It was just over 28 years ago, in October 1982, that the first issue of what is now BC Christian News was distributed to 300 Vancouver and Fraser Valley churches.
Some 5,000 copies of that first little black-and-white tabloid were printed. It was the beginning of an ambitious endeavour: to use a community newspaper to “link Christians in ministry and purpose.”
Many will attest to the impact BCCN has had across the Christian community in B.C. A good sampling of such responses are on pages 7 and 31.
During his 20-year tenure as editor, publisher and finally president, Flyn Ritchie was able to develop BCCN into an effective vehicle for unity and collaboration.
In his ‘retiring’ column in the December issue of BCCN, Ritchie noted:
I had a clear vision of the churches of Vancouver jointly sharing responsibility for the city -– being able to serve a block, or several blocks, depending on the church’s size. Naïve, no doubt – I was a very young Christian. But that image has not left me, and I often think that it takes a certain amount of applied naïvety to achieve anything for God’s kingdom.
Naivety or not, there is little doubt that the work of BCCN has built more linkages and brought more Christians into collaboration with each other -– and each others’ churches –- than might ever have been thought possible.
Like many Christian community newspapers throughout North America, BCCN’s genesis came alongside a Billy Graham mission. In our case, it was the 1984 eight-day Billy Graham visit to the then newly completed BC Place stadium. The mission and newspaper offices were adjacent to each other, just across the bridge from the stadium.
The little newspaper grew to a circulation of 30,000 –- give or take, depending on the times. It was distributed in 1,000 churches or more, not only in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley but also on Vancouver Island and the Okanagan/Thompson areas.
The paper’s original name was Christian Info – the same name as the provincially incorporated charity under which it operated, Christian Info Society (CIS). During the early 1990s, it operated briefly under the name Christian Info News, before taking on its present title.
The newspaper was not the only vehicle used by CIS to extend Christian communication throughout British Columbia and –- in some cases –- Canada.
In the early years, an outreach tabloid known as People … with a Reason was published occasionally by CIS, in cooperation with various churches. It told stories about people within those churches who ‘had a reason’ for their Christian faith. The People papers were distributed by the co-sponsoring churches into their neighbourhoods.
Through the years, other published entities joined BC Christian News, including Options (now Converge), a glossy nationally distributed magazine serving the 15-34 age demographic. Options grew out of a merger between the Christian Higher Education Magazine and Mission Fields.
Mission Fields was independent from Missions Fest Vancouver, which became the largest missions festival in North America; but the magazine served as an important communication vehicle for that annual conference, and for other Christian outreach activities in British Columbia.
For some years, in the late 1990s, CIS published Christian Resource Directories for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
As well, CIS produced Christian business directories, including some affiliated with Shepherd’s Guide. CIS also held the franchises for Shepherd’s Guide for several regions in British Columbia for several years, in the early part of this century.
Regional inserts -– Island Insight on Vancouver Island and Thompson/Okanagan Outlook –- have linked Christians in those areas, and kept them informed on what was happening in the wider Christian community. (Island Insight succeeded Sunday Magazine. It had been started as a separate entity, with CIS’s help, about 1984, under the title Christian Info Vancouver Island.)
A dynamic website, CanadianChristianity.com, was also developed. That site has attracted readers from across Canada, as well as the United States and other countries.
Christian Info Society and BC Christian News have had a series of highly capable leaders through the years.
The board chairs, publishers, editors and advertising sales managers are listed, in chronological order, below.
Board chairs: Samuel Taetz, John Howat, Geoffrey Still, Ken Smith, Peter Dueck, Mel Newth and Jeffrey Lowe.
Publishers: Rex Werts, Phil Hood, Bill Kent, Peter Dueck, Al Stanchi, Steve Almond and Flyn Ritchie.
Editors: Lloyd Mackey, Debra Fieguth and Flyn Ritchie.
Advertising sales managers: David Thomas, Dale Reimer, Peter Dueck and Bob Friesen.
There have been hundreds of other people involved in the newspaper’s history, both as staffers and volunteers. Money was always tight, and many of those who served could have done better financially elsewhere. Often it was the vision of helping connect Christians that attracted them to the work.
It should be noted that BC Christian News is one of about 60 similar Christian community newspapers or periodicals, functioning transdenominationally across North America. They keep in touch with each other through the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, which is part of the Evangelical Press Association.
After serving as the founding editor of BCCN, Lloyd Mackey moved to Ottawa in 1998 to develop Christian News Ottawa, which was absorbed some years later into ChristianWeek Ontario. He has continued to serve as editor-at-large for CIS.
Besides being a mentor for later editors and publishers, he wrote the weekly column OttawaWatch for canadianchristianity.com and produced a steady stream of stories for the website, BCCN, Island Insight and Okanagan Outlook.