SCOTTDALE, Pa. – After a 49-year run, Christian Living magazine will cease publication with its December issue – another casualty of the financial crisis at Mennonite Publishing House.
Christian Living has brought voices from across the Mennonite-Anabaptist spectrum to its readers since 1953, ranging from theologian John Howard Yoder and novelist Rudy Wiebe in its early days to more contemporary voices like Sarah Wenger Shenk and Michael Martin.
Levi Miller, an MPH vice president who oversaw the magazine, said the publication’s days had been numbered ever since the scale of the financial crisis became apparent.
“When the crisis emerged, it became very clear that any marginal publications would have to be discontinued, and Christian Living fell into that,” Miller said.
The magazine was most successful from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, Miller said, a time in which its circulation surged as high as 15,000.
Today, the magazine went out to a considerably smaller readership – about 3,500. Daniel Hertzler was editor of Christian Living during much of its heyday. Hertzler believes the Anabaptist world has become far too varied to have its needs and interests addressed by a single publication of Christian Living’s scope.
“It’s difficult to have people with such a varied interest get interested in a publication that tries to cover the whole thing,” Hertzler said.
Hertzler, who edited the magazine from 1960 to 1973, said it had always tried to cover a variety of issues, reflecting a Mennonite culture that was growing more urban and varied.
“By the time Christian Living came along, the long march off the farm had begun,” Hertzler said. “We were trying to cover a variety of people.”
One of the magazine’s highlights, he said, was a series it did during the 1960s on this variety, covering the broad array of Mennonite denominations in the Anabaptist family.
Miller recalled a similar series in the 1970s focusing on in-depth profiles of distinctly Mennonite communities, ranging from Johnstown, Pa., to a Mennonite enclave in Puerto Rico.
Sarah Kehrberg, the magazine’s present managing editor, believes the closing of Christian Living will leave a notable gulf amid Anabaptist publications, especially because of its focus on more literary projects instead of on church politics.
“It kind of had a unique slot there,” Kehrberg said. “It hasn’t been political as far as the Mennonite church is concerned, and I found that refreshing.”
During her two-and-a-half-year tenure, Kehrberg said she had especially enjoyed the family photo spreads that appeared in each issue in recent years.
“It was always enjoyable to get to know those people,” Kehrberg said. “It’s been a total joy to work on [Christian Living] and a privilege really.”
Despite the magazine’s unique voice and its place in MPH history – falling just a year shy of its own 50th anniversary – Miller said the demise of Christian Living came down to money.
“We were too fragile economically to sustain it here,” Miller said. “Most magazines of this type are sustained by deeper pockets.”
This article first appeared in Mennonite Weekly Review. Used by permission.