The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine
The birth of The Christadelphian Tidings magazine
The Christadelphian Tidings magazine is having its 78th birthday this year. Originally launched by the Pomona, California Ecclesia as a mimeographed Sunday school newsletter in March 1939, the first typeset issue was published in June of that year and titled The Junior Berean. Both the magazine’s name and the reason it was begun were functions of the time it appeared. The 1930’s was a difficult era for the nation, the Amended ecclesias in North America and the young Christadelphians who lived through those hard times.
America in the 1930’s was a nation in despair. The Great Depression choked the economy at home, and overseas, Europe was coming apart at the seams. Powerful dictators like Joseph Stalin in Russia, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and especially Adolf Hitler in Germany threatened to drag the United States into war. The end of the First World War was only 20 years in the past and had been followed by the incredibly deadly Flu Pandemic of 1919 to 1920. Nine years later, Wall Street crashed and the Great Depression began. With hardly time to catch its breath, the nation now faced the threat of World War Two. The same year that The Junior Berean began publication, Hitler began his march across Europe. In September of 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland, drawing Britain and France into the Second World War. This war would be a great test for the brotherhood as they made their stand as conscientious objectors in a war that was extremely popular with patriotic Americans.
But the state of the country they lived in wasn’t the only, or even the most difficult, situation our brothers and sisters dealt with in 1939. The brotherhood
itself in North America in the 1930s was in a state of agitation. The name of the new magazine, The Junior Berean epitomized the realities of fellowship in North America at the time. The Amended/Unamended split had occurred about 40 years earlier around 1900. Like the short 20-year span of peace between the World Wars, that break-up was followed just 20 years or so later by the Central/ Berean division in 1923. When the magazine began in 1939, Amended ecclesias in North America were split between the Berean and Central fellowships, with the majority of brothers and sisters being Berean.
North American Amended Christadelphians at the time did not have a locally based magazine, relying instead on two English based ones, The Christadelphian (for the Central Fellowship) or the Berean (for the Berean Fellowship). Until the resurrectional responsibility division, the Advocate magazine had been the official voice of all North American Christadelphians, carrying the news of all the ecclesias. The Junior Berean would now take the place of the Advocate magazine for the Berean fellowship, sharing news of the North American Berean ecclesias, particularly those in California and Texas. Southern California, where the magazine began, had Berean ecclesias in Pomona and Glendale, and both a Central and a Berean ecclesia in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Though the majority of Amended Christadelphians joined the Berean fellowship at the time of the division, a number of leading brethren including Henry Moore in Pomona (who Bro. C.C. Walker described at the time as “one of the oldest and most respected brethren in the U.S.A”)1The Christadelphian Magazine, February, 1925., J.T. Irwin and Forrest Brinkerhoff in L.A. and John Seagoe in Santa Barbara, stayed with the Central Fellowship.
As if the state of affairs in the U.S. and the brotherhood were not enough of a distraction for the young people in the ecclesias in California, there was another situation that was very concerning for the leaders and parents in those ecclesias. The young people in the Truth in the 1930’s were the first generation of Christadelphians to be entertained by movies and radio. Though it may seem quaint to us today, especially when we consider how tame the media was at that time compared to today, it was a very big issue for Christadelphian parents at the time.
It was in this very difficult environment, that Bro. Carl Wolfe had the idea to begin what would become The Christadelphian Tidings magazine. It was his belief that a Sunday school newsletter would help the Christadelphian young people in their struggle to stay separate from the world. The first printed issue of the Junior Berean touched on this issue in a note from the editor, Bro. Wolfe: “There has never been a time when there was so much to draw our young people away from the truth, and it is our duty to do everything we can to maintain their interest. We would suggest that regular members of any S.S. [Sunday school] get their copies from the Superintendent, who will be supplied each month as they require, thus saving a lot of postage.”2The Junior Berean, June, 1939.
Bro. Benjamin (B.A.) Warrender also wrote about the pitfalls of the radio and movies in the February 1940 issue: “Now it follows as a matter of course, that an instrument of such potentialities in the hands of an unbelieving world, is frequently devoted to unworthy uses. In this way, the use of radio by the masses has proceeded on similar lines to that of the moving pictures. They have been of some benefit in this sphere, of course. But whatever good may have been done in this way has almost been obscured by their unbridled exploitation of human emotions, passions and lusts, and which unhappily, produce the greatest return at the box office.” Many of us can relate to these words when contemplating the role of television, and more recently the Internet, in our own times.
The matter of financial struggles also came up in that same issue, with Bro. Wolfe discussing editing the magazine at a time when nearly everyone was struggling to make ends meet: “Perhaps the most important happening during the month was the kind offer of a brother to defray the cost of mailing our paper, thus making it possible for many to receive it who otherwise would be unable to do so. Such eagerness to help is a great encouragement to us as we endeavor to do a work among the young people…Replying to the many inquiries as to the subscription price, we wish to say that we had at first thought to carry on the work from our own S.S. funds, but due to the interest that has been taken we are printing instead of mimeographing at an early date. We have decided to set the rate at $1.00 a year to those who feel able to pay and want to support the work. But we are primarily interested in reaching all who are thirsty for the word of life, whether they feel able to pay for it or not as we are sure that arrangements can be made to subsidize this expense.”
As far as the fellowship issues of the North American ecclesias were concerned, the new magazine was instrumental in bringing about an eventual reunion between the Berean and Central fellowships. Brethren Carl Wolfe and B.A. Warrender (who later co-edited the magazine), were behind the early efforts to heal the breach between the two fellowships. Although it would be another 10 years before the reunion came about, a letter was published in the magazine in 1944, signed by both Carl Wolfe and B.A. Warrender, supporting the idea of reunion, based on statements that were made in the Christadelphian magazine by Bro. John Carter. They wrote in the March issue that year, “In these circumstances, the editors of this paper heartily support the effort for re-union of the Birmingham Central and the Berean ecclesias. In our considered judgment, the cause for separation no longer exists. We suggest therefore that all ecclesias who desire to unite on a sound basis should signify their approval of the ‘Truth to be Received’ and their rejection of the ‘errors’ as published in ‘The Christadelphian’, and that fellowship should be restricted to those ecclesias and individuals who are of the same mind.”
Just like the reunion efforts, the magazine would take many twists and turns on its way to becoming what it is today. When the magazine first began, Bro. Wolfe was the “Business Manager” and teenagers Bob Cochran and Bill Stocks of the Pomona ecclesia were the Co-Editors. Brother Cochran played a large part in getting the Junior Berean off the ground as Brother Wolfe noted in 1940: [Bro. Cochran was] “co-editor of this paper, he was one of its originators, and for some time did a large share of the work.”3The Junior Christadelphian, August, 1940. By January 1941 Carl Wolfe was the Editor and Bro. B.A. Warrender carried out the role of Assistant Editor. A heavy load of homework at school had made working for the magazine too time consuming for brethren Cochran and Stocks to continue in their roles.
The Junior Christadelphian
Another item that changed was the name of the magazine. In September 1939 the name was changed from the Junior Berean to the Junior Christadelphian. It was felt by many that the name Christadelphian was much more familiar than the name Berean: “Upon the advice and suggestions of many brethren, we are changing the name of this paper to ‘The Junior Christadelphian.’ We have found that many fail to understand the word Berean, whereas all are familiar with the name Christadelphian.”4The Junior Christadelphian, September, 1939. By March 1940, the circulation of the newly-named Junior Christadelphian had reached 350 with a subscription cost of $1 per year.5The Junior Christadelphian, March, 1940.
Also in September 1939 the magazine was first printed by Bro. Wolfe’s own hands on a press that had been loaned to him. Prior to this, the magazine had been printed at a print shop in Pomona. In March of 1940, Bro. Wolfe took out a loan and purchased a press and other publishing equipment and housed them in a shed on his own property at 734 East Grand Ave in Pomona, CA. The publishing of the magazine became a family affair as Bro. Carl’s children helped set the type and print the magazine.6The Junior Christadelphian, September, 1939.
Later the magazine’s name was changed again, this time to The Christadelphian Tidings as suggested by Bro. Les Clarke. At this time The Christadelphian Tidings became the magazine of the North American Central ecclesias. The first issue under the new name was in July 1956. Carl Wolfe was the editor and chose Richard Stone to be the assistant editor, John Randell to be the Chairman, Paul Phillips treasurer, John McConville subscriptions and news and Bob Lloyd secretary. This group stayed mostly intact for many years. In 1957, Robert Brinkerhoff replaced John Randell as Chairman,7The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine, June, 1957. and Bro. McConville left the magazine in 1973. For over 55 years, even after he retired as editor in 1978, Bro. Lloyd continued to write his “Minute Meditations” column for the magazine until his death in 2015. His enthusiastic support of The Christadelphian Tidings was a critical reason the magazine has continued all these years.
Twenty years after he began the magazine, Bro. Wolfe shared with his readers another important reason it had been able to continue: “This past year marks the first time we have been able to complete a full year without asking the Southern California Ecclesias for financial help. This has been possible because of the many generous donations many of you have made. So many of you include an extra subscription price and quite a few have seen fit to contribute much larger sums. For each of these we are truly grateful and without them we could not have completed 1959 in the black.”8The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine, January, 1960.
As is so often the case in our community, it was these voluntary contributions of time and money that kept the magazine afloat. And because of those efforts, spiritual benefits were realized by the young people that Bro. Wolfe was so concerned about way back in 1939. Most of those young people are now resting in their graves awaiting the Resurrection while the magazine continues its work nearly 80 years later.
In the next article we take a closer look at the energetic brother who had the wonderful idea of helping those young people in their walk to the Kingdom.
Dear Brother Wolfe: Tidings of the Kingdom of God has been received. The “Masthead” you speak of seems to be an improvement over the one on the Junior, and the subscription price of $1.50 is more in keeping with what promises to be a worthwhile publication. These are improvements which have already developed. (A.C.Johnston: Tidings 1956 p.6)