The Pittsburgh Township Marks Its Function in Radio Historical past – Episcopal Information Service

A section from the Bulletin of the Calvary Episcopal Church dated January 2, 1921 in Pittsburgh. The service was the first to be broadcast on the brand new medium of radio.

[Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh] It was the first Sunday in 1921. While Pittsburgh’s Calvary Episcopal Church typically began its day with Holy Communion and morning prayers, it later held an evening service unlike anything it had before.

“An interesting arrangement was made for today’s service,” wrote the then rector of Calvary, Rev. Edwin Jan van Etten, in the parish bulletin. He noted that the International Radio Company (part of Westinghouse Electric) had wireless devices installed in the church and that the hymns and sermons to be preached by his associate, Rev. Lewis Bliss Whittemore, “blink for a radius of more would be considered a thousand miles through space! “

So Calvary came to host and conduct the first service ever broadcast in the world.

Westinghouse’s KDKA radio station was just the first in the country to start broadcasting just two months earlier. And it had never launched a program outside of its own studios until that night on Golgotha.

Calvary’s weekly presence on KDKA would last over 40 years. The broadcaster’s “Clear Channel” license enabled it to transmit at 50,000 watts on a frequency that was not shared with any other broadcaster. That meant his programs could be heard across much of the eastern and central United States, and if the atmospheric conditions were right, well beyond.

The national importance of Golgotha ​​grew, as did the profiles of its clergy. Whittemore later became Bishop of Western Michigan. Van Etten traveled to Boston to serve as dean of the cathedral. He was followed by Rev. Arthur Kinsolving, himself a former dean and future bishop. Golgotha ​​would have rectors such as Rev. Sam Shoemaker, who helped found Alcoholics Anonymous, and, more recently, Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis getting dressed. The current Rector, Rev. Jonathon W. Jensen, was Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock.

Notable guests have graced the pulpit at Golgotha ​​over the years. The Church has hosted several presiding bishops, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

On Sunday, January 3, 2021 – exactly one hundred years plus one day after that groundbreaking evening prayer – Golgotha ​​will commemorate its role in broadcasting history. The 11 o’clock Eucharist will feature the music that was played during the opening broadcast of 1921 and Jensen will preach on the anniversary.

Just like a century ago, Calvary’s service will be available to the whole world, although this time it will use modern technology of live streaming over the internet. Calvary has been broadcasting its services and community life on a regular basis since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. The church is now permanently equipped with five video cameras that are fully integrated into the audio system.

The January 3 commemoration is available on the community’s website at or on the Facebook page at

Additional material, including the full service brochure dated Jan. 2, 1921, appears in the December issue of Calvary’s newsletter Agape.

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