Caleb Hennington, Digital Content Editor

I thought a lot about what I would write for my first From the Editor column.

I thought about mentioning my background in journalism, how I’ve always loved writing and was inspired to pursue journalism thanks to my high school English teacher who encouraged me to go after something of which I had no prior experience.

I also thought about mentioning how although I did not grow up in the United Methodist Church, – I grew up in the Missionary Baptist Church, and then, later in college, attended Southern Baptist churches – I have garnered so much reverence for the UMC and its commitment to social justice, racial reconciliation, and living out biblical truths by showing Christ’s love to others.

I thought about mentioning how I was nervous about starting this position because, although I knew of the United Methodist Church, I did not know the inner workings of the church; the difference between clergy and laity, deacons and elders, bishops, district superintendents, boards, centers, The Way Forward, General Conference, Annual Conference, the Book of Discipline, and so on and so forth.

And then thoughts came to me about the new online magazine.

I thought about how we are changing up the format of the “Arkansas United Methodist” from a printed newspaper to a digital magazine, which, honestly, sounds scary to many people.

I understand that fear, and I know that change isn’t always the easiest idea to comprehend.

There’s a fear that we will not be honoring the rich 138-year history of the Arkansas United Methodist. That we are changing things up for the sake of change, and the quality of the reporting will drop with this new format.

As the new editor, barely a month into my job, I hear all of the critiques and I understand the concern.

But what I really want to share with you is not a message of fear and apprehension about a new direction for the “Arkansas United Methodist;” what I really want to talk about is hope, faith, and optimism.

Hope that the new format will be well received.

Faith that this is the right direction for the publication.

And optimism for the future of not only the “Arkansas United Methodist,” but for the United Methodist Church in general, that the church will remain intact, and continue to create vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.

In our debut issue, I believe that we are starting out on the right foot to accomplish those goals.

Our cover story is focused on the Rev. Maxine Allen, a legendary figure within the Arkansas Conference who was the first African-American woman to be ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church in Arkansas.

We also have a story about the Ozark Mission Project and some of the incredible work that the young volunteers have done for those in need all over Arkansas.

There are stories about the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, 200,000 Reasons, and, yes, even stories about books you should be reading and all of the fantastic farmer’s markets that can be found around the state!

The “Arkansas United Methodist” is starting a new chapter in its long and honorable history. And it’s a chapter that I hope you will join me in navigating.

Because, at the end of the day, this is not my “Arkansas United Methodist,” your “Arkansas United Methodist,” or even Bishop Mueller’s “Arkansas United Methodist.”

This is our “Arkansas United Methodist,” and we will write its story together.