Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

Long-time editor, Jane K. Swanson-Nystrom says good-bye

by Jane K. Swanson-Nystrom | August 25, 2020

“A voyage without companionship, that is to say without conversation, is one of the saddest pleasures of life.” So said Madame de Staël (1766-1817), a woman who knew a thing or two about conversations and companionship—and voyages, for that matter.  A prolific writer when few women were published, and host of salons where influential voices gathered for dialogue and debate, she counted among her friends and correspondents such luminaries as Coleridge, Lord Byron, Jefferson, and the Duke of Wellington. Born in Paris, she escaped the city and guillotine during the Reign of Terror (saving a number of others from decapitation as well) and later was banished from France by Napoleon for boldly criticizing him as a tyrant.

Almost a century ago, the Covenant Church made a significant investment in its future by launching a “youth paper” for the English-speaking generation born to immigrant Mission Friends. They called it The Covenant Companion. After a decade it merged with the church’s Swedish-language newspaper and became known as The Covenant Weekly. But the name was restored in 1959 when the church periodical changed to a magazine format, and it’s been Covenant Companion ever since.

Let’s be honest, it’s an interesting choice for a denominational magazine title. At first glance it might appear quaint, cozy, confusing—even salacious.

Why “companion”? I can only guess, but I’d like to think it refers to the text F. M. Johnson chose for the sermon he preached at the founding of the Covenant Church: “I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts” (Psalm 119:63).

Why Companion? That’s a different question, one that sits below the surface each time we plan and put an issue together. What is it we are doing here? Why is this so important to us? Why is this important for the church?

It’s a question that’s especially significant to me as I put down my pencil after 40 years on the editorial staff.

I love the psalmist’s words: I am a companion of all who fear you. I also love the image of companionship as conversation that enriches the voyage. And it is in these passages that I find an answer to the question.

At its best the magazine is a companion on the journey—both our individual ones and our corporate one as a denomination—as it promotes dialogue and understanding and builds connections and community in an ever-changing, ever-forming church body. Aspirational language to be sure, but so is the psalmist’s claim.

The Companion lives into its name when it encourages conversation, when it is a place for shared dreams and aspirations, disappointments and pain; when it invites us to listen to one another and be shaped and changed by the stories and experiences and insights of others; when it challenges us to value each other even in our distances, to respect each other even in our disagreements, to give voice to each other even when we struggle to speak.

How do we expand our kinship if we don’t engage in meaningful conversation? If we are not part of the give and take of friendship—if we are not companions?

I’m the first to admit this is hard work. I am often too eager to remove myself from engagement for many “good” reasons—I’m busy, disinterested, I know what to expect, I’m afraid I might have to change my mind.

What was the psalmist thinking? This is not an easy voyage.

Yet I believe it is only in grace-filled conversation that we grow together as a family of faith, informed by where we have been and unafraid to journey forward together. It is what we do as Mission Friends. It is what we do as the body of Christ.

Good companionship, good conversation, good voyage ahead. May it be so.

Image: Swanson-Nystrom in 1981 at the former Covenant Offices at 5101 North Francisco Ave., Chicago

About the Author

Jane K. Swanson-Nystrom served in Covenant Communications for forty years which included thirty-five as managing editor of the Covenant Companion. She retired at the end of May.

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  1. Thank you, Janie! What an incredible job you have done for the Companion & the Covenant. Love, Tina

  2. Jane, your passion for your work made you an integral part of recording the history of the Covenant over four decades. No matter how well an author wrote a feature piece, your editing touch made it shine with brilliance. Your insistence on good research ensured that honesty and integrity were never sacrificed. There are so many areas where your wisdom, your knowledge of Church or Covenant history, or your good advice made an important difference, often in ways that were unknown or unacknowledged. Thank you for your faithfulness, for your commitment, and for all the advice and help you’ve given so many over the years. Your voice is appreciated and will be missed.

  3. Thanks, Jane, for being the Quintessential Companion on the Journey! Well done! The Covenant is richer and better for your faithful service these 40 years!

  4. Dear Jane, thanks for your earnest listening and patient grappling with me, in order to help me become a published writer. Lord knows, I had never envisioned myself as becoming a writer. I had lots on my heart & mind and comfortably told my stories and ideas to a small and select group of people. But I had no intention of speaking to people I did not know.

    Initially, when I first met you in 2002, I was leery (ok scared), of the idea of putting my thoughts on paper for the world to see and judge. Yet, you took the time and initiative to invite me to lunch and helped me see the value of sitting still, listening to, reflecting upon, writing and yes publishing what I felt were promptings by the Holy Spirit. I am deeply grateful because as the editor of the magazine, you were not obligated to help a novice writer. And due in part to your kindness, I have experienced an even deeper relationship with God, self, and others that would not have been so otherwise. God bless you.

  5. Congratulations on your retirement Jane! Thank you for your decades of companionship!👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  6. A marvelous job well done, Miss Jane! Your keen mind, sharp perspective, and rooted “Covie-ness” has been incredibly important for the magazine, and for Covenant Offices. You have been the voice of one who knows and embodies the “ethos” and history of our denomination but who is also open and receptive to the changes that accompany life and faith and has meaningfully unpacked and interpreted these for our Covenant people throughout your 40 years. Grateful for all you have offered the Covenant, Jane, and for our long friendship as “companions on the journey.”

  7. Jane, thank you for being a companion on the journey. You are a treasure and I will miss you tremendously. Thanks for serving the church so faithfully and for sharing the ECC’s stories for all these years. You have helped to shape the identity of the ECC. Blessings as you continue on the journey!

    1. Congratulations on a legacy career, Janie! (I can call you that, you’re retired, right?!). So many of us have benefitted from your attention to detail and professionalism producing a top-rated magazine for decades. Thank you!

  8. Thank you Jane for using your incredible gifts and abilities God gave you to enrich, encourage and inspire generations of Covenanters. The Companion has been a companion on the journey for me and so many others. blessings on your retirement and keep writing. You are so gifted!! With love, admiration and friendship, Karen

  9. Thank you Jane for your legacy of breathing life and spiritual guidance into the Covenant Companion.

    All the best of God’s earthly blessings to you in this next chapter of companionship with family and friends.

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