Choice Gleanings’ Enduring Appeal

September 20, 2018
P.T. Tan

Choice Gleanings will enter its 79th year when it brings out its 2019 edition this fall. Inspired by his parents’ calendar from the Netherlands, William Pell’s desire to produce a daily devotional calendar was initially met with skepticism and discouragement. But he went ahead with it anyways and launched “Remembrancer” 1 in 1940 with an initial production of 800 copies.

He later changed the name to “Choice Gleanings” which appropriately suggested a careful, quality selection. Choice Gleanings immediately served a felt need and the rest is history. Within a few years the annual production soared to several thousand copies and literally dominated the small operational Pell family crew of Gospel Folio Press (GFP) which had begun about 20 years before. 2 The history of Choice Gleanings and GFP have been intertwined ever since. Today, about 35,000 copies 3 are produced each year and Choice Gleanings is a sustaining economic force of GFP.

What is it that appeals? It has convenient and concise content. Each day’s reading is a short paragraph, consisting of three simple parts. First, the key verse or verses which are printed in slightly bolder print. The Scripture jumps out at you. Then follows the meditation which tends to vary in content and therefore has a wide appeal and application to readers. 4 Finally, there is an appropriate hymn quote which brings out the beauty of the meditation with the emotions and swelling of a song.

These are the key ingredients of each day’s serving. Like humble, obedient Ruth who was allowed by Boaz to “glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not,” 5 the calendar’s formula has worked over the decades and endeared the gleanings to many. One cannot ignore the intriguing idea that this was the inspiration behind William Pell’s decision to rename the calendar “Choice Gleanings.”

So, what does the reader get out of each day’s Choice Gleanings? They receive spiritual encouragement, refreshment, instruction in righteousness, and a stimulus to meet with the Lord of life Himself. 6 In today’s fast paced and pressured world, what is served up in a page of 5 inches by 4 inches, is a quick, potent spiritual meal. One doubts that the idea of convenient fast food was ever the intent of William Pell. If it bears some resemblance, it is in appearance only. It is not meant to be a substitute for spending time with the Lord, in prayer and the study of His Word. Instead it is meant to be an aid, supplement, and reminder. Even those who have spent much time with the Lord and are “satisfied” 7, often find gems in Choice Gleanings when they glance at it on the kitchen table, bedside or desk, and receive it as a timely message from the Lord. 8

Above the day’s meditation, there are “Daily Readings” which consists of three passages taken from the Old and New Testaments. The year begins with passages from Genesis 1, Job 1, and Matthew 1 on January 1. If followed faithfully, it is designed to carry a reader through the entire Bible in a year. This portion of Choice Gleanings does not change and it is a standard template for every calendar year. Sunday school teachers and spiritual mentors have used this as a tool to help younger believers with a systematic method of getting through the Bible in one year. 9 The readings can be spaced out during the day, with one passage in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

Four versions are printed each year: Desk, Wall, Devotional Journal, and Devotional Pocket/Purse Planner. By far, the desk or table version is the most popular. Choice Gleanings is not expensive to purchase and give away. Many have used it as a gift to others, who are often impressed by the quality of the contents.10 The desk version may also serve as a tool for witnessing. Sitting on desk or coffee or kitchen, it is a versatile conversation piece when questions are asked about it. 11 An App is not yet available but the devotions are also easily accessible at

Initially, William Pell gleaned for materials from books but over time he began to invite contributions from others. 12 Thus over time the meditations became original writings rather than excerpts from books. Today, contributions from various writers, preachers and other lay persons 13 are sent from all over the globe to publisher Gospel Folio Press. They then have the task of selecting, editing 14, and organizing the contributions into a daily devotional calendar. It is then sent for printing which was outsourced to China in 2005 to reduce costs. Choice Gleanings is typically received back from the printer and ready for sale and distribution by September.

At this time, the only other language it is published in is Japanese. 15 Besides the United States and Canada, Choice Gleanings is distributed to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Cyprus, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and various other African countries. Since Choice Gleanings is printed in China, there was earlier speculation that it would be translated into Mandarin but that has yet to occur. 16

As Gospel Folio Press states on their website, “Every morning as believers around the globe lift up their hearts to God to begin their day, a familiar component of that routine will be the Choice Gleanings calendar.” 17 Perhaps you will consider it in 2019 for yourself or as a gift for others.

1. Gospel Folio Press, Archives; Keith Clayton, Choice Gleanings – A Calendar with a Difference, Precious Seed, 2004, Vol 59, Issue 4
2. William Pell began Gospel Folio Press by printing on a hand press in his mother’s parlor in 1920. Proof reading at GFP was done primarily by Pell’s sisters amusingly known as “MissPells”. GFP Archives, op cit.
3. Sam Cairns, Gospel Folio Press interview, August 2017.
4. As in the case of each Sunday’s sermon.
5. Ruth 2:15.
6. Much like Scripture itself: 2 Timothy 3:16
7. Ruth 2:14 & 18
8. Miscellaneous interviews, July/August 2017.
9. Miscellaneous interviews, op. cit.
10. Miscellaneous interviews, op. cit. Many recipients keep their copy of Choice Gleanings even after the year is past. The contents do not fall obsolete though the calendar year may be past.
11. Miscellaneous interviews, op. cit.
12. GFP Archives and Keith Clayton, op. cit.
13. About 40-50 contributors, men and women, around the world. Sam Cairns interview, op. cit.
14. Sandy McEachern serves as the current Editor. William Pell was editor until 1970. His sister Grace Pell was editor for a decade, succeeded by Jabe Nicholson who served through the 1980’s. Sam Cairns interview, op. cit. and Keith Clayton, op. cit.
15. The Japanese version appears a year later since it is a translation from the English.
16. See Keith Clayton, op. cit.