of the United Methodist Publishing House at the New House Commons/John Dickins House Dedication; July 28, 2015
While I have been away on Renewal Leave, I have shared a variety of material from various parts of the United Methodist Church. For the past 11 years it has been my joy and honor to serve on the Board of the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH). The UMPH does not receive any apportionment money (put differently it must be physically self-supporting). Few industries are under as deep a threat and wrestling with as great a change as the publishing industry during the opening decades of the 21st Century. The UMPH has been incredibly well led by President and Publisher Neil Alexander. Recently the old downtown facility was sold, and this July the UMPH relocated to a new site in Nashville (at a great financial benefit and cost savings). With permission I share excerpts of remarks made by President and Publisher Neil Alexander.
“Perhaps it all started to gel when Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, first showed his deep conviction about the importance of learning, thoughtful discourse, and a disciplined life of devotional reading and prayer.
“It cannot be that the people should grow in grace unless they give themselves to reading,” he said.
And he added, “A reading people will always be a knowing people.”
Perhaps things started to mesh in 1789 when John Dickins was named the first steward, or when three branches of the Methodist family decided in 1939 to join forces and establish a publishing house in Nashville.
Or maybe things came together in October 1954 when the board authorized erection of the new five-story Nashville office building at Demonbreun and Eighth Avenue, South, with a budget of nearly two and a half million dollars. The 350 employees moved in over a period of three weeks, starting on July 12, 1957.
That move set us in place to reap the benefits when several years ago our real estate advisor explained that with the new Music City Center being built across the street, there was a possibility that developers would be interested in our property.
… And step-by-step (and after maddening delays), our new place for our new work took on form—turning what was an elusive dream into a reality. And this result simply could not have come about without the many, many staff who have taken on special assignments and helped in obvious and often unseen but important ways at every turn.
… All around us is evidence that the outcomes have been delightful and encouraging. There are clear signs that our new house is a place people want to be; a place to invest their minds, hearts, and labor; and a setting from which we will reach out to serve more people in more places.
The enthusiasm about the new space has been palpable. We’ve seen staff in every department show great patience, flexibility, and appreciation for the new offices.
The notice went out to all staff and read in part:
Yes, this is it! The long awaited, the much talked of—the seriously doubted—is HERE! On Friday afternoon . . . the exodus begins. It took us 53 years to get to this point, and the move itself won’t be accomplished overnight. . . . You may need something right away that is packed in a box that somehow got put somewhere else. . . . Above all, keep your sense of humor.
The funny thing is this: That notice was sent in 1957 when the house moved to the Eighth Avenue, South location.
It might have just as easily been written 58 years later when we began moving staff in stages from the old house to the New House Commons! We are indebted to all of the folks listed on the acknowledgments page in your program …
So the evidence is mounting. This is not only a New House Commons and a new work space; it is a new day with great possibilities and prospects.
- A place where people feel connected to each other, to creation, to God, and to all those across the world whom we might yet serve
- A new house that our colleagues experience as a place for fresh start, a state-of-the-art facility, full of possibilities
- A place for creativity and faithful service
- A place to imagine new ways to reach more people in more places
A lot of elements and events gave us signs that things were starting to gel; that 225 years of history and God’s providence had brought us to this place, and that by God’s grace we are about to use our life at this new house to do a new thing.
It seems we are poised, ready to join forces and serve with excitement and ingenuity, empathy and insight; ready to reach more people in more places with quality services and resources that help them come to know and deepen their knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, learn to love God, and choose to serve God and neighbor. …”
I close these excerpts of President Alexander’s moving address with my own addition. It is tempting to bemoan the fate of 21st Century Christianity (postmodern, post-Christian, etc.). It is tempting (indeed easy!) to be capture by the distress the United Methodist Church is currently facing over controversial issues which threaten to splinter us. However, admit all the chaos of our times. God in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is truly doing a new thing! – JML
“Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness” (Isaiah 443:19).