SPEAK Spreads the Word

Episcopal News Service. April 27, 1989 [89084]

Arthur Ben Chitty

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (DPS, Apr. 27) -- One of the Episcopal Church's most unusual and furthest-reaching missionary enterprises originates -- not in some distant corner of the world -- but in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The enterprise is linked to the printed word and is associated with many names and titles -- best known are Hillspeak, SPEAK, and The Anglican Digest, names coined by its founder, the Rev. Howard Lane Foland, the legendary "Father Foland," who retired in 1980.

The complex international operation at Eureka Springs is now controlled by a board chaired by the Rev. Edward Lloyd Salmon, rector of the Church of St. Michael and St. George in St. Louis. Foland originally moved to the historic, nineteenth-century spa in 1960 from Nevada, Missouri, to extend his "ministry of the Word."

The huge, modernized "Red Barn" that houses the offices, mail rooms, computers, files, and mailing lists is located on 1,100 acres of Ozark hilltop, at an average altitude of 1,500 feet above sea level. A new water system, to be fed from a well pumping 250 gallons of water per minute, is lacking only a 28,000 tank to become operational, which many of their neighbors are eager to tap into as well.

An endowment of $1 million, not including the value of the land, enables the Society for Promoting and Encouraging the Arts and Knowledge [of the Church] -- SPEAK -- to carry out the mission implied by its title. The endowment is being increased by bequests. SPEAK's influence reaches every continent through the five divisions of its work. These are known by in-house acronyms: TAD, EBC, TAB, OPA, and TFL.

TAD -- The Anglican Digest -- reaches nearly 250,000 readers worldwide, the biggest circulation in its 30-year history. Formerly a quarterly, it now goes out six times a year. Recently added are the full mailing list of the Diocese of South Carolina, all of the Anglican clergy in Canada, all of the bishops (plus selected clergy) in England, and a large scattering in Australia. Any person wanting to receive the magazine is placed on the mailing list free, although contributions are encouraged.

EBC -- the Episcopal Book Club -- the oldest member of the Hillspeak conglomerate, started in 1953 in the garage of the rectory of All Saints' Church in Nevada, Missouri, and has now grown to a membership of 3,000. Each member pays $30 a year for four book selections.

TAB -- The Anglican Bookstore -- is the youngest of the SPEAK family, born in 1987. Its sales have risen sharply from 150 volumes in January 1987 to 3,000 volumes in June 1988. Selection of the religion-related books and videotapes carried by the bookstore is made by Bishop Michael Marshall of England, a total of 93 titles having been offered by listings in TAD. They are sold at an average discount of 35 percent. Madeleine L'Engle leads a list of authors by placing three books in the top ten of sales, but David Barratt, with his evaluation of C. S. Lewis, ranks number one for a single volume.

OPA -- Operation Pass Along -- has been a success since its inception in 1972. It has been nursed by resident manager Walt Swindells, guardian angel of the whole Hillspeak venture, who appeared on the scene in that year, after retiring from the United States Marine Corps. Swindells functions as accountant. engineer, computer expert, construction man, architect, and administrator. The principle of OPA is simple. Books are received free from individual donors, clergy libraries, publishers' overstocks, and bargain purchases. They are sent on request -- free -- to priests (many in Third World countries), seminaries overseas, schools, seamen's missions, prisons, Alaskan Indians, and parish libraries. Of 53,000 volumes received, 44,000 have been passed along. There are now 900 requests in the computer that will be serviced when the volumes are located. Almost-good-as-new Prayer Books and Hymnals are sought from parishes prosperous and/or generous enough to send them. The books find their way to missions where such volumes are rare.

TFL is The Foland Library, soon to be completed. It will offer air-conditioned space for writers and researchers. A guest house will provide shelter for those with long-term writing projects.

No account of SPEAK can be concluded without mentioning its relationship to the new Anglican Institute, headed by the Rt. Rev. Michael Marshall. This charismatic preacher has provided a new dimension in the spreading of the Word, from the pulpit and on the air by videotapes and sound cassettes. The honorary suffragan of London was originally lured to St. Louis by SPEAK's board chairman, Fr. Salmon. SPEAK participates in underwriting the Anglican Institute, a ministry unique in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Marshall's live speaking and preaching engagements are scheduled as much as two years in advance.

"We sense we are on the cutting edge of Gospel communication," Salmon has said. "By adding electronic media to those of printing and preaching, and by extending all of them to the worldwide Anglican Communion, we are amplifying the volume and the meaning of Christ's message."