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Radio a Useful Tool For Many Congregations

March 15, 2009

If you’re a new Unitarian Universalist (UU) in Rochester, NY, there’s a good chance you learned about Unitarian Universalism from something called LifeNow! 

The inspiration of the Rev. Scott Tayler, LifeNow! is a collection of lively interviews with UUs about their values and how they live them out. He took the idea from This American Life, the Chicago Public Radio program. Tayler and his wife, the Rev. Kaaren Anderson, are co-ministers of First Unitarian Church in Rochester (907 members).

LifeNow! is a joint project of First Unitarian and First Universalist Church in Rochester (133). Anderson and a team have done some 40 interviews, recorded on CDs. Anderson hosts, produces, edits, and directs, and invites church members to take CDs home and share them with friends. They are also available as podcasts. The idea is working, says Anderson. “Many people say it is their primary way of inviting folks to church, as it is easier to pass off a LifeNow! show rather than a sermon, and say to folks&mdashif you like the show, you’ll like the church.”

LifeNow! is one of several ways UU ministers and others have found to use radio and the Internet to spread the gospel of Unitarian Universalism. Originally LifeNow! recordings were broadcast on Air America, but when that became too expensive ($12,000 annually) they were made available through First Unitarian’s website, and at church.

LifeNow! topics are diverse. One on grief featured a man whose son died. One on simple living was with an underemployed member who described how to live with few resources.

Anderson’s hope is that other congregations will help support LifeNow! by being “sponsoring congregations.” They’d get their own identification line on the interviews and could distribute them in their own churches. The Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL, is the first church to sign on. The LifeNow! name and format are copyrighted.

There have been similar programs. The late Rev. Carl Thitchener created the Liberal Religious Hour in 2004, recording more than 40 interviews that were broadcast on radio stations in upstate New York. The program went into hiatus with his death in 2008, but many of the messages continue to be available at the website of his and the Rev. Maureen Thitchener’s congregation, the UU Church of Canandaigua, NY (77). Other liberal religious programming is at UUpLink, a UU online radio site begun by Rick Babb and based in Canton, OH.

Another program is the Rev. Chuck Freeman’s Soul Talk Radio. Begun in 1996 on a community FM station, it has since moved to the Internet at Progressive Blend Radio. Freeman, who serves as minister of Live Oak UU Church in Cedar Park, TX (164), a suburb of Austin, says it’s hard to show that programs like his contribute directly to church growth. “It’s like drops of water. As more of us do this it creates an awareness of liberal religion in the larger community.”

In Oklahoma the Norman UU Fellowship (24) is attempting to start a local progressive radio station. It filed for a license with the Federal Communications Commission during a one-week window last October, and is waiting for approval.

At Camp Springs, MD, the Rev. John Crestwell, minister of Davies Memorial UU Church (115), began the Barbershop Radio Show in 2005, offering 12-to-15-minute interviews with political figures who support liberal religious values. The program started on the radio but has moved to a podcast to save the $1,000 a week that radio was costing. Whenever possible Crestwell plugs Unitarian Universalism. “I think it’s very important for UUs in the public eye, whether authors, poets, or others, to be identified with their faith.” He says up to 1,000 people listen to his podcasts each month.

Resources

Listen to LifeNow! recordings at LifeNow! Radio or download them as podcasts.

For more information contact interconnections @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Monday, December 9, 2013.

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