Crosswords Celebrates 100 Posts!


The original Crown & Cross editorial staff, circa 2013.

This is not a typical week for us here at Crosswords. After three academic years of essays, poems, stories, and cultural commentaries that have reached tens of thousands of readers from all over the world, we have now published 100 posts on this blog. An achievement of this nature never would have occurred without all those individuals who have shared and interacted with our work at every turn. Thank you, dear reader, for your interest in what we do—really, we couldn’t have come this far without you.

To commemorate this milestone, we contacted a number of current and former Crown & Cross staffers and asked them about their role in the publication, fond memories they have, and what they hope C&C becomes in the future. Because, for all the inspired, insightful, invaluable things our contributors have written over the years, there is still a great deal more to say.

Emily Lau (CC ‘17) served as the third editor-in-chief of Crown & Cross after more than a year editing for Crosswords. She is currently working as a marketing analyst for EnterSolar, a national solar energy developer.

I remember my excitement when I first heard about Crown & Cross at the end of my first year. I had been looking to get involved with a student publication and praying for opportunities to share my faith with my community. Crown & Cross provided the perfect fit. Through my time with the journal, I formed deep friendships with the student team, explored Christianity from different perspectives, and worshipped through art and writing. Crown & Cross opened the door to honest discussions about faith with other students on campus.

I started off as an editor for the blog before it had its formal name, Crosswords. Our team decided to name the blog as such, not only because of the word play that evokes the popular puzzle in the Sunday paper, but also because we wanted to emphasize that everything we produce centers around Jesus’ cross and what He has done for us. As we celebrate the hundredth blog post, I am excited to see what God will accomplish through the journal in the years to come.

Johanan Sowah (SEAS ‘17), a committed editor, worked with Crosswords for three years despite his commitments to the Columbia Track & Field team. He remains one of the school’s most revered memelords.

I got involved in Crown and Cross in the Fall of 2014 initially as a contributor, not as a staff member. It happened when I first showed my friend Emily Lau, who would later become Crown & Cross’ editor-in-chief, a fiction story about foxes that I had recently written for fun. She recommended I write a piece for the upcoming print issue for the following semester, and so I did. I delivered a story that told of my journey through faith, my upbringing on three different continents, and how being a Christian was branded so differently in these starkly different environments. It wasn’t too different from many of the testimonial accounts that have come through the Crown & Cross over the years, but it was then that I discovered how easy it was to open up about my faith life through writing. I joined the board the following year.

I fondly remember that day in April of 2016 when we received the semesterly print issues in the mail, which came delivered to us in many big sealed cardboard boxes. And on this much-anticipated afternoon, we opened the first box to discover that even though it was addressed to us, it wasn’t our publications inside. Rather they belonged to someone else! This was much to the alarm of all of us there, especially Emily and Michael (Yitayew), but fortunately the rest of the boxes did contain our issues. However, I don’t think we ever did find out to whom those other printed publications belonged.

Marcos Martinez (CC ‘16) was a founding member of Crown & Cross and the publication’s second the editor-in-chief. After graduation, he took a position at OMAPA, an NGO that supports teachers and students in his native Paraguay.

Just as one might expect, CC&C started in a dorm. Around four years ago, Crown & Cross’ founding editor-in-chief Siqi asked me if we could have the inaugural meeting in Schapiro 7, where I lived. I must have said “Of course,” suggesting I had full confidence in the project but, truthfully, I had no such thing. Opening my doors to that team was one of the most defining steps of faith I took at Columbia. Looking back, I can assert faith has proven itself fruitful. CC&C has by now tripled in staff, published half-a-dozen issues, and posted 100 pieces (!) on Crosswords.

What have these numbers amounted to, though? For one, I am certain Crown & Cross has shaped Columbia by signaling a strong Christian presence on campus. We have met many who through CC&C were surprised to discover that Christian voices exist and are lifted up in Morningside Heights. They came to realize that religious thought and the Ivy League are compatible.

This publication has the goal of engaging campus in dialogue, which means that its contributors and their pieces are no more important than the other Christians, religious folks, and seekers whom it has encouraged to speak up. I can only pray Crown & Cross continues to hearten them to talk.

Momoh Osilama (CC ‘16) wrote several excellent poems for Crown & Cross and served faithfully on the Design Team for three years. He is now in Boston, but loves to drop by Columbia and reunite with his old friends from C&C.

I remember video chatting with Siqi and Marcos the summer before my sophomore year. Siqi shared with us her idea to start a journal of Christian thought for Columbia’s campus. At the time, it was only an idea and I am not sure Siqi, Marcos, or I necessarily had a clear-cut vision for what Crown & Cross could become or how it would influence the Columbia community at large, but the prospect of exploring and expressing our faith through this medium galvanized us.

I am glad and very grateful to have been a part of Crown & Cross as it was taking its first steps. There was so much for us to learn and so much for us to create as far as writing, editing, designing, and publishing the journal. I, along with many others on our team, had the privilege of taking on a different role at every point of Crown and Cross’ inception. There were certainly many very late nights and difficult decisions, but it was all so much fun, even when it wasn’t fun at all.

I admire Siqi for nourishing the seed that was planted in her spirit and I am proud of the team that has continued to nourish that seed. I am humbled to think about the all people Crown & Cross has ministered to, on and off Columbia’s campus, and I am blessed to have been a piece of this vessel that God is using to transform hearts and minds.

Siqi Cao (CC ‘15) is the founder and first editor-in-chief of Crown & Cross. She played an essential role in the development of the publication during its crucial early years. She is now enrolled at the Stanford School of Medicine.

To my friends and colleagues who joined together to take on the enormous task of writing/designing/editing for CC&C, I’m so grateful for each of you. Your consistent generosity with time during the chaos of everyday life and the grace with which you faced challenges continue to astonish me. Your love of God, both written and spoken, made it possible for me to keep my faith. Thank you.

Titus Willis (CC ‘18) is the current editor-in-chief of Crown & Cross. He has written nine pieces for the publication over his three years on staff. Lord-willing, he will begin attending law school next fall.

It was early in my freshman spring, I believe, when Marcos Martinez asked me to talk to him about Crown & Cross. I eventually joined the staff and did some writing for both Print and Blog, but the best part of my job was (and still is) the art of editing the pieces of other writers. We call them “pieces” not because we’re pretentious, but because we like to think of our writers’ work same way you think about a musical composition—it ultimately belongs to the original composer, but it cannot accomplish its goal without the collaborative work of others.

Crown & Cross is in its fifth year of publication. People know about us now, and we are set up pretty well for the future with the talented up-and-comers we’ve recently welcomed to our team. What will matter most going forward is how hard our editors work to make sure each piece we publish says something. We don’t put out several pieces per day like a larger operation, so we don’t have room for fluff; we need to make sure that everything we share with the world represents unique thought and quality writing. After I move on from Columbia this spring, I hope I’m remembered for promoting that ideology.

Lilian Chow (CC ‘15) was a founding member of Crown & Cross who also led the launch of Crosswords in early 2014. After recently earning her Master’s from the Teachers College at Columbia, she is now back home in Hong Kong.

In 2015, before graduation, I looked back on my time in Crown and Cross and marvelled at how a seemingly over-ambitious dream had come to fruition. I recalled Siqi’s dream had grown and blossomed into something far larger than I had imagined. Now, 2 years and many more struggles later, I’m still in awe of the way He is faithful.  

Starting up the blog team was challenging and the stream of questions never ended: “Why are we doing this?” “Does anyone even read this?” “How personal is too personal?” “Are we focusing too much on editing the language and forgetting to glorify God?” My questions reflected my weakness, but praise God that our weakness is made perfect in His power.  I’m glad that God uses the broken, messed up, skeptical, and insecure. Even though at times I couldn’t shake my skepticism that Crown & Cross was too big of a dream to accomplish, God’s confidence overwhelmed my doubts. He redefined what it meant to write for His glory: not to seek views, shares, or likes, but to trust and see that He will use our work for His kingdom.

As Crosswords approaches its 100th post, we can declare His goodness and faithfulness. My prayer is that God continues to use His children on campus through C&C to spread His love in whatever precious way He has planned.

Special thanks to all the C&C alumni who lent their time and talents to make this publication work. Crosswords will be back on Wednesday with a profile of a well-known New York City megachurch.