Judith M. Dinsmore
In her thirteen years with New Horizons, Pat Clawson wrote dozens of articles, some on recurring events or conferences in the denomination, and some on perennial issues facing OP members like care for the chronically ill, hospitality, tithing, and adoption. “My goal was to encourage,” she said.
Encourage isn’t a fluff word for Pat. She used it over and over during our phone conversation, and by the time I hit “end call,” some of Pat’s courage had come over the line.
Pat’s interest in writing began with Agatha Christie. When her husband, Douglas, began seminary, Pat was pregnant with their first child and spent hours at the local library to fill her days. She devoured mystery novels for a few weeks. Then she thought, “I could do this myself,” and enrolled in an evening writing course. With the help of her professor, she submitted her first nonfiction piece to Good Housekeeping in 1984. They published it. Later, she worked for two weeklies and then as a freelancer for the Chicago Tribune.
When she moved her writing supplies into the OP office in 2005, Clawson was not a diehard New Horizons fan. Probably like many of you, she would briefly scan the features each month and then see who she recognized in the news. Once on staff, that quickly changed. “One of my jobs was to proof the magazine,” she explained. “I had to read the whole magazine cover to cover.”
By reading each page, she began to “really appreciate” the different departments and their work. But when she started to write, she broke form.
“Because I was a reporter, I chose to report what other people say and think,” she said. Rather than explaining how to teach Sunday school in a small church or how much an intern is worth, Pat interviewed those who knew.
One of her most encouraging articles—based on the volume of feedback—was “Everyone Needs a Mark” from January 2015. In it, Pat told the story of OP members Darla and Steve Janstch, whose son has Down syndrome. After the article ran, one woman walked into the OP office to tell Pat about her own son with Down syndrome. In another OP church, Pat’s article was posted during the funeral of a man with Down. “Everyone Needs a Mark” is honest and hardly sensational. It describes Christ’s faithfulness shown in small ways, through the years, to one family. It’s true.
Being “true” is trendy. Kerri-Ann Cruse, social media and video coordinator for the OPC, pointed out on outwardopc.com that authenticity is highly prized among twenty- and thirty-somethings. “Millennials tend to search out not just friends, but also brands, companies, politicians, and churches that are ‘authentic,’” Cruse wrote. The OPC is careful to prescribe true doctrine. Providing true descriptions of life as a believer is important, too, especially for millennials.
Pat’s writing was authentic before it was cool. Her pieces were simple and direct. “I wanted to write articles not for pastors but for the people in the pews, so that they could be encouraged. I was really hoping to make New Horizons more for everyone,” Pat said.
These New Horizons pages may not be showy. But, as Pat demonstrated, they are—dare I say it—authentically yours.
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The author is managing editor of New Horizons. New Horizons, January 2020.