Frequently Asked Questions about Connections

What is Connections?  Connections is a four-page letter written and published by Barbara Wendland, a lay United Methodist who lives in Temple, Texas.

How many people get Connections? I don’t know. Currently I send about 3500 each month by U.S. mail and about 2400 by e-mail, which is easier and cheaper than U.S. mail and thus preferable for me. Also, since 1998 I’ve been putting each issue of Connections on this website, and many people get Connections regularly from it. In addition, many readers tell me they regularly forward Connections to friends by e-mail or make copies and distribute them to a Sunday School class, study group, or group of friends. I have no way of knowing how many people who aren’t on my list get Connections in these ways. However, some of the U.S. Mail recipients are people I’ve put on the list by my choice rather than theirs (mainly United Methodist conference delegates). I’m sure some of those have now died or moved without my knowing it, and some undoubtedly don’t read Connections even though they receive it. For all those reasons, I have no idea how many people are receiving or reading Connections.

Who helps you? My husband takes the post-office trays of paper copies to the local post office for me every month when I get them ready to mail.  Often our daughter reads a draft and suggests changes. However, I do everything else myself: all the writing; printing the labels and sticking them on the snail-mail copies; maintaining my website and mailing lists (which, by the way, I never give or sell to anyone); and replying to most of the responses I receive.

Doesn’t this take a huge amount of time? Yes.

May I make copies of Connections and distribute them to a group, use a quote from it in something I’m writing, or put a link to your website on mine? Yes, I’d be delighted for you to do that. Connections is not copyrighted, and I don’t make money from it—quite the opposite. I want it to reach as many interested people as possible, so I appreciate all the help anyone wants to give me. All I ask is that if you copy or quote, you say where the quoted or copied material came from.

Where do you get the pictures you use? I have several large collections of clip-art that I’ve accumulated over the years, mostly bought from computer stores. Also, I sometimes use the clip art that is included with MSWord, and I occasionally use free clip art from the Internet. I have a couple of software programs with which I can create or revise clip- art in certain formats.

When does my subscription expire? I keep a record of what recipients pay and when, but I don’t operate a real subscription system. I don’t send renewal notices. Some people keep paying $5 yearly or whenever they think of it, and many pay more. I send Connections to many people who pay nothing, however, because I’m able to do that and I want to reach the most churchgoers that I can reach, especially those in decision-making positions.

$5 a year doesn’t cover your cost, does it? No. That’s really just a token amount. It doesn’t come near covering my cost. Many recipients pay more than $5, and I appreciate whatever anyone chooses to pay. I pay most of the cost myself, as a contribution toward something that I believe needs doing and that I am fortunate enough to be able to do. I pay it entirely from personal funds, and it isn’t tax-deductible for me.

Are readers’ contributions tax-deductible for them? No, because I’m just an individual, not an organization of any kind.

Do you get many responses? Yes, and that’s one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of Connections for me. I answer nearly all of the responses, except occasionally when for some reason I’ve gotten too far behind to catch up.

How do you keep thinking of topics? That’s usually the easiest part of doing Connections. I read a lot about church-related topics, simply because I like to read and these topics interest me. My reading, my conversations and correspondence with Connections readers and other churchgoers or dropouts, and my attendance at church-related gatherings continually bring to mind topics I want to write about.

Why do you write Connections? Partly because doing it helps to feed my hunger for interaction with kindred spirits and for challenging mental activity, a hunger that I don’t find much food for elsewhere. I write also because I believe that bringing these subjects and these viewpoints to the attention of more church members is something that needs doing and isn’t being done very widely elsewhere, and that it is what God calls and enables me to do, at least for the foreseeable future. Also, I find that although many people have views about current issues and understandings of the Bible and Christianity that are similar to mine, most of us feel alone. We sometimes feel, too, that there must be something wrong with us because we don’t hear anyone expressing similar views. A big reason for my writing Connections is that I want to keep these thinking people reassured that they’re far from alone, that many of their observations are accurate, and that the church needs to hear from them.

Why don’t you write about the United Methodist Church apportionment system and other UMC topics? As a lifelong UMC member I’m of course especially concerned about the UMC, but similar issues also confront other mainline denominations, so these issues need attention throughout the church, not just in any one denomination. Besides, my mailing list includes members of at least twelve denominations, as well as some non-churchgoers, and I assume that those who aren’t in the UMC wouldn’t be very interested in reading about subjects that pertain only to the UMC. Also, I don’t write about the financial side of the church because, although I know it’s important, it’s not an area in which I have much interest or experience.

Why don’t you write more about the many good things the church does? Because I find that those are very thoroughly covered in official church publications. I don’t feel any need to spend time, effort, and money duplicating what’s so available there. I wholeheartedly agree that my denomination and others do many good things, but my purpose is to make people aware of concerns that I think need attention and that aren’t often written about elsewhere, especially in publications that lay churchgoers read.