Tuesday, May 21, 2013
John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Friday, March, 7, 2008. Rev. Peter Panagore is the minister of the First Radio Parish Church of America at WCSH TV in Portland today taping some of the spots. Seen here after taping and during interview.
On a recent Friday morning, the news studio at Portland TV station WCSH (Channel 6) was occupied by a lone man in a shirt and tie recording a two-minute spot about the pitfalls of credit-card debt.
But instead of giving out a toll-free number to call for credit counseling or advice, the Rev. Peter Panagore ended his message with a prayer:
''Dear God, heavy debt feels like a millstone hung around our necks. We pray for relief and solutions for the debts we carry, and for the millions of Americans whose homes are threatened with foreclosure, and for the national debt, and for those who are drowning in debt. We pray for real solutions. We accept our responsibility. Amen.''
As minister of the Maine-based First Radio Parish Church of America, Panagore produces daily TV and radio messages under the banner ''Daily Devotions.'' Since his messages can be seen and heard by a broad spectrum of people, he tries to talk about everyday life.
And although the messages are definitely coming from a Christian point of view, Panagore tries to make the messages appealing to a broad religious spectrum. He grew up in a family that was both Catholic and Greek Orthodox, and is now a member of the United Church of Christ. So he understands the realities of religious diversity.
''I'd like the (stories) to bring hope and inspiration to people no matter where they are on their religious journey,'' said Panagore, 49, of Boothbay. ''We're trying to build bridges of faith.''
Three hundred and sixty five of Panagore's two-minute inspirational messages have been published in a book, ''Two Minutes for God: Quick Fixes for the Spirit'' (Touchstone Faith/Simon & Schuster, $14.95), which came out in December. His messages can also be read on the Web site dailydevotions.org.
The First Radio Parish Church of America began in Portland in 1926, and was created by the family that at the time owned radio station WCSH. When WCSH launched a TV station in the 1950s, the daily religious messages went on television.
Today, even though WCSH is now part of media giant Gannett Co., First Radio Parish Church of America continues. It's a nonprofit group run by a board of trustees, and funded by donations and grants. WCSH donates studio time and airtime, while several radio broadcasters donate airtime as well.
On TV, Panagore's daily devotions can be seen on WCSH and its Bangor sister station, WLBZ (Ch. 2), at 6:13 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at 7:13 a.m. Sunday. His messages are also heard daily on radio stations in Bangor and Augusta, as well as worldwide on Sundays on the American Forces Radio Network.
Steve Thaxton, president of WCSH, said the station keeps the First Radio Parish Church of America on because of the group's long history with the station, and because station officials see it as not only as a public service, but as something that viewers of the station's morning news might be interested in from 5 to 7 a.m.
''Peter does a really good job of making the messages span a variety of faiths, of taking into account a diverse spiritual landscape,'' Thaxton said. ''We know some people don't like it, but the response we get is overwhelmingly positive.''
Some recent themes of Panagore's broadcasts have included ''Trying to remember what truly matters in life,'' ''Making things happen in your life instead of waiting for them to happen'' and ''God's capacity to forgive people, whatever they do.''
Panagore had been pastor at the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor for 11 years before getting his present job in 2003. He still lives in Boothbay with his wife and two children, ages 15 and 17.
He had never delved into radio or TV before, but had been involved in theater when he was younger. He's been diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, but over the years, he's developed strategies to help him overcome such hurdles.
For instance, before reading one of his messages in front of the camera, he reads through it very fast to help imprint it on his brain.
''I couldn't really read until I was in the fourth grade, but I've always wanted to be a writer,'' Panagore said. ''I've never been afraid of telling stories.''
Now, as a broadcasting minister, stories and words are central to Panagore's daily work. One of his most recent TV messages was about the emotional power of words.
He described a late dinner-party guest describing traffic as ''horrific'' and explaining her spilled tray of baklava as a ''catastrophe.'' Near the end of the message, Panagore went into a prayer:
''Dear God, words are like waves, they may be gentle or overwhelming, they may soothe us or destroy us. What meaningful word do you have for us today, God? Help us listen that we might hear your word and understand your true meaning. Amen.''
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: