Radio was a fairly new phenomenon when Sister Aimee launched KFSG in 1924. As this excerpt from a magazine article at the time reveals, her visionary use of the new media had a huge impact.
By Ralph L. Power
This, friends, is the story of a radio station with a soul.
When KFSG first went on the air, thousands of fans registered emphatic and vigorous protest because some non-selective sets were not able to tune out the new station, but that is ancient history now. Most of the people wouldn’t tune KFSG out now if they could.
This is a personal narrative of a church that not only brings the people to it by the thousands, but also goes to the people by the hundreds of thousands in their homes, the rugged mountain peaks, the whirling sands of the desert, the tramp steamer on the high seas—everywhere, in fact, that the Word of God can go.
Aimee Semple McPherson knows human psychology. Or, more properly speaking perhaps, she knows the practical application of everyday psychology. Her programs include masterful benedictions, messages of cheer and inspiration, powerful and penetrating sermons, testimonials delivered with a punch and vigor, and healing services of faith and power. But the thing that stamps Angelus Temple as different in radio annals is the uniqueness and beauty of the musical programs.
Surely radio has a multitude of uses. The day of miracles is not over, and such an unprecedented opportunity for preaching has never been known. Angelus Temple also receives church members by radio. In Angelus Temple, the congregation hears the pastor saying, “Do you pledge to live clean Christian lives for God?” Immediately comes the overwhelming response, “We do.”
The congregations in the outlying districts hear the queries from the Temple through the receiving sets, and immediately their answer is dispatched back to the Temple via private telephone lines, amplified in the radio room and broadcast through the loudspeaker.
The stately dome of the Temple rises over the skyline of Echo Park and is now well established as a landmark of Los Angeles. On the roof, the imposing antenna towers are plainly visible, while the glass-enclosed operating room for the radio is nestled snugly on the top floor.
The Gray Studio, splendidly appointed, is used for afternoon programs of musical numbers furnished by individual artists and includes readings, sermonettes, as well as vocal and instrumental selections. From the main auditorium in the mornings are broadcast a special Sunshine Hour service, which is radioland’s very own. Then there are the regular church programs, twice on Sunday and on evenings, with the Temple always crowded and with thousands of radio church members listening in.
The initial cost of the station—some $25,000—was received from voluntary contributions. So also is the cost of upkeep. Every day in the year, a new patron of the radio church steps forward and pays the maintenance of the day. What more evidence can you desire of the fulfillment of a crying need in spiritual development? Not only has this been going on the past year, but already patrons are booked many months ahead to stand as sponsor of radio for a single day.
So this church that is never closed, with a radio that is seldom silent, continues to find new and novel channels for its activities. Vesper organ recitals, midnight musical programs, midday programs for shut-ins, sometimes a special midnight service especially for missionaries in far distant lands—all of these are but milestones for a congregation and a pastor that follow no beaten paths, but blaze trails of their own.
And the Radio Bible Class has become a natural adjunct to the radio services of KFSG. So many could not attend the church services, the Sunday School classes, or the resident Bible school, and today the Bible class—with lectures, printed outlines of courses and other necessary material—has become an indispensable part of Mrs. McPherson’s activities.
Go, if you can, to the Temple at any of its services. Perhaps you’d like Thursday nights, when an average of 100 people are baptized. Or maybe Wednesdays, with the testimonials. It makes no difference when you go. You will always find crowds waiting outside.
This great Cathedral of the Air reaches thousands who could not get to the Temple because of distance or infirmities. It also reaches those who cannot gain entrance, because no matter how large the structure becomes, it can never adequately accommodate all those who wish to enter.
Radio has saved thousands of lives on the seven seas, when ships in distress have flashed the fateful S.O.S. The call has always found a quick and willing response, for human lives were at stake. And now millions of distressed human souls, through radio, are finding an answering message of courage, hope, comfort and joy.
This article is adapted from an editorial written by Ralph L. Power, titled “Angelus Temple Is Unique Among Broadcasters,” which appeared in Radio in the Home magazine in January 1925.