, an effort was made — successfully — to merge the two publications. In fact, the resulting newspaper was known as the Word&Way and Central Baptist. Years later, it became simply Word&Way again.
We are grateful for those early readers and those who followed them, and we remain particularly indebted today to readers who subscribe and read.
Many of our readers do so because their churches subscribe for them. These churches see the value in a Baptist membership that stays in touch with what denominations, conventions and agencies are doing, even as churches and their members across the state stay connected, too.
Since our earliest days, we have provided services to advertisers, who have in turn provided a steady source of income to help defray printing, postage and staffing costs.
Most of our advertisers these days are entities that provide services to churches. In earlier days, readers could learn about washing machines, kitchen stoves and the best sources for various elixers, some of them quite exotic in description and miraculous in their claims. We’re grateful for each advertiser.
For a good part of our history, Word&Way has received funds to make up what subscription and advertising income did not cover. Usually that has come from the state convention through its advertising, subsidy of leadership subscriptions and cooperative giving allotments.
Today, such income is forwarded through groups like the Baptist General Convention of Missouri and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri. They also promote subscriptions among their constituents. During the past half dozen years or so, after Word&Way was removed from the Missouri Baptist Convention budget, many churches have given direct support above and beyond subscriptions.
They are akin to another group that has become increasingly important during times of discord with Missouri Baptist life, those who make special — or donor — gifts. Word&Way has relied upon special friends at various times throughout its history, but likely no generation of Missouri Baptists has stepped forward like the current one. Many of our friends have done so sacrificially. They humble us.
Along with subscribers, advertisers, churches, conventions and fellowships, they have formed a lifeline that not only has kept the newspaper solvent, but has enabled it to remain viable and strong. We have been amazed, and we are grateful.
No one deserves our thanks more than those individuals, churches and groups that pray for our staff and our ministry on a regular basis. Many pray for our well-being. People like them have prayed for us for well over a century.
When asked, we have simply urged that supporters pray that we will remain faithful to our mission of serving Missouri Baptists and others well beyond our borders. We believe we stand on the broad shoulders of those who preceded us and that the best way to show our gratitude is to function at the highest levels of Christian journalism.
We’re grateful for you.