Interview with Vernon Chandler,
After more than 25 years of active involvement with the Universalist Herald, Vernon Chandler is resigning as a member of the Board. We talked to Vernon about his many years of service to the Herald and the community it served and represents.] (H = Universalist Herald & V = Vernon Chandler)
H) Vernon, how long have you been involved with this magazine?
V) Good question! Let me respond with a quote from the Preface to my 2009 book BEYOND THE GRAVE: LOVE AND IMMORTALITY:
My association with the Universalist Herald dates back to May 1984 when I met Editor Haynie Summers at Harmony Universalist Church in Senoia, Georgia priorto my departure for a one year tour of duty as an Army Chaplain in the Republic of Korea. It was at this particular Sunday morning service that I met William H.“Bill” Balkan who was currently serving as President of the Georgia Universalist Convention.
My friend and colleague, the Reverend Rhett Baird, who delivered the sermon at Harmony Universalist Church that Sunday morning, introduced me to both Haynieand Bill.
Following the morning service, Haynie asked me to consider writing occasional articles for the Universalist Herald and I agreed to his request. Unfortunately, it was shortly after my arrival in Korea that I learned of Haynie’s death. A few weeks after Haynie’s death, the Herald Board of Trustees named Bill Balkan “interim editor” of the Universalist Herald and the board later made the position a permanent one for Bill.
I began writing for the Herald in 1984 while stationed in Korea and I later served as associate editor, editor, board member, and chairperson of the Herald board. It is interesting how a chance encounter in May 1984 led to more than 25 years of an association with some wonderful individuals I came to know as Universalist Herald subscribers, writers, board members, and editors. My involvement with the Universalist Herald has been a significant aspect of my ministry as a Unitarian Universalist minister!
H) When were you Editor of the Herald?
V) I was Associate Editor under Bill Balkan from January 1991 - December 1991 and Editor from January 1992 - December 1999. This includes the 6 - 8 months that I served as "interim editor after John Morgan resigned and until Justin Lapoint became editor.
H) And how long have you been on the Board?
V) When I became editor of the Herald, the "unwritten rule" was that the editor could not be a voting board member. Since the days when Haynie Summers was editor, the editor was an "ex-officio" member of the board. The editor was actively involved with board business but he or she had no vote. Once the editor resigned/retired from the editorship, it was the custom to invite the editor to become a member of the board. I joined the board once Justin became editor in late 1999. However, if you include my time as an "ex-officio member of the board”, I have been a member of the board since January 1991.
H) And how long have you chaired the Board?
V) I believe I started in October of 2004, so it was 10 years.
H) Have you had any other official role with the Herald?
V) I began writing regular articles for the Herald in 1984. Also, it was in 1984 that I took an active role in promoting the Herald and recruiting new subscribers. When Editor Scott Wells was unable to fulfill the duties of editor in 2002, I was the board member who was primarily responsible for locating and recruiting a new editor. I was later responsible for the recruitment and nomination of Rich Koster as editor.
H) When did you first subscribe to the Herald?
V) I was given a gift subscription to the Herald when I was Associate Minister of the Universalist Church in Brewton, Alabama. (1976–1978) However, I did not
become a paying subscriber until I assumed the ministry of Outlaw's Bridge Universalist Church and Kinston Unitarian Universalist Church in 1979.
H) What was being on the Board like when you first became a member? How did you communicate and did you have regular face-to-face meetings?
V) At the time most of the subscribers were also from the Southeast, and they looked to the Herald as a newsletter for and about the churches and conferences. Maybe a brief history will help explain. Up until the time of Bill Balkan's editorship, the Universalist Herald was considered the Voice of the Georgia Universalist Convention. Most subscribers were members of Universalist heritage churches in the Southeastern United States with connections to the Georgia Universalist Convention.
During this time, the Universalist Herald board was a committee of the Georgia Universalist Convention comprised of members of this Convention. The Herald board met at the same time as the annual meeting of the Georgia Universalist Convention.
Under Bill Balkan's editorship, "The Voice of the Georgia Universalist Convention" was changed to "The Voice of Universalism" and Bill attempted to expand both the Board and subscribers beyond folks associated with the Georgia Universalist Convention.
During Bill's term as editor and during my term as editor, all board business was conducted via telephone or "round-robin" postal mailings. With the "round-robin" postal mailings, items for discussion and/or vote were sent to each board member with the Chairperson initiating the first mailing. Each subsequent board member was to add to the written discussion and/or vote and mail document to the next board member. The speed by which discussions and voting was completed depended upon delivery of U.S. mail and the delay some board members took in responding to the document. Usually, it took at least a month for all board members to discuss and/or vote on a business related item. Keep in mind, the internet and e-mail was very new during this time and many board members did not have access to e-mail.
H) Carolyn Lewis played a key role for you during your time as Editor, wouldn’t you say?
V) Yes, I was responsible for locating and recruiting Carolyn Lewis as our Copy Editor. In late 1992 and early 1993, we went through several different printers. We had serious problems with each of the printers regarding either typesetting, making deadlines, or lay-outs. Carolyn Lewis worked out of her home in Goldsboro, North Carolina and made an offer to print the Herald at a cost much below that of other printers in the area. Also, she arranged for mailing the Herald. She was an outstanding asset to the Herald and she made my job as editor much easier. Carolyn and I used fax machine transmissions to handle sending material back and forth.
Carolyn and her husband later moved to Virginia, but she continued to work as Copy Editor until a year or so after Justin Lapoint assumed editorship.
H) Is there anyone else you wish to recognize as an important help during those years?
V) Yes, I also want to acknowledge the great help I received from John Morgan as Associate Editor during my editorship. John supplied me with more than an adequate number of articles for each issue and John was responsible for recruiting several new writers. A "Golden Age" for the Herald under my editorship was between 1993 - 1995. This was when the UniversalistConvocation was developing as an organization and although the Herald had no official tie to the Convocation, most Convocation members became Herald subscribers. Also, it was during this time that the Herald aggressively encouraged current subscribers to give "gift subscriptions" to individuals they thought might appreciate receiving the Herald. Mostly due to gift subscriptions, our subscription list climbed to around 900 for a few months. John and I both thought the Herald was about to make the "big time." However, we soon saw that most of the gift subscriptions did not result in renewals and our subscriber base fell back to around 500 subscribers.
H) Were there any significant changes to the publication while you were Editor?
V) Yes. During most of my editorship the Herald was a monthly publication. This was quite a chore, especially since it was a labor of love with no monetary compensation. Once I got one issue of the Herald out, I only had a few days of rest before it was time to begin working on the next issue. Some months I spent more time with the Herald than I did with my "income producing jobs." I often carried Herald related papers with me to Army Reserve drills, conferences, church meetings, and vacations and used any free time to work on the editing of the next issue. Making Herald deadlines became quite crazy at times. The decision to go from 12 issues a year to 6 issues a year made it much easier on the editor.