Origin Stories is a new Uniter series that unearths the beginnings of an established artist’s career or the founding of a Winnipeg arts organization.
Geez magazine, founded in Winnipeg by by Aiden Enns, is a niche, socially progressive Christian publication concerned with all forms of justice and taking both prophetic and provocative stances against the institutional church. Its recent move to Detroit, Mich. led to greater gender diversity and stronger roots in community and activism.
The seed that would grow into the quarterly Chrisian magazine was planted in Vancouver when Karen Schlichting pitched the name “Geez’’ to Enns. The publication officially launched in Winnipeg in December 2005, circulating 500 copies.
In 2014, due to changes the publications’ team was going through and cultural shifts they were witnessing, they decided to adjust “the feel of the magazine to be contemplative, cultural resistance,” Lidya Wylie-Kellermann, who has served as the editor of the publication for two years, says.
In 2019, Geez moved to Detroit. Associate editor Kateri Boucher says “Aiden had been looking for a transition, and it worked out really well that our team was a lot of what he was looking for in terms of younger people and more women rooted in activism.”
Wylie-Kellermann says “we talk a lot about being a prophetic voice to the institutional church and a pastoral voice for those who are labouring on the frontlines of social change.”
The benefits of being a small publication with part-time staff means Geez has “one foot in the magazine and one foot on the ground in movement and community work in the city,” Wylie-Kellermann says. The staff’s work in Detroit includes gardening, mutual-aid work and resistance with the Poor People’s Campaign.
When it came time to relocate, it wasn’t a question of if they should move but how Detroit would influence and shape the magazine going forward.
The move was difficult for Canadians. “There’s so much about the way Geez was built into the fabric of Winnipeg ... and there was a lot of grief of moving to the belly of the beast in the US,” Wylie-Kellermann says.
The magazine remains committed to their status as a North American publication, serving readers and communities from the United States and Canada.
During the transition period, Boucher had the opportunity to drive back and forth from Winnipeg to Detroit. She experienced a similar vibrancy in both cities.
“A lot of the places in Detroit that Geez roots itself in, in terms of community and art, is what I experienced in Winnipeg,” she says.
The magazine has evolved over the years, but Boucher says that, with its strong roots, staff and sense of community, they “keep trying to do what Geez has always done, which is really deep discernment around what is the right issue and question to be asking for this moment.”
Pick up a copy of Geez locally at McNally Robinson or visit geezmagazine.org/store to subscribe or donate.
Published in Volume 75, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 24, 2021)