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Presbyterians Today takes a sacred pause

Magazine will take time to evolve and become a new creation

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterians Today 

The March/April issue of Presbyterians Today will be the last issue you receive in 2023 before the magazine goes through a “sacred pause.”

PT editor Donna Frischknecht Jackson referred to the sacred pause in her column “Becoming real: The Babe of Bethlehem’s great gift” in the November/December 2022 issue. Referring to the 1922 children’s classic “The Velveteen Rabbit,” about a plush toy’s adventure in becoming real, she wrote: “As editor of Presbyterians Today for these past five years, I can’t think of a more fitting editorial for you readers who have your God moments with me as you have sought to live authentically in the Spirit. That’s because in 2023 Presbyterians Today will be embarking on a journey in becoming real, taking a sacred pause to listen to what God is asking in how we share the stories of hope in the world.”

So, what does this mean for you, our dear readers? First and foremost, we’re inviting you to enter into a season of prayer with us during this sacred pause as we purposefully clear space to listen to the movement of the Spirit and the leading of God.

Secondly …

While the term “sacred pause” may not be familiar to Presbyterians — or oftentimes embraced, as our default when daring to enter into the new thing God is doing is to form committees and get to work — pausing has been expressed in many cultures and faith traditions for thousands of years. In Benedictine monasteries, for example, there are seven sacred pauses in praying the Divine Hours. Historically each pause was signaled with church bells ringing to help quiet oneself and become more open for God’s touch.

This idea of intentionally pausing is built into the Daily Prayer section in the PC(USA) Book of Common Worship and in the PC(USA) Daily Prayer app. The prayers focus on morning and evening — the hinges of the day when light becomes dark and dark becomes light. There are also prayers for noon and at night before one goes to sleep. These pauses are meant to remind us that God is an ever-present reality, always with us, rather than just an idea out there.

But we also remember that in monasteries times for prayer were followed by times of work — a model Jesus himself illustrated for all, taking time to retreat and pray before continuing the work of kin-dom building and proclamation. Presbyterians Today’s pause is no exception. There is work to be done. Work that will be rooted in prayer and discernment within (the PT team) and without (you, the reader).

According to DeEtte Decker, director of communications for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Presbyterians Today team is mapping out how to continue to engage with readers, to keep you updated with what we’re learning and where God is leading.

You may have already received a survey from us to help us better understand how to provide stories and resources that are important to you. Your responses will help us in our prayer and discernment as we embark on intensive research and financial analysis and learn more about current trends and forecasts related to print magazines. After the March/April issue until 2024, no print publication will arrive in your mailbox, but we will continue to push out stories of PC(USA) churches impacting the world via other methods and platforms — including through the Presbyterian News Service.

Decker adds that a sacred pause might best be described as “waiting with hopeful anticipation for God to show up.”

“Like the church pausing every Advent season to wait and watch for the birth of the Christ child, and during Lent to consider the life, death and resurrection of Christ,” she said. “Those are great examples of sacred pauses we take every year.”

Presbyterian Mission Agency President and Executive Director the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett says this sacred pause is focused on asking God, “What do you envision for the Presbyterians Today magazine?” If God is going to do something new with the magazine, Moffett believes that it is important to stop and reflect on the beauty of Presbyterians Today and not forget that the magazine has changed and adapted throughout the years along with the Church. Now is the time to recognize how the Church is changing and how to better serve and minister in the 21st century.

“Let’s use this time of sacred pause to be renewed and let God dream in us how best to tell stories of how PC(USA) congregations are making an impact in the world,” she said.

For Jackson, the timing of the sacred pause commencing with the March/April issue is a God moment. “We don’t hear that much about those times on the liturgical calendar — other than Advent — that invite us to be still and pause,” she said. “This pause reminds me very much of Holy Saturday, a day that I embrace in my own personal devotion time and preparation for Easter Sunday. It’s a powerful day that invites us to be OK with endings and the uncertainty of tomorrow because, as people of a risen Lord, we know that resurrection is a promise from God to be trusted. And the only way to a new risen life that waits for us all is with the death of the old life.”

Paul Seebeck recently retired  as a mission strategist with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

 Share your thoughts

Presbyterians Today wants to hear from you. How will you engage with us in this time of this sacred pause? Email Donna Frischknecht Jackson at editor@pcusa.org.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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