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State association honors Fig Tree and editor for ecumenical leadership

The Washington Association of Churches will recognize the work of Mary Stamp as The Fig Tree editor, honoring her with one of two awards for ecumenical leadership.

“We recognize her contributions not just on the East side of the mountains but throughout the state as a leader in spreading the news on ecumenical activities,” said Alice Woldt, transitional executive director of the Washington Association of Churches (WAC).

The WAC will present the award during its Annual Awards Dinner and Celebration, “Follow the Light,” at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 4, at Campion Hall at Seattle University, 901 12th Ave.

The other award will go to the Puget Sound Interfaith Youth Camp, which offers a place for youth from various religious traditions to discover understanding of their common humanity.

Keynote speaker for the event will be David Domke, University of Washington professor of communications.  He will discuss how the faith community can communicate a message of transformation and hope.

Mary Stamp
Mary Stamp, Fig Tree Editor

Mary is editor and founder of The Fig Tree, which now produces a newspaper, website, directory and other media that cover the faith and nonprofit communities of the Inland Northwest.  It seeks to break through divisions among people of faith to build understanding, and promote unity and action for the common good.  Mary is a professional journalist with a commitment to ecumenical and interfaith relationships, nurtured by attending graduate studies and assemblies with the World Council of Churches.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1967 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, she worked for two retail trade journals before spending 1969 and 1970 in the graduate program of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute near Geneva, Switzerland. 

“From living in community with 60 people from 40 nations for six months, I realized we need to set aside pride, fear and our personal, political and religious agendas to discover who people are beyond the barriers of language, culture, nationality, status and faith expression,” she said.

The experience sharpened her interviewing skills to ask questions that search for understanding, insights, differences and similarities.

Returning to the United States, she wrote free-lance features for the Daily Astorian, The Fresno Bee, InterChurch—an ecumenical publication she started as a freelance venture—and The Standard Register in Tekoa before coming to Spokane in 1984 to start The Fig Tree through the then Spokane Christian Coalition. The coalition later became the Spokane Council of Ecumenical Ministries and is now the Interfaith Council.

Co-editor and founder Holy Names Sister Bernadine Casey, other founders like editorial writer Jo Hendricks and bulk distribution coordinator Carl Milton, many committee and board members, and volunteers are behind The Fig Tree’s 25 years of growth and success, Mary said.

In 2000, The Fig Tree became an independent nonprofit organization, covering and connecting the faith and nonprofit communities in the Inland Northwest.

The Fig Tree now seeks to hire a multi-tasking journalist, someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who will work in partnership with Mary as The Fig Tree expands on the web to include stories from Western Washington. 

In addition to Malcolm Haworth and Anna Marie Martin, the contract staff includes Lorna Kropp, assisting as website consultant to prepare the website for content from around the Northwest.

“Our goal is to empower people in the region and globally simply by connecting them,” Mary said. “Each interview for me is an ecumenical or interfaith encounter that touches my life.  It’s a gift to pass on information and inspiration that move people to act.”

Recently she has noted that journalism schools at major universities are beginning to talk about “peace journalism,” which focuses on solutions rather than on the approach of what she calls “conflict journalism” which tries to balance the few at extreme ends of opinions who do not talk with or respect each other.

“Most people, in fact, work to resolve problems and set aside fear to learn from each other,” she said.  “It’s a joy to cover stories of people who act on their beliefs.”

For information, call 535-1813.