It reminded me that CC writers are more than “just” writers; many are fantastically creative and dedicated Christians through whom God is at work (embodied, you might say) in all kinds of interesting ways.
A friend loves the word syllogism. He likes its logic: if x is true and y is true, we can conclude z. If all birds are animals and all parrots are birds, then all parrots are animals.
During university, he especially liked finding faulty syllogisms in my writing. If penguins can’t fly and you can’t fly, you are not automatically a penguin. That’s an obvious example, but it’s shockingly easy to draw bad conclusions from good data.
Syllogisms came to mind during the annual Canadian Church Press (CCP) convention last month. It was held in downtown Toronto, where this year Rachel Baarda and I represented Christian Courier. Many denominational as well as a few independent Christian publications from across Canada and the U.S. were there as the American Associated Church Press joined the CCP for the first time. The convention welcomed people from Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Salvation Army, United, Mennonite, Adventist and evangelical churches. A diverse crowd with at least two things in common: a love for the written word and the conviction that words can be tools in God’s kingdom. It was great to see Christian journalists in the flesh – some of whom I’d emailed for years but never met.
The culminating Awards Ceremony was over two hours long – 300 winning and runners-up titles were read aloud (more than half from U.S. publications), but it was far from tedious. I found that list more inspiring than the best workshop had been. Here’s a taste: “Our Emmaus Road,” “Congregations Tackle Border Crisis,” “Worship is Our Protest,” “Can Games and Game Theory Help Church Leaders Navigate Conflict?”, “Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy,” “Artful Aging,” “Daddy, Why Are Those People Sleeping in the Park?” and “I Fought the Lord and the Lord Won.” Wouldn’t you pick up and read articles that catchy?
As you heard, Dena Nicolai’s Christian Courier article won one of two A.C. Forrest Memorial Awards (for publications over and under 10,000 circulation). Dena’s awareness-raising news piece was entitled “Canadian Doctors and Nurses Fight for Refugees’ Right to Health Care” (July 28, 2014, available at christiancourier.ca/site/past-issues).
Health care practitioners were protesting (and still are) funding cuts made three years ago by the Conservative government to the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides critical health care to people with legal refugee status and people whose claims are awaiting definitive status. Dena shared the perspective of Hadassah Moes, a Vancouver nurse at a health care centre for refugees, as well as the life story of Akberet Beyene, a journalist who fled to Canada from danger in her home country of Eritrea.
At the time, the compelling article elicited some lively feedback from CC readers, including this question: Why would refugees receive vision, dental and other benefits that regular Canadians do not? Dena clarified which benefits need to be restored and why (October 13, 2014).
I had submitted the original article, along with a dozen others, and then forgot to tell Dena. This explains why she thought my first brief email (“You’ve won an award!”) – eight months after the article was published – was spam, and ignored it. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for her friends and family to see the news on CC’s Facebook page.
When we finally had a chance to talk by phone, I was amazed by how alive the topic still is in Dena’s life. First Christian Reformed Church Vancouver, where Dena is currently the Community Connections Coordinator, is in the midst of a sermon series called “Welcoming the Stranger.” She just helped facilitate a “Journey With Me” workshop, created by the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue, which encourages churches to engage with refugees and refugee justice. Weekly, she organizes a neighbourhood meal through her position at church.
It reminded me that CC writers are more than “just” writers; many are fantastically creative and dedicated Christians through whom God is at work (embodied, you might say) in all kinds of interesting ways. We are the lucky ones, blessed by the snippets they share in these pages.
Workshops at the Church Press Convention focused on some of the factors influencing whether a publication will be successful or not – design, story-telling, fair reporting, web presence, social media campaigns. Those things are important. Yet they can’t be slotted into a tidy syllogism that becomes our foundation; implementing x and improving y won’t necessarily win us z (more subscribers). Maybe it’s my personality or maybe it’s the mad-cap world of the magazine and newspaper business today that makes nothing seem that certain.
Thankfully, there’s another variable – the Author and Creator of our faith. Unless the Lord shapes CC, its editors labour in vain. I am thankful for every journalist who declares – in word and in the flesh – that God is our rock and our salvation (Ps. 94), and in him we shall not be shaken.