With this column I am formally announcing my retirement later this year as Word & Way editor after more than 20 years of service.
In a letter to our trustee chair, Jim Preston, I tendered my resignation with “mixed feelings.” Most colleagues in the Baptist journalism ranks regard their service as a calling, and so have I.
Journalism — especially Christian journalism — is a field that is relationship intensive.
It has been my privilege to meet people and make friends of people in the places I have served while at Word & Way; the Illinois Baptist (1984-96) and the Foreign [now International] Mission Board (1981-84). I have met Baptists and others from across the country and from around the world and have been fortunate to tell their stories.
I acknowledged to our trustees that when I was invited to come to Missouri, I could not have imagined everything that would transpire over the years. “I can honestly say that even the most challenging days — and we have had a few — have been very meaningful to me,” I wrote.
When I began on March 1, 1996, I hoped to complete 19 years and retire at 65. That would have been early last year. My wife Susan, a high school guidance counselor, and I have pondered retirement and came to the conclusion that 2016 is the best timing for us. She will soon finish her career, and I hope to do the same by the year’s end.
The Board of Trustees has begun the process of evaluating all aspects of Word & Way and its work to determine how best to move forward and to find an energetic new leader. That is a wise course of action following an editor’s 20-year tenure, and it happened to some degree upon the departure of my predecessor Bob Terry after his 20 years at the helm here.
Indeed, much has changed over the past two decades in the field of what we used to call state Baptist papers.
Twenty years ago, Southern Baptists in each state or region had their own “paper.” These looked pretty similar and had the same kind of content — news and information from churches, states and the SBC.
Back then, some papers were black and white, while others had begun to flirt with “spot-color” accents on their pages and still others used full-blown color photography on select pages. A few, including Word & Way, offered personalized “back-page church newsletter pages.”
Twenty years ago Word & Way celebrated the centennial of its launch by founding editor Sanford Brown and began its second century of telling the Baptist story in Missouri and well beyond. In recent years it has extended its reach to adjacent states and to the broader Baptist world.
These days, virtually all of these news operations have websites. In a few cases, paper newspapers and magazines have been phased out in favor of website delivery and, in fewer still, “digital editions” have replaced paper and dependence upon the U.S. Postal Service.
Now, readers are able to get their Baptist news fix 24/7 via smartphones and/or tablets — readily available in a pocket or purse or on a nightstand — if they prefer.
I am grateful for dozens of outstanding staff members with whom I have worked, the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board committee that hired me and Word & Way trustees who still allow me to serve.
I sincerely thank our readers and supporters for whom this work is intended. God bless you — and keep reading, in whatever forms work best for you.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.