Beacon Lights is 75 Years Old!

This issue marks the 75th anniversary of the magazine, which began publication in January of 1941.

We intend to celebrate this anniversary throughout 2016.

The staff has been researching the archives for some time, and will continue to search for more interesting material in the coming year.

We plan to continue our usual rubrics, but on a somewhat limited basis, in order to make room for reprints of material from Beacon Lights past. So those of you who have submitted articles, please have patience—they will be printed.

Beacon Lights does not normally reprint articles, primarily because doing this can easily be construed as an indication of laziness in obtaining fresh material. The coming year will be an exception. We want our readers to see what Beacon Lights has been throughout its history in its own words. We want to be both accurate and interesting.

Why are we making such a big deal of this anniversary? Several reasons come to mind.

First, this is a celebration. This is justifiable. How many magazines, especially those of a religious content, can say that they have continually published for 75 years? Many magazines, most of them secular, have come and gone since 1941. So we are proud—I use the word carefully— of our 75 years of publication.

Second, for 75 years Beacon Lights has been a Reformed magazine. This is important because its Reformed character places us in the minority of religious publications. Many non-Reformed magazines have been and are published, but none are as distinctively Reformed and directed to Reformed youth as is Beacon Lights.

Third, the reason for printing past articles is to give our readers a sense of history. History is important because we can and must learn from history. The content of Beacon Lights is, after all, the history of the church, and one cannot learn too much from it. We do not live in a historical vacuum, and we need to know our heritage. You young people, because of your youth, know only the most recent history of the Protestant Reformed churches and of Beacon Lights.

Even your parents and grandparents have never known or have forgotten much of the history recounted in the magazine. A great deal of history has taken place in 75 years.

Fourth and most importantly, this 75th anniversary is evidence of God’s faithfulness to his church. A great deal of work goes into publishing Beacon Lights every month. But it is God who enables the efforts of his servants to come to fruition. It is God who maintains his truth by means of the magazine.

Therefore in the next year Beacon Lights will explore various aspects of God’s covenant faithfulness. These will be of varying significance and importance, but we hope that all of them will be interesting.

At this time we do not have all of the details of the 2016 publishing year worked out. This is a large and ongoing project, necessitating much research of the archives, which we have in their entirety, and all of which will eventually be available online. But so far we have researched the first ten years of the magazine, and from it we have gained several themes. The thought is to trace the history of the magazine every 10 years. Disappointingly, the five and ten year anniversaries of Beacon Lights were not highlighted by the staff, with a couple of exceptions. We intend to observe these anniversaries as we are able, since they give us the flavor of the magazine at these times.

First, Beacon Lights was born in 1941 during WWII. Therefore the overriding content of the magazine had to do with the war and its implications for the youth of the church, many hundreds of whom served in the armed forces of the United States, and some of whom were killed or wounded in action both in Europe and in the Western theater against Japan. Many of our older readers (and we have many) fought in the war, and they have stories to tell, not all of them positive. In the context of the war, two rubrics play a prominent place in Beacon Lights. One is To Our Boys in Service. The other is From our Boys. The titles are self-explanatory. Today we probably would not call those who fight for our freedom “boys” (although many of them were) or the alternate term “fellows,” frequently used.

The rubric To Our Boys in Service was most often written, though not exclusively, by Herman Hoeksema, pastor of Fuller Avenue church, as it was called (First Protestant Reformed),  and from which the majority of the “boys” came. Despite being pastor of a large congregation, teaching in the seminary, writing for the Standard Bearer, plus being a husband and parent, he somehow found time to write to his “boys.” His letters to them were both doctrinal and practical, as a perusal of them will reveal.

The rubric From Our Boys varies from different parts of the world. Many times the letters do not reveal the location of the “fellows” for security reasons. But they all have in common that they express their delight in receiving the Standard Bearer and Beacon Lights. They also sought out a Reformed or Presbyterian church for worship, with varying degrees of success.

These two rubrics give insight into the lives of God’s people, especially the youth, and the issues they faced both at home and abroad in the tumultuous world-wide upheaval that was WWII. As I researched the beginning years of the magazine, it struck me that much of the material was almost incapable of comprehension by our young people today, as well as by many adults, because most of us have never experienced the horrors of war on a world-wide scale, but have enjoyed only peace, marred only by relatively minor conflicts and localized military actions.

Second, in its inception Beacon Lights was a somewhat hypothetical endeavor, as is evident from Rev. C. Hanko’s initial editorial reprinted in this issue. It was a trial run to see if there was sufficient interest in a youth magazine. Based on 75 years of publication, the answer was affirmative.

Third, historically the staff of Beacon Lights was considerably larger than it is today, as will be quickly evident from a perusal of the masthead of the magazine. I am not sure why this was, since today every month we produce a magazine that is both larger and of equal quality as in years gone by. I suspect the reason is that the advent of computers and their great increase in efficiency have a lot to do with this. As an aside, it is interesting to note the people who served on the staff throughout its history.

Fourth, Christian Living is the longest running rubric in Beacon Lights. This fact also gives an insight into the purpose and character of the magazine. It is not primarily doctrinal, although it contains a great deal of doctrine. Rather, it stresses in a very practical way how the young people of the church ought to live their lives in a wicked world. The subjects treated in this rubric vary as to the issues of the day, some of which are almost humorous to us today, but they all have in common that they deal with how Christian young people ought to live their lives.