As of this past Monday, my 29 years at the Journal Star ended.You can read his entire column here.
But, open doors being what they are, I have decided to go through this one, trusting that this is what God wants me to do (uh-oh, I can see the comments on pjstar.com already piling up about "superstitious nonsense"; I'm sure it will somehow morph into a discussion of the separation of church and state or the Christian/Deist/secular/pagan origins of the nation).
The whole JS ride has been interesting, especially the past 16 years, which I've spent on the religion beat. I've gotten to know many, many wonderful people in the community who I otherwise may not have - make that, would not have - met.
When I first got the chance to do religion, it was tentative. My main job was to put together TV Week, back in the days when it was 20 pages and had editorial content.
But, little by little, that changed. (Hey, there's that word!) And it was, well, for the good, wasn't it? The religion beat and then the Faith & Values section slowly became my main responsibilities. I established relationships with several faith communities. I learned how to like even those people with whom I strongly disagree.
Hmm, I guess I changed.
Maybe this change business isn't always bad.
I'm not happy to be leaving the Journal Star. It was an enormously hard decision, one I had to take down to the wire, finding all kinds of reasons to stay until I simply couldn't deny anymore that it was time for a change, time to go to another good place to work.
I hadn't realized that Miller had begun editing the religion page only shortly before my arrival in Peoria. I'd met him fairly early in my ministry here at a meeting of the now defunct Peoria Clergy Fellowship and at that time the page was, as far as the paper was concerned, very much a sidelight to the TV section. But the Journal Star made the space available and it was interesting to read over the years Miller grow as a religion (or "faith") reporter and columnist. And I'd say that even if he had never quoted me or asked me a question every now and again.
Newspapers aren't much like they used to be. Once upon a time a pastor's sermon was considered newsworthy. As a boy I could read Archbishop Fulton Sheen's column regularly in the old Hollywood Citizen-News and as I grew older John Dart edited an excellent religion section in the LA Times weekly. Few newspapers do anything like that anymore and, hopefully, the folks who run the Journal Star will not let the "Faith & Values" page turn into a page of church announcements or even disappear into just occasional feature stories.
Thanks Michael for your vocation these last several years. We'll miss you.