About Ancient Faith Radio
by Julia Wickes
The Orthodox Church in the context of North America is often compared to a rare treasure. Surely this metaphor also describes the place of Orthodoxy within mainstream media culture — the operative word being “rare.” No one turns the dial of their radio during a morning commute expecting to hear a hymn to the Theotokos or the Orthodox scripture reading for the day. However, with internet access, the voices of Orthodoxy — musical, prayerful, and instructive — find a radio station to call their own, and many grateful listeners, thanks to the streaming sounds of Ancient Faith Radio.
With its polished production, few would guess that Ancient Faith Radio began as a humble experiment on the back porch of the Chicago home of founders John and Tonya Maddex. With John relying on his thirty-eight years of experience in radio broadcasting the traditional way, they were not entirely sure where this project would lead them when they first streamed Orthodox music on the internet in November 2004. In fact, John was so new to online radio that he initially tried to listen to the music on the same computer he was streaming it from, which resulted in a cacophony of noisy reverb. He quickly acquired a second computer for listening and learned the ins and outs of internet radio. He kept the URL of these early broadcasts private, only sharing it with a few who might provide him with feedback. Eventually, however, Ancient Faith Radio was made public, and, as Tonya describes it, after taking over her dining room, the growth of the station eventually necessitated that they find a larger space in Northwestern Indiana.
John Maddex’s background in radio included a long career with the Moody Broadcasting Network in Chicago. After his departure from Moody in April 2007, he was able to truly devote himself to developing Ancient Faith Radio full-time. It was then that AFR expanded its programs, particularly the podcasts, adding eighteen programs in 2007. Six to ten additional podcasts have been planned for 2008. With so much quality material being developed, it made sense to designate one station solely for talk programs and another for Orthodox hymnography, particularly since a listener survey showed that many, tuning in during the workday, for example, might not be able to pay close attention to the podcasts at these times, but loved having Orthodox hymnography as the backdrop to their workday. So, quite recently as of January 2008, visitors to the Ancient Faith Radio website will find that they can choose between two different streaming stations — Ancient Faith Talk or Ancient Faith Music.
A surprisingly wide variety of listeners have grown attached to Ancient Faith Radio, both within the Orthodox Church and without. Some listeners are members of the Orthodox Church who live in isolated areas where there are no nearby parishes. These claim that Ancient Faith Radio — with its hymns, hours, scripture readings, and readings of the saints’ lives — functions as a strong connection to the Orthodox Church in an otherwise disconnected situation. Cradle Orthodox, converts to Orthodoxy, and inquirers alike, listen to expand their knowledge of the Orthodox faith through the dozens of podcasts — both the archived and current — by Orthodox priests and teachers. Parents, who spend the day at home with children, as well as men and women in the workplace, have commented on how Ancient Faith Radio transforms the time they spend engaged in the details of daily life into an opportunity for prayer, infused with peace.
This beautiful potential of Ancient Faith Radio to bring comfort and guidance to so many people in so many ways makes it truly a ministry of the Church. John and Tonya said that it did not take long for them to realize that the radio station they were creating in their home needed to come under the guidance and accountability of Orthodox leadership, rather than being an independent venture, conducted in isolation. Thus, they met with the parish council of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, with Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, to introduce them to their idea and invite collaboration. With the help of volunteers from the parish, AFR was now able to broadcast devotional readings, Psalms, lives of the Saints and other short features to go along with the music. Fr. Reardon is a regular contributor through his podcast, “Pastoral Ponderings,” which airs weekly, as well as his “Homilies From All Saints.”
Although firmly pan-Orthodox in its mission and broadcasting, Ancient Faith Radio has enjoyed a special closeness with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, the kind of relationship born out of like-minded cooperation in doing the Lord’s work. Since planting its roots in All Saints Orthodox Church in Chicago, Ancient Faith Radio has truly blossomed in connection with the AOCA. Likewise, the AOCA has found a powerful tool for its ongoing outreach work through internet radio. No less than ten programs on Ancient Faith Radio are hosted by members of the AOCA, both clergy and laypersons. Besides the aforementioned podcast of Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, there is also a program devoted to spirituality and psychology by Very Rev. Fr. George Morelli, Chairman of the Department of Chaplaincy and the Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the AOCA. The Antiochian Department of Christian Education also partners with AFR in the production of “Let Us Attend,” the Sunday Gospel lesson read for older children and told for younger ones. Matthew Gallatin, a published author with Conciliar Press, Chrissi Hart, and Dr. Brad Nassif, are all podcasters who also happen to be members of Antiochian parishes in Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Illinois respectively. Beyond providing a radio expression for AOCA priests and teachers to reach a wider audience, AFR has also served the Church in other important ways. Namely, Ancient Faith Radio was of great service to the AOCA during the 2007 convention in Montreal, where it was responsible for all the audio recordings and archiving.
The AOCA places a high priority on outreach and communication through a variety of media, and this is demonstrated in no better place than in the thirty-year history of Conciliar Press, whose Orthodox publications, including Again and The Handmaiden magazines, have been an important presence of Orthodoxy in the English-speaking world, guiding many inquirers in their conversion process, and enriching the Orthodox faithful. The WORD magazine is yet another way in which the AOCA fills the need for Orthodox faithful to communicate and connect. It is not surprising, then, that Ancient Faith Radio, a locus of Orthodox communication par excellence, has been able to find a home within the ministries of the AOCA. With all of its exciting work being done, it only makes sense for the outreach ministries of the AOCA to come together in a more formal affiliation. This step was in fact taken in recent months, when Conciliar Press officially merged with Ancient Faith Radio to become Conciliar Media Ministries, Inc. The hope is that, through shared resources, organization and collaboration, the Church will be able to minister at an even greater level of effectiveness than ever before, making the treasure of the Orthodox Church more accessible to more people.
Courtesy of the
March 2008 issue of The Word magazine.