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Archive for August, 2011

So yeah.  It’s been way too long since I continued the story.

I do have a good reason for the delay.  But I’m sort of ashamed of my reason.

After all my excitement over being able to finally get my hands on a copy of the First Lady’s magazine, and after blogging about it in what ended up to be a cliffhanger of sorts, I promptly went and misplaced the magazine.

Yes.  After all that, I lost my semi-purloined copy of the pastor’s wife’s magazine.  Right around the time I was going to blog about its actual contents.

I’m really not that messy of a housekeeper, either.  I think I may have been sitting here with the magazine, which may have gotten mixed up in a pile of newspapers which then went into the recycling bin in too much haste on trash day.  I’m not sure.  But I lost the magazine.  It’s been 8 months, and I don’t think I’m going to find it.  I’m also fairly sure that we’ll never get another chance to obtain a free copy…and I’m certainly not going to pay for a copy…so I guess I’ll have to describe the magazine from memory.

I’ll start by saying that my first impression was overwhelmingly positive, much more positive than I was expecting.  The magazine was a rather hefty glossy book, with a high-quality cover and lots of photos.  The layout was nice.  Naturally, I was disgusted by the cover photo.  I think the “First Lady” – what Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names on this blog) has taken to calling the pastor’s wife – has some sort of Oprah complex, as she has appeared on all the covers of the magazine since its initial release a few years ago.  This issue was no exception, although Mary Smith was joined by her oh-so-photogenic daughter-in-law and 1-year-old granddaughter.  They were all (as usual) exceptionally well-dressed, almost to the point of gaudiness.  The toddler granddaughter was decked out in a fucia and pink tutu.  The ultra-pricey local photographer that Living Word Church always uses for any picture involving the First Family did a great job of getting the catchlights in the eyes, particularly of the granddaughter.

The layout of the magazine was far more professional-looking than I was expecting.  Likewise the editing.  I’m kind of a stickler for that sort of thing, and I was impressed that Mary Smith had found someone who had been able to fix the inevitable grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors that happen when a bunch of under-educated people write articles.

The articles were, naturally, all written by the First Lady’s same old posse of favorites, with a couple of new faces thrown in, women who had arrived on the scene since we left Living Word some years back.  There were pieces on all the topics you’d expect to find in a Christian women’s magazine – a light devotional thought (written by Mary Smith, on the topic of how to create a cozy home, where she shared a bizarre and basically unbelievable story about going out to build a snowman with Pastor Smith); an article about home decorating; articles about fitness, food, and fashion; a column written by one of Living Word’s very favorite members, an attorney, in which she talked about some legal advice (my memory fails me on the precise subject); a multi-page fashion layout of mothers and daughters dressed to match; and a poem and an interview with Mary Smith.

As I said, the magazine was surprisingly hefty and seemed – at first perusal, anyway – to have quite a lot of substance.

But after I finished reading it, I realized that all the articles were basically the same.  Interestingly enough, they were all quite similar to Pastor Smith’s sermons, in the way that the authors would begin by stating some Bible verse or larger thought and then just sort of free-associate about the topic, often in a way that didn’t really make a point.

Ultimately, after I put the magazine down, I was left feeling mildly nagged by something I couldn’t quite define.

I know it’s not wrong, exactly, for the First Lady to have a magazine.  And I will hand it to Mary Smith and her minions – considering what they had to work with, in terms of literary expertise and so on, they did a remarkably good job of producing a good mock-up of a real ladies’ magazine.  The production values were high.  There was a surprising amount of content, in terms of words on the page.

But…

What’s interesting is that on Living Word’s website, under the tab for ministries, this magazine is now listed as the women’s ministry.  Yes, in other words, there aren’t any other real outreaches to women.  There isn’t much in the way of classes or ladies’ Bible studies.  Back in the day, when we were loyal and faithful members, the women’s ministry consisted of “Mary Events,” lavishly decorated luncheons or teas where Mary Smith would speak and there’d be a bunch of favors and gaudy centerpieces.  Theoretically, I guess, it was possible to socialize and have some real fellowship with the random women who might end up sitting at your table at one of those events.  But now?  Now, Living Word’s women’s ministry is reduced to a magazine?  A glossy fluff rag?

Does anyone else think this is really weird?  And un-churchlike?

Also, I wonder about the time and the energy that were no doubt poured into this publication.  Is a generic women’s magazine really needed?  It’s not like it’s ever going to get a circulation that goes much higher than 500 subscribers (or purchasers), if nearly every woman attending Living Word buys a copy (at $5 apiece).

(I also noticed, by the way, that at the back there was a large notice for anyone who might wish to advertise in the next issue of the magazine.  Interesting.)

In a way, the magazine might just be a good summation of Living Word Church’s women’s ministry.  So much of what went on was about image.  Mary Smith would only show up at church when she felt in top form, dressed to the nines, and ready to declare in her sugary-sweet voice that, “This is the best church in the world, and you’re about to listen to the best pastor in the world!”  There was very little connection among the members themselves, to one another.  It was all about being part of the Smith family’s audience.

In a way, the magazine is just a more concise and convenient way of distributing the desired glossy image, frozen on the high-quality shiny paper for all to see.

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