The Rev. Sue Washburn has been in the media field longer than she’s been in the ministry field. Because of that, it should take no one by surprise that her latest career move combines both of her passions.
Sue, the part-time pastor at Reunion Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant, PA, has taken on the role as interim editor for Presbyterians Today magazine. The national publication, which is printed every other month, is a general interest magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with a circulation of 43,000. Sue is hoping to put her imprint on the publication quickly.
“I am really excited to begin this opportunity,” she said. “I feel like there are so many good things that happen in our churches that we are not hearing about. One of my goals is to celebrate ways that the Spirit is working in the church. I think sometimes we lose our focus when we start to think about who’s not there or what’s not happening and we fail to see the good things that are happening. God does not give up on us. God is still present. Sometimes we just have to re-adjust what we are looking for and how we see God in order to see what God is doing among us.”
Sue has been writing a monthly column for Presbyterians Today called “Small Matters: Stories of mustard seeds and mountains” – quaint stories about things going on in her small-town church – for the past year and has been a contributor to the publication for over 10 years. When the editor of the magazine, Patrick Heery, announced he was stepping down from his position to take a call in a church, Sue reached out to him and said she was willing to help with the transition from the Pittsburgh area. A short time later, she was asked to be interim editor and she accepted.
Sue has been told her stint as interim editor will last anywhere from three months to over a year. Regardless of how long her job lasts, she’s looking forward to making the most of the opportunity.
“I want it to be a magazine that’s relevant to what churches are going through today,” she said. “As a pastor, I understand some of the challenges that churches are facing from the ground level as opposed to an intellectual approach or an academic approach. I’m kind of a boots-on-the-ground kind of person who’s able to balance the thoughts about what the church is, what the church needs and what is challenging the church.
“I think what I bring is a unique vision from the church point of view.”
Because Presbyterians Today magazine is circulated to different parts of the country, it will travel to areas with different views on certain topics. That makes what Sue and future editors do quite difficult.
“A challenge for any national magazine is balancing the interests and needs of the very diverse population,” she said. “We have churches in the Northeast and churches in the Southwest that may be facing different challenges. Each church individually is called to something slightly different in terms of serving God and being the body of Christ in the world.”
Sue has been part of the media since college. She started out in radio as a talk show producer for Pittsburgh-based KDKA and later became a news reporter and morning show co-host but walked away from that career when she started a family. She was also an English teacher for two years while juggling duties at home but gave that up to raise her children. When her kids got older, she began freelance writing and also dabbled in writing curriculums, which led her into seminary school and becoming a preacher.
It’s a path that is no doubt Heaven-sent and one that Sue is more-than-happen to walk down.
“I always sensed that God works through holy unrest,” she said, “where we feel sort of a call to something different or something new. Since my youngest daughter has graduated from high school, I knew it was time for me to add something new to my current ministry, I just wasn’t sure what that something was. I had been exploring some volunteering when I heard that this position came open.
“Since I worked pretty closely with the editor I said in an email that if I can help out during the transition let me know. And a couple of weeks later I had a job. What started as an off-the-cuff comment ended up as a new call.”