"Good morning, and welcome to The Baptist Hour."
How many times have you begun your morning listening to those words at 7 a.m. on WEBQ radio? The Baptist Hour has served Harrisburg and surrounding counties for many years.
As a matter of fact, The Baptist Hour is the longest running continuous Christian broadcast in the United States.
Think about that. WEBQ began operations in 1923, with The Baptist Hour airing for the first time on March 1, 1931. Listeners have tuned in to 1240 AM or 93.7 FM 365 days per year for the last 91 years!
As of March 18, that was approximately 33,233 consecutive broadcasts. The Baptist Hour began as an hourlong program, eventually dropping to 45 minutes and then 30 minutes, which it is today. The name was kept, as it was so well known.
And now, The Baptist Hour is now available via a streaming service.
Beth Miller is currently the opening announcer for The Baptist Hour. How many jobs do you know that require filling 365 days per year? That is right: when Beth leaves the studio on Friday morning, she doesn't get to say "See ya Monday." Nope, Beth is back on Saturday morning.
What about Sunday morning? Beth is there on Sunday morning too. If the day ends in "y," Beth is scheduled to work. If for some reason Beth has to be absent, she has the job of finding her "sub" for the day. We are fortunate that Julie Drone and Phillis Hicks have been wonderful in pinch-hitting on those few days out of the year when Beth is gone.
People often tune into The Baptist Hour to hear Beth read the obituaries. I always joke that, if I don't hear my name mentioned in the obituary today, then I go on to work. It is a wonderful service they provide, letting friends and family of loved ones who have passed away know about the arrangements for funerals and visitations.
Following the death and funeral announcements, a Christian worship service is presented by local pastors. The churches who sponsor The Baptist Hour provide encouragement to listeners through the reading and preaching of God's Word. Some pastors choose to incorporate beautiful Christian music into their allotted time.
I can remember as a child going to the WEBQ studio with a group of our members at College Heights Baptist Church. We would gather around the in-studio piano and sing hymns prior to Pastor Russell Helton bringing God's Word. I can remember being nervous as I looked into the microphone and thought the whole world would hear me sing. Fortunately, some of our older members drowned out my little voice and spared the listeners.
Today, I nervously speak into the microphone three times per month as I do my best to bring God's Word to Baptist Hour listeners. No, I don't sing. In the words of Clint Eastwood, "A man's got to know his limitations."
Something many people do not know about the Baptist Hour is that it is not "free." WEBQ has been kind enough to allow the Baptist Hour airtime, but they cannot afford to simply give the Baptist Hour 30 minutes per day for 365 days per year. WEBQ has bills to pay like anyone else.
Unlike many programs, The Baptist Hour does not seek advertisers to pay the annual expenses of nearly $31,000. You will never hear the name changed to, "The Preparation H Baptist Hour," etc. It is supported financially by sponsorships of the churches who participate in the programming. The Baptist Hour is also supported by local funeral homes who donate to the broadcast. Listeners also send donations to The Baptist Hour because they enjoy the program and want to support this ministry.
It is my hope and prayer that The Baptist Hour will continue to be used to spread God's love to this world. I appreciate and thank the pastors, churches, funeral homes and individuals who work together to make The Baptist Hour the success that it is. I especially want to thank WEBQ for their kindness and support of the program.
May God continue to bless The Baptist Hour until Jesus Christ returns!
• Ernie Fowler is associate pastor of Pankeyville Baptist Church in Harrisburg.