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Join us: CC’s Storymakers’ Symposium

Are words and learning the way to madness, or to wisdom and justice? That’s the question Rev. James Dekker explored in his opening reflection at Christian Courier’s Storymakers’ Symposium. “Of the making of many books [newspapers] there is no end, and much study wearies the body,” warns Ecclesiastes 12:12. Yet in 2 Timothy 4 Paul asks, from prison, for his scrolls to be brought to him quickly. What scrolls? For learning, Dekker explained. “Learning to remind us of human mental, spiritual, intellectual limits, while also spurring us on to use the words, minds, hands, hearts and communities where God has placed us to promote mercy, grace, justice, forgiveness, shalom, hope, trust, reconciliation, creation care, family well-being and on and on and on.”

As we gathered October 24 as a group of writers, editors, designers, staff, board members and supporters of Christian Courier, Dekker invited us to “encourage each other today and all days, in agreement or dispute, but never with mean quarrels or shrunken spirits; nourish others and ourselves with words founded in the scrolls that nourished Paul’s life; and feast on our personal relationships as gifts from God, thanking God for the physical lives we receive from him – food, shelter, clothing, work, for the spiritual yearnings and fulfilments that propel us to work together on what I once called in a note to Angela ‘that dear little rag,’ Christian Courier.”

Grab a coffee and join us for the keynote addresses, our Knowledge Café and our mealtime conversations. Join us in imagining the future of Christian news from a full-orbed kingdom perspective, which you will be invited to envision in our Reader Survey, January 2016. And consider, at this juncture, supporting CC’s fall donation drive. By God’s grace, these connections continue to uphold CC.
– Angela Reitsma Bick

The joy of journalism
Veteran journalist Thomas Froese gave the first keynote address on the joy he’s found in leaving, letting go and listening. Froese writes for the Hamilton Spectator and Christian Week, and lives in Uganda eight months of every year where he teaches at Uganda Christian University. Froese began in a small newsroom in St. Thomas, Ont., where he prayed “to get out of St. Thomas, move up in my career and to be married.” Years later, when he met his future wife, she was embarking on a medical mission trip to Yemen and asked him to come. “I had prayed myself right out of Canada,” Froese said. He left, and in that leaving learned to let go of an “us vs. them” mentality Christians are susceptible to. Meeting people from other cultures reminded him that “we’re all starving beggars in need of the same bread.”

Writers have a job to do, a “great and holy job: Look at the world in all its horror, and in all its beauty too, with a clear mind. And then show it all to those who cannot see very much at all. And words are all you have to get the job done – to help carry readers from one side to the other side, to a better understanding of life itself.”

“Blessed are the muckrakers,” Froese said later, “who muckrake not because they love the world but because they love the world, even as God so loved the world that he came and walked and muckraked among us.”
– Angela Reitsma Bick

Hope-, faith- and love-mongers
At the Storytellers’ Symposium, York University Chaplain Shiao Chong reminded us that there’s something powerful about putting pen to paper: “Stories are how we make sense of our lives; they’re how we organize and express our meaning-making, our attempts at finding purpose, values, identity.” Like most human projects, the process of story making is open to being corrupted and warped. In our story-making, we need to be on the lookout for the temptation of “Babel-making,” that vain desire for highlighting our own achievements, especially those rooted in distrust, fear and control. That’s a subtle and seductive temptation for all writers, for all meaning-makers, but God doesn’t leave us adrift, left to fight that temptation ourselves. In the midst of our Babel-making, God comes to us as the Shalom-maker, the author of a story composed of faith, hope and love.

Those of us who regularly put pen to paper (or clatter our fingers over a keyboard) ought to write with the joyful expectation that God is making all things, all stories, new. We’re called to be co-Shalom-makers, and through God’s mercy and grace, we can be “hope-mongers instead of fear-mongers, faith-mongers instead of distrust-mongers, and love-mongers instead of control-mongers.” God is at work! Let’s be encouraged in our story-making.
– Brian Bork

Knowledge Café: Interviewing ourselves
A highlight of our day was our “Knowledge Café” – a group conversation focused around questions intended to push the paper forward in its mission and vision. Facilitators first asked attendees to submit questions on sticky notes that they felt the paper ought to ask itself. During a break, the facilitator grouped all the questions under five broad topics: digital presence, journalistic content, Christian perspective, sustainability and expansion of the paper’s reach.

Later in the day, one table was set aside for each of these five topics with its sticky-note questions attached. Attendees were asked to visit their two favourite topics, respond to as many questions as they could in the time allotted and to record their conversation for CC leaders to assess after the conference.

Some of the questions were broad and provocative: “What sort of risks is CC willing to take going forward?” Others were more practical: “How can we recruit more writers and readers in Western Canada?” Still other questions prompted a fresh perspective: “How can CC draw attention from secular audiences?”

I was part of a conversation around the intriguing question, “What fascinates you about the Lord, and how can that fascination fill the pages of CC?” One person remarked, “‘Fascination for God’ is a fresh way to think of writing articles.” Another said that the paper could continue to reflect the justice, holiness and beauty of God and his creation. Finally, someone added: “God is often surprising. CC needs to continually be open to surprise. His surprises happen all over the world, every day.” And we might add, they happen for CC and its writers, too.
– Peter Schuurman

Table topics
Enjoying great conversation over a meal is what makes any conference congenial. Christian Courier’s Storymakers’ Symposium was exceptional in that regard.

Over lunch I chatted with Rudy Eikelboom about his sabbatical. He calls it “giving the taxpayers their money’s worth.” Not only do scientists need to be held accountable, they usually want to share the results of their research. I asked Keith Knight if there was anything missing from the pages of CC, any topic he’d like covered more thoroughly. It was gratifying to hear his emphatic “No.” The content is excellent, but we need to work on the marketing end. Harry Houtman noted that the upcoming wave of boomer retirees might be an emerging market to tap.

Katie Hoogendam and I commiserated for a few moments over that age-old dilemma of work/life balance and how to find time to write with the challenges of family responsibilities. Sonya VanderVeen Feddema joined us. The topic switched to the quandary of an editor having to disappoint writers. Sonya noted that successful writers must have a teachable spirit. Sonya and I shared a moment of mutual joy, by the way, finally having an opportunity to meet in person after an email relationship that lasted several years and included many prayers for one another. As lunch drew to a close, I had a brief opportunity to meet one of my world-and-life-view heroes, Cal Seerveld. It was a delight to clasp his hand and convey to him how much his work has influenced me!

It was also wonderful to meet with a company of CC folk at a lovely Italian restaurant for dinner. Over chicken marsala, I delighted in free-wheeling conversations with these familiar contributors: Brian Bork, Mike Buma, Monica de Regt and son Tom Smith. The Canadian election had to be dissected, of course, with Monica noting that she had never been more engaged by a national election. I, on the other hand, so disliked the tenor of the debates and campaigns that I felt demoralized by the whole thing. That led to further comment about the American election. Other topics were the differences between Christian education in Ontario and B.C., author Thomas King, university education and the influence of profs, the transitory nature of campus relationships and lastly, design theory. Oh, and I got to see some video clips of my grandchildren on Tom’s phone. . . .

Which leads to the most talked about subject of the day: how phones and digital connectivity are impacting our culture and what that means for CC going forward!
– Cathy Smith

  • 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.

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