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Grace Before Everything

Tracing the Holy Spirit’s calligraphy on 75 years of CC

Seventy-five years of Christian Courier (and predecessors) is an astonishingly unlikely achievement. The little engine that could. A survivor. I’m more than a little proud of having been a small part of its history, more than a little proud that my words – as an elementary student, a high school student, a young teacher, a retired teacher, a features editor, columnist and reviewer – have appeared on its pages. My own faith story is inscribed in those words. If it wasn’t so clearly a herculean task, I’d count all the CC articles I’ve saved, models and examples, hundreds of clippings that challenged and matured my spiritual thinking. I praise God for CC, for past and present editors, board and staff members, donors, advertisers and, of course, all those writers who contributed their gifts and still do. But, as theologian Andrew Purves noted, “Our ministry does not make Jesus present; it is Christ’s presence that makes our ministry possible.” 

CC’s ministry is a ministry of words. Author and pastor John Suk signed my copy of his book with this encouragement: “Dear Cathy, keep writing. There is power in words, as in the Word.” He’s right. Consider these words that never fail to thrill, their timeless rhythmic cadence pronouncing Christ’s supremacy: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Grace before everything. That Word spoke creation into being, donned human flesh, assumed a mortal Life to save lives. That Word radiated a brilliance to sweep away all darkness before it. Like John the Baptist, CC writers and readers testify to Christ’s presence, bear witness, cry in the wilderness. By means of words, sentences and paragraphs, we declare, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

Roughly three generations have inhabited CC’s pages, exhorting one another, seeking a faithful intersection of Christian testimony and cultural engagement. Each decade birthed new emphases – the struggles of immigrants acclimating to Canadian culture, sharp theological conflicts, the theory and praxis of Christian schools and other Christian organizations, Sunday observance and movie attendance, the place of women in the church and the current focus on social justice issues. In A Feast of Families Virginia Stem Owens muses, “Perhaps every generation faces the obligation to renew its vows to the Lord.” CC was and is a place for exercising that obligation, a communal space for “testing the spirits.”

Editor Bert Witvoet and Lini Grol, long-time subscriber who renewed for 2yrs at age 101 (photo taken in 2015).

Columnists Rudy Eikelboom, Brian Bork and David Koyzis.

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
and grace before the concert and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting,
swimming, fencing, boxing, watching, playing, dancing;
and grace before I dip the pen in ink.
– G.K. Chesterton

Grace in every direction

Contemporary readers might be tempted to dismiss the concerns of previous generations as paltry, insular or exclusive. But I won’t. And I hope you don’t. We’re all flawed witnesses of the Word, hampered by our innate sinfulness and bounded by our own enculturation. Who knows what critical matters we’re overlooking, avoiding or neglecting as we confront our present circumstances? Who knows what future generations might identify as our misguided preoccupations? I’m hoping for grace when you read my words. So I’m obligated to look for grace in what’s gone before, grace in the here and now and grace ahead. I’m choosing to trace the Holy Spirit’s calligraphy superimposed on all the pages of CC’s newsprint. Frederick Buechner’s wise words about religious observances apply: “It is life that is going on. It is always going on, and it is always precious. It is God that is going on. It is you who are there that is going on.”

N.T. Wright has said that the resurrection is “the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.” For 75 years Christian Courier has highlighted the gospel truth of that “kingdom on earth,” the already and not yet reign of Jesus Christ. Clinging to our Easter hope, Christian Courier readers and writers, witness-bearers all, can pray confidently with author Gary Schmidt (Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer), “Lord, let the words serve.”

Left: With stories about immigrant life, Arie and Katrien was CC’s most popular column in the 70s and 80s.
Right: Free hand scissor cutting by Lini Grol (from the archives)
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Digitization process underway for CC archives

Three university libraries host a set of Christian Courier archives – 3317 issues to date! – King’s, Redeemer and Calvin. These are accessible to the public in hard-copy format. 

We are delighted to announce that Redeemer recently began a project to digitize the entire collection, a pain-staking process that involves scanning each issue page by page. They are working with archivists at King’s and Calvin to replace missing or damaged issues. Eventually, this collection of digital back issues will be freely accessible online, an incredibly valuable resource for historians and many others!

If you have back issues to donate, please contact ac.remeeder@yrarbil to find out what is needed.

What used to make the news?

Headlines from our history

  • “Ons eigen orgaan” – “Our own media venue” (1949)
  • “Het wonder van de Messias” – “The miracle of the Messiah” (1953)
  • “Het lied van ‘Damme’” – “Songs of the homeland” (1960)
  • “The battle for Sunday rages on in B.C.,” John Van Hemert (1970)
  • “I love organ music, but . . .,” Adrian Peetoom (1988)
  • “Separated and divorced people need our support, too,” Bert Witvoet (1989)
  • “Opening church offices to women: The anatomy of a decision,” Marian Van Til (1990)
  • “This world is not my home: Christian hymns and the Rapture,” Nick Overduin (1991)
  • “Today’s conservatives are yesterday’s liberals,” Harry der Nederlanden (1995)
  • “Living out the faith in poetry,” Calvin Seerveld 
  • “The fury within: A woman discusses her previous eating disorder,” MaRisa Stevens (1997)
  • “Why aren’t our nostrils on top of our noses and other questions we never ask God,” Ron de Boer (2004)
  • “The ripple effect: Tim Bosma and the gift of community,” Krista Dam-VadeKuyt (2016)
  • “The Hillsong worship industry,” Peter Schuurman (2018)

  • Cathy Smith, former features editor and columnist for Christian Courier, is a retired Christian schoolteacher who lives in Wyoming, Ont.

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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