UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

An old column’s next chapter

The range of acceptable questions are still as limitless as readers' curiosity

By David Wilson

It shouldn’t be a surprise to feel the tug of history when you work for a magazine that’s 183 years old. We’ve felt it acutely recently as we’ve plotted the future of one of our longest-running and best-loved columns.

With this issue, Rev. David McKane of London, Ont., steps down as author of our monthly Question Box section. After 10 years, he felt it was time for someone else to take on the job of learning just about everything there is to learn about the United Church and writing about it every month. McKane brought wit, grace and edge to an assignment that could become as dry as dust in the hands of the wrong person. He was always reliable and fun to work with. We’ll miss him. But I understand how he might want a change of pace: during those 10 years, he researched and answered something on the order of 300 different questions. That’s a lot of phone calls to church officials, a lot of scouring through the United Church Manual.

Question Box has been a fixture in The Observer for a long time. But when someone asked me exactly how long, I couldn’t say. So I began rummaging through crinkly back issues of the magazine to see if I could find out. It took a while, but I finally found the inaugural column. It appeared in the Sept. 1, 1955, issue of the magazine — the same issue that marked the beginning of Rev. Al Forrest’s 24-year run as editor. For its first three decades, Question Box was published anonymously. You could expect as many as a dozen questions and answers in each instalment. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the author came out from under cover with a byline. There have been four Question Box columnists since then: Rev. Jock Davidson, Rev. Ken Gallinger, Yvonne Stewart and McKane.

Next month, Rev. Christopher White becomes the fifth. Already a seasoned Observer contributor, White is the senior minister of Fairlawn Avenue United in Toronto. He has also written for CBC Radio and major Canadian newspapers, and has authored or co-authored four books on Christianity and contemporary living. He’s ideally positioned to help shape the next chapter in the long history of Question Box.

We’ve decided to change the column a bit — to relax its borders. White will gladly chase down answers to your questions about the United Church and how it lives and works. But he’s hoping Question Box also becomes a place for inquiring about bigger issues like the future of churches in a secular society, the meaning of belief today, the place of Christianity in a multifaith culture — the range of acceptable questions is as limitless as your curiosity. We’ll be delighted if questions come from beyond our established readership, through our website.

Question Box has always been about equipping readers to live faithfully. What that means has changed a lot since 1955, but what hasn’t changed is our belief that there’s no such thing as a bad question. So ask away — by e-mail to questionbox@ucobserver.org, through Twitter at #fairlawnrev or by sending a letter to 478 Huron St., Toronto, Ont., M5R 2R3.

* Fast-forward: I’m delighted to announce that one of our newest features has been recognized for excellence. A short video documentary examining residential schools won a gold medal at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards this autumn, joining other gold-medal winners such as Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, the Walrus and the CBC. Congratulations to staff producer Kevin Spurgaitis. You can find the winning documentary, as well as several other short videos Spurgaitis has produced to complement articles in our print edition, by visiting www.ucobserver.org/video.


Author's photo
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image