What is Connections?
Connections is a four-page letter written and published since 1992 by Barbara Wendland, a lay United Methodist.
How many people get Connections?
I don’t know. For more than 20 years, I sent several thousand copies monthly by U.S. mail, but I no longer send any in that way. Currently I send about 2300 regularly by e-mail. Since 1998 I’ve also been putting each issue of Connections on this website, and many people get Connections regularly from it. In addition, many readers tell me they regularly forward Connections to friends by e-mail or make copies and distribute them to a Sunday School class, study group, or group of friends. I have no way of knowing how many people who aren’t on my list get Connections in these ways.
Who helps you?
Often my daughter reads a draft and suggests changes. However, I do everything else myself: all the writing plus maintaining my website and mailing list (which, by the way, I never give or sell to anyone); and replying to most of the responses I receive.
Doesn’t this take a huge amount of time?
Quite a bit, but much less now than in earlier years when I was snail-mailing several thousand copies each month and having to stick labels on all of those.
May I make copies of Connections and distribute them to a group, use a quote from it in something I’m writing, or put a link to your website on mine?
Yes, I’d be delighted for you to do that. Connections is not copyrighted, and I don’t make money from it—quite the opposite. I want it to reach as many interested people as possible, so I appreciate all the help anyone wants to give me. All I ask is that if you copy or quote, you say where the quoted or copied material came from.
Where do you get the pictures you use?
I have several large collections of clip-art that I’ve accumulated over the years. I’ve bought most of these from computer stores but a few from church publishing sources. Also, I sometimes use free clip art from the Internet. I have a couple of software programs with which I can create or revise clip-art in certain formats.
How do you write Connections?
I use Adobe PageMaker software to compose the issue on my computer and to convert it to a PDF file (Adobe’s “Portable Document Format”). Then I e-mail that file and my current mailing list to the offices of the D. L. Dykes, Jr. Foundation (faithandreason.org), which generously does the e-mailing for me. I also put the PDF file onto this website, which I maintain using SquareSpace software. I use a database software program called Alpha Five, or more recently Microsoft Excel, to store my mailing list.
When does my subscription expire?
I don’t operate a subscription system. I want to reach the most churchgoers that I can reach, especially those in decision-making positions, and my cost now is minimal now that I don’t send issues by U.S. Mail. I pay most of the cost myself, as a contribution toward something that I believe needs doing and that I’m fortunate enough to be able to do. I pay it entirely from personal funds, and it isn’t tax-deductible for me.
Are readers’ contributions tax-deductible for them?
No, because I’m just an individual, not an organization of any kind.
Do you get many responses?
Yes, and that’s one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of Connections for me. I answer nearly all of the responses, except occasionally when a lot stack up while I’ve been away on a trip or gotten too far behind for some other reason. The only unenjoyable aspect of getting responses is getting occasional attacks that are sent anonymously. I can’t take seriously anything that a letter-writer isn’t willing to put his or her name on. But fortunately I get these very rarely.
How do you keep thinking of topics?
That’s usually the easiest part of doing Connections. I read a lot about church-related topics, simply because I love to read and these topics interest me. My reading, my conversations and correspondence with Connections readers and other churchgoers or dropouts, and my attendance at church-related gatherings continually bring to mind topics I want to write about.
Why do you write Connections?
Partly because doing it helps to feed my hunger for interaction with kindred spirits and for challenging mental activity, a hunger that I don’t find much food for elsewhere. I write also because I believe that bringing these subjects and these viewpoints to the attention of more church members is something that needs doing and isn’t being done very widely elsewhere, and that it is what God calls and enables me to do, at least for the foreseeable future. Also, I find that although there are a lot of people “out there” whose views and understanding of the Bible and Christianity are similar to mine, most of us feel alone. We sometimes feel, too, that there must be something wrong with us because we don’t hear others expressing similar views. A big reason for my writing Connections is that I want to keep these thinking people reassured that they’re not alone, that many of their observations are accurate, and that the church needs to hear from them.
Why don’t you write about the United Methodist Church apportionment system and other UMC topics?
As a lifelong UMC member I’m of course especially concerned about the UMC, but similar issues also confront other mainline denominations, so these issues need attention throughout the church, not just in any one denomination. Besides, my mailing list includes members of at least twelve denominations, as well as some non-churchgoers, and I assume that those who aren’t in the UMC wouldn’t be very interested in reading about subjects that pertain only to the UMC. Also, I don’t write about the financial side of the church because, although I know it’s important, it’s not an area in which I have much interest, experience, or ability.
Why don’t you write more about the many good things the church does?
Because I find that those are very thoroughly covered in official church publications. I don’t feel any need to spend time, effort, and money duplicating what’s so available there. I wholeheartedly agree that my denomination and others do many good things, but my purpose is to make people aware of concerns that I think need attention and that aren’t often written about elsewhere, especially in publications that lay churchgoers read.