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A time to praise the stellar work of my colleagues

From a special project on churches closing to in-depth coverage of war in Ukraine, Christian Chronicle journalists excel.

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BETHESDA, Md. The sun hasn’t risen yet as I type this.

It’s still early at the Washington, D.C.-area hotel where I’m staying.

I’m attending the annual meeting of the Religion News Association. Because of the pandemic, it’s the professional organization’s first in-person conference in 2½ years.

I first joined RNA more than two decades ago when I served as religion editor for The Oklahoman, the daily newspaper in Oklahoma City. 

Later, I remained a member when I covered religion for The Associated Press, based first in Nashville, Tenn., and later in Dallas. 

And since joining The Christian Chronicle staff in 2005, I’ve maintained my RNA ties.

My involvement with RNA connects me with many of the nation’s top religion writers. These journalists work for outlets such as AP, Religion News Service and the Washington Post.

But here’s a secret: The quality of journalism done here at the Chronicle rivals that of any of those publications. 

God has blessed this newspaper — which endeavors to cover real news that honors God — with an incredibly talented team of full-time staff members and part-time contributors.

All one has to do to recognize that is turn the pages of the April print edition of the Chronicle.

In this issue, we launch the first part of our new series on “Where have all the churches gone?” 

Our correspondent Cheryl Mann Bacon leads that special project and reports on the front page from Manchester, Tenn., where she attended the final Sunday services of the Ragsdale Church of Christ.

Cheryl served for 20 years as chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Abilene Christian University in Texas. In retirement, she has become one of the Chronicle’s most prolific reporters.

She’s a freelancer — not a full-time staff member — but we’ve come to depend on her. Her stories always are thorough and insightful.

Another big story in this issue is the war in Ukraine. 

When Russia launched its attack on that Eastern European nation, I asked Erik Tryggestad, the Chronicle’s president and CEO and its longtime international reporter, if he ever had reported from Ukraine.

“Four times,” he replied.

I should have remembered that.

Church members take shelter in the basement of the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, as planes fly overhead.

Church members take shelter in the basement of the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, as planes fly overhead.

Our special report on Ukraine features an in-depth piece by Erik explaining why Ukraine matters to Churches of Christ. It’s exceptional, as you’d expect from a journalist who has reported firsthand from Ukraine so many times. 

Along with Erik’s coverage, our correspondent Calvin Cockrell explains how churches in the United States are finding ways to support Ukraine. Calvin, who earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Alabama, joined our team on a part-time basis last year. He writes stories and keeps our social media channels updated with fresh content. Besides his Chronicle work, he serves as the young adults minister for the North Tuscaloosa Church of Christ in Alabama.

Another crucial member of our news team is Audrey Jackson, the Chronicle’s associate editor. 

We hired Audrey this past summer after she graduated from Harding University in Searcy, Ark., with a degree in journalism. You may recall my column from several months ago introducing her. She’s an amazing writer and photographer (see her pictures this month from the Affirming the Faith conference in Oklahoma City).

Finally, you’ll notice the byline of Hamil Harris as you turn the Chronicle’s pages this month.

A veteran journalist who spent two decades with the Washington Post, Hamil teaches high school journalism and preaches for the Glenarden Church of Christ in Maryland. After the recent death of renowned evangelist Eugene Lawton, Hamil bought a train ticket and caught up with Lawton’s grieving congregation, the Newark Church of Christ in New Jersey.

One thing I love about Hamil: Every time we talk on the phone, he ends the conversation with a prayer — for me, my family and, yes, the work of the Chronicle.

Hamil is a wonderful writer and preacher, and I’m honored to call him a friend. I’ve enjoyed catching up with him at the RNA meeting.

Speaking of which, sunlight is poking through my hotel room’s curtain. That’s a sure sign to stop typing and prepare for the day.

Thank you for reading and supporting the Chronicle. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Audrey Jackson Cheryl Mann Bacon Erik Tryggestad Hamil Harris Inside Story journalism National Opinion oppression and religion Religion News Association Top Stories Washington D.C. Washington National Cathedral

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