Surrounded by support

During my first few months as the editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, I was often asked questions that I had no idea how to answer. What are your themes for our 2022 print issues? What price do we want to set for reprints, classified ads, digital subscriptions? Can you enlarge the font? Should we stick with Constant Contact for email newsletters or move to Mailchimp? How do you want to respond to the man lauding capital punishment in our Facebook feed? Can you fix the CVS that is connected to the AWS for PBO’s new ICL?

The best, most effective leaders are those who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, listen well and surround themselves with great people who will speak honestly and give solid advice. As the editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, I am surrounded by great people.

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve had an extraordinary amount of change in our staff in the past six months. Amy Pagliarella is our amazing new book review editor. She’s living the dream of every book lover because she gets free books mailed to her by publishers seeking reviews. Shani McIlwain is our new digital audience engagement manager who oversees our social media platforms. Shani’s an influencer and an entrepreneur with a talent for reading every room. I frequently find myself seeking Shani’s wisdom.

A Spirit-kissed moment led me to quickly hire Rose Schrott as our interim associate editor. Rose’s positive calm is the perfect counter to my anxious energy. Her fresh perspective, new ideas and love of a deadline make her a huge asset to our team. Renee Westry is our new executive assistant (who really oversees us all). Renee manages a household of three young boys, so I knew she could handle us. Nikelle Johnson is our Richmond-based office assistant and a student at Union Seminary. She’s our trusted “keeper of the keys” at Outlook headquarters and enjoys searching drawer after drawer of Outlook archives to resource Throwback Thursdays. Leslie Scanlon, our award-winning and invaluable reporter, Jen Jones, our talented graphic designer, and Steve Law, who carefully and capably records our donations, are the only members of our staff who are not new!

Our Outlook staff works remotely across the country — Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Louisville, Waynesboro, Virginia, and Manchester, Connecticut. I live in Monmouth, Illinois, working from my home office that my daughter refers to as “Mommy’s cave.” But I’ve never felt alone in this job. The Outlook’s board members are incredibly supportive. My first six months have held chaotic moments when I have had to call on board members for advice or to write a lectionary reflection or to run another budget spreadsheet. These board members have always answered my calls and emails, ready and willing to help.

In this final issue of 2021, we’ve also listed page after page of individuals, churches and organizations who have donated to the Outlook in this past year. Simply put, we couldn’t keep doing what we do without these supporters. Our new digital age produces so much free content that small, independent publishers like the Outlook can’t survive on subscriptions and advertising dollars. We couldn’t be more grateful for our donors who support us in mission and ministry.

My son just finished his first season of running high school cross-country. I had so much fun traveling to races to cheer him on. I ran cross-country in high school and college, and it brought back great memories to stand amidst the tunnel of parents, siblings and team members to cheer and scream for the runners finishing each race. These cross-country finishes reminded me of the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12; the tunnel of supporters gathered to cheer for those who “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” The road before us here at the Outlook presents many obstacles and new challenges. But we are surrounded by great people who want to help, who want to see our staff succeed because they want the Presbyterian Outlook to succeed in our mission to resource and serve Christ’s church. For this support, for this great cloud of witnesses, I am profoundly grateful.


Teri McDowell Ott