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OCW: The First 50 Years

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Fifty years ago, two creative Christian women decided to form a group to encourage writers who sought to glorify God through their written words.

After prayer and discussion, Helen Kelts, a tiny dynamo who wrote for Christian Life Magazine, and her friend, Mary Hammack, founded the Oregon Association of Christian Writers on March 23, 1963. They wrote bylaws and a doctrinal statement, then invited other writers to join their new group. The group was small enough at that time to meet in a high school classroom.

Since its inception, Oregon Christian Writers has seen 21 people serve as president, a handful of them holding several terms of office, but the organization never would have flourished and blessed so many without help from countless volunteers, including those who held offices and helped organize conferences.

“Leaders in the Oregon Christian Writers are a subgroup in the body of Christ,” Marion Duckworth, a longtime member and former president, wrote for a training meeting in 2008. “We are fingers and toes, each required to fulfill our particular responsibilities.

“Never, under any circumstances, is any of us the head. That is not an elected office; Christ Himself fills that role. We are to pray that Christ, our Head, will give us wisdom and unity.”

Under the guidance of God-loving leaders who answered the call of Christ, OCW has never stopped growing in professionalism, Christian values, new technologies, and encouraging people to writing ministries.

Deborah Hedstrom-Page, who served as OCW president from 1997 through 2002, described the “incredible value” of OCW.

“OCW was a big part of my life for more than 20 years. I served as every officer except treasurer. As I look back, it helped nurture in me two life values I use every day. When I wanted to write for publication, it was easy to just ‘take’ from what OCW offered—teaching, critique, fellow writer support. But, after a while, I realized the officers and teachers were just like me, balancing a home and family with their desire to write. Their volunteer example made me see that I needed to give back, to help others, to not just ‘take.’ Every job I’ve held in OCW, every workshop I’ve taught, has meant as much as all the training I received—and it carries on what Helen Kelts did when she started the organization.

“OCW’s value in my life didn’t stop at give and take, serve and be served. It also broadened my ‘God world.’ I met Christian people from every denomination whether I was in the audience or up front. At first, I felt a little uncomfortable with the differences. But as I interacted in OCW classes, critique groups, and conferences, I found my comfort—we all love Jesus Christ. He is our Lord.

“I’m the wife of a Baptist preacher, yet the Bible study I lead at the local restaurant includes women from liturgical and charismatic denominations. I know they are comfortable at the study because OCW broadened my ‘God world.’”

We hope you enjoy reading about how OCW has influenced Christian writing during the past half-century.

The OCW 50th Anniversary Committee: Gail Denham ~ Marion Duckworth ~ Mary Hake Jennifer Anne F. Messing ~ Billie Reynolds ~ Julie McDonald Zander

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