As I write this update, our summer is rapidly coming to end. While there are still many things in our churches that seem to follow the “Liturgical Calendar,” psychologically speaking, most of us tend to follow the school calendar more than anything else. During the summer churches often change the hours and even cut back on the number of their worship services, invite a lot more guest preachers, seldom check attendance, and joyfully have fewer meetings.
Admittedly I miss that clear shift that was so much a part of my life for so long. Happily, however, we never had that kind of a slow down here at ProgressiveChristianity.org. (OK I confess I did spend a couple of weeks floating in the warm, “amniotic” waters and gentle waves in Maui.) But I said, “happily” because we have so many exciting things going on, it is just plain fun to get up in the mornings.
We are moving right along with our new website which we expect to be in full operation by the end of September. Aside from its new, fresh look it should be easier to navigate and more responsive to your needs. The thing that will be most evident to you is that it will be far more interactive, allowing readers to make comments, reviews and share ideas. Something that we are especially excited about, that you will not see, is the new CRM capabilities. This change will automate a whole lot of our administrative tasks and allow our staff to spend more time on working on future projects. We are very excited about this shift not only for practical reasons but that it will allow us to be a lot more effective in meeting your needs.
The writers and graphic artist are lined up, schedules have been agreed upon and deadlines decided for the creation of our new children’s curriculum II. Based on the extraordinary feedback that we have received and continue to receive on our A Joyful Path series, we know that we will have a solid market base for this new product. Our sales for A Joyful Path continue to be strong based, in large part, on word of mouth marketing. We are now confident that as more people use this powerful material and discover how well it works in the church classroom, others will be confident to use it with their own children.
Since we have taken over the publication of the John Shelby Spong subscription essay series, the sales have increased by over 20%. Not only are we proud of the improvements we have made in the Bishop Spong website, including the improved customer service, but thanks to the Spongs’ generosity, our portion of the income has allowed us to do many other things we would not have been able to. The increase in readership has not happened by accident however. Pedro Lopez, a newer staff person who manages the Bishop Spong website and customer service, not only brought to us some badly needed technical skills but he also offers social networking skills that have showed wonderful results that we can apply to some of the other areas of our organization. . Pedro has been a wonderful addition to our growing staff and is working closely with Frank Neville-Hamilton, our web designer, to make certain we have thought of everything.
We are also trying to respond to your numerous requests for more new formative material for small groups, both in our churches and outside. We are currently working on an arrangement with an organization started by Gene and Joyce Marshall, Realistic Living, to offer some excellent materials that they have created over the years. We should be making that announcement soon.
When we were approached to consider this proposal, I was reminded of the newsletter I used to receive from the Marshalls back in the eighties and early nineties. I was feeling pretty lonely in those days as I struggled to articulate a new kind of Christianity in a church setting. The Marshall’s newsletters were a breath of fresh air for me. I had to laugh when I did a little computer search into my old files. Although I have kept only the last ten years of my old sermons, I was surprised to discover that I had quoted Gene Marshall over a dozen times. That does not, of course, count the numerous times I’m certain I used his material without giving him credit. Hey, it was a sermon! I am proud to be working with such courageous pioneers in helping to form a new Christianity. I think you will find this material useful in your churches, your home churches and even in those small groups that keep popping up across the country asking us for material.
On another front, we are trying to respond to your requests for more forums and conferences so that you can experience some of the cutting edge theologians and biblical scholars. As many of you have noted we have cut down on these things, in part, because of the large expenses that are incurred and because of the ecological footprint that they cause because of the need for air travel. We have been talking to consultants about finding new ways for you to hear and even be able to dialogue with some of these pioneers through the use of webinar, online radio, video, and streaming. We have had extraordinary feedback on the videos that we are regularly posting the Bishop Spong Facebook page. As we try and weigh the costs and practicality of these alternatives, we will be looking for your input and suggestions.
And finally for now, I want you to know that we still receive about ten books a month for review. We are doing our best to keep up and make certain that we are recommending some of the best books out there for your education and interests. It is not easy to keep up, but I think we are providing you with the most up to date material. Check the hundreds of book reviews and articles on the site.
I hope you have a wonderful time the rest of what is left of this beautiful summer. We have high hopes for a beautiful fall and another exciting year. We are glad you are with us. Stay in touch for the latest updates.