Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 11, 2002
The story of Christianity
Alberta journalist spearheads epic treatment of history of Christian Church
By RENATO GANDIA
"For every dark page in Christian history, there are a hundred white pages, which they never mentioned."
- Ted Byfield
This task has been taken on by many Bible commentaries throughout the past half-century: most of them though are dull reference materials.
That's not Byfield's style.
"We need to tell the same story in a new package."
Good pictures, beautiful illustrations and artwork, together with popular and less scholarly language will make the book a bestseller, Byfield confidently predicted.
The Edmonton Journal's religion editor, Janet Vlieg agreed the language is popular and more attractive to average readers.
"The Veil is Torn is written in engaging history. Paragraphs with short, punchy transitions. Sentences are active, conversational, written from the point of view of people who lived through the events. Short sidebars break up columns of type in most chapters, enabling the reader to delve into related issue or background."
The Veil is Torn is 275 glossy pages of paintings, photographs and stories about conflict, courage and adventure. Real stories of the early Christian Church are about real people, not all of them catechism or Sunday school heroes.
Included in the book are 49 original full-colour paintings, a dozen maps and more than 130 photographs, most of which are panoramic scenic shots of the world where the early Christians lived and died.
Two groups are targeted as readers of the books. The first is the fortysomething interested in their faith and the second, their children or grandchildren, who have become skeptical about religion, but feel a certain void from within that can only be filled by the transcendent.
"This guy is The Lord of the Ring subscriber. He is the second reader because the first reader will give it to him.
"Our real target is the second reader, because if you connect with the first one, you'd also get the second one."
Heroism, suspense and conflict will pull the second reader because these are the type of materials that appeal to the younger generation who love suspenseful and conflict-filled computer games and adore heroism in hockey, said Byfield.
"This group of readers are our candidates who will eventually spread the faith."
Telling the Christian history is a tall order because of the many branches of faith traditions that were born out of it.
So where there's a Catholic-Protestant doctrinal conflict, writers presented both sides.
Said Byfield, "The only way you can go wrong on that is if you do not adequately represent or under-represent (one side). It has to be put so persuasively that an informed Catholic for example or an informed evangelical would say, 'Yes that's our position.'"
For Byfield, it is important to take Christians back to their roots so they can see where everything started and how it developed.
Some books written about Christian history paint only the grim and dark sides and left out the "white pages of our history.
"For every dark page in Christian history, there are a hundred white pages, which they never mentioned," said Byfield. "We need to re-tell those white pages too."
To come up with credible storytelling that does not veer away from historical facts, Byfield organized journalists and academics from the United States and Canada.
For a year, he searched for writers who had two major credentials. "They have to be journalists, but they have to be Christians - Christian means they go to church and practise their faith," emphasized Byfield.
However, knowing journalists are not renowned for 100 per cent reliability, he also approached Christian academic historians.
Later, Byfield assembled illustrators and cartographers to make the book come more alive and be inviting.
Assembling writers and illustrators does not make the book fly. Following the advise of a friend, he let somebody else manage the business side of the project.
Robert Doull, who was general manager of The Alberta Report, joined the board when they started Christian Millennial History Project Limited Partnership. Through telemarketing and other methods of marketing, they found that Christian History "could become a spectacular project."
The Edmonton-based company's capitalization, currently $4.3 million, was raised almost entirely within Canada with minimal help from the American dollar.
Byfield's own company is successfully publishing a series of Alberta History, which has been a Canadian bestseller. This was a testing of the waters for him to see if people will buy into the idea of purchasing serial books.
A volume of the Christian History collection will be released every three months. Volume 2, A Pinch of Incense will come out in June. The books are available by calling 1-800-853-5402, or online at www.christianhistoryproject.com.
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