By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector

The B&R staff in 2012 — Lonnie Wilkey, Mary Nimmo, Susie Edwards (deceased), Connie Bushey, and Marcia Knox (retired).

“Change” is a “four-letter word” for most Baptists, so I’m going to use the word “transition.”

Life is a series of transitions, both personally and professionally.

For the past three years or so, your state newspaper has been in transition and it continues. In this issue is a story about the retirement of Connie Davis Bushey, effective May 31.

Connie has served on the staff of the Baptist and Reflector for 32 years, making her one of the longest tenured employees in the paper’s history. Connie already was on staff of the paper in 1988 as assistant editor when Wm. Fletcher Allen chose me to be his associate editor. After becoming editor in 1998, Connie was promoted to news editor.

But my background with Connie goes beyond our B&R ties. She was employed for several years with the former Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, based in Memphis. Connie was managing editor of Crusader and Crusader Counselor magazines.

In 1984 I was invited to write Royal Ambassador curriculum for Crusader magazine and I attended a writer’s conference in Memphis. The conference was just a few weeks after Joyce and I lost our first child to a stillborn death. The pain was still there, but we decided to attend. God put a number of people in our path that week who helped with the healing process and Connie was high on that list. Joyce and I will never forget her kindness during that time.

Our friendship continued to grow after I joined the staff. Because we were a small staff, we became more “family” than just friends. We celebrated the birth of children, weddings of children, and finally the arrival of grandchildren. Included among the celebrations was Connie’s marriage to Nick Bushey in 2002. We also endured the hard times together — deaths of  loved ones and even among our staff when Susie Edwards died two years ago after battling cancer.

Connie was a valuable member of the B&R staff for more than three decades. She wrote countless stories about Tennessee Baptists and our churches. There is no way to calculate the number of words she wrote as she told the story of Tennessee Baptists. The relationships she built and cultivated have been invaluable. Seldom do I go anywhere in Tennessee that someone does not ask me about Connie and how she’s doing.

She will be missed by many all across the Volunteer State.

Pray for Connie and Nick as they transition into this new season of life. Both Connie and Nick are very missions-minded and I know they will spend a lot of their time and energy working with the Swahili Baptist Church that meets at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville where Nick and Connie are members. They have a heart for this African congregation.

In the meantime, the Baptist and Reflector will continue its transition. We will not replace Connie’s position as news editor. As most Tennessee Baptists are aware, the paper is now part of the Communications Team of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. As a result, a new position is being created — communications specialist.

While this person will provide a great deal of copy for the paper (both print and online), he or she will also deal with social media strategies for the paper and the TBMB, and write and edit marketing materials for the TBMB.

Over the past few years, the B&R has been transitioning to make it more relevant with every potential audience, both print and online. The new staff member will have a vital role in the print publication but my ongoing hope and desire is that he or she will take us to the next level electronically. We need someone with expertise in reaching our markets through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (which we currently do not use), and other means.

I am grateful that Chris Turner, director of communications for the TBMB, shares a common love for the ministry of the Baptist and Reflector. He maintains it is one of the TBMB’s best methods of communications with Tennessee Baptists and his desire is to see us reach even more people through the options now available through both the print and electronic media.

The paper has been recognized by its peers the past few years by winning awards from the Baptist Communicators Association, so I know our work has not been in vain. This year we were recognized as one of the three top Baptist papers in the nation by BCA.

With that said, our goal is not to win awards. Our goal is to honor our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by telling His stories through the pages of the B&R.

The Baptist and Reflector has been telling the story of God’s work through Tennessee Baptists since 1835 and our goal is for it to continue to tell His stories until He returns.

Join us in that effort with your prayers and subscriptions. We would not exist without our faithful and loyal readers. Transition is never easy, but it is necessary to remain relevant. Thank you for your support.