Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In a project that has spanned over 25 years of cultural and technological changes, the Oldtimers’ Grapevine has, in many ways, remained unchanged.
This newsletter, published three times a year and sent to nearly 1,000 subscribers, still exists in only one form – print.
Their publisher and executive editor, Rev. Dr. John Foulkes, Sr. says that although they send a few electronic copies, developing a fully-online publication isn’t a priority for their audience of senior citizens.
“We’re the people who still read the newspaper!” Foulkes said.
The editorial staff of the Grapevine intentionally caters to this audience, focusing on opportunities for Disciples to serve in their “golden years,” as well as celebrating the lives of those who have passed away in the “For Whom the Bell Tolls” column.
Open any copy of the Oldtimers’ Grapevine, and find a variety of content: messages from the General Minister & President and other Church leaders, poetry submissions, regional events, and general ministry program updates.
“Sharing what other groups and people do becomes a manifestation of the Church in print,” Foulkes says. “This is not just a newsletter – it’s an expression of the Church.”
Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary to the National Convocation Rev. Dr. Timothy James agrees. “The information shared in the pages of the magazine leave you inspired, informed, and more interested in the persons and events of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).”
The publication was launched in 1992 by Rev. William K. Fox, who retired as Administrative Secretary to the National Convocation in 1982. To this day, the Oldtimers’ Grapevine gives “special concern for activities related to the Black Church,” Foulkes says.
Foulkes attributes the Grapevine’s success to a love for the leaders who created and continued it. Rev. Fox produced the newsletter until 2000, and was succeeded by Oscar Haynes, who preceded Foulkes.
James believes that the model those leaders created has made the Grapevine an effective and important resource. “Like all entities of the church, where African Americans are in leadership, inclusion and wholeness are the model and mode of operation,” James says. “This magazine is for the whole church and not one particularly targeted constituency.”
Throughout its history, the Oldtimers’ Grapevine has always been free to subscribers – kept in operation through donations.
At the 25-year mark, Foulkes says that the Grapevine is looking towards the future with hopes to expand. With a small staff of volunteer writers, Foulkes wants to recruit more contributors in every region, who can submit news and stories from across the life of the Church.
“Even in our modern culture,” Foulkes says, “there’s a tendency to simply gather information, and assume that you’ve formed a community. Until you’re in a real give-and-take, actually listening to each other, it’s not a true community.”
“We want this Grapevine to be a true grapevine of sharing stories – to share community, and grow our Church.”
To subscribe, submit a story, or learn more, contact the Oldtimers’ Grapevine.