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Mary Mackay's story is one of hundreds of volunteers and staff whose lives have intersected with The Fig Tree, making it what it is today, sharing thousands of stories over its 40 years.

She was involved with the 1984 advisory group that began meeting in the fall of 1983 to establish The Fig Tree newspaper. They made decisions about its mission, format, operations and funding.

Mary is one of 19 people involved with The Fig Tree many of those years who shared comments that will be in the promotional video telling The Fig Tree story for the Benefit Lunch on Friday, March 8, at Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University and the Breakfast-Time Zoom gathering on Wednesday, March 13.

After helping organize The Fig Tree in its early years, Mary began studies for a degree in education with a minor in math at Eastern Washington University—having earned bachelor's and master's degrees in biology in 1959 and 1963. She taught anatomy and physiology as an adjunct faculty member at Spokane Falls Community College for three years, and then worked with her husband, Alan, an ophthalmologist, until they both retired in 2002.

Soon after that, she returned to help as a volunteer with editing and mailings. At the 20th anniversary of The Fig Tree, Mary came to the Benefit Breakfast and signed up to serve on the board, which she did for six years. She was the board secretary for four years.

Now she is on the development/benefit planning committee, and helps with editing and mailings.

"I initially became involved because of my friendship with Mary Stamp. I was drawn by the goals of ecumenism and stories about people and organizations working toward the betterment of the community," Mary Mackay said.

At age 10, she asked her parents for a printing press. Her father, who had worked in a print shop and knew the techniques, taught her to set type by hand—the old-fashioned way. Then she and a friend printed some newsletters, which they distributed in her neighborhood in Middlebury, Vt.

Family friends in Middlebury bought the local newspaper, the Addison Independent, a weekly, giving Mary another early contact with the field of journalism.

"In editing each issue, I find the quality of writing and The Fig Tree's ability to find new stories remarkable," she said.

"Sometimes I find that I am quoting articles I've edited before we have gone to press," Mary commented.

"I'm amazed at where people's faith takes them and at their dedication," Mary said.

For many years, the editing team gathered around Mary Stamp's dining room table, where they built friendships as they discussed the articles, editing points, the issues raised and life.

Since COVID they have been editing on Google Drive, where they can enter their edits on the same copy.

Recently, the volunteers on the editing team have included Deb Bisenius, Erin Endres, Marijke Fakasiieiki, Catherine Ferguson, Malcolm Haworth, Gary Jewell, Lori Leigh, Mary Mackay, Emma Maple, Dru Powers, Jill Redl, Nancy Roth, Wade Schwartz and Pava Young.

Participating on the Steering Committee that organized, founded and guided The Fig Tree were co-founder and editor, Mary Stamp of the United Church of Christ (UCC); co-founder and associate editor  Sr. Bernadine Casey, SNJM, of St Patrick's Catholic; Kim Fields of the Disciples of Christ; Fred Fritz of the American Lutheran Church; Jo Hendricks of Manito Presbyterian; Mary Mackay, Westminster UCC; Carl Milton of Manito United Methodist; John Olson of the Lutheran Church in America and Spokane Christian Coalition; Bart Preecs, Whitworth Presbyterian and now Westminster UCC, Jim Sims of New Hope Baptist, Jack Sondericker of Park Heights Baptist, and Peter Stretch of St. David's Episcopal.

Those sharing in the benefit video about their involvement with The Fig Tree along with Mary Mackay are the following:

Bart Preecs was on the organizing committee until he moved to Richland. His parents helped with deliveries, and since he returned to Spokane in 2020, he has been helping with deliveries.

United Methodist retired pastor Flora Bowers was involved through the Spokane Christian Coalition and often contributed reflections in the Sounding Board column.

Mitch and Kathy Finley, who have written books on family, counseling and faith, told of being interviewed in their living room for the first issue.

Marilynne Mueller, a long-time peacemaker, and other members of Shalom United Church of Christ shared for the first issue the story of doing a production of "Alice in Blunderland" to challenge nuclear war.

DR Michel of Upper Columbia United Tribes expressed appreciation for The Fig Tree's ongoing coverage of Indigenous issues and salmon recovery.

Denise Attwood of Ganesh Himal Trading Co. found that Fig Tree coverage helped strengthen fair trade in the region.

Her son, Cameron Conner, is now writing a monthly column about the influence of community organizing globally.

Catholic Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad values the coverage of ecumenical issues and the Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter on the Columbia River Watershed.

Naghmana Sherazi of The Lands Council appreciates The Fig Tree's coverage of the environment, the Muslim community, immigrants and refugees and anything related to the community.

Gloria Baynes, a new board member, uplifted the multifaith, multicultural and multiracial coverage.

Former board members Happy Watkins and James Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church shared many story ideas to further that coverage.

Emma Maple, editorial intern, expects what she learned in writing for The Fig Tree according to its editorial approach will help her as a religion reporter.

Staff members Mary Stamp, editor; Malcolm Haworth, directory editor and ecumenical/interfaith liaison; Marijke Fakasiieiki, development and editorial associate, and Kaye Hult, described their roles and enthusiasm about The Fig Tree and Resource Directory.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March 2024