Editor's note: Plagues and epidemics
Back in late February, I was traveling to an international media conference in Nashville when one of our team members with numerous friends in China told me that the coronavirus was coming to America, faster than we knew. I recalled similar warnings about SARS, bird flu, and West Nile virus and didn’t give it much more thought.
As the conference ended later that week and I traveled to another city, the news became more concerning. I arrived home March 11 just in time for the slow-motion crisis to unwind. Later that week a neighbor warned me of an impending “shelter-in-place” order from the governor of Pennsylvania; it arrived on March 19. All “nonessential” businesses were asked to close; a few days later they were ordered to close.
In the middle of this chaos, the editorial team for Christian History met via video conference to discuss future issues. I recalled an issue planning meeting years ago, when Edwin Woodruff Tait (husband of our managing editor Jennifer Woodruff Tait) suggested an issue on the Christian response to plagues. The idea got stuck in my head and would not go away. Since then, at every issue planning meeting, I would remind everyone of Edwin’s idea. Every year it would get kicked down the road as other issue concepts rose in priority. Not this time!
What you hold now is that plagues issue, finally come to fruition as a bonus publication for 2020. The effort required of our small, remote editorial team to accomplish this alongside our regular printing schedule is phenomenal; I am personally thankful for their hard work. As you read through this issue, you may recognize some of the material. We feature a few new articles, but we have also repurposed exceptional content printed over our almost 40-year history, allowing us to mail this out to our readers in record time. We hope and pray that this bonus issue reminds you and encourages you that the world has seen pandemics before—and the church has responded.
As executive editor I also want to update you on some important news. My dad, Ken Curtis, started Christian History Institute (CHI) in 1983 to help the church grow in understanding its long and complex history. This was the third ministry he founded, following Gateway Films to distribute The Cross and the Switchblade and to produce new Christian films in 1972, and Vision Video to distribute Christian films in 1982. Later Gateway Films and Vision Video merged. About five years ago, I felt God leading me to donate Vision Video to CHI. Initially the “professionals” talked me out of it, but I continued to feel the same nudging. In August 2019 Vision Video became part of CHI. This providential move allowed us to cut costs and helps with longer-term sustainability of our combined ministries.
Redeeming the time
Our other major announcement is our decision to start a new video-on-demand platform: RedeemTV. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, we rushed to launch the service months before we planned so folks could easily enjoy quality Christian programming in their homes. This was a huge undertaking for our little staff, and we are thrilled with the response. Vision Video has produced or sublicensed to distribute more than a thousand film titles over the years. Now we can bring them to you and your family and friends with no fees or ads, based on the same model that we use to publish this magazine—with donations from our supporters. We’ve had over 16,000 subscribers since we released the service in March.
We hope that all these resources remain a blessing to you during these challenging times. What is happening today is not new from a historical perspective, and God is still on the throne. CH
By Bill Curtis
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #135 in 2020]Bill Curtis, executive editor, Christian History
The plagues that destroyed
A survey of epidemics and some Christian responsesDarrel W. Amundsen and Gary B. Ferngren
Suffering and sovereignty
Excerpts from the book of JobAnonymous
Reflections from a CH staff member on Christian life during epidemics —in the past and at this momentDan Graves
Demonstrating the love of Christ
At the very beginning of the church, Christians were known for their compassion in times of illnessGary B. Ferngren
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