Transition News from Word and World

From Michael Boucher

When Word and World first began in 2001, the dream was to bring together the seminary, sanctuary, streets and soil in a traveling alternative seminary in order to fill a gap that so many had been noticing.  Word and World stood in the traditions of ‘church as movement’ and movement work as church and sought ways to the bring stories, practices and histories of liberation into deep and meaningful dialogue with our rich faith tradition.

Originally Word and World focused on creating week long (or multi-day) “schools” where participants would create a movement village and learning collaborative at various places across the United States to witness the local stories of struggle, faith and liberation as they were lived out in that context. 

The work morphed into smaller gatherings over the years that took up specific topics and we created a year-long mentoring program to try to strengthen next generation leaders. All along we kept looking for ways to support faith-based movement and activist work.  And like any journey, the path was not always clear.

A few times along the way, we wondered if Word and World had run its course – doing what it had set out to do and catalyzing so many critical connections that took root all around this country.  Each time we wondered if this might be the time to let go, the Spirit seemed to say, “Not yet…”

We found ourselves at another crossroads recently.

In 2018, as our board was discerning Word and World’s future, an invitation emerged from Geez magazine. For those who may not be familiar with Geez (and I was not), it is a quarterly, non-profit, ad-free, print magazine about social justice, art, and activism in both Canada and the US.  The editors of Geez were looking for a new partnership that could sustain the magazine, broaden its readership (it was located in Canada at the time) and help Geez speak to wider movement work.

Geez’s mission aligned incredibly well with Word and World’s.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that Geez does in print what Word and World tried to do in person!  And so we started talking about what this partnership might look like.

In 2019, the Word and World board approved Geez magazine as being a part of the organization, and the Geez office transitioned to Detroit, MI in April of that year.  Word and World board member Lydia Wylie-Kellermann assumed the role of editor of the magazine and a small staff in Detroit began to publish from there.

In early 2021, the Word and World board decided to turn our operations over to Geez.  Over the past few months, we have started to make provisions for Geez to assume the infrastructure and finances of Word and World, and Geez is assembling a new board that will be welcomed in May/June of this year.

Some key players from Word and World’s history will remain intimately connected to Geez.  People like Kate Foran and Steve Borla (Word and World’s first interns back in the early 2000’s in Greensboro!) will be part of the new board, and Lydia Wylie-Kellermann remains editor of the magazine.  We feel encouraged and excited that the Word and World legacy will live on through Geez, and we’re incredibly hopeful about where all this is headed.

As with any transition, the change brings up some grief and a lot of gratitude as well.

For many of us, Word and World changed us in profound ways.  What happened at Word and World events didn’t happen anywhere else, and we felt part of a deep tradition of faith-based movement work in ways that we may not have before.  We studied together, laughed together and cried together along the way, and we will miss the profound solidarity and encouragement the Word and World circle provided.

We cannot say “thank you” deeply enough to so many people who made Word and World happen over the years.  We owe a big debt of gratitude to the founding officers and original board members who saw the organization through its initial years and prepared it to get this far.  We say thank you to all those who gave time, talent, treasure and prayer over the decades to make sure that Word and World could keep offering a space for alternative theological reflection.  And we are grateful to all those who participated in Word and World programs through the years.

As now as Word and World becomes Geez, we ask that you remain with us in this transition.  Subscribe to Geez.  Be part of their work.  Support the community they are building.  Because what Geez is currently animating is the work of Word and World.  And just as the post-resurrection Jesus was recognizable to his followers – but in a new way – so too will Word and World be recognized in Geez.

I cannot say how grateful I am to have been the chair of the World and World board and how much I appreciate the many years that I have been with this organization. I would not be who I am today without it.  I am incredibly excited about this new venture and fully trust and support the Geez leadership to continue to provide a prophetic and pastoral space of hope, beauty, and power in this world. 

With gratitude and love,

Mike Boucher, Chair

Word and World

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