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Blessing and promises in this season of leaving

By Muriel Duncan

Blessing and promises in this season of leaving: after 32 years, it's time to say goodbye.

There are days when a new writer delivers a powerful, touching article way beyond my highest hopes. Those days, I can say happily with former editor Rev. Al Forrest "This is the best job in the world."

There are days when The United Church of Canada gathers itself together and takes a brave, faithful stand that few other denominations are anywhere near taking. Those days I'm so proud and sure this is the best church in the world.

And I've been convinced for a long time that you folks are the best readers in the world.

So why this goodbye column? Why did I decide to take an early retirement in September? I've edited this magazine for 17 years and it's time to rest a bit, to widen and balance my life. Less about subscriptions, more about flower beds; less about nasty letters, more about kindly dogs.

It is time but it won't be easy. After 32 years here, my life and my heart are entangled in this magazine, its staff, its readers and its church. Some careful sorting and separating is going on and I don't mean in my messy office.

After all, when I came to The Observer as a reporter in 1974, I was 30, Very Rev. Wilbur Howard had just been elected moderator and General Council had approved church union with the Anglicans.

Patricia Clarke and Jim Taylor, bless them, taught me how magazine writing was different from newspapers. And Rev. Al Forrest showed me what a fine, brave editor looked like. I had planned to stay three years.

But it is hard to leave a magazine that has such a strong sense of its constituency and envied editorial freedom. "The reader is my boss,"Forrest said, and he never gave me cause to doubt him.

I also got to experience the adrenalin of the Hugh McCullum years, the editor as a prophet, an advocate for those at society's margins. I wouldn't like to have missed that.

By the time I began editing The Observer in 1989, the church was fractured and moving a little more cautiously than before.

It had done the right thing, supporting gay and lesbian ordination, but at a great cost.

I believed then and now that The Observer must be a place where all varieties of church people can bring their stories, hopes and ideas, to discuss and listen. The United Church has been talking about facing up to what we did wrong in residential schools and how to make amends, about saving God's creation, and what we believe today, and lately about what the United Church's real work is.

It is hard to leave now as the church is ready to set out on new adventures. But it is also the right time.

It is time to welcome a new editor/publisher, David Wilson, who will take the hand-off Aug. 9 as I finish the September issue and prepare to leave. As associate editor, David has a long service here marked with excellence and dedication. I believe your magazine is in good hands.

No editor works alone. I've been surrounded by talented, dedicated staff and regular contributors who unceasingly tried to make their best even better. I'm very grateful.

And thank you readers, for supporting this magazine in so many ways, believing, as we do, that "forgiveness is possible, hope is warranted, and justice is demanded."

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