Live radio sermons at Pittsburgh church, 1 century ago

Edwin Van Etten used to be popular much before Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Joel Osteen, Archbishop Fulton Sheen and famous radio evangelists such as Father Charles Coughlin and Aimee Semple McPherson came into the picture. She was far away from a household name ehobjaf helped to popularize the live radio sermon. It actually started on 2nd January 1921 at the Pittsburgh’s Calvary Episcopal Church on fledgling KDKA radio. Van Etten, the rector of the East Liberty church initially shied away from this particular idea. It was exactly 2 months post that of KDKA’w historic first broadcast of the 1920, Harding Cox presidential election led the station to be put together after the first live remote broadcast from Calvary came into being. 

Broadcast pioneer Harry P. Davis – a vice president of Westinghouse Electric, who owned KDKA – was seeing to sell “radio sets.” He needed programming of all sorts so as to do it, and all kinds of other requisites in order to give a reason to the people so that they can buy them. Anne Madarasz, chief historian at the Senator John Heinz History Center said, “Davis wants to be successful. He wants this to be a major commercial enterprise for Westinghouse.” He added, “And the more quality programming and the more variety they can offer, the better opportunity he has to sell radio sets.”

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Madarasz said that Herbert Hoover does an address to the Duquesne Club two weeks later and they do a remote broadcast from there. They have been doing boxing by August, and then they are doing the Pirate games and the Davis Cup, college football in the month of October. Thus, they will literally go from the right Calvary to this! 

How Calvary Episcopal was selected?

Calvary was selected for the very first Church broadcast by an accident tradition. Davis was looking forward to do some kind of religious broadcast on Sundays.  A Westinghouse employee named Fletcher Hallock – a choir member at Calvary did suggest about his own church. Van Etten expressed his concern about the distraction that a broadcast would be able to create. He along with the others were also worried about the fact that the people might be a little less inclined this time to attend the church in person if they would just be able to hear it on the radio. He would never have suggested about not trying it from their end. 

Rev. Jonathon Jensen, the rector of Calvary since 2014 said, “Calvary has always been easygoing and welcoming when it comes to embracing new things.” A lot of planning and rehearsing had to be done at the church before Whittemore would step up to the live microphone. They practiced for 2 weeks with the microphones and the transmitters to check the best reception. They basically used 3 microphones as said by Madarasz, the one with the organ, another two with the choir and the pastor respectively. 


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