The Hartford Courant reports that WJMJ-FM, a station owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, will end the ecumenical format of its programming and use the station to reach out mainly to Roman Catholics.
The station has included many home-grown programs that reflect the religious diversity of the area. The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut has broadcast Sundays at 6 hosted by Fr. Christopher Rose for 24 years.
There appears to be a difference between how the Archdiocese wants to communicate the change and how the station management understands the upcoming changes.
The Archdiocesan communications officer, Fr. John Gatzak, said in a phone interview with the newspaper that "the identity of the station will be Catholic, yes, but that does not mean we will not reach out to other Christian denominations to invite them to participate."
On the other hand, the station's general manager, John Ellinger, told the Courant that he believed that the archdiocese's plan was to take every Protestant show off the air by May.
"They will all be gone," Ellinger said. "If we're told that we're to remove the programs, we simply have to do that. It's a really, really tough decision because we like these guys, and we love what they do."
Several Protestant ministers said that was their understanding as well.
"We were certainly told this was the last week of our program," said the Rev. Ned Edwards, pastor of the First Church of Christ in Farmington.
The same message was conveyed by station personnel to Rose, of the Episcopal Diocese; the Rev. John Corgan, at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford; and the Rev. Gary Miller, who leads the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford.
Two of the ministers said they were also ordered not to broadcast "trailers" on WJMJ that invited people to their worship services.
Fr. Rose told the Courant:
"The purpose of the station was not to criticize other Christians, but to lift up what was good about what other churches were doing. I think that's important because we have too much cynicism and criticism already. If this does go through, it will add to the cynicism, instead of promoting common ground. That is the most dangerous fallout from this. I think that would be sad."
The paper says that the station was founded 30 years ago by the late Archbishop John Whalon in the afterglow of Vatican II with a specifically ecumenical format. According to the station's website "WJMJ was founded in 1976 by the late Archbishop John Francis Whealon as the first archdiocesan radio station in the United States, and was the result of a vision brought forth by the Second Vatican Council. It was his dream and goal to create a radio station, to offer the good news of Christ to a wider listening audience through a format of pleasant music and inspiring messages."
Although the station also plays classical and other music, typically in the Frank Sinatra genre, it was created 30 years ago following the Vatican II council as a way of embracing its teachings against bigotry, narrowness and isolationism in the church.
Still, Gatzak hopes some solution will be found.
"Maybe we can create a program that explores outreach to the community," Gatzak said. "We know we have a responsibility to feed the hunger and help the poor. Can WJMJ be used as a catalyst for doing that kind of ministry together? I think there's a lot we can do."
Read it all here.
See also EpiScope.