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Everyday patron saints

There was an undercurrent of worry, much of it related to money, at the Canadian Church Press (CCP) convention in April. This year’s gathering was called “Making Way: Mapping Paths through a Changing Landscape.” That title was not only relevant but prescient, at least for CC.

Everyday patron saints

“Occasionally, in times of worry, I’ve longed to be stylish,” van Gogh once wrote, “but on second thought I say no – just let me be myself – and express rough, yet true things.”

Vincent shared these thoughts with his brother Theo on March 11, 1882, in one of the thousand letters remaining from their correspondence. The brothers, sons of a Dutch Reformed pastor, were close friends.

Though Vincent ranks among the most famous artists in the world now, he sold only one painting during his lifetime. Brushes, paint, modelling fees, rent. Everyone has to eat.

Where did the money come from?

It was Theo who encouraged Vincent to become an artist, paid for his studies at the Académie des Beaux-Arts and supported him financially while he painted. Vincent’s records show that this younger brother gave him at least 17,500 Francs ($91,000 today), which some scholars estimate was 15 percent of Theo’s income. And the generous sibling did not expect to be repaid, at least not fiscally.

“You talk about money that you owe me and that you wish to pay back to me. I know nothing of that,” Theo wrote to Vincent. “What I’d like to see you achieve would be that you never had that concern. I must work to earn money. Since the two of us don’t have much of it, we mustn’t overburden ourselves. . . . You’ve given it [money] back to me several times over, both by your work and by a brotherly affection which is worth more than all the money I’ll ever possess.”

New paths
There was an undercurrent of worry, much of it related to money, at the Canadian Church Press (CCP) convention in April. This year’s gathering was called “Making Way: Mapping Paths through a Changing Landscape.” That title was not only relevant but prescient, at least for CC.

As one speaker said, “Our world is changing every day.” He gave tips on how to reach a smartphone audience, with the caveat that “whatever is working now could change in a month.”

The next afternoon, a CC business matter painfully illustrated the convention’s theme. CanWeb Printing Inc. had gone bankrupt.

CanWeb has published Christian Courier for 10 years. We had just finished copyediting the May 9 issue that morning and would win six CCP awards that night. But without a printer, there was no way to tell you about Rudy’s award or share Jim’s story on Nadia Bolz-Weber.

At least, not on paper.

Is this it for the print version of CC? I wondered. Will an all-digital CC have to chase the smartphone audience?

Thankfully, Rose der Nederlanden and Ineke Medcalf worked tirelessly the next few days, getting quotes from other printers. We were able to find a new place to print our bi-weekly paper at the same price, and the May 9 issue was mailed out just two days late – nothing short of a miracle! Praise be to God.

The only difference between printers is available paper size: the print version is one inch shorter than it used to be (“way back” in April). We frantically trimmed photos, bylines, captions and stories to make the first issue fit; now we’re shortening the text on every page by about 100 words.

Loving Vincent
Meanwhile, halfway across the world, another adaptation is being made. A Polish company is working on the world’s first feature-length film made entirely out of oil paintings. Using 12 paintings per second, Loving Vincent tells the story of van Gogh’s “influential but troubled life.” It literally brings his paintings to life, using his work as setting and inspiration, and 800 of his letters for the plot.

One hundred artists have already contributed to the project, painting in specially constructed workstations that allow 30 people to work at once. The film will feature 62,000 hand-painted frames, and each one is an oil painting in van Gogh’s style. You can watch a trailer of Loving Vincent on YouTube for a glimpse of what critics are already calling a stunning film. I hope Theo van Gogh gets a prominent role.

Brushes, paint, workstations, rent. Everyone has to eat.

Where does the money come from?

Loving Vincent is being funded by the Polish Film Institute and fans of the artist through a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a neat parallel to how Theo worked behind the scenes so that something largely unprofitable – but incalculably beautiful – can exist.

* * * * *

As the world reassesses the value of journalism, every news organization is experimenting with funding models too. Writers, editors, designers, paper. Everyone has to eat.

Where does the money come from?

Right now, Christian Courier balances the books with a combination of subscription, advertising and donation revenue. We are a registered non-profit doing what you might call missional media work. In the next half year, we’re going to explore new means of sustainability. Your support in all three areas is what keeps us going. Think of it as patronage for the 21st century.  

Occasionally, in times of worry, do we long to be more stylish?

Not really.

Just let CC be itself – and express rough, yet true things.

I am learning the same lesson as van Gogh.

Readers who feel strongly about the future format of CC can still fill out our feedback survey by following the link from Thank you to Breakthru Productions in Gdansk for sending these photos of the film’s production process. It’s set to be released in 2017.

About the Author
Everyday patron saints

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