In a fit of joinery (ie the urge to join things - I get these fits), I signed up not long ago to regular emails from the Guardian Culture Professionals network. Being a Guardianista since my youth when my parents read the then Manchester Guardian, it seemed like a good thing. Now I am being bombarded with networking events, advice on arts management and the role of culture in society. None of it seems very relevant to my so-called career as a writer for the Christian market. Admittedly, in the last week my husband has been interviewed by the Guardian and myself by the Independent, all to do with the imminent closure of our Mennonite church (if only they'd shown this much interest when it was going strong), but I'm still not sure that makes me a card carrying culture professional. Maybe a Tate membership and a Freedom Pass will count?
But culture? Yes, in a sense I think what we do, as writers of everything from Bible notes to sci-fi, is indeed a contribution to our culture. Many years ago I briefly met a writer (I can't even remember her name, but what she said has stayed with me for ever), who said that her aim was to write 'healing stories'. What an extraordinary phrase. I know exactly what it is to read a 'healing story' - I find healing, for instance, in the novels of Jane Gardam, Anne Tyler and Barbara Trapido (strangely, I find it harder to see in works by men). To write a healing story, however, is a much greater challenge.
What this means for me is that when I compose a sermon, a Bible note, a column, I don't want it to leave the reader, as so many Christian writings sadly do, feeling guilty and inadequate. I want to open their eyes to a wider view of God's salvation, but I want to do it in a way that encourages, inspires, even causes laughter or healing tears. I don't always succeed, but this is my aim. Perhaps you as a journalist want to tell stories of hope; or as a writer of crime novels, stories of justice and redemption. When we do this, are we not throwing a little pinch of flavoursome salt into the culture that surrounds us, Christian or not, to enliven it, preserve what is good in it, fertilize it? (salt was used as fertilizer in Jesus' day). So perhaps we are 'culture professionals' after all.
Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything
I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also
writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New
Daylight. Veronica belongs (until tomorrow) to the only non-conservative, English
speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and also blogs at