Ticonderoga Pencils & the Common Good

The Ticonderoga pencil is a simple tool for writing. To its manufacturers, it is the “the #1, most recognized, and revered pencil throughout America and the world.” A bit plucky for a pencil, perhaps?

For our work at The Collaborative, the Ticonderoga pencil is an instrument that signifies much of what we aim to achieve. We use Ticonderogas ourselves, and generously share them with our fellow collaborators, guests, and community. More than a tool to jot a quick note, this particular pencil reflects a complementary function, approach, and ingenuity to our work at The Collaborative.


A writing instrument reminds us of God’s written word, the Bible, and the One about whom faithful men and women wrote, Jesus Christ. Today God’s Word writes on our hearts His truth about life, faith, and our work in this world. Mother Teresa said, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” We mine the Scriptures and explore that which is good, true, and beautiful at The Collaborative. A pencil helps us to mine and represent a ‘writing God.’

Our world today is inundated with fast and cheap information. It is our technological advances that has made this possible like email, texting, and instant messaging. A pencil is simply an innovation (a tool) that retains human agency and dignity through the intentional act of writing, note taking, and underlining rich passages in a great book. The Collaborative, like a Ticonderoga pencil, seeks to make us more human as we rewrite our culture to be more like the Kingdom of God.


The Collaborative is, well, a collaboration. We reach out to help those in Orlando who are the Biblically curious and those who already believe to connect the dots between faith and work. We serve an audience reflecting Orlando’s diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. Working together the learning is rich and in-depth.

The Ticonderoga pencil is similar. Many different Orlandoans come together at the Dixon Ticonderoga company to work hard on a great product. The dignity that come to the employees through pencil production is palatable. A quick read of their company’s literature just adds further proof of the thoughtful and excellent workmanship that is carried as a badge of honor by those who work there. The company aims to create an instrument of creativity for business, education, craftsmanship, or the arts.

The Collaborative is a similar instrument for the common good in the marketplace, government and the arts. We focus on people, encouraging good work and hard work, all done to the glory of God, to the burgeoning of oneself, to wholistic discipleship, and to the blessing of one’s neighbor.

Furthermore, ticonderoga is a Mohican term that means “at the junction of two waterways.” This now-extinct village and famous fort of the same name in upper state New York sat between Lake George and Lake Champlain as the site of portage between the two waterways.

At The Collaborative, we sit at the junction of faith and work. At that very junction we integrate theology, spiritual formation and vocational application.

Theology matters, and so we extract the insights of the ancients and today’s thought leaders for deep truth. Spiritual formation is integral to much of The Collaborative’s program. We are firmly convicted that more information for the mind fails to stick or fully transform if the spirit is not formed simultaneously through the disciplines of the Christian faith. Lastly, we dig deep in specific vocations applying what we discover.


It was from Fort Ticonderoga that Colonel Henry Knox transported the canons used to restore Boston to the Colonial Americans. We seek a restoration of today’s culture and economic systems.

Restoration is at the center of our work because our world is fractured, far from what it could be. Work has become twisted around the materialistic axis driving people to be less human in their choices and their daily living. Labor has become too mechanized creating a false dichotomy between laborers of a higher or lower order. Full industries and specific businesses fail the greater community if only watching their bottom line. And the entrepreneurial spirit needs reigniting to solve the social, environmental, racial and political ills of our society.

Sure, the Ticonderoga pencil is not purely a product of Orlando due to the global supply chain. The environmental impact of half a billion pencils per year is intense even with a corporate commitment to recycling used pencils for, as the company says, “second lives.” At The Collaborative, we, too, are reminded of our imperfect world, and even our own personal shortcomings. No matter the tools at our disposal, from a pencil to an incredible theological doctrine astutely applied, only Christ redeems culture and economics. To Him we look, from Him we glean, and Him alone do we serve.

The Collaborative’s vision is a culturally and economically renewed city living out faith through work. We do this by redeeming the purpose of work by restoring and renewing Christ-centered individuals in their vocations. Next time you’re with us, grab a Ticonderoga pencil, and let’s collaborate.

This blog originally appeared on The Collaborative website.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

Dr. Case Thorp is leader of The Collaborative for Cultural and Economic Renewal and the Senior Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.

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