This article uses a number of radio operator abbreviations: QST--General transmission of interest to everyone (i.e. a broadcast); QSA--Strong signals; CUL--"See you later", O. M.--"Old man", "the 'bug'"--enthusiasm for the radio hobby.
The American Missionary, February, 1921, pages 590-592:
A REAL "SKY" PILOT
"I shot an arrow into the air"
(EDITOR'S NOTE.--How large is your parish? A rather constricted affair, I suspect, if you are an eastern pastor, brother minister. If your parish is west of the Mississippi, perhaps your arrangement is like that of the Powder River Parish in Montana, with three thousand square miles of territory all yours. If so, and you can't make yourself heard over the entire area at once, confer with Rev. Clayton B. Wells, pastor of Fairmont Congregational Church, Wichita, Kansas, a member of Mr. Wells church, and his stepson Frank Isely by name, both adepts in radio telegraphy, have made possible the sending of his sermons out into the world so that they maybe heard at remote points.)
IN the state of Kansas there is a preacher who is a real "sky" pilot, for he actually preaches through the sky every Sunday night through the medium of a wireless station owned by one of his parishioners. The preacher is Rev. Clayton B. Wells, pastor of the Fairmount Congregational Church of Wichita, and Moderator of the Kansas Conference of Congregational Churches.
The olden-time circuit preacher in Kansas, who rode from parish to parish, little dreamed that twenty years later his more modern followers would step to the radio transmitter, close the switch, and for twenty minutes preach to a greater number of listeners than his complete circuit preaching ever reached. Even the average layman, quite well read in scientific subjects, does not always realize the wonderful strides made in radio telephone and telegraph work.
The following story related by Mr. C. A. Stanley, a member of Mr. Wells' church, and manager of the Cos-Radio Company of Wichita, shows how the sending forth of sermons via radio first came about:
"On a certain Sunday evening some months ago, as I sat in my private station ready to send out my evening Q S T, which is wireless for 'Hey, everybody, listen,' Rev. Clayton B. Wells, who, by the way, is teacher of the Bible at Fairmount College as well as pastor of the Fairmount Congregational Church, chanced to pass and dropped into the station. He took me to task for not having attended morning service, and then and there suggested that henceforth the radio station on the Lord's Day be devoted to the Lord's work. I immediately took down Mr. Wells' sermon and transmitted it to the hundreds of stations within hearing. Now it has become an established custom to send out these sermons every Sunday evening at 7:30. Letters of appreciation, addressed to the 'Radio Preacher' and the 'Wireless Parson' have been received from all parts of the Middle West." On one occasion Mr. Stanley received a postal card from an amateur operator near Waterloo, Iowa, who wrote as follows:
"I got your Q S T the other night and tried to speak a word, but everybody was so busy talking to you I could not get your station. I think it would be a good idea for you to send out a sermon every Sunday night. We would all listen for it, for it is the only sermon I know about that is being sent through the air. I am a night watchman at a cement plant and have a little wireless station of my own. I never have time to go to church at night and I need to sleep durine the day. Send your messages on. If you do I will copy them and post them on the pay house every Sunday night. There are a bunch of cement men here who never go to church."
Station 9-B W has a sending capacity of five hundred miles, and Mr. Stanley estimates there are more than one thousand wireless stations in that area. All of them can get his message, although some are so small they cannot answer. He believes most of them are open on Sunday nights and knows that most of the boys watch for his sermons. They are sent out between 7:30 and 8 p. m. every Sunday evening. On good sending nights answers have been received from ranchmen in the Texas Panhandle and from one station on a ranch in Baca County, Colorado, fifteen miles from the nearest church. Even on bad sending nights, however, the sermons get across to all who have their keys open in Kansas and Oklahoma.
There is a jeweler located in a small town in northern Kansas, where little ever occurs to disturb the country folk, who goes to his store on Sunday evening, copies the sermon, and posts it on a bulletin board in front of his store where a goodly number of non-churchgoing people gather to read it.
On July 18, 1920, Mr. Wells' sermon was sent out as usual. A portion follows: "The subject for tonight is 'Love one another.' In these three words is found the secret of success for the nation, the firm and the individual. Without love, life is a failure. Did you ever stop to think that love is simply a desire to help the other fellow play the game fair and look the world squarely in the face with a feeling of pity for the man who is crooked?"
Shortly afterward the following letter was received from southern Texas:
Radio Preacher, 9 B W,
On July 25th, the Q S T was sent out in the regular manner and we were told that Mr. Wells was out of the city. We, therefore, listened to a venerable preacher, whose subject was an old one, yet ever new--"And a little child shall lead them." He spoke, in part, of the innocence and beauty of the child in the home.
Was listening in tonight, when I heard for the first time your Q S T. I tuned the old receiver in until you were very Q S A and copied your sermon. That's the first sermon I have listened to in ten years. Am station agent here for the Railroad, and four years ago I acquired the wireless bug. I put up an aerial and constructed a receiver. I soon got the fever in real form and sat up nights until long after midnight. For a time everything went well, but after a while the late hours became an old story to friend wife, and she accused me of neglecting her and the baby. Perhaps I did, so laid off for a while, but I couldn't keep away from the old set, and to make a long story short, wife and baby left me. Yes, I guess I love them, but I love to hear the old "sigs" come in. I am wondering tonight what I am made of. Your sermon, O. M., has sure torn a hole in me. I don't seem to care to listen in. Don't know what's the matter. Guess I am out of sorts. Well, I will listen for your sermon next Sunday.
On July 28th there came another letter from the radio friend in southern Texas which was of a pathetic nature and speaks for itself:
Radio Preacher, 9 B W,
Within a few weeks Mr. Wells has been instituting another innovation along the same line, by speaking for five or ten minutes during the sermon period into the mouthpiece of the telephone, which when atmospheric conditions are right has a radius of from three to four hundred miles. In that space there are many wireless telephones, and there can be little doubt that Mr. Wells is opening the way for a new type of pulpit oratory. Nowadays "canned"' music has become almost a household necessity; therefore why not have "canned" sermons every Sunday for those unable to attend public worship? The plan might solve the problem of inducing the worldly to be present at some form of church service. No matter where an individual might be, the chances are that he would cease from the form of endeavor in which he was at the moment engaged to listen to the word of God. Mr. Wells has set an example that may well be emulated.
Last night I listened in as usual, copied your sermon, which was very Q S A. That was sure some sermon. I never thought before that I would have any use for preachers, but I have changed my mind. Your sermon reached the right spot in my heart, if I have any. Say, O. M., I must confess that when I finished copying your Q S T I was a mess. I threw the old receiver on the table and went to the Methodist church, a couple of blocks away. The preacher had just started his sermon, and strange to say, his subject was "Home, the Sweetest Place on Earth." After the service I went down front, took the old preacher aside, and told him my troubles. Well, we talked things over, and then we went to my mother-in-law's house. Wife had not gone to bed. Today we are all back in our little home, and best of all, radio did it. Well, I guess you have had enough of this, so C U L.
And so Fairmount Church of Wichita is privileged to have a much larger audience than the one which assembles in the church auditorium from Sunday to Sunday.