Best First Book announced Reply

By Jerry L. Van Marter

Change of Heart coverChange of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer by Jeanne Bishop has been named winner of the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s 2014-2015 Best First Book Award.

The award–with a $500 cash prize funded by the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation–is given at each General Assembly to the best first book by a Presbyterian writer during the previous two years. Bishop will receive her award at the Writers Guild’s General Assembly Luncheon June 23 in Portland, Oregon.

Bishop’s story begins on the night before Palm Sunday in 1990 when, after returning home from dinner with family, her sister, Nancy, and husband, Richard, and their unborn child were all brutally murdered by an intruder. The book then takes the reader through a gut-wrenching but ultimately heart-warming journey as Jeanne Bishop’s life is transformed from revenge seeking to restorative justice.

The Best First Book Award judges noted: “Many of us see a violent news story and if it doesn¹t impact us personally, we move on, not considering the long-term impact that violence has on the community and the family. The author is honest about the awful actions of the man who murdered her family members, her own struggles, and the ways in which her faith pushed her beyond the usual platitudes and commitments into advocating for a new way to see and seek justice, personally as well as legally. Transformation is hard, and this story disturbs and challenges every reader’s belief systems and commitments as a Christian.”

Bishop, who still lives in Winnetka, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, where her sister and family were murdered, is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

year without a purchaseThe Writers Guild’s Best First Book Award committee also awarded an Honorable Mention to Scott Dannemiller, a former PC(USA) missionary in Guatemala who now lives with his family in Franklin, Tennessee, for his first book, The Year Without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting.

 While acknowledging that money is important, Dannemiller writes that “preoccupation with money is a symptom of something larger lurking just beneath the surface.” Through often hilarious anecdotes, he chronicles his family’s exploration of what’s wrong with a life overly influenced by consumerism.

One judge noted: “This book is fun, funny, and faithful–sharing both the moral quandaries of consumerism in the U.S. and practical stumbling blocks for those of us seeking to live differently. I found myself laughing at the stories, finding great meaning in the insightful observations made by the author’s children, and thinking of ways I could get out of the frantic cycle of buying stuff.”

 

 

Lifetime Achievement Awards announced Reply

By Cathy Chisholm

Two veteran church communicators have been named recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG). Houston Hodges and Jerry Van Marter will be recognized for “distinguished service to the church through writing/communication” at the Guild’s General Assembly luncheon June 23 in Portland, Oregon.

Jerry

Jerry Van Marter

Van Marter, who currently serves as stated clerk of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and alumni relations advisor for San Francisco Theological Seminary, retired in 2014 from the Presbyterian News Service (PNS) after more than 26 years of reporting and editing. His byline has appeared on stories covering the work of the various councils, committees, and task forces of the church and its ecumenical partners, including 39 General Assemblies. Van Marter says that during his career, he traveled to almost every state and all over the world to “see first-hand the life-changing mission and ministry being done in the name of our beloved denomination.”

Ordained by Olympia Presbytery in 1971, Van Marter served as pastor of several congregations in California prior to his ministry with PNS.

Van Marter credits Hodges with giving him his start as a church journalist in San Francisco Presbytery. “Without his encouragement, I never would have even considered a career in church journalism.”

HHCollar

Houston Hodges

Hodges also cited his friendship with Van Marter in his response to news of the award. “The communicator is short on words,” said Hodges. “Oh, my. The thing that just keeps flooding over me is that I get to share it with Van Marter, and we’ve done so much of it together.”

Hodges’ first experience in journalism was helping his parents publish a semi-weekly newspaper in West Texas. Ordained in 1954, he has served in campus ministry and as a pastor in Texas and California, as well as in Winnipeg with the United Church of Canada. Prior to retirement in 1995, he served as executive presbyter of North Alabama Presbytery.

His writing career has included serving as a volunteer in the General Assembly newsroom, editor of Monday Morning magazine, and author of Circle of Years: a Caretaker’s Journal, the story of his mother’s battle against dementia. With Matt Cooney, he co-authored Faith Alive, describing the development of a congregation’s interactive and intergenerational worship.

A pioneer in the use of computers and the internet for church communications, Hodges recognized early the potential to “be in touch anytime, anywhere.” For the last decade, he has been heard on WLRH Huntsville Public Radio as a contributor to The Sundial Writers’ Corner.

Previous Lifetime Achievement Award winners include the renowned poets Ann Weems and J. Barrie Shepherd.

An amazing experience Reply

Rachel Shussett

Rachel Shussett

By Rachel Shussett

Summer internship opens doors to possible career in church communications

Editor’s note: Rachel Shussett was the recipient of a Jameson-Hines Scholarship from the Presbyterian Writers Guild to fund her work as summer intern for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Communications in Louisville, where she divided her time between Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterians Today, and the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study. Shussett wrote these reflections just before leaving Louisville in August to return to Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, where she is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in journalism.

Summer is coming to an end, and it is time to move back up to Pennsylvania to see my family and then head off to start my junior year of college. How did that happen?!

This summer has truly flown–and when I say that it’s because I was having fun, I really mean it. Having this internship with Presbyterians Today, the Mission Yearbook, and the Presbyterian News Service was an amazing experience, one that I am so grateful to have had.

I learned a lot about myself this summer. You don’t truly know what you are capable of until you are tossed into a real work environment and have to hit the ground running. It could have been scary, or stressful, or a total nightmare. But for me, it was a huge blessing. I accomplished so much in my three months in Louisville, and much of that is thanks to those that I worked with.

Over the past three months, I have written and edited more stories than I can remember, posted a gazillion tweets, Facebook statuses, and Instagram photos, and traveled to two conferences. Not too shabby, if I say so myself!

I loved every minute of this summer. It truly solidified my drive to work hard, finish school, and then get a job as a journalist. It isn’t an easy path, but if you work hard enough, you can make it. And, as Philippians 4:13 so aptly states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

This summer was a wild ride, and I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to be an intern with communications at the national office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I’m also grateful for the doors already being opened as a result. A very special thanks is in order for the Presbyterian Writers Guild, which funded my internship this summer and helped to make it happen.

And with that, I bid you all adieu–until next time!

PWG board okays summer 2014 internship grant Reply

Jameson-Hines scholarship will support Rachel Shussett’s work with PC(USA) Office of Communication

by Jerry L. Van Marter

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) board of directors has approved a $3,000 grant from the Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund to support a summer internship in 2014 for Rachel Shussett.

Shussett, a student at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, was approved for a 2013 summer internship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Communication, supported by a $3,000 scholarship from the PWG, but the internship was cancelled when the communication office underwent a reorganization last January.

Office of Communication leaders Jerry Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service, Patrick Heery of Presbyterians Today, and Billie Healy of the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study have resurrected the internship and the PWG has renewed its financial commitment to the program. Shussett will divide her time writing for all three participating Office of Communication entities.

The Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund was created by a bequest from Vic Jameson, the late former editor of Presbyterians Today, and an endowment created in honor of Jane Hines when she retired as communications director for the Synod of Living Waters and editor of its newspaper, The Voice. She currently serves on the PWG board of directors.

Scholarships are awarded to Presbyterian college or seminary students who have a demonstrated interest in writing for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to further their education or skills development.