On Jan. 3, 1998, my column, Facets of Faith, was first published in The Advocate.
I spent a few months writing samples before approaching Ed Pratt, who then edited the religion section, and he agreed to run it.
A few months into the column, a co-worker told me there was no way I could write such a column more than a couple of years.
Well, here it is five editors and 20 years later and time to revisit a few moments in Facets history.
FIRST COLUMN TOPIC: The first column in 1998 ran on Epiphany, so it was about Twelfth Night, the start of Carnival and, of course, the Magi, or wise men who visited the infant Jesus.
BIGGEST MEMORY — NOT FOR A GOOD REASON: In October 2000, a co-worker changed my column so it read “Jesus, allegedy God's son.” I came back to work to angry messages I didn’t understand until I looked at the printed paper. And looking in the archives today, I realize the editor misspelled "allegedly."
THE ONE PEOPLE STILL TELL ME ABOUT: In 2007, my husband and I spent three weeks in Britain. I wrote three columns from that trip. I thought the first two pieces were really good. One was on very old churches in Hitchin, England, and the other on religious places in Glasgow, Scotland. The third column was my personal thoughts about first having communion in a church founded by my ancestors in Pitchford, Shropshire, England. I struggled writing that piece because it was hard to portray the emotions. I wasn’t happy with the writing, but to this day, people will bring that column up and talk about what it meant to them.
A MUSICAL NOTE: Several years ago, I started receiving requests to interview musicians coming to perform in the area. Not a problem: I love music. So far, I've interviewed Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Third Day, Skillet, Toby Mac, Andrew Peterson, Switchfoot, Josh Wilson, Kari Jobe, Natalie Grant, Matt Maher, Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, Hillsong, For King & Country and Audrey Assad, as well as Brent Milligan, who grew up in Central. I even had a reader rave about a column about hymn writer Fanny Crosby.
RELIGIONS: Doing my research, I've learned a lot about a lot of religions. I've shared information on Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Baha’i, Hindu, Wicca, Sikhs and others; Christian denominations include Roman Catholic, Southern Baptists, United Methodists, Eastern Orthodox, Amish and Mennonites, Presbyterians, Salvation Army and more.
HOW DO I FIND TOPICS: That's one of the questions I get asked most. There's no one answer. I get ideas from readers' suggestions, news releases, reading church history, studying various religions and the Bible, the internet, books, newsletters, magazines, traveling, current news stories and movies. I have even written about my brother’s job in Wales.
I can't believe two decades have passed since that first column. It's often been fun, always interesting and rarely frustrating. I look forward to sharing more about religion with you, and, as always, love to hear ideas from readers.
Facets of Faiths runs every other Saturday in EatPrayLive. Reach Leila Pitchford-English at firstname.lastname@example.org.