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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

A page of history

And a reminder about the power of the (printing) press

It’s pretty tough, some wise sage has observed, to overestimate the power of the printed page. 

Which prompts me to ask: Does the size of that printed page make any difference in its final impact?

I raise that issue because of a nostalgic discovery I made a few weeks ago, and which I share with you below on this page. It is a faithful reprint of the Sunday bulletin of the church where my father was pastor in 1949. The bulletin was a simple 3-by-5 black-and-white, front-and-back leaflet. It stirs my memory on two fronts.

The first is this little page’s representation of church life back then. Worship was serious. Twice every Sunday. Offerings at both services. But the list of announcements on the back side showed a congregation (about 50 people) busy in a variety of kingdom work. I was 7 years old, going on 8. What’s printed here is exactly the way I remember it.

But I’m stirred as well by a few technical details. This tiny bulletin was actually printed. On a real Kelsey printing press. I know that because I set the type for this issue—changing the hymn numbers and the sermon titles and whoever was hosting Wednesday night Bible study. It was movable type the way Johannes Gutenberg envisioned it. The things we changed every week were in 8-point type; the listing of officers at the far bottom, which rarely changed, was in tiny 6-point type. (For those of you who care, note the use of caps and small caps.)

Dad wanted his eight children to learn the craft of printing—but not merely as a quaint hobby. He believed the gospel truths that had become so important to him and Mom would also be burned into our hearts and souls if we were literally involved in applying the ink to the paper.

Dad always stretched our thinking. From that tiny Kelsey hand press, we moved on to bigger and more sophisticated presses, typesetters, folders, and engravers. Dad didn’t live to see the founding of WORLD. I think if he had, he would have said: “Go for it! You’re headed in the right direction.” He would have applauded WORLD’s commitment to Bible-based journalism and challenged us with a reminder that it’s hard to overestimate the power of the printed page.

And Dad would have scolded us just a bit for the fold marks near the top of both pages reproduced here. “Paper airplanes? Really, boys. Let’s get some serious work done.”

Comments

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  • JM
    Posted: Thu, 06/25/2020 03:54 pm

    The little press was passed to the Boy Scout troop in our church.  Just wondering which Hymnal you used.  Was one of the Hymns "I'll Fly Away"?

  • Sandra
    Posted: Thu, 06/25/2020 06:30 pm

    Hi Joel! I remember my Dad telling about the printing at Cono Christian School and reading some of it, LONG before I met you at Covenant College. A wonderful memory, indeed!!