I first encountered Paul Mercer when I was responding to a 2015 CMDFA request for drafting “tasters” of Luke’s Journal articles for the website, http://www.cmdfa.org.au. Paul has been at the helm of Luke’s Journal since 2005, after responding to a request from Bill Hague to rise to the occasion. Together, he and John Foley co-edited many editions until John’s retirement in 2016 – a partnership of 11 years. Altogether, Paul has been guiding and inspiring Luke’s Journal for almost 15 years. Indeed, a mammoth effort for a full-time GP with numerous interests and commitments, including personal commitments to his parents and children.
Paul, in stepping down as Luke’s Journal editor, leaves big shoes to fill.
It speaks volumes that there is a growing team of 8+ people banding together to move the journal onwards, with a backup cast of another dozen. The roles Paul juggled as the stalwart of Luke’s Journal were reflective of Paul’s diverse gifts and talents:
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- Devotional. First and foremost, Paul is God-centred. The start of each Luke’s Journal teleconference is prefaced with prayer and reflections from the Bible. Paul often shared from his own personal reading, or from something he has been considering at church or in other spheres. In reading his editorials and articles, it is clear that Paul is a theologian in his thinking, and that his faith permeates every aspect of his life. When discussing errors and late submissions, Paul exhibits grace, love and wisdom in every thought. It is humbling to behold.
- Theological breadth. Paul has worked hard to maintain balance in content and argument. Respecting the open evangelical core values of our fellowship, this has allowed for differences in expression of faith and various emphases and styles. Adherence to speaking the truth in love has assisted in walking a sometimes-fine line.
- Creative ideas. Paul is full of ideas. Every couple of years he taps out 10-15 topics that he thinks might be potential themes for the journal. He has an inquisitive mind, so often the ideas are a bit quirky with titles that play on words, e.g. “You are What You Eat”, “Life Before Birth”, and “Breath of Life”. When we teleconference, Paul is able to hold up each idea to the light, and reflect on a multitude of facets as if the topic were a diamond, each facet showcasing a different aspect of the topic and bringing glory to God.
- Networker extraordinaire. Paul knows a multitude of people from his many years within the fellowship, and also from his other interests and pursuits. His involvement with “Theology on Tap” in Brisbane has borne many friendships with people of diverse backgrounds, and blessed Luke’s Journal with a range of writers, theological and medical.
- Organiser. As an administrative soul myself, I am astounded at the way Paul can keep track of the 30+ contacts for each edition, that then translates into 20 or so published articles. It is no small matter to contact prospective writers over a number of months so that each article arrives with an appropriate bio and picture, let alone in a timely manner! The inexorable wave of activity that rises as copy and drafting dates approach, followed by taking up the reins for the next issue is particularly exhausting. It is our hope that with several overseers (at least 3, and preferably 4), we will be able to keep this work sustainable for the long term. How Paul (and John) has managed this continuously over 15 years is beyond me!
- Proofing skills. Spellcheck is just the start. Grammar, intent, punctuation and meaning all need to be refined in order to present a professional tone of high standing. Maintaining each individual author’s style is another challenge! Paul will often reflect thoughtfully about the application of Christian faith, gently prompting authors to stretch themselves in clarifying links between theology and practice, resulting in a more robust and thought-out concept. We have been blessed to reach into the wider CMDFA Facebook community to gradually amass a pool of proofreaders who have been able to assist with this time-consuming and wisdom-requiring process.
- Edition overseer. When all the articles have been proofed, Paul reads each article and considers how to order them for best development of theme and flow. Theology is the foundation, followed by major articles developing the theme. Personal stories, book reviews, interviews and “fire in the belly” articles all have a place. Vales for fellowship members are often the final tribute. Then an editorial is crafted with all these things in mind. Paul’s reflections and encouraging heart are always an inspiration on opening each new edition. I confess to being somewhat apprehensive about reaching the same high standard for future editions.
- Final responsibility. Despite numerous checks and balances, errors are inevitably made – some minor (spelling/ grammar), some major (out-of-date advertisements, authors wrongly-attributed, inaccurate diagrams). In the end, the editor takes responsibility for all errors and takes steps to prevent future problems. Thankfully, our authors and advertisers are gracious and forgiving. Paul handles errors and complaints with wisdom, dignity and grace, whilst committing to attain professional standards.
- Paul has instituted the Winton Award (in honour of CMDFA member and MJA editor, Dr Ronald Winton) to encourage younger writers from within the fellowship. This award recognises student and recent graduate writers through a gift from the board and is traditionally presented at IMPACT. The Winton Award exposes Paul’s heart to keep Luke’s Journal relevant across the ages, and to encourage writing as an expression of exhortation and wise teaching.
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The above illustrates the legacy that Paul has left for the future editorial team. He also has been keen for the journal to be taken online, initiating a survey in 2016 with this in mind. This led to an online pdf version via issuu.com.au with significant improvement in distribution of the journal. Paul freely admits his personal lack of expertise and knowledge in this area and has been greatly supportive to younger members of the team to take this step forward. Our hope is that we will be able to move forward with as much grace and humility as Paul has demonstrated thus far.
So, it is with great sadness and immense appreciation that we farewell Paul in his role of Luke’s Journal editor. We wish him well as he takes on the responsibilities of family and Chair of HealthServe. Paul, thank you for your service.
BIO: Catherine Hollier (GP & Luke’s Journal sub-editor)
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