‘May the Wine of Friendship Never Run Dry’

Saying Goodbye to The Aquila Report

While all formal connections with the magazine have been severed with my resignation, I have agreed to serve as a consultant from time to time when I can help in some specialized way.  But with the continuing and new staff, it looks like the future is on an upward course for the magazine in the future, which makes leaving much easier.

 

There are some staff changes taking place at The Aquila Report; one involves my resignation as Executive News Editor.  I realize that when major changes happen to any organization, it is better for everyone to know exactly why the decision was made so they don’t have to speculate.

(Of course I am not so naïve that I don’t expect some rumors anyway, but please be assured what you are reading here IS the straight scoop!)

Explaining why I am resigning is best understood when you know a little about my personality and, in particular, how I got started with The Aquila Report to begin with.

Like most folks who spend a career in the military, my 22 1/2 years of service in the U. S. Navy resulted in serving at 15 different commands (ships or stations), not to mention 6 different education/training assignments.  The work assignments were as short as 4 months and as long as 30.  The school assignments were as short as 9 weeks and as long as 18 months.  Needless to say, I moved around a lot.

And that’s one of the reasons I thrived in the Navy. I really like change!  The result has been that throughout my ministry I found myself seeking change.  If not in location, then in focus.  Which is probably the main reason I ended up doing church revitalization work after retiring from the Navy in 1985.

But even while I was in the Navy, I would always volunteer for ‘collateral duties’ along with my primary ones.  I played, coached, and umpired softball (took one ship’s team to the Atlantic Fleet finals!)  I worked at Alcohol Rehab Centers in San Diego and Newport.  I served as part-time Interim Pastor for several churches.  And I even edited two overseas station newspapers, which is where I began to enjoy journalism.

When I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (actually, my certificate says NPC for National Presbyterian Church, the original name of the PCA), my first ‘collateral’ was election to the Christian Education and Publications (CE/P) Committee (serving my fifth term right now).  And, as a committee member, I worked hard to get a denomination magazine, The Messenger, up and running. Afterwards, those news duties were transferred to the Administrative Committee (AC) due to funding shortage at CE/P.

I then came up with an idea for an on-line magazine for the AC, raised the startup funding for PCANEWS.COM, worked with the IT people to design it, and then sold enough advertising commitments to keep it solvent.  When Dominic Aquila was hired as Editor during that process, it began a great friendship.  Shortly after his arrival in Atlanta, I stepped down.

Most of you know that changes at the AC led to the shutting down of PCANEWS.COM and moving to the new byFaith online and in print.  During that time Dominic moved to Colorado Springs to serve full time as President of New Geneva Seminary.

In 2008, I was in the middle of a two-year stint as Interim Pastor at Draper’s Valley Presbyterian Church in Virginia.  One of our deacons was a part-time web developer, and we chatted a bit about web-based magazines (there had been a lot of changes since my PCANEWS.COM days).

About the same time I had lunch with longtime friend and journalism guru extraordinaire Joel Belz in Asheville (where my mother-in-law had lived).  In that conversation we discussed the lack of much hard news available about the PCA and about past days when the weekly Presbyterian Journal had such great effect in getting news into the hands of regular church members.

To make a long story short, I picked up the phone one day shortly thereafter and asked Dominic if he wanted to be part of an independent web-based magazine with news about the PCA along with her smaller sisters.  I suggested the name ‘The Aquila Report’ (yes, I was thinking about the Drudge Report, but only for the catchiness of the name, not for content model!).  Lo and behold, The Aquila Report was born, and we started in May of that year.

In order to have a readymade corporate structure, we started as a wholly owned subsidiary of my small publishing company (Metokos Press).  I served as Publisher and News Director, and Dominic from the very beginning was Editor in Chief.  At the outset funding was almost all by private investment. It wasn’t until 2010 that we were able to form a not-for-profit corporation, and blessed with a significant gift from a foundation, the corporation purchased The Aquila Report from Metokos Press.

At the outset I remained publisher, but as the work for the magazine grew, it was clear I could not continue all I was doing.  After a brief search, the Board invited Douglas Vos, a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Detroit, who had both IT and journalism skills, to serve as Publisher.  We also moved the framework for the website to its current structure on WordPress, which has greatly aided our publication needs.

Late last year, after 4 1/2 years of working with the magazine, it became clear to me that I needed to step back and to focus on my own small church revitalization ministry, which had fallen off greatly in both client churches and giving.  The first step back was to bring on a different News Editor, Rachel Miller, while I remained as Executive News Editor with limited daily attention to the site.

By God’s grace, the site has grown tremendously of the past three months, topped by having 10,000+ site visitors on numerous days in recent weeks.  It was clear to me that it was a great time to step away and devote the majority of my time to Metokos Ministries, developing a new website and marketing campaign.  (Perhaps the folks at The Aquila Report will share some details about that as a future news story!)

So – as you can easily see – I love to see things get started (or restarted), get healthy, and then move on.  To use an urban cliché of recent years, I guess ‘that’s the way I roll!’

While all formal connections with the magazine have been severed with my resignation, I have agreed to serve as a consultant from time to time when I can help in some specialized way.  But with the continuing and new staff, it looks like the future is on an upward course for the magazine in the future, which makes leaving much easier.  I am now free to be just a free-lance writer (NOT a blogger), and perhaps you’ll see my by-line from time to time.

When I sat down to write this farewell, I was trying to think of a title.  I love Broadway musicals and started looking online for some ‘farewell’ songs from those scores.  I settled on a line from the farewell of Les Mis, with which I give a virtual toast to the folks at The Aquila Report: ”May The Wine of Friendship Never Run Dry.”

Don K. Clements is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, living in the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia.  He is an Affiliate Evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship and is the Founder and Director of Metokos Ministries.

[Editor’s note: When Don Clements submitted his resignation The Aquila Report Board saw that he could not be talked out of it, so the Board received his resignation with regret and thanksgiving for his faithful service to us the church at large. The Board also asked Don to continue to be available to us as a consultant, which he readily agreed to do. We wish him well as he refocuses on assisting churches with revitalizing their ministries. If your church needs guidance in renewing its ministry and vision, we commend Don to you as a ministry consultant who is equipped to assist you.]

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