My resolution, our resolution

A friend texted me last night: “Any resolutions for the new year?”

“The publishing non-profit I manage,” I texted back, “I want to keep it running for at least another year.”

I recognized later that what I’d shared wasn’t so much a resolution for me as it is a resolution for us.  For sixty years, Barclay Press has continued to publish Friends books and curriculum with the financial support of the yearly meetings it serves. As those yearly meetings make cuts to their budgets, Barclay Press has also cut its staff and its services. I serve as a half-time employee. Our bookkeeper maintains our production calendar and is also our archivist, an editor, and a project manager. Our shipping clerk is also our database manager, our graphic designer, our IT expert, and (for at least one project) our staff photographer.

On January 8, 2000, a task force met to determine the future of Barclay Press. That task force included Joe Gerick, Harlow Ankeny, Margaret Lemmons, Dave Hampton, Paul Anderson, Arthur Roberts, Dick Sleeper, Mark Ankeny, Dan McCracken, Susan Fawver, Ken Beebe, Floyd Watson, Leroy Benham, Dan Cammack, Dea Cox, Alice Maurer, and Stan Muhr (my dad!). The members of the task force agreed that Barclay Press should remain “a publisher of truth for many years to come” and that its “financial situation had to be improved if we hope to have any ministry in publishing/printing in the future.”

If I were to gather a similar task force today, it would likely come to the same conclusion.

I’ve written a few letters like this in the past, and many of you have responded generously. In the last month, seven individual donors have given $1,140 to support the work of Barclay Press. Which is awesome! Over this next year, I need to raise $25,000 in order to stay ahead of long-term debt, maintain equipment, pay staff, and support new projects. If you’ve benefited from the work of Barclay Press, or if you want to support the continuing work of Barclay Press as “a publisher of truth for many years to come,” I wonder if you might consider one or more of the following:

  • A one-time or monthly donation – just click on DONATE at barclaypress.com.
  • Talk to your church or monthly meeting about making support for Barclay Press a part of your budget.
  • Bring us your next project. This last year, we reproduced glossy, full-color bulletin inserts for a fund-raiser concert; we helped to print a church photo directory; we designed posters, bulletin inserts, and a curriculum guide for Evangelical Friends Mission; we designed and set up three websites; we provided stock photography and managed three weekly newsletters.
  • Pray for Barclay Press and for the work that we do.

Thank you,
Eric Muhr

On freedom

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Tim Almquist draws our attention to a Christmas carol, “O Holy Night,” and asks us to listen carefully to the words, especially those in the third verse:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

Tim draws our attention to the third line of that third verse that “touches on the institution of slavery with images of the Lord breaking the chains of our brother. It is a reminder of God’s love,” Tim writes, “and of our calling to respond to the very real needs and sufferings of our neighbor.” 

In his new book of poetry, a collection of meditations on how the Spirit of Christ teaches us to live, to love, and to lead, Jim Teeters offers these words on how to bring freedom into all of our relationships:

Bring spiritual nourishment
as you offer yourself freely.
Act with humility, and
never seek power over others.
Live this way.
You make Heaven visible.

When I give myself to others – when I give time and attention to a friend – I make Heaven visible. This is a call to love those who are close to me. In addition, Tim reminds us that our love for God is expressed through the breaking of chains, a “prophetic cry for justice” to us who have “forgotten the true priorities of Yahweh. Sometimes we must be shaken up . . . in order that our ways are realigned with those of God.”

In response to Tim’s reflection, I’m sitting with this query: Does my love for God move me to action in the world in order that those who suffer might be set free? In response to Jim’s poem, I’m sitting with this query: Does my life make Heaven visible?

And I pray as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

I hope you’ll join me.

Eric Muhr

A few modest suggestions

Richard J. Foster delivered a talk twenty-five years ago at the Barclay Press Partners in Publishing Dinner. In that talk, Richard noted “a lot of shifting going on in the industry” – four Christian publishing houses were sold that year, one was seeking a buy out, one was on the auction block, and two more had gone out of business. Richard commended Barclay Press for surviving and offered “a few modest suggestions . . . in the days ahead.”

  1. That we would maintain our distinctive Quaker identity while communicating more and more effectively “with the broader Christian family and society at large.”
  2. That we “will always be publishers of truth.”
  3. That we might seek after “the crisp, the clear, and the imaginative.”

What nobody seemed to know at the time was that the world of publishing was going to keep shifting. In fact, it’s still shifting. Every year, there are more staff cuts, name changes, buyouts, selloffs, and shutdowns. And here at Barclay Press, we’re still surviving. One of the reasons we’ve made it this far is that advice Richard offered back in 1992 – it was really good advice.

First, “the central insights of Quaker life and faith are – of all the groups – the most transferable into other cultural and faith contexts,” Richard said. “This is due to the expressly spiritual nature of Quaker convictions. . . . Another advantage is simply that Quakers are perceived in a positive light in the general culture. This impression may not be all that well deserved, but we can certainly make use of it.”

Second, Richard claimed that “Quakers called themselves ‘publishers of truth’ precisely because they refused to pander.” Successful publishers know that the best way to sell a book is to make it “fit the fears of the people. In religious circles it is especially helpful to tap into some conspiracy theory.” But Quakers should not be “peddlers of gossip.”

Third, “We need to love words, to love their sound, to love their meaning, to love their history, to love their rhythm. We need to abhor the cheap sentence that prostitutes words for the purpose of propaganda. We need to be willing to hurt, to cry, to sweat, in order to capture the great image.”

I share Richard’s words because I think they hold true, not just for Barclay Press, but for each of our faith communities. To make a difference in the world, we must be able to communicate more effectively with society at large. We must tell the truth. And we must choose our words with care.

Eric Muhr

P.S. As the end of 2018 approaches, you’ll be receiving reminders from all kinds of non-profits who need your financial support in order to continue doing the work to which they’ve been called. The same is true for us at Barclay Press, so I hope you’ll keep us in mind. If you aren’t able to send a check or give a donation online, send your words of wisdom – I can always use a little bit of solid advice – and please remember to pray for us.