On a Sunday night in 1967, my dad made it to worship, as usual, at the Arkansas Avenue Church of Christ in Laredo, Texas. But Mom stayed home because she wasn't feeling well — and I was to blame.
Five days past my anticipated Halloween arrival, I was taking my sweet time entering the world. But before services ended that night, Mom called the church and told Dad to rush home. Less than an hour later, I was born at the Air Force base hospital.
This month, I turn 40.
Reflecting on my birth — and my lifelong heritage of faith — I became curious about what made headlines in The Christian Chronicle
that month. The Chronicle
was a weekly then, in its 25th year of publication and based in Austin, Texas. Ralph Sweet was the publisher and Harold Straughn the editor.
With help from our wonderful administrative assistant Virginia Ware, I dug the Nov. 3, 1967, edition — published the Friday before my birth — out of our archives.
“Throngs Mark Mission and Growth,” the lead Page 1 headline declared.
The story focused on 3,000 students from Christian schools, Bible chairs and public schools attending the eighth annual Mission Workshop at David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tenn. Then, as now, mission work at home and abroad was vitally important to our fellowship.
On Page 2, a staff editorial entitled “The Roots of Our Plea” reflected on Christian colleges such as Harding, Abilene Christian and Lubbock Christian “emphasizing a return to basic principles” at their annual lectureships. Then, as now, discussion and debate centered on the true meaning of restoration Christianity.
A photograph on Page 4 showed ministers in the Washington, D.C., area presenting President Lyndon B. Johnson with a Bible during National Bible Week. Ross Dye, minister of the 16th and Decatur church in Silver Spring, Md., gave the Bible to the president. Then, as now, faith and politics intertwined.
Elsewhere in that issue, a story headlined “‘Clash’ with Playboy Makes Impact” recounted a debate between Bill Banowsky, minister of the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas, and Anson Mount, religion editor of Playboy
magazine. Then, as now, church leaders found themselves on the front lines of the culture wars.
A story with the headline “Egypt’s Missionaries Must Confront Islam” carried a familiar byline: Glover Shipp. (Glover, a retired Chronicle
staff member, is an elder at my home congregation. And he’s still writing books, including a new, expanded edition of “Marriage is Covenant.”) Then, as now, Islam presented a challenge for Christians.
I don’t mean to imply that we face no new tests or threats in 2007.
Certainly we do, from fragmentation in churches to bitter divides over doctrine, tradition and even personalities.
Yet, reading the 1967 Chronicle
— along with the 1977, 1987 and 1997 versions, although I don’t have space to comment on them — gave me a sense of peace.
I felt a connection to my predecessors at the Chronicle
, who were setting an exemplary standard of Christian journalism long before my birth. Moreover, I was reminded that our never-changing Savior remains our rock and refuge long after newsprint fades to yellow.
We pray often at the Chronicle
for the wisdom and courage to accomplish our mission in tumultuous times.
It’s refreshing to remember that we serve a God who controls the big picture — then, as now.