This Sunday, May 5, will see the end of an era as the Central Lutheran Church’s weekly Radio Ministry airs its final broadcast on 800 CHAB. 

Pastor Doug Shepherd, who has contributed about 18 years total to the ministry, believes it is the longest-running radio ministry program in Canada. 

“In 1956, the congregation led by Pastor Howie Olsen, decided they would like to do a radio ministry every week, so they did that. They went to CHAB, which said, ‘That’ll cost you $5 for 15 minutes on Sunday mornings.’ 

“And since the 6th of May 1956, that (radio ministry) has been running every week. No longer at $5 a holler, though. ... It is, I think, the oldest, longest-running radio ministry of its kind in Canada.” 

There’s no way of knowing the size of the broadcast’s regular audience, Shepherd noted. However, the reason it’s been on air all these years is because of listener support — an amazing feat that shows how many people have found value in the program over the years. 

“It’s supported exclusively by donations from listeners,” Shepherd explained. “I don’t know if there’s anybody else who can claim that for as long as Central Lutheran Church.” 

Shepherd worked in the field of journalism before becoming a pastor. He spent many years as a news reporter with the Canadian Press in Edmonton, and after that he worked in several radio rooms. 

“It was a real comfort zone for me,” he chuckled. “ But I couldn’t believe how much the industry had changed. ... My last newscast was St. Patrick's Day in 1994, and then I came back for this ministry in ‘99, and in five years everything had changed. 

“My first Sunday to record it, I took in my LPs for the music and they said, ‘but we don’t have turntables, don’t you see?’” 

The radio service follows a standard pattern. There’s a welcoming, a gathering prayer, there’s some music, there’s confession and forgiveness, and a reading for the day. Then, there is a sermon, more music, the Lord’s Prayer, and intercessory prayers. 

“In 15 minutes, there’s a lot of stuff jammed in there,” Shepherd admitted. “It’s not only people from Moose Jaw, but there have been Regina listeners, Weyburn, Assiniboia, Estevan, and up north, as well. It’s been around for so long that it’s kind of an accepted Sunday morning ritual for some folks.” 

There have been many different hosts, including some parishioner-led broadcasts. After Shepherd suffered several heart attacks about 15 or 16 years ago, his wife voiced the program for a time. 

It was emotional for Shepherd to contemplate the end of the radio ministry, particularly as it coincides with the end of the Central Lutheran Church in Moose Jaw. After almost 100 years (the building on Hochelaga St. W. went up in 1928), Central Lutheran will close its doors at the end of June. 

Shepherd is retired, but after 14 years as pastor, he still feels a deep affinity with the congregation and the building. 

“There will be a Central Lutheran diaspora. They will go to other churches and join other congregations in the community, and the building will be sold, and that will then be a memory.” 

Tune in to 800 CHAB this Sunday at 7:45 a.m. for the final broadcast of the Central Lutheran Church Radio Ministry.