A wing and a prayer

The following was given as the opening address at Christian Courier’s Storymakers’ Symposium on Oct. 24.

Last fall, I was invited to Redeemer to speak to English students about the value of a Liberal Arts degree. I got on a tangent and started describing the layout process for the student newspaper when I was a student here: print out each article, roll melted wax on the back, paste it on the storyboard, proof it, reprint corrections and then physically drive the completed cardboard panels to our publisher in Stoney Creek.

The current students looked at me like I had crawled out of the Stone Age. But that’s the thing about technology: 15 years is forever. The process was digitized soon after the next person took over. How the student paper operated then and now is another Age apart.

Now consider the seven decades that Christian Courier has been in print. Think about how many Ages it has survived. Some people who worked on CC in the 70s, 80s and 90s are here today and can tell us what production used to look like. When my daughters saw a photo of CC staff working on an early typesetting machine (in our Oct. 26 issue), their jaws dropped. As my 10-year-old pointed out, “You can’t take that to a coffee shop to work on your editorials.”

Thankfully the Board and staff of Christian Courier have, over 70 years, kept this paper’s message consistent while allowing production methods to change. Have you heard of Morris? Morris was an enormous, crotchety old machine that put mailing labels on the papers until 2009. He lived in the back room and then Ineke’s garage and was as temperamental as the weather. He enjoyed Kim Youngblut’s laughter, so I’m told, right up until the day he was hauled off to the recycling plant. If we are lucky, we’ll hear more stories like that throughout the day.

Worth celebrating
As you see on our logo, this gathering today has three goals, all connected to “story.” The first is create, and it has deep roots: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . . in the beginning, God created. We writers, imperfect image-bearers, create stories, and I never stop feeling lucky that I get to do this as a job. It’s such great fun! The best articles wrestle creatively with the hard issues of the day. They make us aware of other positions and other experiences. Our keynote speakers will talk more on the role of writing as a tool in God’s kingdom.

The second theme is curate: the way that we select, organize and present our material. Some of our workshops will explore best practices for newspapers and online media. Our layout staff and graphic designer are also curators of Christian Courier as they focus on how format can enhance content. Let’s listen to their ideas today and in the coming months.

Lastly, we are here to celebrate 70 years of story-making, which means 3,019 issues dedicated to equip and encourage readers to join God in the work of creation-renewal.

We are not just in this business to report on all the ruin in our world, although that is a part of it. Journalists face a lot of sorrow close-up, and that coverage can feel like what writer Jonathan Franzen once called the “burden of newsbringing” (“Perchance to Dream,” Harpers 1996).

Maybe you have felt that burden. But I’ve been grateful to discover that having the hard conversations seems to help. One of the first news pieces I wrote was about investment fraud within the church community. I stumbled over questions, hobbled by manners. Interrogating a pensioner on the details of his lost investment is not the stuff of polite conversation. But I’ve noticed that people want to share their stories; God knows, this lightens the burden. 

So we are in this business to report not on all the ruin but on all the redemption in our world – all the places where God is at work – in our homes, schools, churches, communities and conversations. That’s worth celebrating.

Message-bearing wings    
Once, I was standing at a booth promoting CC when a college-age guy came over to ask what the word “Courier” meant.

“Sounds old-fashioned,” he said.

But this is the updated version! I thought. This modernized Calvinist Contact! In 2010, not long after that, we hired a graphic designer to redo the masthead, to the one you see today on the front page. He added the bird, which I thought was just lovely. It evokes a dove, but also perhaps the more humble carrier pigeon. What pigeons lack in glamour they make up in determination.

And we can trace their history all the way back to Noah, the first person to set a message-seeking bird free and await the news it would bring back.

If this bird [Twitter] broadcasts short, staccato & general announcements, a carrier pigeon bears a unique message to a specific audience.

I work on Christian Courier because I believe the message of the gospel that it carries.

But let’s keep things real. We’re not a wealthy publication. You could say, quite honestly, that we operate on a wing and a prayer – and that is part of CC’s history too.

Thankfully, God gives strength to those message-bearing wings. We do not face the future of Christian Courier, whatever that may be, alone.

  • Angela became Editor of CC in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for CC to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today. 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 children.

You just read something for free.

But it didn’t appear out of thin air. Writers, editors and designers at Christian Courier worked behind the scenes to bring hope-filled, faith-based journalism to you.

As an independent publication, we simply cannot produce award-winning, Christ-centred material without support from readers like you. And we are truly grateful for any amount you can give!

CC is a registered charity, which is good news for you! Every contribution ($10+) is tax-deductible.

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