Bringing People Together

Published on: September 30, 2015

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I was flying back from Kansas City last November and my middle seat companion was a tall, athletic-looking man studying a sports agent’s manual. We began talking and he told me his name was Barry Gardner and that he’d played for the NFL for several seasons before suffering a career-ending injury. After that, he’d started his own company of sports agents which had become quite successful.

We continued our conversation and he asked me about my line of work. I replied that I was a Unity minister. In perhaps the best definition of our movement that I’ve ever heard (and I grew up in Unity), he said, “Oh, Unity! That means you bring people together.” With thanks to my friend Barry, bringing people together is the soul (and that’s not a misspelling) reason I write a newspaper column.

I’ve written a column for the Religion page of the Antelope Valley Press for nearly two years. It appears on Saturdays, about every three weeks, although over the past year, it’s been more often. There are currently three ordained ministers who write for the Religion page; one male Grace Reformed minister, one male Baptist minister—and me. In addition, there’s a weekly male columnist with an ultra-conservative viewpoint. In the chorus of outspoken conservative Christian voices on the Religion page, I am a single voice; the sole female writer and the only columnist with a progressive viewpoint.

The Antelope Valley Press is the largest-circulation daily newspaper in the Antelope Valley area. It is located in Palmdale, California. The newspaper’s editorial page is conservative in its political stance and has long been openly supportive of the Republican Party. This is California’s 21st district and it is often described as the most conservative district in the state. As an example, in this year’s election, the winner was elected by a 94.1% Republican majority. There was no Democratic Party candidate; the other votes cast for Democrats were write-ins.

The area is also religiously conservative and is home to several Christian conservative non-denominational mega-churches. I have served the only Unity spiritual community in the area for nearly 11 years. There is one other New Thought congregation in the area, but it has no minister.

Knowing all this, I approached my first assignment with gratitude for the opportunity and also a bit of curiosity about Spirit’s assignment for me. “This is going to be interesting,” I thought. As columnists we need to know our audience and at the same time, not be afraid to be different.

Getting Started

I began writing the column because a friend who knew the religion editor called him to recommend me. The editor then emailed me and said that he’d try me out for one column and after that he’d make a decision about an ongoing column. That was nearly two years ago.

Getting started may be easier than you imagine. If you would like to begin writing for your local paper, it does help to know someone who knows the editor. But if not, there are many local newspapers with a rotation of ministers in their community who write for them. In some communities, all spiritual communities are represented and many of the spiritual leaders take turns writing for the paper. You could begin by contacting the religion editor of your newspaper to find out about this rotation and to ask if you can be part of it.

Take Your Passion and Make it Happen

So what does one write about? Some editors assign topics or themes and others do not. Mine allows me the freedom to choose, sometimes with unintended humorous results. Last Easter the headline on my column was “Go Beyond the Cross and Live the Resurrected Life.” Directly opposite it was the Christian conservative’s column. His headline was “Don’t Forget about the Cross.”

You can write about large social issues facing our country. I wrote “With Liberty and Justice for All?” after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

You can write about controversial issues. After the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality in June, many spiritual leaders in my community were outraged. Letters to the Editor abounded, and so an additional columnist was given space on the Religion page to express his Biblical reasons for disagreeing with this decision. My article was “Love Is Love Is Love.”

You can write about whatever you yourself are working with. Any column that is relevant to daily living will be appreciated by your readers. As an example, for a column in early June, I wrote about being mindful and the benefits of mindfulness.

Whatever you write, write to bring people together. Write with your heart. Draw on Infinite Intelligence for ideas. Use your own unique voice, and above all, remember that you do it all for God. As columnists and ministers—or in whatever line of work we are engaged—we work for the Universe. God gives us the ideas as well as the words to express them so that when we write, the Whole Spirit will be the true communicator in and through each word.

Make Your Editor’s Job Easier

Editors are very busy people. Most of them have more than one job responsibility. It’s a good idea to strive to make your editor’s job easier. Here are a few suggestions:

  • There’s no small stuff. Keep your column to your assigned length. (Mine is 800 words.)
  • Do your fact-checking. Give credit to all quotations. Edit your column to be sure there are no grammatical, spelling or syntax errors.
  • Write your own 6-8 word headline. Your editor may or may not use it, but a good lead will tell him what your column is about and will save him time.
  • Be early with your piece. If your deadline is Thursday noon, have it to your editor by Wednesday.
  • When you submit your column via email, include a sentence to say thank you for the opportunity of writing for the paper. Editors like that.

We live in a time of information overload; of words, words, and more words. As a columnist, you have the opportunity to write a piece that is more than words; one that reaches beyond the boundaries of the surface mind and into the soul; one that inspires and elicits the reader’s innate wisdom. Unity is the heart and nature of this vast Universe. Let us use our words to bring people together, not only with one another and with all forms of life, but with themselves.

Nancy Oristaglio
Rev Nancy J Oristaglio is Sr Minister, Unity of Antelope Valley, Palmdale, Calif. She has served on the Southwest regional board and Standards Ministry Team. She is on the board of directors of the Unity Alhambra Foundation and writes a column for the religion page of Antelope Valley Press.

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