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UCC members active in publishing The Fig Tree

As The Fig Tree celebrates its 30th year of publication, it’s clear that many UCC members in the Inland Northwest have been involved, not only as readers and advertisers, but also as board members and as volunteers who help with editing, delivery, displays and the website.

Founding editor Mary Stamp moved from Tekoa, where she was involved in the Tekoa UCC, to Spokane to start The Fig Tree, which published its first issue in May 1984.  The involvement of co-editor and co-founder Bernadine Casey, SNJM, who died in 2007, continues through the commitment of Holy Names sisters today.

The Fig Tree started under the Spokane Christian Coalition, which later became the Spokane Council of Ecumenical Ministries.  With a change in leadership, The Fig Tree Committee decided in 2000 to become an independent nonprofit to maintain an independent voice in covering religion.

“Our approach to ‘religion news’ coverage has been to cover stories of people who make a difference by putting their faith and values into action,” said Mary, who was a member of Veradale UCC until 1991, when she joined Cheney UCC.  She is now also a member at Westminster UCC.

The 30th anniversary celebration began at The Fig Tree’s Benefit Breakfast and Benefit Lunch in March and continues at its 30th Anniversary Dinner at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 30, at Whitworth University’s HUB.  Michael Kinnamon, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches and lecturer at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, will speak on “Telling Stories of Belonging Together: Ecumenism as a Movement of Communication.”

Believing that ecumenism is more about relationships than about dialogue and documents, he finds that The Fig Tree conveys in its stories relationships that give rise to reconciliation.

A 1967 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism, Mary participated in the World Council of Churches graduate study semester near Geneva, Switzerland, with 60 people from 40 countries in 1969-70, establishing her ecumenical commitment.  She worked for daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and wrote freelance human-interest features.  She began editing the PNW Conference News in 1988.

Over the years, hundreds of people have served on the staff or as freelance writers, editors, web designers, board members, interns and volunteers, and more than 1,000 individuals, congregations, nonprofits and businesses have advertised. 

mary mackay

Mary Mackay

chuck fisk

Chuck Fisk

Mary Mackay and Chuck Fisk of Westminster were among those involved at the start.  She was on the organizing committee and returned 20 years later to serve on the board.  She is now on the editorial team. Chuck has assisted through the years with delivering bulk orders, mailings and displays.  He also served on the board.

Malcolm Haworth, formerly with Cheney and Veradale UCC churches, is the resource directory editor, a board member and ecumenical liaison.

Other Westminster people involved include Sara Weaver, an editor; Lorna Kropp, webmaster; Barb Borgans, a board member, and previous board members:

lorna kropp

Lorna Kropp

JIm McPherson, Jan Wargo and Marian Thackray. Nick CastroLang has helped with the resource directory.

Jim CastroLang, pastor at Colville First Congregational UCC, and Duane Nightingale, active at N-Sid-Sen, assisted with planning for website development.

At Veradale UCC, Kaye Hult serves on the board and coordinates events, and is the North Idaho writer; Nancy Minard, now in Portland, writes editorials, and Kathryn Krauss was also on the board.

Speakers at the 2014 benefit events, reflected on the theme for the celebrations, “Empowering People through Hope, Justice and Action.”

“The Fig Tree is motivated by a sense of God’s call to use gifts to fulfill unmet needs in the community.  Its stories of people of all walks of life who are attempting to further God’s kingdom make Spokane a better place.  The Fig Tree’s belief that individuals and institutions can make a difference in the lives of people have been an inspiration to me and to countless people,” said Dale Soden, professor of history at Whitworth University.

Bridget Cannon, director of youth services at Volunteers of America Crosswalk program for street kids said that The Fig Tree and Crosswalk begin with the same question, “What’s right with you?” 

“The Fig Tree shines light on what is right in our neighborhoods, communities, country and the world, emphasizing hope and illustrating the good.  It helps people understand each other, breaks through divisions, connects people, stirs compassion and opens a dialogue that benefits everyone,” she said.

“The Fig Tree is a consistent partner in promoting both media literacy and alternative voices in the region,” said Jim McPherson, Whitworth journalism professor.

“Stories are powerful.  The Fig Tree does a great job of gathering human-interest stories that exemplify faith in action, stories that empower, inspire and keep us informed of the great things our brothers and sisters are doing to make Spokane a better place to live,” said Roberta Wilburn, president of the Spokane Ministers Fellowship.

For information, call 509- 535-1813 of visit


Copyright © April 2014 - Pacific Northwest United Church News


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