Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

In 2024, The Fig Tree celebrates 40th anniversary

In 2024, The Fig Tree ecumenical and interfaith newspaper covering Eastern and Central Washington and North Idaho will celebrate the 40th year of its founding.

Mary Stamp edits The Fig Tree and the Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News.

The first issue was published in May 1984, but much planning and preparation was underway beginning the fall before. The Fig Tree covers stories of people who make a difference because of their faith and values.

Mary Stamp, who began in 1988 as editor of the bi-monthly Pacific Northwest Conference wraparound edition of United Church News in print and continues to edit the publication quarterly online, co-founded The Fig Tree with Holy Names Sister Bernadine Casey.

Mary works as an independent, professional freelance journalist and consultant, contracting with the Pacific Northwest Conference to prepare the United Church News. Independent of that, she also contracts as a freelance journalist to edit and publish The Fig Tree. 

She gathers copy, edits and publishes United Church News online with the PNC, directly in consultation with conference staff and leaders, and a PNC Communications Committee.

She is a member of Westminster UCC in Spokane, and has also been a member of Tekoa UCC, Veradale UCC and Cheney UCC.

Mary, a 1967 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism sparked her commitment to ecumenical communication by attending the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Institute at Bossey near Geneva, Switzerland, in 1969 and 1970. In that program, she lived and studied in community with 60 people from 40 countries.

For years, moving from Astoria, Ore., to Fresno, Calif., and Tekoa, she wrote feature stories for local newspapers as a freelance journalist. She moved from Tekoa,  Wash., where her former husband was serving the former UCC church there, to start The Fig Tree under what was then the Spokane Christian Coalition, later the Spokane Council of Ecumenical Ministries. In 2001, The Fig Tree became an independent nonprofit ecumenical and interfaith organization.

Part of the ideas for The Fig Tree drew from a document, “Communicating Credibly,” adopted at the sixth Assembly of the WCC held in Vancouver, B.C., the summer of 1983.

Since then, Mary has attended five WCC Assemblies—1991 in Canberra, Australia, 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe; 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil; 2013 in Busan, South Korea, and 2022 virtually in Karlsruhe, Germany—to understand the dynamics of ecumenical and interfaith relations.

“Those experiences keep me in tune with the multicultural, multiracial sensitivities at the base of our coverage  to build understanding and unity amont diverse people by sharing stories of people living their faith through loving others, seeking justice and working for peace,” said Mary.

In addition to editing The Fig Tree and PNC United Church News, Mary joined a 1985 Global Ministries partnership visit to then East and West Germany and worked with the (formerly called) Washington-North Idaho Conference to establish a partnership with the Berlin-Brandenburg Synod.

She helped organize exchanges with that partnership and helped form the Global Ministries Committee to work with the German partnership and a partnership with the East Seoul Presbytery.

“Global connections through the UCC and WCC make us aware of the risks people of faith are taking elsewhere and challenge us in our own settings to to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God,” she said.

Several members of Westminster UCC in Spokane have been volunteers and staff for The Fig Tree. They include Lorna Kropp, contract webmaster; Mary Mackay, an editor, volunteer and former board member; Bart Preecs, delivery volunteer; John Alder, development and Eastern Washington Legislative Conference (EWLC) committees; Dru Powers, editor, and the late Sara Weaver, an editor.

Kaye Hult, who is a member at Shalom UCC/Mennonite in Spokane, and formerly Veradale UCC, is the administrative coordinator.

For many years, Nancy Minard, a former member of Veradale UCC, wrote, edited and served on the board.

Gary Jewell, a member of Shalom UCC/Mennonite and interim at Community Congregational UCC in Pullman, is on the board, does deliveries and and helps plan events like the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, which The Fig Tree helps coordinate in Spokane in collaboration with the Faith Action Network.

Pastors and members of Chewelah, Cheney, Colville, Newport, Pullman, Veradale and Westminster churches have also been supporters through the annual benefit events in March.

Karen Georgia Thompson, president and general minister of the national United Church of Christ, will be the featured speaker for The Fig Tree’s 40th Anniversary Gala, beginning at 5 p.m., Sunday, April 28—after she speaks at the PNC Annual Meeting earlier that weekend.

Karen Georgia is also a member of the World Council of Churches Executive Committee and Central Committees, and a reader of The Fig Tree. She will speak on “Sharing Stories: Empowering People.”

For information, call 509-535-1813, email or visit


Pacific Northwest United Church News © Winter 2023-24


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share