Canadian Newspaper Christian Courier Turns 70

Christian Courier, formerly known as Calvinist Contact—and even earlier as Canadian Calvinist—marked 70 years of publication this month. The paper’s first issue was published in August 1945.

Celebrations included a special full-color edition, recognition of the paper’s personal impact expressed through reader-contributed stories, and a contest to find the longest subscribing readers. That competition turned up three different families, each with 66 years of continuous subscription.

Bert Witvoet, a member of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ont., was editor of the paper from 1982 to 1999. He said the paper’s founding was an inevitable creation of Dutch immigrant communities “used to having their own political expressions in papers.”

The paper at first expressed the desire of the early immigrant community to maintain contact with each other, Witvoet said, noting that in the 1950s much of the paper was written in Dutch and included “articles about each other’s experiences.” In the 1980s, the paper moved away from its emphasis on “contact” in name and in focus. Witvoet said the editorial board decided that “if we are a Christian magazine, we should really address our own society—the main society—and we should address how we can help develop a society with Christian influence.”

Beside the name change and the move to a fully English-language paper by 1983, the paper has gone through many changes under 12 editors. It reached peak circulation of 10,000 subscribers in the 1970s and went from bimonthly to weekly and back to bimonthly publishing. In the early 2000s it began including online articles; this it year hired its first social media editor. Today the paper has 2,100 print subscribers and 4,500 daily website hits.

Current editor in chief Angela Reitsma Bick, a member of Hope Fellowship CRC in Courtice, Ont., said there have also been many consistencies. “We’ve definitely retained the Reformed perspective, a willingness to wrestle with hard topics and a strong sense of community—a kind of a friendship [that has] developed between the readers and the writers,” she said.

The publication continues to be independent. Sixty percent of expenses are covered by subscriptions, and the rest by advertising.

“We are always on a knife’s edge of sustainability,” Bick said. “Plans for the next year include a format redesign and a reader survey to find out the ways that people are willing to support us. I think the willingness is there. It’s just that the details need to be figured out. I continually trust that God has held this paper, and he’ll provide what we need.”

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is a news editor at The Banner.

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