‘New guy’ grounded in news, religion


In many religious services, there's a part of the ceremony when those attending for the first time are asked to stand and introduce themselves. The other congregants might look forward to having a new face at coffee hour (in caffeine-encouraging faiths) or a potential committee member, or even somebody on whom to practice their proselytizing. Let’s you and I enjoy refreshments for now, and we’ll let church work and denominational persuasion wait for other days. I expect to be in these pages for awhile.

I'm the new guy on The Blade’s religion beat. Let me say hello and give a few words of greeting.

I have just moved to Toledo. My fiancee, our dog, and I came here from outside Philadelphia — although our ties are stronger to Brooklyn, N.Y., my parents were Arkansans, and as a young adult I lived in Austin for 15 years. We're “all in” for Toledo now and are buying our first house.

I've been involved in religion as a lay leader and a minister-in-training. I've been involved in journalism as a writer and an editor. My journalism has been published in newspapers, magazines, books, newsletters, and online.

In my ministry I have buried people, I’m qualified to perform weddings in Minnesota, and I’ve been in the pulpit in about six states so far. My own faith journey brought me to Unitarian Universalism; I hope to be ordained as a minister in that faith. I also have connections to Ethical Culture and religious humanism. My most recent posts prior to The Blade were as a resident interfaith chaplain at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and a copy editor at TV Guide Magazine in New York City. I’m a scholar too, with a master of divinity degree in religion and a PhD in mass communications.

Religion and news are in my blood. My father was a Methodist minister and Air Force chaplain. His best friend, for whom I was named, was longtime editor at the Arkansas Methodist newspaper. Although I haven't followed exactly in their footsteps, I do take their presence to the next generation.

I came to Toledo because of the opportunity to combine my journalism and religion interests, but also because religion coverage is very important to this newspaper and I want to be a part of it.

At a time in the news industry when downsizing is heavy and religion reporters seem to be in the first round of job cuts, The Blade believes that its readers want coverage of places of worship, of religious practices, and how those of great faith and of no faith live in the context of religion, ethics, and community. They want the continual perspective that a religion editor can give.

Toledo is largely Christian but it’s also a city that has people from many religions and folks with no belief, and their stories belong in The Blade.

Church is more than a Sunday morning service, worship is done individually and in community, and religion is lived outside the temple.

As religion editor, I want to present the full picture of faith and practice. My own orientation is a “golden rule” perspective; I advocate the person-to-person contact of helping one another in our spiritual journeys and say that how a person relates to others and the world is more important than what she or he believes.

I hope to earn your trust in my reporting, that the stories I publish will show sincerity, curiosity. and respect. But I also want there to be plenty of times when humor and joy take the lead.

I hope you'll walk this path of religion news with me.

Contact TK Barger at: tkbarger@theblade.com or 419-724-6278