Television is more than a communication medium. It’s about hope and heart and story. “And wow…does our church have a great story to tell(!) and so television becomes tell-a-vision: not only the vision of ministry, but the vision of God’s purpose to love and bless every person on the face of the earth,” says the St. Peter’s leadership team. For more than half a century, thanks to a great cloud of witnesses and supporters, St. Peter’s has been doing just that.
The St. Peter’s Community is buoyed by the connection they are making with viewers from coast to coast to coast. Almost every day, St. Peter’s receives emails, calls, and letters from people across the country who have been transformed by a message of hope and who share the impact of the television ministry in their lives:
• Thank you for caring enough to send, through television, the Word of God so that those who are unable to attend church services can do so now. I very much appreciate your services.
• The message moved me to tears. It gave me the most meaningful insight into life here and beyond. I volunteer at a hospice […] thank you for starting my Mother’s Day with comforting tears and a smile. God bless you.
• Just a thank you for providing the church service […] it’s been very helpful. We are not Lutheran but that doesn’t matter…we’re all in this together.
• This has been a difficult winter for me. It’s hard to get to service. I have found the St. Peter’s services very helpful in my spiritual journey.
• Enjoy your TV ministry. We have a son in hospital for the last 6 months. I am very concerned and get anxiety. Pray for my son Mark!
• Last Sunday my husband couldn’t go to worship so he and I sat side by side watching and worshipping with you. May God continue to bless everyone involved.
• Your message today came from the heart. Miigwech.
With messages such as these, St. Peter’s is encouraged and emboldened as they continue to follow God’s call. Data indicates that 86.1% of the audience are 60+, 71.1% live in single occupant households, and 42.3% have a household income just below $40,000. Whether grey pride, empty(ing) nesters who are diverse in their education, blue-collar workers, or upscale suburbanites and families, they appreciate and recognize that their television audience is a diverse, powerful, engaged group for which it takes a dedicated team to put together a polished, professional broadcast. The ministry is invested in through viewer donations, the St. Peter’s community, other Lutheran congregations who have augmented their own ministries with the broadcast, the Eastern Synod, select businesses, and bequests.
“To honour these investments, and because people matter, St. Peter’s is committed to continually learning, evaluating, and keeping the television ministry creatively fluid in order to offer an exceptional broadcast and make effective connections with viewers,” says Mark Ehlebracht, pastor of St. Peter’s. “One such learning included becoming extremely conscious of what translates well via this medium and what does not. This awareness began several years ago with our Christmas Eve broadcast. At the worship service, there was a great vibe in the room, the soaring music was uplifting and spine-tingling, and the space and liturgy were carefully curated and crafted. The broadcast, however, came across as less than. And so, a new approach to the Christmas Eve broadcast was birthed. St. Peter’s now draws material from an annual blow-out community Christmas Concert in support of a local community organization that features fine musicians, guest choirs, sometimes orchestras, and packages it together with video Vignettes of Hope from people of all ages and places so as to offer people a Christmas Eve worship experience that is engaging, uplifting, inspiring and hopeful. This now sought after broadcast has led to wonderful partnerships between St. Peter’s and local secondary schools, organizations and non-profits that do invaluable work and St. Peter’s gives thanks for being able to give back to the amazing communities that it serves.”
“We believe that everyone is worthy of love and belonging. Everyone,” adds Ehlebracht. Bishop Jake Owensby reflects that “God has come to make us whole. Instead of rewarding moral performance, Jesus heals broken hearts and minds, souls and bodies. God is a healer and not a moral score keeper” (Gospel Memories: The Future Can Rewrite Our Past, p.119). The St. Peter’s community couldn’t agree more. While the grand architecture of the sanctuary provides a beautiful setting for the broadcast, at a deeper level for a people of faith who cannot remain idle, it points to an ever widening community animated by the divine. St. Peter’s leadership feels called to specifically counter the phenomenon of shame that is such a huge problem in society today; a phenomenon that can lead many to experience intense feelings of unworthiness or even spiritual trauma. This calling has challenged their accustomed ecclesial structures and broadcasts as the St. Peter’s community continues to broaden to include people who vary from “them” in “age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, and religious practice” (see Eastern Synod Vision for Mission, 2. We will pursue Compassionate Justice).
“We are blessed to be able to highlight the invaluable work of community organizations, the wider church, and ministry partners to a broader audience through a national, bi-weekly, live-format broadcast that allows us to respond to events in real time. God has called us to reach out and work with various groups and constituents, challenge preconceptions, advocate for forgotten people, and encourage and challenge others to do the same through a national, yet intensely local, Lutheran voice. We have been called to reach the unreached, to rebrand our community of faith, and to creatively support our Synod and National Church as they go about the important work of shepherding congregations, practicing spirited discipleship, pursuing compassionate justice, and telling an exciting, gospel rooted story to a hungry world,” says the St. Peter’s television ministry team. “With your ongoing support,” the team says, “the St. Peter’s television ministry remains a vital part of the shared Lutheran voice. A voice that is powerful, strong, national and engaging. A voice that helps people hope and love and dream; that cares and guides, loves and dares. This voice is our collective voice. We are filled with hope and excitement. And we give thanks.”
You can catch St. Peter’s on CTV/Bell Media at 10AM EDT on the second and fourth Sunday of the month on Bell Fibe: 201/1201, Bell Satellite: 584, 1505, Rogers Cable: 12/109/518, and Shaw Direct: 67/369.