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Fig Tree uplifts credible ways faith community contributes

Comments by Fig Tree editor Mary Stamp during the 2012 Benefit Breakfast and Lunch in March:

The ecumenical and interfaith content in our monthly newspaper, website, social media, annual resource directory and face-to-face gatherings is about people.

Ecumenical means we are part of God’s whole inhabited earth.  Yes, some folks live faithfully, and some are sometimes hypocrites.  Secular media often play on the latter—the sensational, the sexy, the unusual and conflicts that divide people, congregations and faith groups.  That emphasis discredits the faith community.

We seek to communicate that, despite the failings of some people and institutions, there is much that is  credible going on in the faith community.  The YWCA empowers abused women.  The SHAWL Society continues to monitor uranium mining cleanup on the Spokane reservation. Professors introduce college students and churches introduce members to experiences abroad that give perspective. Jerusalem peacebuilders seek peace in the Holy Land. A Nez Perce nurse educator finds power of stories to heal historic trauma.

These are just a few recent stories.

Interfaith means we recognize we have differences and we will disagree on some aspects of our faith, but we also seek to communicate that we share common ground in our faith lives.

Communicating credibly means we challenge economic, social and political powers that will divide and disempower us, silencing the challenge of our faith to live abundantly in today’s scarcity, security mindset.  Faith reminds us there is hope.

We cover stories of institutional religion and stories of people of faith, articulating their understandings of and inspiration from their faith.

Rather than focusing on the hot-button issues or using differences to further divisions, prejudices and hate, we share human interest feature stories and news events—stories of people countering the culture and taking risks to care because of their faith.

There is much we could fear in the world around us.

• Given the toxics in the environment, we share stories of people protecting our watershed and challenging coal trains.

• We could fear profiteering corporations, but we share stories of the Faith Action Network, Catholic Charities and denominations educating us on issues so we can speak out and have hope.

• Given political and extremist efforts to undermine human rights, we share about the work of the World and National Councils of Churches, the NAACP and the Hate Studies Institute to challenge media spin that would confuse us.

• Our editorials uplift a call for media responsibility.

Efforts to undo progress in relationships of neighbors and the family of God arise in every age, so we need to be informed by credible media to draw on the power of our faith and values to see beyond worries from news.

Credible communication engages people, to spark thinking and move us to act, rather than be victims, bystanders, collaborators or even perpetrators of hate, injustice and oppression.

Credible communication empowers us to speak in solidarity with victims, to empower them to move from survival to share their stories and educate others to keep the cycle of caring going.

Our media also include collaborating with other media and face-to-face encounters for celebration, dialogue and networking.  We need individuals, congregations and agencies to link their websites to our website, to like our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter.

We hope our stories help people think, reflect and connect, so they become voices of hope in their own settings. 

We hope people will be inspired by our content and spread their excitement about our media with others. 

Communicating credibly is about people power—finding ways to multiply donations to our efforts and offering volunteer support.

Through The Fig Tree, we can multiply voices to spread more action-inspiring hope.


Comments of speakers at the 2012 Benefit Breakfast and Lunch in March reflect on what they value about The Fig Tree.

One of the great stories of Genesis poses the question:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  It’s asked in an attempt to get off the hook. 

The Fig Tree understands that we are each other’s keepers and the more deeply we understand that and the more fully we live into that truth, the better the whole world becomes.

The Very Rev. Bill Ellis
Cathedral of St. John


Martin Wells
Bishop Martin Wells

I was introduced to The Fig Tree when my wife and I were co-directors at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center above Lake Chelan.  The Fig Tree was in our library.

 As a Western Washington boy, I began to learn about the unique life in Eastern Washington.  I was hooked.

I remain hooked and grateful for Mary Stamp and hundreds of volunteers who make The Fig Tree a critical resource for the faith community here. 

The heart of that gratitude has to do with its credible, trustworthy reporting.

When Martin Luther wrote his catechisms for use in the home, he included the 10 commandments.  He addresses the eighth commandment:  not to bear false witness against your neighbors. He says we are not to tell lies about them, betray or slander.  We are to come to their defense, speak well of them and interpret everything  in the best possible light.

It’s a counter-cultural word in our charged political environment of invective, demagoguery and hate speech.  It’s why I read the Fig Tree. 

The Fig Tree has a point of view without becoming ugly or ideologically skewed.  I read it for its fundamental goodwill, its capacity to report news and seek the range of voices weighing in on issues we face together as a community of faith—expressed through extended interviews.

That The Fig Tree does this month in, month out, meaning good, meaning to build up our community, and meaning well for each person, is a remarkable achievement.

Thank you for creating this community in hard days and making us look good.

Bishop Martin Wells - Eastern Washington Idaho Synod
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Mark Kadel
Mark Kadel

The Fig Tree and World Relief have embarked on a partnership.  There are 30,000 refugees in Spokane and World Relief brings about 600 new refugees a year.  We received a grant from the Washington State Human Services for refugee elders. 

Many who have resettled are too old to work.  Many suffered severe persecution.  After 65, it’s a struggle to learn a new language.  It takes longer. 

There are barriers for elders.  They become permanent residents and citizens, but struggle to communicate and access the resources Spokane provides.

We decided to develop a resource directory and looked to The Fig Tree’s comprehensive resource directory to develop a specialized directory for elder refugees struggling and needing to know about resources. 

We established collaboration with Refugee Connections, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington and Lewis and Clark High School, too.  The Fig Tree worked to select eight pages of resources, which we are translating into five languages.

Mark Kadel - executive director of World Relief in Spokane


Jim Mohr
Jim Mohr

The Fig Tree is a true jewel in the Inland Northwest at this time in our world when people tend to see people of faith and religion connected with atrocities, hate, intolerance and violence.

That’s where The Fig Tree provides a service for our community and nation.  It serves as a light in the darkness, revealing what faith can really do and what faith is really about. As Psalm 119 says, God’s word is a light on our path, going into the darkness to bring light to our communities.

The Fig Tree manifests how God is speaking to us in our faith.  We can see through The Fig Tree that our faith can be a powerful force for change and transformation.  It can be a force for good that uplifts the marginalized, oppressed and outcast.  Through the interfaith work of The Fig Tree, we have learned that they are not our enemies, but are children of God we are called to serve.

Because of Mary Stamp’s dedication and commitment as founder and editor, Gonzaga University’s Institute of Hate Studies awarded her the 2011 Eva Lassman Take Action Against Hate Award.  The Fig Tree challenges hate and supports social justice, understanding and compassion, strengthening the Inland Northwest’s resilience against hatred.  It is committed to truth reflected in peace journalism, showing us that journalism can reflect what is good, beneficial and just.

The Fig Tree and Mary Stamp bring love. light and hope to the region, pushing back on hate and intolerance.

Jim Mohr - Gonzaga University Hate Studies Institute Board chair


Marilee Roloff
Marilee Roloff

In my 27 years with VOA, I have known I can count on The Fig Tree. 

When VOA started the Crosswalk program to help young people on the streets downtown, we wanted to recruit 30 churches to provide one meal a month. 

The Fig Tree ran a front-page story, and instantly we had 30 churches.

The Fig Tree covers news for the heart and spirit.  It helps us feel connected to a caring community so we feel hopeful.

Its Eastern Washington Legislative Conference was fabulous, gathering people to help us figure out how to support the poor. 

Marilee Roloff, executive director
Volunteers of America of the Inland Northwest


The Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media (NW-ARM) promotes media literacy, teaching people to use media in a positive way rather than letting mainstream mass media consume our lives and dictate our lifestyles while they pursue profit.  Only six corporations own the media—Disney, GE, News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom, and CBS.  

Heather Crandall
Heather Crandall

A Spokane Falls Community College teacher recently likened the problem of concentrated media ownership to a chef working at McDonalds. The chef can’t make something different than what McDonald’s wants: Less ketchup? More relish? Nutburgers with tofu? No. Ketchup comes out of a dispenser in a measured quantity to go onto the weighed, timed and formed burger. He likened Time Warner to McDonalds and journalists to chefs. Journalists have major constraints working for the media corporations and are unable to help people solve the problems we face.

The Fig Tree covers faith in action to connect people through stories that bring understanding.  A Quaker activist said an enemy is a person whose story we haven’t yet heard.

Through the Fig Tree we are connected by stories—full, detailed, comprehensive stories about people and groups of people right here in the region, all trying to solve the problems we face.  The Fig Tree says, “Let’s break down divisions among people of faith, let’s open dialogue and explore issues together, and let’s build understanding and promote unity for the common good.”

Because of the prevalence of domestic violence and human trafficking in our society, mainstream media—our public trust—should report continuously on investigations, busts, outrage, interrogations related to these issues.  They happen and should rate as news. They should be front-page everyday until we at least reduce the scope of these problems. 

Journalists at Time Warner cannot do it, but might want to.  The Fig Tree can and does.  In the Fig Tree, I have read stories about domestic violence, human trafficking, a punitive penal system and how people are working to alleviate these problems and make our communities healthier.

That is valuable journalism—credibly communicating.  Credibility is about trustworthiness.  I trust a paper whose mission is to connect the faith and nonprofit communities. Credibility is about goodwill and having our best interests at heart.

The time the journalists at the Fig Tree take to listen to people in our community and connect us through their stories and efforts is evidence of having our best interest at heart.  The Fig Tree does not have to make stories for corporate profit, only stories to connect us.

I want to add another kind of credibility to this conversation. The Fig Tree has street cred. Street credibility means we can believe someone’s word on the street.  The Fig Tree is out in the community—on the street—which carries a level of respect in our environment.

The NW-ARM gave Mary Stamp an award in 2010 for her vision that the Fig Tree practice responsible media in our community.  On the award is an engraving of words from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The NW-ARM notices, and hopefully we all notice how much we need to celebrate and be thankful for this vital work.

Heather Crandall - Gonzaga Communications Department
Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media