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Christian Courier and good-news, 21st-century living

Why does Christian Courier still exist in 2014? How can a print biweekly compete in the digital Information Age? As an Editor half the age of the newspaper I work for, I wrestle with these questions, and more.

Christian Courier and good-news, 21st-century living

When kite-flying, pay attention to your surroundings, accept the help of others and enjoy looking upward, to the heavens.

Why does Christian Courier still exist in 2014? How can a print biweekly compete in the digital Information Age? As an Editor half the age of the newspaper I work for, I wrestle with these questions, and more. At least, when there’s time for it. Sometimes it’s all I can do to answer, “how will I find something by Friday for page one?”

The short answer to CC’s survival and each issue’s content is by God’s grace.

The long answer is that by giving body to a Reformed perspective, Christian Courier has something unique to offer Canadians today.

What is that Reformed perspective? We believe that this world mixed with joy and sorrow, God’s handiwork, was once perfect and will be again. We believe that God sent Christ to earth to rescue us from sorrow, the result of our own sinfulness, and that he calls us journalistically to join him now in bringing about fresh joy – restoring his creation. That perspective, shared by our editors, writers and staff, undergirds every article in CC. Christ does not want us to serve stale bread. And that’s why I think we have seen such a good response to CC, even in 2014.

People today are hungry. We are hungry for meaning. We are hungry for hope, community and a sense that our lives matter. Ours are the same restless hearts, always searching for God, that St. Augustine described in 398 A.D.

What shape does restlessness take today? What does it mean to follow Jesus in 2014 – as parents, politicians and pastors; as musicians and magistrates; as activists, artists and athletes? What does a full-orbed kingdom vision for life and community mean for households? For societies? For Canada?

By God’s grace and for God’s glory, Christian Courier explores those questions and thereby contributes in a small but significant way to the sense of hope, community and meaning we all seek.

Against despair
In February, Contributing Editor Peter Schuurman sent out a promotional letter, along with sample copies of Christian Courier, to 241 Christian Reformed (CRC) pastors across Canada.

“I’ve recently written three longer articles in CC about you,” Schuurman told pastors. “Two focused on the 580 percent increase in Article 17s [church/pastor splits] and the other on the trend of CRC pastors taking a step back from whole-hearted support for Christian educational institutions (Article 71). It’s not all cheerful news, but the issues tug at the heart of what it means to pursue Jesus’ covenant-based and kingdom-minded vision for life.

“I want to ask you: Who in Canada carries this vision forward in the welter of worldviews that bombard Christian households today?

“Christian Courier does. So there is another 71 and 17 which I want to underscore. Psalm 71:17, where the poet sings: ‘You got me when I was an unformed youth, God, and taught me everything I know. Now I’m telling the world your wonders, I’ll keep at it until I’m old and gray.’

“Christian Courier wants to be faithful to what we have been given since our early teachings in biblical living and to pass it on to the next generation,” Schuurman concludes. “We want to inform and equip Canadians for their task of unfolding a Reformed, biblical vision through Christian institutions and beyond.”

That mission, recognized and supported by the 12 leaders of the CRC in Canada who signed the letter along with Peter, fills me with incredible hope.

Against isolation
CC began as Calvinist Contact – a way for a new immigrant community in Canada to keep in touch. And although certain sections like the Classifieds still do that, CC today is more outward looking as it contributes to community in new ways. We are living through a time of great change for Christians in this country, change which threatens some and energizes others. These pages are a place where we don’t pretend to think identically on every topic, or even argue that we should. These pages are a place for us to learn how to disagree well, to borrow a phrase from Shane Claiborne.

Many faithful subscribers also write to us and for us. This cultivates better listening, especially on divisive topics. We become aware of other positions. And, in becoming aware, we can extend grace to others in the same way Christ does to us (Eph. 4:7). I think growth can come through that kind of edifying discussion. It has for me.

Because we’re an independent publication – not funded by any denomination – we have space for those discussions. Because we publish the work of Canadian writers (80 percent or more), our articles are important and relevant to Canadians. That’s how I see a paper like Christian Courier serving those who want to translate the gospel into good-news 21st-century living.

Against skepticism
The words “hope” and “community” have been thinned out by overuse on wall stickers and Pinterest slogans. I don’t know if they convey the fact that CC has incredible quality and depth. Our columns, news articles, features and editorials – even the average letter – think through thorny issues with the help of Scripture. A lot of our material is incredibly practical. It applies to the decisions we make day by day. And that’s how CC can contribute to a wholesome, God-honouring life.

And judging by the response from our readers, CC is not only reaching subscribers but having a ripple effect: in the past year, CC articles have been used as required reading for church Council meetings, in small groups, on contemplative retreats and at bi-national meetings of the CRC. One article posted on our Facebook site was read over 50,000 times. We’ve just been shortlisted for 14 Word Guild Awards, more than any other Christian publication in Canada this year.

More importantly, by sharing stories of God at work in the world, I hope we inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewal – in whatever sphere of influence God has placed you.

“I believe that when Christians are informed,” Shayne Moore writes in Global Soccer Mom, “faith will compel [us] to action” (104).

We at CC make mistakes, of course. Typos and omissions and gaffes. But I like to imagine that this paper is a kite. It’s made of plain balsa wood and regular newsprint. I can’t really explain how it stays up. And there are certainly times when its spare form dips alarmingly low. But somehow, it hasn’t fallen yet. The (holy) wind is favourable.

If we can convince every person who reads this paper to support us by subscribing . . .

If our new website allows CC articles to reach a wider audience and generate income for the paper . . .

If more of the new generation decides to join the faithful, long-time supporters currently holding the cord aloft with us, this kite of ours will really fly.

About the Author
Christian Courier and good-news, 21st-century living

Angela Reitsma Bick, Editor-in-chief

Angela Reitsma Bick began writing for Christian Courier in 2002 as a freelancer. After finishing an MA in English Lit from Queen’s University, she taught English at Redeemer University College as an Adjunct professor and served as Director of its Writing Centre for three years. She became Editor of Christian Courier in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for Christian Courier to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today in our homes, churches and schools; in our neighbourhoods and across this country. She hopes that the shared stories of God at work in the world inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewing his creation. Angela lives in Newcastle, Ontario with her husband, Allan, and three young children