Herald Press, MC USA, and MC Canada partner for Common Read

Mennonites to read together over the next year

HARRISONBURG, Va. — The global pandemic has created faith formation challenges for churches. With isolation, digital issues, and Zoom fatigue setting in, Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), Mennonite Church Canada, and Herald Press are partnering to encourage Mennonites to engage in a “Common Read,” a shared reading experience focused on specific books written to nurture Christian faith in this cultural moment.

Signs of Life: Resurrecting Hope Out of Ordinary Losses by Stephanie Lobdell is the Common Read book chosen for September. Whether it’s the demise of a relationship, career plans, or our image of ourselves: we all experience losses. Lobdell leads readers to the power of the resurrection to heal daily hurts.

In Signs of Life, Lobdell shares stories of her own depression, loss of confidence, and disillusionment with the church. “My ordinary losses are probably no bigger than yours, and are maybe even smaller,” says Lobdell. “My ordinary losses are just that: ordi­nary and plain, maybe even dull. But they are real. And their smallness does not negate their power or their importance in shaping me. Such ordinary losses in your life—and maybe some extraordinary ones—have likely wounded and shaped you.”

The Common Read for Signs of Life kicks off with a Zoom event on Sept 3 at noon EST with the author, Stephanie Lobdell. Registration for the event is open here. Books are available on the MennoMedia website or by calling 1-800-245-7894. Purchases of four or more copies will receive a 30% discount.

“In a time of social reckoning and spiritual need, reading these books together can provide the spiritual space in which the Spirit can nurture and guide us,” said Shana Peachey Boshart, MC USA denominational minister for Faith Formation. “Plus, a common read is ideal for online or in-person congregational study, adult Sunday school and small group discussion.”

The MC USA Common Read continues in January with I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World by Michael T. McRay and April with Raising Disciples: How to Make Faith Matter for Our Kids by Natalie Frisk. Each new Common Read session will launch with a Zoom event with the author.

Free downloadable study guides are available for every Common Read book on the Herald Press website. To schedule an interview with Stephanie Lobdell, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540‑908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

COVID-19 claims author Jim Atwood

Beloved gun-control advocate passes after battling virus


HARRISONBURG, VA — Jim Atwood, well-known gun-control advocate and author of the recent Herald Press title Collateral Damage, died at 4:30 this morning due to COVID-19 complications. He was surrounded by his family at Sunnyside Hospice in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Atwood was pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Arlington, Virginia. A leader in the faith-based movement for good gun laws, he served as chair of the anti-gun violence group Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington, interfaith coordinator of the Million Mom March, and a member of the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Earlier this week on June 24, Presbyterian Church USA awarded Atwood a Crystal Teardrop Award for his work to end gun violence.

“Jim was a delight and joy to work with,” said Amy Gingerich, publisher and executive director at Herald Press. “We at Herald Press are honored to have published his last book on such an important and timely topic. Jim was tireless in his pursuit of ending gun violence and his words brought together practical insights and deep theological concern.”

Atwood believed the church should get involved in ending gun violence. “It always gets my dander up when people say the church ought to stay out of a political issue and as a spiritual community, we should stay out of that,” he said in an interview with PC(USA). “Over 150 years ago, that’s how we treated slavery, that it was not a religious or biblical concern, it was an economic and political issue and we bought into that.”

Atwood said there is nothing more spiritual than a human being who is made in the image of God.

In an online statement, Atwood’s family said, “We, Roxana, David (Harry) and Mebane, were by his side and were able to say our final goodbyes and how much we loved him.  The last 48 hours were extremely difficult for him and for us.  We are relieved that his suffering and pain are over.”

Atwood began suffering with chronic back pain in September and tested positive for COVID-19 on June 3.

For more information, contact LeAnn Hamby at (540) 908-3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Shine adds digital curriculum for Fall

Publisher offers options for maintaining Christian formation during pandemic

HARRISONBURG, Virginia — Shine is helping congregations provide Christian formation while maintaining social distancing. With most churches either relying on parents to teach their own children, or hosting online Sunday School classes, Shine is stepping in to provide downloadable options to assist struggling leaders through the changing landscape. Shine is offering useful resources to accommodate multiple formats to launch alongside the new Fall curriculum.

“It may be some time before we know what worship and faith formation will look like in the future,” said Joan Daggett, Shine project director. “We have curriculum pieces that are well suited for such a time as this. What we have to do is show churches how to use them.”

Beginning June 19, Shine will debut two new digital resources: Shine at Home and Shine Connect. These digital resources are being offered to help congregations offer faith formation in online and at home settings.

Shine at Home is a new, simple option for families to do at home if congregations are not resuming regular Sunday school this fall. Shine at Home includes weekly mini-sessions, complete with a prayer practice, ideas for sharing the Bible story, questions and conversation prompts, media suggestions, and four activities that help kids and families explore the Bible story. Use with Shine’s storytelling, music, and student resources for a fun learning experience at home.

Shine at Home is now available for preorder and will be released August 1 as a downloadable PDF to email to all the families in the purchasing congregation. The retail price is $20.99 USD.

Shine Connect is a new free resource for those faith formation teachers leading children through online Sunday school sessions. Shine Connect materials are included for free with the purchase of any Shine teacher’s guide starting with Fall 2020 materials. Shine Connect for Early Childhood includes a two-page outline and tips for creating fun, online sessions for preschoolers using the activities in the teacher’s guide and storytelling pictures in the Resource Pack. A more robust guide with weekly online session plans for Elementary children accompanies the Primary, Older Elementary, and Multiage teacher’s guides. Shine Connect for Junior Youth provides a simple framework and tips for facilitating discussion around the Bible story and connecting via the at-home devotional, Quest. These free materials will become available when the fall curriculum ships on July 1, 2020.

“Shine staff continues to monitor the needs of churches and welcomes feedback and suggestions as we move forward,” Daggett says. “Our goal is to help churches keep connections strong with their children, youth, and families during these challenging times.”