(Photo: First Presbyterian Church)
A North Carolina Presbyterian church's television ministry reached its 50th year of operation, making it one of the longest network programs in the history of the tube.
First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte began filming services for the benefit of those unable to attend their church since 1961, airing traditional church services at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday.
Dartinia Hull, communications manager for First Presbyterian, told The Christian Post that the reliability of the programming had made it last across several decades.
"We are on at the same time every Sunday, and viewers can count on us. We broadcast the entire worship service – including baptisms, confirmation recognition, and communion, so viewers can feel they are participating in the service," said Hull.
"We have excellent ministers preaching the Word, and our service is one of the few mainline traditional services broadcast. Also, we make it easy for our viewers to participate in the service; we send bulletins to anybody who wishes to receive them."
First Presbyterian, whose regular attendance is around 800, boasts of airing its weekly worship service to as many as 40,000 people on WSOC-TV Channel 9.
Bryan Ives, who is part of the church's television ministry committee, told CP that the program began as "an experimental project" funded by laymen. By 1974, the services were filmed in color. Most recently, First Presbyterian has started putting them online.
"It is very important, as that channel of communication has been and is expected to grow exponentially," said the Rev. Wes Barry, associate minister for Evangelism and Business Administration, in an interview with CP.
"It allows us to share the Gospel not only regionally, but now have been able to invite members and visitors from across the globe to worship God with us."
Through its span, First Presbyterian's television ministry has not always had a smooth running. Ives recounted that some problems arose in the 1980s.
"The biggest challenge was in the mid-80s, when the TV station was sold and the new owners began charging for air time, which previously had been provided for free," said Ives. "We had to reach out to members, viewers and charitable foundations to help keep us on the air."
As with many nonprofits, the television ministry took a hit in donations during the 2008 to 2009 recession. However, the worship leaders at First Presbyterian continue to welcome TV viewers as they have since the Kennedy Administration.