Beautiful Mercy launch

The text of an address given at the official launch for Beautiful Mercy by our senior editor, Bramwell Ryan.

I

t’s a delight you have joined us on a night I thought – at times – would never come.

Yesterday morning was another long-anticipated time for me. Around 1 am I completed an 18-day stretch covering the Olympics. It was quite an experience for a confirmed non-jock to spend 12 or more hours a day immersed in the world of sports.

And that experience, while physically and mentally exhausting, was also a fascinating look into a world I don’t usually work in… in this case the world of television sports coverage. I learned a lot while I was in the locker room, so to speak.

I learned that while the fascination of sports is certainly about big victories, like Sunday’s hockey gold, it’s also about small things, incremental improvements and, above all, statistics.

Did you know that there are indeed people who care about who was the seventh place finisher in men’s 50 km cross country pursuit, and whether that was better or worse than his performance in Turin?

Considering my new understanding of the importance of statistics, I thought I’d pull a few together about Beautiful Mercy | A Book of Hours.

  • Dimensions – 9” x 9” and based on a Mother Goose book
  • Number of people involved – 64
  • Number of artists – 46
  • Number of production helpers – 21
  • Gender split on contributor – about 60/40 (26 male artists – 20 female)
  • Number of pages – 160
  • Number of CD tracks – 13
  • Number of minutes under the max time allowed on a CD – about 2%
  • Number of copies printed – 559
  • Number of times fully proofed – 6
  • Number of mistakes I saw as soon as I opened it – 3
  • Number of times I swore at that moment… hmmmm

I first heard of this project when my wife Sharon, who was a warden, told me she had joined yet another committee. She told me about it and I said “wow… have fun… I’m glad I’m not involved because that’s a huge project!”

Shortly after I came onboard I hired Mike Berg for layout/design.  Mike’s wife wife Kris had a baby last week Milo Oliver – their second.  When Mike and I first met to discuss this project, his wife was not pregnant, so it’s interesting to note that it was faster to produce Milo than the Book of Hours. Mike is a huge contributor to the success of this project.

The copy editors – Christine Neale & Corinne Plett – have eagle eyes. I’m glad I was not their child, because I wouldn’t have been able to get away with anything. They did line by line proofing and the larger tasks of editing for sense and flow. We did miss one important thing though – we actually spelled Corinne’s name incorrectly on the first printer’s galley… since fixed!

People immersed in multi-layered projects can get a bit lost, so last fall, I suggested to Sharon that we needed someone outside of SBT, someone who knows nothing of the project, who is detail oriented yet able to see the bigger purpose, who is amiably grumpy and wouldn’t hold back. She said that sounds like Gary Robson. Gary got the book before Christmas, scoured it and offered feedback. Interestingly enough, when he and I met at Tim Horton’s in late January to review his comments, I thanked him, said that I hoped it wasn’t too much of an imposition and he tells me he got a call from Sharon who told him she was involved in producing a book and he said: “wow… have fun… I’m glad I’m not involved because that’s a huge project!”

If Sharon calls you, hang up.

Thanks also to my committee – Sharon, Suzanne Pringle, Jamie Howison and John Berard. They spent countless hours determining placement, copy length, colour palettes, theological questions and on and on. Their work was invaluable.

There are others involved and I’m sorry if I missed you. This book is the due to the efforts of many people. And that is what makes it so unique.

In my view one of the primary tasks of people of faith is to create a new reality. When it becomes so clear that the reality of our lives and how we as a society live is so broken we have just two choices. We can try to fix what was… or we can create a new reality that makes the old one obsolete.

And there is much about our present reality that is broken; the many ways in which we fall short, as a society, of what we could be. In a terrifying way we are reaping the harvest that we planted long ago.

When we rejected community and instead celebrated our individualism, we didn’t realize how arid and lonely that road could be. We didn’t understand the dangers of atomization, unchecked autonomy and how frightening it is to face the world and eternity by yourself.

Beautiful Mercy | A Book of Hours is one of the ways saint benedict’s table is creating a new reality that will make the old one obsolete.

Together we have made something of beauty and value.

Together we have created media of consequence.

Together we have said that our faith matters, that our struggles matter and that in the messy reality of living out our Christian faith in the real world… some things are better done together.

It has been an honour to have been a part of this project… but the next time Sharon joins a church committee, I’m saying “no” … and I mean it this time.

Thank you.

*A brief postscript from Jamie Howison:  One of the things about which Bram has always been insistent is that anything saint benedict’s table might produce should be of sufficiently high quality that it could be taken seriously outside of the walls of the church. That is part of the reason that we launched this project at McNally Robinson Booksellers, and now we’ve just received word that the project is their bestselling hardcover nonfiction book for the week.