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 attempt to use a community newspaper to “link Christians in ministry and purpose.”
Through the years, many will attest to the impact that it has had across the Christian community in British Columbia. 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 2010 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. Naive, 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 naivety 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.