The Church Mouse Turns 50
Refreshed for the Future and Reflecting on Five Decades of Publication
In 2019, the church’s mysteriously elusive yet seemingly pervasive reporter, The Church Mouse, turns fifty years young! To mark this auspicious occasion, with the first issue of the year (the February issue), the Communications Committee is pleased to introduce an updated design which features full color in its printed format for the first time; its electronic counterpart, The Mini-Mouse, began using the refreshed appearance in January.
The re-design was accomplished with the assistance of the creative team from Imagebox Productions. Imagebox is the same group responsible for the re-development of the shadysidepres.org website several years ago, and has since provided additional design support for several of the church’s printed projects.
“Origin stories” produce popular plots for book and film audiences nowadays — so, as the Mouse enters its 50th year of publication, we wondered, what is the background of the beloved rodent? We spoke to some of the Mouse’s closest associates to gain some insights about our furry and informative friend.
Compared to the full history of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, which spans more than 150 years of ministry and mission, the Mouse is a relative newcomer. Prior to the arrival of the Mouse, the narrative of the church was chronicled through The Shadyside Scribe. What might have been the impetus for the introduction of this modest mascot to the masthead of the church’s official communiqué?
The answer lies partly, of course, in the proverbial “church mouse” — a metaphorical symbol through the centuries for one who may be poor, but is perfectly positioned to observe all the goings-on in the curious building adopted as its home. This common image may have inspired the incorporation of mice into some of our church’s ornamentation. Wooden panels in the Sanctuary contain scrolling carvings of both field mice and birds nestled amongst thistles, leaves, and floral motifs.
Charles Marcus Osborn’s avian carvings may have been inspired by Psalm 84:3, but the presence of the mice invites more musing. It may not be too far-fetched to imagine that Osborn, while envisioning his designs in 1938, had in mind this Scripture: “The tree grew great and strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant, and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it, the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living beings were fed” (Daniel 4:11-12, emphasis added). Scholars often think Jesus is recalling this imagery when He describes the Kingdom of God in the parable of the mustard seed.
Perhaps there is even more undergirding Shadyside’s selection of the mouse as the newsletter’s titular entity than carved décor. One former editor considered that “the Mouse provides a bit of whimsy” for an institution that could, at times, seem unwittingly imposing or austere. This “whimsical” and light-hearted nature of the mouse signals to readers that we do not have to take ourselves quite so seriously all the time and might prevent us from appearing overly staid or humorless. Another aspect of our meek mouthpiece is the inference that everything reported within these pages has been “overheard” by the little ears of one who is eager to share good news — The Good News, even — rather than a self-congratulatory broadcast intended to pat ourselves on the back.
Furthermore, in a way, the Mouse’s unassuming stature grants permission to pay attention to all things, great and small. Indeed, this humble creature with a huge heart has done just that for half a century and invites us all to do the same. We hope you will continue to enjoy reading The Church Mouse to be informed about and inspired by all the good God is accomplishing in and through Shadyside Presbyterian Church.
So — can you find Shadyside’s wooden mouse carving?
Here’s a hint: The Mouse doesn’t work alone — in fact, there’s a vast network of mice — and, over the years, the mice have been chummy with the Chancel Choir choristers. You might say they’re very close. “Seek, and ye shall find!”