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September 25, 2008

The Annual Meeting of the Reformed Free Publishing Association marks the completion of another year of publishing, and the seeking of the Association’s approval of plans for the coming year. This includes the election of four new board members to replace those retiring after three years of service, and the adoption of a budget for the new publishing year. We, the board, take this opportunity to mark, with you, the Lord’s blessing over the past year, and years, and to seek His blessing for the future publishing year and years. May we with the prophet Samuel of old raise a stone of remembrance—Ebenezer—”Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (I Sam. 7:12b).

Your Board has met regularly, once a month, for the past year. The work of the Board is carried out in monthly meetings and in three standing committees, meeting each month, where the bulk of the board’s work is done. These committees are: Marketing & Membership; Book & SB Publishing; and Finance & Operations. All these committees and a special committee, looking into long-range plans, have been busy this past year. A few highlights follow.

Our board Marketing Committee has studied our inventory and sales records, and as a result we held a number of special promotions (reduced prices and monthly specials) at the website to increase book sales. A special mailing was conducted, sending the October 15, 2007 special issue of the SB to 122 URC ministers. This resulted in a few following subscriptions, plus getting our message out.

Through a special fund from a generous supporter, RFPA materials have been sent to people who are not able to afford our publications. This distribution is handled through PRC Evangelism Committees and the PRCA Mission Committee. A larger promotion, also through a generous gift, was the free distribution of the book The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers by Prof. David Engelsma. This free offer was advertised in several religious periodicals, including World magazine. One hundred of these books were given away at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology held at the 1st Byron Center CRC in April. The RFPA had a table at this conference. A total of 455 books were distributed during this promotion.

The Board also arranged for our staff to attend the International Retail Book Sellers Show in Orlando, Florida, held in July. Not many books are sold directly at the show, but many contacts are made with domestic and foreign booksellers. Attendance at such trade shows has proved to help spread the word of the quality and value of our publications.

Our SB subscription numbers have been down slightly over the past year, about 2.5% and nearly 9% over the last three years. This drop in circulation is probably due to the same causes as those experienced by many magazines. Alternate media forms, such as the Internet, have reduced print media circulations. The Board is working on promotions to halt the drop in circulation. We have acquired access to the database of all PR families and are in the process of the coordination of it with our subscription database so that we can contact and promote readership in PR families not currently subscribing to the SB.

The book publishing arm and book committee have not produced as many books this year as we have in the past years even though our book club membership has grown to a record level of 1,177 members. Several factors are involved in this temporary drop in publishing. Plans are to return to our usual publication rate in the coming year. A major bottleneck has been the loss of editorial personnel. Natalie Jefferson, as book editor, suffered a fall and complex leg fracture, which kept her bedridden for a number of months. She is recovering, but has decided to cut back substantially on her workload. Other part-time editorial workers have had changes in their life situations that made it difficult to keep up their pace of editorial work. The publishing committee is seeking replacement workers and hopes to see in the coming year the production of about four new titles. One project being advanced is the publication of a book to commemorate the 500th year of John Calvin’s birth. This book is a study of his great work, the Institutes. Prof. Engelsma is currently working on the completion of this study. This publication will be distributed in conjunction with a special commemoration of this milestone, currently being organized by the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

Our Finance and Operations Committee keeps busy in the promotion of the financial support of the RFPA through gifts and church collections. You will note from the financial reports that the support of the RFPA, both in the Standard Bearer and Book divisions, has kept our monetary situation in excellent condition. We give thanks for this needed support for our work.

One operational highlight of the past year is the completion of the final stage of our building program. With the upgrade and installation of our office furnishings we have our building project completed. This project has been completed with no debt. The upgrade of our office equipment and furnishings were made possible by the generous gifts of some donors. You are encouraged to visit our new facilities in Jenison, MI when in the area. The Board certainly appreciates the new building for its work and its meetings.

The Operations Committee has also been busy keeping our Internet site current and improving its function. We continued to add to the electronic, searchable archives of the Standard Bearer. We are now back to publication year 1961 and continue to add back issues on a regular basis. This feature of the website is a great help to those doing research and to anyone interested in checking back issues of the SB. Check out the website yourself at www.rfpa.org to learn more.

The Board continues to receive encouraging words, news, and comments about our publishing work through the mail and by e-mail. Some examples are:

* A review of “The Sad Case of Bert Zandstra” (originally published in the SB) showed up in the Light of the World magazine of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

* (re The Covenant of God giveaway) “Thank you so much for offering the book. I thoroughly enjoyed its contents and appreciate the keen insights the author presents.”

* (from a SB reader in the Netherlands) “Mr. Kalsbeek has written a fine article. I would like to send this to the school my children go to and some teachers I am in contact with.”

* (from a reader in Florida) “I thank you all for the sound literature that is being published by the RFPA. It’s like I have stumbled upon a great treasure. You people in the PRC have been a great blessing to me and I thank God for you all.”

* (re The Covenant of God giveaway) “Thank you for your effort in getting the truth of the reformation out into the church today” (Washington).

* “We are thankful for your part in making available the printed truth of God’s word. Our prayer is that the RFPA never lose sight of the valuable gift of God’s Word and the truths that are contained therein.”

* “I am a subscriber to your Standard Bearer magazine and find it to be my favorite Christian magazine. I have not resubscribed to most of my Christian magazines because I believe that they have gone astray. I have read a review of Redeemed with Judgment and purchased it and find it to be heartwarming.”

* (re Redeemed with Judgment) “Excellent book . . . could not put it down. Looking forward to the second volume. May God continue to richly bless you” (New York).

As the Board reports on the publication year just completed and looks forward to another year of publication of both the SB magazine and new or reprinted books, we covet your prayers and continued financial support so that in another year we can say, Ebenezer—Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.