Columns, Featured Stories, Grace Notes

Twenty-five, and counting

Office life at Metro Lutheran has changed in many ways since I started working for the paper in January 1990. At that time, the office was located in a classroom on the second floor of the parish hall of Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis. The office had no computers, no fax machine, no photocopier — and three typewriters. Two windows, each three feet wide by 18 inches high, and 6 feet apart, were located at the top of the south wall of the office, at opposite ends. The only thing visible through the windows was a patch of the sky.

The office staff consisted of three individuals who were paid staff, none of whom were fulltime employees of the paper: Charles (Chuck) Lutz, editor; G. Dale Canfield, advertising sales representative; and me, office manager.

The Rev. Lester F. Heins, who had been heavily involved in the start-up of the paper, was in the office just as often as the paid staff members were, assisting Dale with ad leads and generally assuring that this venture in pan-Lutheran journalism was proceeding as planned. Les, a member of Central Lutheran Church, had been a reporter for the Toledo Blade newspaper. When I learned that he had travelled to Africa to interview Albert Schweitzer, my esteem for him rose even further. I made sure he shared with me a copy of the interview.

Jean Johansson

If a visitor hadn’t seen our office since 1990, and walked into the current Metro Lutheran office, some things would still look familiar. The used desks chosen in the early ’90s continue to be used.

When I was hired, I was the staff person responsible for typing and mailing the monthly invoices for the ads that appeared in each issue of Metro Lutheran. Each invoice was typed in triplicate, on forms that were totally unforgiving of the frequent typographical errors I made. I also was responsible for the monthly bookkeeping. Each month, I used a red-ink pen and a black-ink pen to record income and expense entries on large ledger sheets. Then, using the information on the ledger sheets, I typed the monthly finance reports, which were then distributed to members of the Board of Directors. I had never done bookkeeping before in my life (other than balancing my checkbook). I gratefully give credit to Chuck’s wife Hertha for teaching me the bookkeeping basics I needed to know.

That was then, this is now

Currently, two of the four office staff are full-time employees — editor Bob Hulteen and I, who succeeded Dale as director of advertising sales when he retired in 1999. Ann Richmond (who is responsible for the maintenance of the circulation list and for generating the monthly advertising invoices) and Judy Meyer (responsible for accounts payable and the bookkeeping) work part-time. Judy telecommutes from her home in Kiester, Minnesota. The availability of computers has dramatically changed the way every member of the staff does their job, compared to the way the tasks were done in 1990.

If a visitor hadn’t seen our office since 1990, and walked into the current Metro Lutheran office, located in the Minnesota Church Center, some things would still look familiar. The used desks chosen in the early ’90s for the office by Chuck Lutz, available from a bank that was replacing them with new furniture, continue to be used. But most of the office contents would look very different, including the three iMac computers, a laptop computer, a digital camera, and a multipurpose machine that serves as a photocopier/printer/fax/scanner.

I have had the unique experience of working for three of the four editors who have been at the helm of Metro Lutheran. Each one of them has had a distinctive style.

Chuck Lutz, who hired me, was a well-respected, consummate, long-time leader in the Lutheran church. He had a gift for remembering dates and details of important Lutheran events, and seemingly knew every Lutheran in the world. He deserves the credit for putting Metro Lutheran on the map as a quality Lutheran communication vehicle.

When Chuck retired, the Rev. Michael Sherer succeeded him. As my boss, Mike was creative, calm, collegial, patient — and organized to the extreme (e.g., the pencils and pens in his desk drawer were neatly lined up, all facing the same direction). Under his leadership, Metro Lutheran entered the world of desktop publishing, added a Web site, and broadened its content.

The January 2007 issue was the first for which Bob Hulteen was responsible as editor. Bob is the first editor for whom I’ve worked who is younger than I am, and the first one with a ponytail. He is high-energy, personable, tech-savvy, and knowledgeable about Lutheran history, as were his predecessors. Bob’s organizational style is “casual.” He has guided Metro Lutheran as it has expanded into an information service for Lutherans, overseeing the redesign of its Web site and the addition of a Facebook page and Twitter account.

The 25th year of the publication of Metro Lutheran is coming to an end. The paper is in its fourth Church Center office space. Its fourth editor, who oversees an office staff of four, assembles each paper, which rolls off the presses of the fourth company in the paper’s history. When it appears in the Bible, the number four traditionally refers to creation, indicates completeness, and is often mentioned in prophetic visions. My hope is that the number four has the same meaning for Metro Lutheran.

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