The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine
Bro. George Booker
While The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God was born in California, the magazine has had very close ties to the state of Texas as well. When Bro. George Booker took over as the new editor of The Tidings in 2006, he was the fourth brother to hold that position and the third to be a Texas native. The first editor, Bro. Carl Wolfe, was born near San Saba, Texas in 1898. Bro. Bob Lloyd, the second editor, was a native of Houston, born there in 1926. 22 years later (1948) the fourth editor, Bro. Booker was, like Bro. Wolfe, born in San Saba, Texas. In fact, each of the first four editors of The Tidings had a connection to the Lone Star State as Bro. Don Styles, editor number three, lived in Pasadena, Texas for five years (1960-1965).1Eulogy by Bro. Glen Anderson at Bro. Don Styles’ funeral, 3/11/2017
Both Bro. Wolfe and Bro. Lloyd had Texas Christadelphian ancestors, but Bro. Booker may well have the most interesting and colorful family background of any editor. It reads like an American History lesson that includes the Civil War, life on the frontier, cattle drives, World War II, and an American President. Here is how George tells the story:
“One of my great-grandmothers, Jane Booker, died in childbirth when my grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Booker, was born in 1861. Her husband, my great-grandfather, Isaac Wise Booker, enlisted in the 43rd Mississippi Infantry and died in the Civil War, in 1862. He was 32. He left behind two small orphan sons, who were raised by their grandparents. When they were grown, they came to Texas in 1881. My grandfather married, had six children (including my father, born in 1908), and was a farmer and a railroad worker. About 1910, he lost his farm (due most likely to bad harvests), and was a sharecropper for many years afterward, working other people’s land. It was during this time that he and his wife learned the Truth — probably from the traveling preacher A.H. Zilmer2Albert Herman (AH) Zilmer (1868 – 1949) was a polarizing leader in the Unamended community for generations— and were baptized as Christadelphians.
“Due to family financial reverses, and hard times in general, my father, Eldon Booker, had to quit school at the age of 14. He went to work picking cotton and doing other odd jobs ( for about $1 a day), all to help support his family. He never returned to school, and worked hard the rest of his life. When World War II came, Eldon was drafted, but being a Christadelphian and conscientiously opposed to war, he asked to serve in the medical corps. (Living in west Texas far from any ecclesia, he had no guidance to avoid military service altogether; so he took the only course he thought was open to him.) After more than three years in England, he returned home — still in uniform — where he was refused fellowship at his former Christadelphian meeting. For some years he did not attend any meetings, until much later in life he once again became a member of a Christadelphian ecclesia.
“On the other side of the family… Another great-grandfather, Samuel Ealy Johnson, Sr, also fought in the Civil War. (He actually left early in 1865, like many Confederate soldiers, when the war was plainly lost, and men were eager to get back home and start in on spring planting. Being officially a “deserter”, he more or less anticipated the Christadelphian position he would later adopt.) Sam Johnson then married Eliza Bunton, fought Indians, and helped settle the hill country of Central Texas. In the 1870’s he drove herds of cattle up the Chisholm Trail to the railhead in Kansas, made a fortune, and then lost it again when cattle prices sank. In 1868, his wife, Eliza Johnson, hid in her cellar with her infant daughter, stuffing a diaper in the baby’s mouth to keep her quiet, while Apaches ransacked her home. (I was always grateful that they survived — since there would have been no George if the Indians had found them!)
“In the 1880s a travelling doctor who was also a Christadelphian preacher [Bro. Clement Oatman] held a series of debates with a preacher for the Church of Christ — which Sam and Eliza and Eliza’s mother attended. Shortly thereafter, they were baptized as Christadelphians. Sam and Eliza had seven children. The youngest daughter was Jessie, my grandmother, born in 1887. She told me once that her earliest memory was of seeing a covered wagon coming over the distant hills, and her running excitedly to tell her parents that it was the angels coming to take them to the judgment. It was in just such wagons that she and her family would travel to the early fraternal gatherings and Bible schools in rural Texas, camping along the roadside for as much as a week at a time along the way. One of Sam and Eliza’s grandchildren was Lyndon B. Johnson, who became President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. Lyndon Johnson grew up amongst many Christadelphians and attended Christadelphian Sunday schools and Bible schools.
“In 1945 — at the end of the war — Eldon Booker returned from England. Eldon Booker and Ruth Hatcher married in December 1945, and… drum roll!!… on January 21, 1948, in San Saba, Texas, their first son was born… George Thomas Booker. Incidentally, the Booker family were Unamended Christadelphians, and the Johnson/Hatcher family were Amended [Berean] Christadelphians. So I was the child of a ‘mixed marriage’!”3Texas Memoirs, George Booker, 2004
From Berean to Central
At the time George Booker was born to Eldon and Ruth Booker in 1948, George’s mother and his grandmother (Sis. Jesse Hatcher) were members of the Lampasas, Texas Ecclesia. In another connection between editors, Bro. Erby Wolfe, who was Carl Wolfe’s nephew, was the Recording Bro.4Berean Christadelphian, May, 1948of the Lampasas Ecclesia at the time. Carl’s brother Sam (Erby’s father) was a member of the ecclesia. The brothers and sisters in Lampasas in 1948 (like most North American Christadelphians at the time), belonged to the Berean fellowship, and the Central fellowship was the smaller of the three. A large majority of the North American Berean fellowship decided to reunite with those in Central five years later. However, the Lampasas Ecclesia chose to remain with the Bereans, and so, when George was baptized at 17, it was in the Berean fellowship at the Lampasas, Texas Ecclesia. The following was noted in the December 1965 Berean:
“It gives us great pleasure to announce the obedience of GEORGE BOOKER, on Nov. 21, in the waters of baptism, after having given a good confession of his belief in the fundamental principles of the Gospel and having expressed his desire to put on the only Name given among men whereby we can be saved. He is the son of sis. Ruth Booker of San Saba. We hope and pray he continues to the end in his race for eternal life.”
Bro. Booker was busy working for God at a young age. George gave his first exhortation at the Lampasas ecclesia one week after he was baptized, and gave his first talk at the Hye, Texas, Fraternal Gathering a year after his baptism.5Berean Christadelphian, July, 1966He exhorted and gave a lecture on “Evolution vs. Bible Teaching of Creation” on June 18, 1967.6Berean Christadelphian, July, 1967Continuing to take on new challenges, he spoke on Hebrews Chapter 1 at the 1968 Berean Christadelphian Texas Fraternal Gathering when he was 20 years old.7Berean Christadelphian, June, 1968He was a speaker again at the Texas Fraternal Gatherings in 1969 and 1970.
Far left: Cousin Oreole Bailey, a lifelong Christadelphian. Next to her: George’s mother, Sis.Ruth Booker. Fourth from left: The older lady, Sis. Frank Johnson Martin, a great-aunt of George’s and a Christadelphian of note in Texas for quite a long time. Next to her, fifth from left: Lady Bird Johnson. Next to Lady Bird, and proceeding from left to right: George’s father, Bro.Eldon Booker; George’s grandmother, Sis.Jessie Hatcher; Lyndon Johnson and LBJ’s mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson.The four children in front (L to R): Wesley Booker, about 2; George, about 5; Lucy Baines Johnson, age 6 (second daughter of LBJ and Lady Bird); and Lynda Bird Johnson, age 9 (first daughter).
George (who acted as the secretary for the Lampasas Ecclesia) sent a notice to the Berean magazine in March, 1969. The invitation that he submitted showed a lot of spiritual maturity for a brother barely 21 years old:
“The Lampasas ecclesia is planning a Fraternal Gathering, Fri. through Sun., June 13-15, God willing. There will be accommodations for all who are able to come. No formal program has been arranged, but we will welcome any brethren who are able to speak. The times in which we live are becoming rapidly more wicked. The strain and rivalry among the various world powers worsen each day, as we have been taught to expect. In the last few years, quite a large number of young adults have become brothers and sisters of Christ. Society in general teaches that the young are not to be held fully responsible for their actions, but that instead they may mature at their own individual rates, and enjoy themselves — ‘have a good time’ —while they can. Such activity as this phrase implies is never the proper course for true Christians, even the younger ones—and especially so in these times. We are commanded to — ‘Remember our Creator in the days of our youth.’ The Lord may very shortly return, and none of us is guaranteed any certain number of years to ‘work out our salvation.’ Let us assume our responsibilities NOW. May our Heavenly Father watch over us and strengthen us to do His will.”
George’s spiritual maturity at a young age was also shown by his deep interest in studying God’s word, as evidenced by this entry in the February, 1970 Berean magazine (when George was 22 years old):
“In our Sunday morning class we have completed the book of Isaiah, after a study of almost 3 years. We have begun the study of Micah, after which we hope, God willing, to consider the other Minor Prophets. These books of the Bible are very often passed over with little attention, but they are filled with valuable lessons. The careful study of the Bible itself is important today. It seems modern man has lost this knack. There are too many diversions in the world around us — the mass media, etc. — and we lack the determination and fortitude of our Christadelphian ancestors. We need to remember that God said — ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.’ In these last days, when the spirit of error and compromise is all around us in the world among Christadelphians too, we must be firmly grounded in God’s Truth, so as not to be led away.”
In the same letter, he also displayed the feelings he had for the brotherhood:
“We appreciate this opportunity to communicate with the Brotherhood. It is important that we remain a closely-knit family: ‘Now are they many members, yet but One Body — having the same care for one another.’ ”
It was also in 1970 that George relocated temporarily to Houston and transferred to the Houston Berean Ecclesia, so as to finish his education and then find employment. That was also the year that his brother Wesley was baptized.8Berean Christadelphian, July, 1970In 1972, George again moved for employment, this time to Austin, Texas.9Berean Christadelphian, May, 1972
That same year, George was a visiting speaker in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada Berean ecclesia, which met in the home of Bro. and Sis. James MacIvor.10Berean Christadelphian, April, 1972On March 25, 1972, Bro. Booker married one of the MacIvors’ daughters, Sis. Barbara MacIvor.11The Christadelphian Tidings, March 2005They had first met in the early 1960’s at the annual Hye fraternal gatherings. George and Barbara Booker began their married life as members of the Lampasas, Texas Berean ecclesia, travelling most weeks between 70 and 100 miles one way to attend services.12Berean Christadelphian, January, 1974
George and Barbara’s transfer from the Berean fellowship to the Central fellowship (in Austin, Texas) was noted in the May-June, 1974 issue of The Tidings. It was reported in the May, 1975 issue of the Berean magazine, that George’s brother Wesley had also joined the Central fellowship. George and Wesley’s parents Eldon (Unamended) and Ruth (Berean) later transferred to the same ecclesia, as was noted in the July-August, 1975 issue.
George and Barbara Booker’s move from the Berean to the Central fellowship involved another connection with an editor of The Tidings, this time Bro. Don Styles. Bro. Booker gives much of the credit for his decision to Bro. Joe and Sis. Marie Banta. Sis. Banta was the twin sister of Don Styles’ wife, Sis. Ellen Styles. Here is the way George tells the story of how he joined the Central fellowship:
“I was a young fellow about to go off to college in 1966, when I first remember meeting Joe and Marie Banta. (I had probably seen them here or there in earlier years, but being a kid I hadn’t noticed — they were, after all, “old folks” in their 30’s!) I had just finished high school, and was bound for the University of Texas — a lonely small-town boy in the “big city” of Austin. I was a member, recently baptized, of a Berean Christadelphian ecclesia meeting in Lampasas, and there were no Bereans in Austin — so I didn’t expect that I’d be seeing any other Christadelphians in Austin (we Bereans, of course, had to be careful with whom we associated!)
“But Joe and Marie extended an invitation to me, to come to their mid-week Bible class when I was in school in Austin, and — lots of Wednesday nights — I did. Sometimes I got free rides (before I got my own car), and sometimes there were free meals (always of interest to poor college students), and always there was stimulating Bible study and discussion.
“And, finally, after a few years of meeting with the Central brethren for mid-week Bible class, and going back to Lampasas for Sunday meetings with the Bereans — also, having gotten married during the interim — I (now we) came to the conclusion that there was nothing that should keep us separated from the Central brothers and sisters. So Barbara and I joined the Austin ecclesia. Joe and Marie were both a big support during that period of transition, and then there were new college students who needed rides to meeting, and meals, and Bible study.”13Texas Memoirs, George Booker, 2004
Among these students was Joe Hill from the Houston area, who was later baptized, and has now been the chairman of the Christadelphian Tidings Publishing Committee for the last 11 years.
Bro. Booker and The Tidings
While Bros. Lloyd and Styles might be best known for the amount of speaking they did, Bro. Booker would be best known for the tremendous amount of writing that he has done.Bro. George Booker’s association with The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God began with a letter he wrote to the Editor (Bro. Bob Lloyd) that was published in the November-December, 1975 issue. The next year he wrote his first article for the magazine, entitled “On Beginning a New Year” that was published in the January-February issue. He had a second article in the March-April issue, followed by articles in the July-August and November-December issues of the same year. He continued to write a number of articles for the magazine the next year and would go on to become a prolific writer for The Tidings. While Bros. Lloyd and Styles might be best known for the amount of speaking they did, Bro. Booker would be best known for the tremendous amount of writing that he has done. It would be accurate to say that over the 40 years that have followed that first article, it’s hard to find very many issues where Brother Booker didn’t contribute an article, letter or editorial. Sis. Barbara Booker also wrote several articles for the magazine in 1995.
One particular series that Bro. Booker wrote for The Tidings — “Pictures of Redemption” — drew praise from the editor at the time, Bro. Don Styles, in the April 2002 issue:
“During the past several months, Bro George Booker has been presenting ‘Pictures of Redemption’. We have been impressed that this approach to considering the atonement is right on the wavelength of scripture. Rather than trying to force-fit western style, structured, theological explanations, George’s articles are following the way scripture presents the saving work of God in Christ — a series of powerful pictures having great spiritual and emotional impact.”
It was in 2005 that Bro. Styles informed the Tidings Committee of his desire to step down from the position of editor by 2007. The magazine’s editing committee sent out a notice to the magazine’s readers that it was conducting a search for a new editor, asking for suggestions from subscribers14The Christadelphian Tidings, January, 2005. Later that year it was announced that Bro. George Booker would become the assistant editor in preparation for the role of editor.
“We are very pleased to announce that Bro. George Booker, Austin, Texas, has agreed to serve as Assistant Editor of the Tidings/Pioneer with a view to becoming editor within the next year. Bro. George is well-known throughout the community for his writings on a wide range of topics which include books on the Psalms, Lamentations, I Timothy, etc. He has contributed to The Tidings on several occasions and his experience as a Bible School and Study Day speaker both in North America and abroad gives him broad exposure to the Christadelphian community. In addition, his varied activities have brought him into close contact with Caribbean ecclesias. For several years, Bro. George jointly edited and published a periodical so he has significant experience in meeting the challenges of managing and producing a magazine on a regular basis. We look forward to working with Bro. George as he assumes his new and important duties in service to the Christadelphian community.”15The Christadelphian Tidings, October, 2005
The transition began in 2006 with Bro. Styles becoming the Associate Editor and Bro. Booker taking over the role of Editor. Don Styles retired in 2008, leaving George Booker as the sole editor.
Unlike Bro. Styles, Bro. Booker held down a full time job while editing the magazine and eventually it became obvious to him that he was unable to do both at the level he desired. After four years as editor he stepped down from the position. The Tidings magazine reported the change in the March, 2010 issue:
“After serving four years as the Editor of the Tidings Magazine, and trying to balance that time-consuming role with his income-producing job as a tax CPA, Bro. George Booker is stepping down as Editor. We want to thank Bro. George for his service as Editor. He has had a very positive impact on the Tidings. Among other contributions, Bro. George’s Reflections and short meditations, some written by himself and some by others, regularly get complimentary comments from our readers. We are pleased that Bro. George has agreed to continue providing these and other studies in his new role as Associate Editor. In this new role Bro. George will also have more time to devote to several book projects, which should be of great interest to the brotherhood.
“Bro. Peter Hemingray will be the new Editor of the Tidings, starting with the May issue. Bro. Peter has wide and varied experience in the Brotherhood, and his writings are well-known (e.g., his biography of Bro. John Thomas appeared as a series in the Tidings, and was published as a book). We are grateful to Bro. Peter for taking on this responsibility.”16The Christadelphian Tidings, March-April, 2010
In 2014, Bro. Booker looked back on his time as editor putting his thoughts in words that give a real feel for what it’s like to manage the Tidings:
“My term as an editor was only about four years. It’s difficult to talk about changes or developments, either in the magazine or elsewhere, over such a relatively short time. What I did learn was how much work it was being an editor, if one tried to do it right, and how much work there was which I couldn’t manage to get done at all
“What I couldn’t get done at all were things like the preparation and traveling and time required to speak at Bible schools and gatherings, and I found myself turning down a number of requests. I also couldn’t get involved in some things which editors typically do, of a counseling or policy nature. So that was left to others, who were probably better equipped than I to do it anyway. As for being an editor, there are so many things to do, as I said, if I really wanted to do the best job I could. There was the soliciting of material, when a lot of folks were probably too busy to contribute. There was the selection of material, when sometimes there was too much to choose from, and sometimes too little. Then at those times, when there was too little, I needed some ingenuity to manufacture or piece together more.
“There was the question of what sort of material to use: exhortation, exposition, history, and meditation. I finally found that I really appreciated the meditational sort: musings, stories, reminiscences, family memories. But then they were often short, and I needed to find more material. But primarily, when considering the time involved, there was the juggling of two different jobs, each of which was (or could be) more or less full time. I was then, as I am now, an accountant and tax preparer, with my own business. When I realized that I was letting things slip and making mistakes in my real day-to-day work, then I felt that I should make a change.
“Now that I am not the editor, I can devote more time to writing, which I enjoy most, and also because I feel that I have a number of things to contribute to the brotherhood in that way. (Some may agree with that statement; and some may very much disagree — I realize that. But that’s part of being a writer.)
“As an editor, there was the initial selection of material. There was the need to edit some of it somewhat, some of it considerably more. There were folks that didn’t want a word touched or changed: take it or leave it. And there were others who sent in sketchy notes, and said, ‘Just take it from there and fill in the blanks’ (!) — a tricky business.
“Then the layout of the material took a considerable time. Sister Kathy Hill did most of that for the last two or three years. Magazine layout consisted of getting everything in the right size and shape, and making it fit the pages, and either cutting or stretching a bit sometime.
“I really enjoyed preparing fillers for the magazine. By this I mean the one or two-line, or one-paragraph, or sometimes half-page items to fill in the extra spaces. I liked this because it called for some creativity, as well as a good catalogue of such material, and the ability to search and access what I needed. But when I did it right, it was like being the presiding brother finding just the right thing to say to finish off what the exhorting brother had to say, and bring a meeting (or in this case, an article) to the best conclusion. At least, I like to think that I did that well.
“Then there was the further proofreading. My brother Wesley did a lot of that; he could check Bible references, nearly always without even looking up the passage. I’d call it an encyclopedic memory. He could often tell me something like: ‘That word should be ‘the’ and not ‘that’, ‘— very small differences one would hardly notice. Or, ‘that quote is from the New KJV, not the regular KJV’, and other such relatively small distinctions.
“But the actual proofreading is by no means easy either. Even after the magazine looks ‘finished’, real proofreading requires careful reading of the whole magazine two or three times. And this is not reading so much for content, but for all the little bits we often skip over in quick reading of any material — punctuation, antecedents, standardization of capitals and quotation marks, and the like. This would take — every month — a whole day or a day and a half of pretty solid work, with a few breaks to stretch and breathe and eat. And still I would miss something once in a while. I finally told folks, ‘Please don’t point out the things I missed — at least not the same day you receive the magazine. It’s depressing!’ ”17Personal e-mail from Bro. George Booker to the author, 8/25/2014
One last connection
Currently Bro. Booker continues to write an enormous amount for The Tidings including a regular feature, “Thoughts on The Way”. Bro. Hemingray announced the new feature in the May 2016 issue:
“The Minute Meditations penned by our late Bro. Robert J Lloyd are irreplaceable, and I cannot pretend otherwise. It was with deep sadness that I heard of his death, for he had sent me one of his inimitable remarks only a few days before. I had only known him personally for a few years, but the dynamism of his talks had always enthralled me, and the way he could relate to people who were often over sixty years younger than himself amazed. He had exceeded the time allotted to mankind: for ‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away’ (Psa 90:10). So we welcome, not a replacement, for that is not possible, but another type of closing thoughts, this to be conducted by our brother, and former editor, George Booker. So turn to the end of this issue, and you will find his first such article…”.
In his first article Bro Booker wrote about yet another connection between editors of The Christadelphian Tidings of the Kingdom of God, this time between himself and Bro. Bob Lloyd:
“An interesting piece of ecclesial news appeared in The Berean Christadelphian for December 1940. It was submitted by the recording brother of the Houston Ecclesia, J.T. Smith. Here is an extract:
“Since last writing we have had the pleasure of visits by Bro. and Sis. Joe Lloyd (of Midland, Texas). Sis. Ella Lloyd (mother of Bro. Joe Lloyd), of Celina, Texas, fell asleep in Christ, July 3, 1940. She had continued steadfast in the faith for which she earnestly contended for 51 years. She dearly loved “the Truth”. Her mind remained alert until she closed her eyes in sleep and rest, to know no more until she is awakened by angels and given the glad news that “the Master hath come and calleth for thee.” She has fought her fight and we feel sure that she will awaken with joy and gladness in her heart, knowing that there is laid up for her a crown of righteousness by him for whose return she so often and earnestly prayed.
“Bro. Smith also reported another event which happened four short days after the first:
“Bobbie Joe Lloyd, son of Bro. and Sis. Joe Lloyd, embraced the one Hope while in Houston, July 7, 1940. He has long been a student of the Scriptures and an ardent and uncompromising believer in the “glad tidings” conveyed to fallen man through Scriptures, whereby we may, with God’s help and through His mercies, work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
“ ‘Bobbie Joe Lloyd’, the grandson of Sis. Ella Lloyd and only 13 years old, grew up to become Bro. Bob Lloyd, or — as his name appeared under each ‘Minute Meditation’ in The Tidings — Robert J. Lloyd. His life in the One Faith spanned almost 76 years, and along with his grandmother’s life in Faith of 51 years, covered 127 years — all except for four days — between 1889 (the days of covered wagons and Bro. Robert Roberts) and 2016 (the days of space travel and a worldwide Christadelphian brotherhood).
“In 1940 my grandmother Sis. Jessie Hatcher was a member of the Houston Ecclesia when Sis. Ella Lloyd died and Bro. Bob Lloyd was ‘born’ in baptism. Sis. Jessie’s daughter Ruth Hatcher also attended the Houston Ecclesia and eventually became Sis. Ruth Booker — and my mother. I still remember them both referring affectionately to little Bobbie Joe, and telling me what a diligent Bible student he was, especially for such a young man. Partly because of his example, I became a Bible student also.”
The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine