“We believe we were one of the first churches to start broadcasting, and providing our services over the radio,” said Nathaniel Kaelin, a longtime church member. “…And our ministry has continued to this day. We know we have listeners. We know our congregation listens when they can’t come to church. We know that we have shut-ins who listen. We know we have folks who have never come in our doors who listen, so it’s been important to preserve that and keep it going. We’re just excited that the Radio Ministry has continued for 60 years.”
Kaelin’s grandfather, Charles Kaelin, was instrumental in starting the radio broadcast. He served as a radio announcer for 53 years. Early on, Wilbur Wright also helped to start the Radio Ministry, and he was involved for several decades.
“My grandfather was our longest running announcer. He passed away in December of last year at 93, but he was deeply involved in the radio ministry for 53 years,” Kaelin said.
“He was a TV repairman by trade, and he got recruited by the pastor back in 1962 to get involved, because he had some technical skills as a TV repairman. It was just a passion of his. He volunteered and he was part of an announcing team. Generally, there’s a team of two to five announcers at any time, and he was one of those announcers that was on the air. He completed his last broadcast on his 87th birthday, after 53 years,” Kaelin said.
Growing up, if there was a Sunday his family didn’t go to church, they would turn on the radio and his grandpa would be on the air. He said his grandpa’s dedication to the Radio Ministry has impacted his own life and his desire to be involved in the church and its ministries.
“The Radio Ministry was always very important to him. I think he’d really be pleased to see that it’s gone on for 60 years. One of his greatest joys was hearing someone say that they had listened to the church service. Maybe they heard him, or another announcer, but he really enjoyed hearing when people were listening,” said Kaelin.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is a historic congregation that was started in 1843. Zion’s first broadcast was conducted on October 28, 1962, on AM 1560 WCNW and FM 94.6 WFOL. The weekly broadcast was later moved to 1450 WMOH, where it has remained for several decades. Over the 60 years of the Radio Ministry, Zion has broadcast more than 3,000 services, including weekly Sunday services and an annual 10:30 p.m. Christmas Eve worship service.
“Our radio ministry is part of Zion’s mission to reach out with God’s love in the Community,” said Patti Eaton, Zion Church Council President. “We hope our listeners hear words of comfort and encouragement each week as they join us on the radio.”
In the beginning, the Radio Ministry began with a simple sound system. Over the years, the church has upgraded the technology with modern microphones, a soundboard and equipment. The church service itself has also evolved over the years. There are newer hymns, and the services are more casual than they used to be, for example.
“We used to connect via a traditional phone line, and now, we’re going through an Internet Ethernet cable. All the technology has really evolved in the last 60 years. Some of that old equipment is still sitting around in various places, and it’s kind of funny to look at how big and small certain things were, but technologically, things have changed a lot. We’ve had to adapt to that and that’s allowed us to enhance the service,” Kaelin said.
During COVID-19, Zion was able to continue to reach church and community members through its Radio Ministry. They never missed a Sunday broadcast. The church also began streaming its worship services via Facebook Live but maintains the radio broadcast to reach a broad audience across Butler County and beyond. On average, about 50 people log in each week for the service on Facebook and several hundred people tune in weekly for the radio broadcast.
“The radio ministry provides a way for people to connect with us, even if they’re not able to make it into the church building,” Kaelin said. “It’s an amazing thing to celebrate 60 years. That’s a lot of longevity. It shows a passion for the ministry, and there have been a lot of dedicated volunteers that have sustained that and kept it going over the years,” Kaelin said.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is a historic congregation that was started in 1843. It recently recognize the 60th anniversary of the radio ministry with a formal rededication of the ministry on Oct. 23.
The radio ministry is supported completely by donations from church and community members. Donations can be made to the Zion Lutheran Church Radio Fund. Connect with Zion’s Radio Ministry online at www.zionhamilton.org.