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Presbyterian Writers Guild Board

President: John Underwood

Past-President and Treasurer: Bill Lancaster

Membership Secretary: Duane Sweep

Recording Secretary:
Jerry Van Marter

Corporate Agent:
Kathy Bostrom

Newsletter Editor:
Eva Stimson

Other Board Members:
Joseph Berry
Cathy Chisholm
Jane Hines
Jack Haberer
Stephen McCutchan
Emily Enders Odom
Barry Shepherd
Martha Evans Sparks
Janet Tuck
Dee Wade

The Writer
October 2013 Edition
Facebook group: Presbyterian Writers Guild

PWG board okays summer internship grant

Jameson-Hines scholarship will support Rachel Shussett's work with PC(USA) communication office


By Jerry L. Van Marter

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) board of directors has approved a $3,000 grant from the Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund to support a summer internship in 2014 for Rachel Shussett.


Shussett, a student at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, was approved for a 2013 summer internship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Communication, supported by a $3,000 scholarship from the PWG, but the internship was cancelled when the communication office underwent a reorganization last January.


Office of Communication leaders Jerry Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service, Patrick Heery of Presbyterians Today, and Billie Healy of the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study have resurrected the internship and the PWG has renewed its financial commitment to the program. Shussett will divide her time writing for all three participating Office of Communication entities.


The Jameson-Hines Scholarship Fund was created by a bequest from Vic Jameson, the late former editor of Presbyterians Today, and an endowment created in honor of Jane Hines when she retired as communications director for the Synod of Living Waters and editor of its newspaper, The Voice. She currently serves on the PWG board of directors.


Scholarships are awarded to Presbyterian college or seminary students who have a demonstrated interest in writing for the benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to further their education or skills development.

From our president
John Underwood

In praise of puns


"Dennis sinned!" I aim that little palindrome as an accusation against John Dennis (dramatist, b. 1657) for the blasphemy of asserting, "A pun is the lowest form of wit."


I have invented a word for that sin. I blend paranoia with the academic word for a pun, paronomasia, to create  paronoiamasia


Yes, there are people who are paranoid about paronomasia, yet I celebrate the pun as wit of the highest order.


I admire the pun because it is biblical. Scripture is a prime source of jeu de mots, though the wordplay is usually lost in translation. Look at the elegant double pun of Isaiah 5:7: "He expected justice [mishpat], but saw bloodshed [mispach]; righteousness 
[tsedaqah], but heard a cry [tse'aqah]!"  That's powerful wordplay. 


I admire the pun because its humor is not about attacking anyone. Punning uses words to make fun of words, not of people. If a pun occasionally attacks someone, the point is not the attack, but the wit of the wordplay. A schoolgirl skewered me that way at my ordination, quipping, "All they did was install another John."


I admire the pun because it is so concise. If "brevity is the soul of wit," as Shakespeare claims, the bard himself shows how terse a form of wit the pun can be. In Romeo and Juliet, when the fun-loving Mercutio is fatally stabbed in a duel, he wryly observes, "Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man." 


Fie on John Dennis! Fie on paronoiamasia! Let those who are low-minded make fun of ethnicities or tell shaggy dog stories; I will celebrate the high art of the pun, even at the risk of being summoned to court and ordered to pay (dare I say it?) 
punative damages. 


Using Facebook in the Church
By Anita Coleman

"For the lover of words nothing is better than writing small," wrote John Underwood in "The Joy of Writing Small" in the March 2013 edition of The Writer. Cell phone texts, tweets on Twitter, and Facebook posts are also eminently suitable media for writing small.


Facebook has become the number-one social-media platform in the world, used by 665 million people. Facebook fosters personal relationships. People use Facebook to share updates about themselves and their families. Clubs, churches, and social groups post pictures of their get-togethers. People band together around their affinities and interests, and school, college, and neighborhood friendships are renewed.


Facebook is thus an excellent way to stay connected with the people in your congregation. Used wisely, interactions on Facebook have the potential to strengthen faith and increase our awareness of God's work in the world. Here are some ways for both new and experienced users to build connections and strengthen the church on Facebook:


* Join Facebook, if you are not already on it. Go to


* Join the Facebook group or Like the page of your church, presbytery, PC(USA), and relevant subgroups.


* Browse the News Feed on these pages. If you see the name of someone you would like to know better, send a friend request by clicking on the name and using the Add Friend button. You can also Search for the names of your friends, elders, mission partners, pastors, and church staff in the Search box at the top of your home page. Add them as friends. Once they accept, you will start seeing their updates in your news feed. Like their posts (status updates). Add encouraging comments. Facebook is an ongoing virtual party. Participate with scintillating small talk, staying authentic and true to yourself but remembering that we have a distinctive voice, the voice of Jesus Christ. Our presence on Facebook can strengthen our faith connections and heal our communities with the hope and joy of Christ.


* Post regular Status Updates of your own. They can be relational or informative, or even ask a question that builds community. What is happening that you'd like to share? Did a particular worship song touch you? Is the women's group starting a new Bible study? Status updates can be posted on your own page as well as on the Timelines of the church page/groups you have joined. Tag the update by using @name. Tagging increases participation. For example:


"I LOVED the "Build Your Kingdom Here" song that was introduced in worship this Sunday!"

"Pastor Barbara will be teaching women's Bible study, Sept. 26-Nov. 15, book of Ruth. All are welcome."

"@Bill birthday today and I am remembering, with much gratitude, the first time we served together on the homeless ministry @churchname."


* Use the Share button that is below every status update. If a friend, church, or other group posted something that is worthy of a wider audience, be generous and Share it. This is how conversations with old and new friends can become imaginatively aligned and relationships strengthened, forming a vibrant sense of community across space and time.


* Experienced users can create Pages or Groups. Pages are usually created for churches or ministries. Groups bring together people with mutual interests. For example, Women's Ministry and Youth Ministry would usually be Pages; Men's Softball Team, Book Club, Gardening are usually Groups. Recruit a team (two to five people) to share the administrative chores of posting photos, news, announcements, and inspirational items regularly, thinking of this also as ministry. Photos and creatively designed Photo Albums - of church staff at work, worship services, church conferences and retreats - are excellent ways to get people engaged and keep them interacting. Create themed albums and Tag the people in the photos and albums. (Before posting photos of children and youth, make sure you have the permission of parents.) One of the most popular photo albums I created was a series of the setting sun over the ocean, which I posted with the Phos Hilaron prayer (an ancient Christian prayer used in vespers); it gained me many new friends in the church!


* Events are another great way to create excitement and buzz. Rather than posting a status update that will show up only on one timeline, create an Event for open church get-togethers and meetings. Invite everybody and allow friends to invite their friends too, spreading the word to a wider audience.

By using open groups, public pages, and public events on Facebook, churches can change the nature of existing relationships, open new forms of ministry, and strengthen ties among members. They can reach out to the de-churched and un-churched in the community as well. By writing small on Facebook, we draw attention to God's activity in the church and beyond, helping to build Jesus' kingdom on earth.

Facebook Help is the best resource for step-by-step instructions on all of the tips suggested. Look up the bold words above in the FB Help Center.


Anita Coleman worships at Irvine Presbyterian Church, part of Los Ranchos Presbytery in Southern California. She is also the author of Casa Charis: A Daybook of Freedom, a collection of 31 meditations on Galatians and Garden of Grace: A Daybook of Faith and Healing, a collection of 30 photo-reflections on Ephesians. Follow or friend her on Facebook: 


Member updates

Carole Marshall, a new member living in Port Townsend, Washington, writes nonfiction and inspirational fiction. Her most recent novel is Reading to Jane, and she is currently working on a nonfiction project. For more information, check out her website:


J. Phillips Noble, of Decatur, Georgia, announces publication of his new book Words and Images That Seep into the Soul. The 336-page book is a collection of poems and reflections he has written as well as quotations that have been significant in his ministry. The book is divided into 16 sections on themes such as life, Christian experience, faith, providence, adversities, grace/forgiveness, and death/eternal life. Columbia Theological Seminary gave a copy of Noble's book to each member of the 2013 graduating class. The book is available from Wipf and Stock and Amazon or from the author:; (404) 378-1373; J. Phillips Noble, 2610 McKinnon Drive, Decatur, GA 30030.


Martha Jane Petersen, a new member and retired Presbyterian minister living in Black Mountain, North Carolina, has published a new book, Imaging My Inner Fire: Finding My Path Through Creating Art. This memoir, she says, "describes my convoluted journey at age 60 in becoming a self-taught artist, a creator of improvisational art quilts with spiritual themes." The book can be ordered from Amazon or at Petersen's website:


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The Writer is published occasionally by the Presbyterian Writers Guild. Editor: Eva Stimson