I grew up in Pomeroy, a small farming town in the far southeastern corner of Washington State. Back then the local newspaper, The East Washingtonian, featured a column titled “Along the Party Line.” It was all about births, trips, church events, crops, weddings, and reunions. All the good gossip from a small town. Reading it gave me a warm feeling and connected me to my community, even after I moved away.
Reading the national edition of The Budget, a Plain newspaper with the motto “Serving the Amish-Mennonite Communities throughout the Americas,” gives me that same warm feeling. Scribes contribute columns from their communities on a regular basis, relaying information about births, gatherings, the weather, crops, trips, and weddings. The majority of the news is happy, although deaths, accidents, and illnesses—as in life—make up a portion of the columns.
The 40+ page weekly newspaper lists the columns geographically from well-known settlements in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, but also from places as far away as Oregon and Washington State and even Belize.
There’s a rhythm to the columns that, even though I don’t know the people, is as familiar and comforting as news from my small town. It’s a reminder of what’s important in life—God, family, and friends. For those in the Plain communities, without the Internet and cell phones, it’s a vital source of information from faraway that fosters a sense of community throughout the western hemisphere.
The “Along the Party Line” column ended years ago so today I get my information about people from my hometown via Facebook. I’m thankful I can still witness that sense of community, in print, through The Budget.
Where do you find a sense of community today?