Good bye, part two: pay attention, tell the truth, say thank you

by

Dear friends,

I started blogging just under nine years ago when NBC announced that it was airing The Book of Daniel, a television show about an Episcopal priest. The show crashed quickly, but the blog had received national news coverage and we had a large and feisty audience, so I decided to keep it going. The Blog of Daniel was succeeded by Daily Episcopalian, a blog devoted primarily to the struggles over the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. At some point, while keeping that blog, it occurred to me that it was going to be difficult to persuade people that the Episcopal Church was more than an argument over human sexuality if all I covered were arguments over human sexuality. And so, Episcopal Café was born.

Since the Café opened its metaphorical doors in mid-April 2007, it has been visited not quite 6.9 million times by almost 374,000 of what Google Analytics calls “users.” We’ve developed a Facebook following of more than 13,400 and a Twitter following of almost 11,350. We’ve posted more than 20,000 items and our visitors have posted more than 45,000 comments. Along the way I think we have established that there is a hunger for an independent news source in the Episcopal Church, and that a band of volunteers could produce a website that performed that ministry fairly well.

Today marks the end of the Café in its current iteration. The blog will go dark at some point tomorrow and come back online with a new look and under new leadership on Monday, December 1. Our Facebook and Twitter streams will remain live during this period, although as we head into Thanksgiving weekend, I don’t know how active they will be.

Before signing off, I want to thank

• Jon White, the Café’s new editor, for being willing to take the baton and run with it. I am going to do him the great favor of staying the hell out of his way.

• Bill Joseph of Words if Necessary, who has kept the Café alive when it was on technological life support and nursed it back to health. We wouldn’t still be here without him. (And if you are looking for someone who knows and loves the Episcopal Church to build you a website, he’s your guy.)

• Bishop John Chane and Canon Paul Cooney who allowed me to spend $20,000 of diocesan money to develop the Café back in 2007 and who gave me the independence to pursue it by my own journalistic lights.

• Mel Ahlborn, then president of Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts, who told me at the 2006 General Convention, that she had the solution to my desire to have a fresh, eye-catching image on the homepage every week.—and did! Thanks, too to C. Robin Janning who succeeded Mel at ECVA and kept the Art Blog alive.

• Helen Mosher for launching us into the world of Facebook and Twitter.

• Rebecca Wilson, my partner in Canticle Communications, who was gracious in tolerating the amount of time the Café required from me during the five years we have worked together.

Over the years the newsteam, which kept three to six items on The Lead (by far the most visited of the five blogs that compose the current iteration of the Café) every day has included Chuck Blanchard, Peter Carey, Megan Castellan, John Chilton, Ann Fontaine, Andrew Gerns, Theresa Johnson, Nick Knisely, Torey Lightcap, Weston Mathews and Kurt Wiesner. Working on the news blog requires not only posting three to six items on one day each week, but also participating in the sometimes-intense conversations in which we decide what to post. I am grateful to everyone who was so generous with their time and their talent.

I especially want to thank Ann Fontaine who took up a lot of the slack that was created when I left the Diocese of Washington to form Canticle Communications. She took over the editorial leadership of the Daily Episcopalian and Speaking to the Soul blogs and kept them fresh and functional. I own no one greater thanks than Ann.

The Speaking to the Soul blog was (and will continue to be) a daily feature of the Café. We’ve had some gifted contributors, but I owe a special thanks to Vicki Black, Lowell Grisham and Lora Walsh for three-to-five submissions per week for months at a time. A tip of the hat, too, to more recent stalwarts Maria Evans, Linda Ryan, Laurie Gudim and David Sellery.

I’d guess that as many as 100 writers have contributed essays to the Daily Episcopalian blog. I appreciated the steadfastness and creativity of Deirdre Good, Donald Schell, Marshall Scott and Kathleen Staudt and the keen conversation-defining gifts of Derek Olsen and George Clifford. I’ll read anything by Sam Candler and Heidi Shott.

During my years at the Café and its predecessors I have had the opportunity to work with brave and faithful people like Susan Russell and Gay Jennings. I also had the chance to share information and conversation with some sharp fellow scribblers like Terry Martin (Father Jake) and Simon Sarmiento. I am grateful to all of the journalists who followed the Café in the years when the Anglican sexuality struggles were at their height.

Finally:

I worked as a newspaper reporter from most of the years between 1979-1993 and sometimes, standing on the edge of a newsroom in which dozens of reporters, editors, photographers and designers were busily working on the next day’s paper, I’d be struck by the fact that all of these people were committed in that moment to the proposition that what was happening in that city at that moment was important, that the activities of the day were important enough to be recorded, illustrated, analyzed and shared. Those of us who worked on the Café over these last seven years and seven months have felt the same way about the Episcopal Church.

We have been motivated by the conviction that what our church is up to matters. And so we have paid attention, and we’ve tried to tell the truth. And maybe in a small way we’ve helped our readers understand a little more about the Episcopal Church and helped the church reflect more deeply on the work that God is calling us to do. I hope so. Editing and writing for the Café has been among the handful of experiences that have defined my life in the last decade and I know the experience will continue to shape me long after I sign off tonight.

Thanks to everyone who visits the Café, to everyone who has sustained it, and to everyone who will carry on its work.

In faith,

Jim Naughton

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7 Responses to "Good bye, part two: pay attention, tell the truth, say thank you"
  1. Honored beyond words at the privilege of being amongst such a great cloud of witnesses. God bless you, Jim, in the work ahead ... and will look forward with enthusiasm to Episcopal Café 2.0 La lucha continua.

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  2. Thank you, Jim. This iteration of the Cafe has been remarkable - blessed, noisy, cantankerous, visionary, familiar, sometimes in startling ways predictable. It feels like a place where our church has been continuing to come into being, to find itself, to ask uncomfortable questions.

    I remember my first few times reading it how startling (and refreshing) it was to see how getting people to sign their names and calling people to respectful disagreement when they disagreed made a sustained conversation unlike most of what we were seeing on the internet.

    The name, Episcopal Cafe, fits well what you guided so many of us to make of this. It's been a gift to the church. I look forward to see where it goes (and we all take it) next. And we'll miss you.

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  3. Since I first encountered Episcopal Cafe in Saigon some six years ago it has brightened my life, informed my thinking, and encouraged me to hope in the diversity of the Episcopal Church.

    I will miss you and look to pay attention to what comes in future.

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  4. Since I first encountered Episcopal Cafe in Saigon some six years ago it has brightened my life, informed my thinking, and encouraged me to hope in the diversity of the Episcopal Church.

    I will miss you and look to pay attention to what comes in future.

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  5. Jim, I can't remember when I first found Episcopal Café, but the words and works became good friends to start my day. Thank you so much. And I look forward to the Cafe's next chapter.

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