Square Halo: Extraordinary Christian Writing for Ordinary Saints
By Megan Fowler
Square Halo

Ned Bustard did not want to publish Alan Bauer’s book. Alan’s wife, Diana, refused to take Ned’s “no” as a final answer. Twenty-five years later, Ned’s relenting is cause for celebration.

In a nutshell, that’s the story of Square Halo Books, the Christian publishing company that the Bauers founded with Ned and his wife, Leslie, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But it doesn’t end there. Square Halo has grown in popularity and renown as it partners with authors to bring extraordinary Christian thought to ordinary saints. 

From the beginning, Square Halo’s mission has been to bring readers into conversation with living authors. Ned appreciates Reformed publishers who introduce modern readers to Christians of other eras, such as the Puritan authors published by Banner of Truth. But he wanted Square Halo to introduce readers to the ideas of living brothers and sisters in Christ. 

In Christian art, the shape of a halo has historically represented someone’s status. The Godhead has triangle halos; saints who have died are pictured with round halos; and living saints don square halos. 

Square Halo focuses on books that lean into accessible theology. “We view our books as what will serve the church, what the church needs, where are the chinks that need to be stopped,” Ned said.

In 1997, Ned was just starting as a graphic designer working on building a graphic design business. Alan asked Ned to help him publish a book on Revelation after several other publishers passed on Alan’s proposal. The Bauers, who now live in Baltimore, had known Ned since he was an artistic teenager and Alan was his pastor. Diana urged Ned to take on the project, and he finally agreed, so long as he could have the title “creative director.” 

For years, Square Halo grew slowly and steadily. Alan and Diana provided vision and managed day-to-day operations. Ned grew as a creative director, and Leslie provided behind-the-scenes support as she homeschooled their three daughters. 

Initially, many works in the Square Halo catalog focused on faith and the arts, Alan said, because they sensed a need for more Christian thought in this area. As Ned developed relationships through Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) and partnered with Christian bookstore Hearts & Minds Books, Square Halo’s reputation grew. 

Early Square Halo titles included the “It Was Good” series. Each essay collection focuses on glorifying God through artistic endeavors: performing arts, music, and making art. 

Initially, many of the works in the Square Halo catalog focused on faith and the arts because they sensed a need for more Christian thought in this area.

“Square Halo gives people the opportunity to be published who might not otherwise be published,” Diana said. “It’s important to give people who wouldn’t have a voice, a voice. To express what God is putting on their heart in a way that is beautiful, theological, artistic.” Square Halo recently published her biblical counseling book and workbook.

From the beginning, Square Halo has fostered a culture of connection and collaboration. Hearts & Minds Bookstore, located in nearby Dallastown, Pennsylvania, has carried Square Halo titles. The bookstore’s co-founder, Byron Borger, has consistently reviewed and recommended Square Halo books to his customers. Collaborations with CIVA and recent connections with The Rabbit Room helped pave the way for Ned to illustrate and design Douglas McKelvey’s “Every Moment Holy” and other Rabbit Room Press books. 

After years of honing his craft and growing as a creative director, Ned has had a surge of high-profile assignments. He was asked to create the linocuts for Karen Swallow Prior’s 2018 book “On Reading Well.” He then helped to launch the new IVP Kids imprint with his books “Saint Nicholas The Giftgiver” and “The O in Hope” with Luci Shaw.    

While Square Halo has maintained its commitment to the work of living saints, it has expanded the avenues in which those conversations take place. Leslie now hosts the Square Halo podcast and organizes Square Halo conferences while Ned curates an art gallery space in Lancaster’s arts district. Square Halo Gallery is an extension of the books Square Halo publishes, but it is also rooted in a love for community. 

“It’s a way to be planted in Lancaster and do something for the community, but also an encouragement for Christian artists,” Leslie said. 

During the past 25 years, the Square Halo Books collection has moved from theology and art to memoir, trilogy, poetry, and devotionals. The Bauers and Bustards have contributed to the Square Halo canon, too. Leslie co-edited and contributed to “Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children;” Diana wrote “Speaking CODE: Unraveling Past Bonds to Redeem Broken Conversations;” Alan has recently written “How To See: Reading God’s Word With New Eyes;” and Ned has edited a number of books, including “Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups.” In summer 2022, it published a new collection, “The City for God: Essays Honoring the Work of Timothy Keller.”

In February 2023, Square Halo will celebrate its 25th birthday with a conference in downtown Lancaster. Poet Malcolm Guite will be a keynote speaker, as will Covenant College art professor Elissa Weichbrodt. Square Halo will also publish a commemorative book, “Ordinary Saints: Living Everyday Life to the Glory of God,” to be released in conjunction with the conference. 

“We are so grateful that we’re still going, but it’s because God has been sustaining us,” Leslie said. 

For more information visit squarehalobooks.com.

Scroll to Top