60 Years Ago – Beacon Lights Looks Back

“The Publication Committee of the P.R.Y.P.F. takes great pleasure in introducing the first issue of our new periodical into your midst.” (With these words written ten years ago, the Beacon Lights began its work among the Protestant Reformed young people. And Beacon Lights was organized to serve definite purpose, which was aptly expressed in the first editorial:

Beacon Lights purposes to guide you on your course toward your goal. As an airplane pilot wings his way unhesitantly on his course by the sweeping rays of his beacon lights, so this paper designs to guide you on your way through this world of sin and darkness, that you may hold your course and unswervingly strive for your goal. Or, to use a more common, time tried figure, as a ship at sea is in imminent danger of suffering shipwreck on some hidden shoal or treacherous rock unless the beacon lights guide it through the raging storm and murky blackness of the night, so Protestant Reformed youth must be warned of lurking heresies and threatening temptations which so easily beset them.

The Federation at first attempted to find an outlet for itself in the church News, an independent paper published at that time; but soon realized that a separate magazine belonging to the young people was needed. Consequently, the South Holland Young People’s Society was assigned to make all the necessary arrangements so that by January of 1941, the first editor, Rev. C. Hanko, could say,

Not 18 months ago the Federation was organized in South Holland, Illinois. Not five months ago the second annual Convention was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Today you have your own paper. And what this means toward filling the long felt need in our young people’s societies can only be surmised.

The first five numbers were regarded as trial issues,

…It is true, these first appearances were not without disappointments…. But the hearty reception soon banished every thought…. There were expressions of approval, of surprise, and no less of criticism. Yes, even the criticisms could warm anyone’s heart. They show that our young people are not adopting this magazine as a foster child which is forced upon them, but are receiving it as their very own, a product of their own efforts, and are not afraid to handle it, to eye it critically and to say exactly what they think of it.

In form, these issues resembled the Standard Bearer with sixteen 11½ by 8½ pages. The editorials took the place that feature articles now occupy, and Bible Outlines and Book Reviews formed the main contents. All of the contents at this time were supplied by various ministers.

Volume two began with the sixth issue in October, 1941 and several changes were introduced. The most striking innovation was in the form of the magazine. The measurements were reduced to 8½ by 6½, and the number of pages increased to 32. At this time Current Comments and Nature Study first appeared, and a column of soldier’s correspondence reflected the beginning of the Second World War. Also introduced was the Open Forum, about which the editor said, “This department will give every reader an opportunity to express himself on any subject or question of the day.” The voice of the young people became more evident with several articles written by various society members.

Meanwhile, Beacon Lights continued to grow. By the first anniversary “Beacon Lights has crossed the boundary of ten states in the Union. … It now has 502 subscribers.” The Publication Committee had set a goal of 1000 subscribers. At present, although the goal has remained the same, the ‘42 figure has been doubled.

The practice of beginning each issue with a feature article on some timely topic was first introduced in April of 1943 and has continued to the present day. Also the regular Christian Living department first appeared in 1943 with Rev. De Wolf writing it.

As the Beacon Lights developed, there was a marked tendency toward increased participation by laymen and young people in the work of publishing. As. Rev. Hanko said at the end of his four consecutive years as Editor,

…The next issue, opening a new season, will also bring certain new changes in our paper, particularly in the editorial staff. From the very outset the Board intended to introduce less ministers and more laymen as writers of the various departments.

This policy has been continued. Under the succeeding editors, Mr. George Ten Elshof, Rev. Walter Hofman, and Mr. Homer Kuiper, the work of writing and publishing Beacon Lights was increasingly assumed by the Young People until today the entire publication staff is composed of Laymen and Young People.

As we look back upon the past issues of Beacon Lights, we see that much has changed. The appearance has been altered, new columns and departments have been added, new topics have been discussed. But we also see that Beacon Lights has never turned from its basic goal set forth in the first editorial, namely, to be a guide and a beacon for the Protestant Reformed young people as well as a ready means for expressing their thoughts—in short their paper. And as we stand at this tenth anniversary, and look to the future, we trust and pray that Beacon Lights, with the wholehearted support of the Young People, may continue to realize that goal.