Joel Belz – From printing presses to podcasts


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Here’s WORLD founder Joel Belz now with some thoughts on printing presses and paper airplanes.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: I just had an unusual reminder of the power of the printed page. Somehow, I’d come into possession of a sort of miniature church bulletin from 70 years ago from the church where my father was pastor. The bulletin was 3 inches by 5 inches—the size of a postcard. The order of worship on one side, the week’s announcements on the other. 

What made the discovery so unusual was the realization that the bulletin had been printed—not mimeographed or photocopied but printed on a 3×5 inch Kelsey hand press. I was fascinated on two fronts.

First, I was intrigued by this little page’s representation of church life back in the 1940s. Worship was serious. Twice every Sunday. Offerings at both services. But the list of announcements showed a congregation of about 50 people busy in a variety of kingdom tasks. I was 7 years old, going on 8. What was printed there was exactly the way I remember it.

But I’m stirred as well by a few technical details. This tiny bulletin was, as I said, actually printed. On a real 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 moveable 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. 

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.

So 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, and I’m sure he never dreamed of a podcast like The World and Everything in It. 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. “Paper airplanes? Really, boys. Let’s get some serious work done.”

I’m Joel Belz.


(Photo/iStock)

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