By Melanie Ave
ST. LOUIS — June 24, 2013, will go down as a historic day for KFUO, the broadcast ministry of the LCMS.
That’s the day KFUO, which airs at kfuo.org, classic99.com and 850-AM, began broadcasting from the LCMS International Center here, after moving from studios at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in Clayton — where it has been broadcasting since 1927.
KFUO went on the air from its new studios at 7 a.m. June 24 with the morning show, “His Time,” featuring host Rev. Randy Asburry, KFUO Director of Broadcast Services Rev. Rodney Zwonitzer and KFUO Director of Operations Gary Duncan.
Later that morning, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison formally dedicated and blessed the station during a special chapel service. “Let the doors of this radio station be opened in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Harrison said before cutting the ribbon outside the studio.
A statue of C.F.W. Walther, the founding president of the Synod, stood outside the studio, adorned with headphones and a microphone at his mouth.
“What a great day to begin officially broadcasting in this glorious space with God’s presence and His blessing,” Zwonitzer declared from inside the studio. “So now a new era, a new page.”
The new 980-square-foot studios with large interior windows are located on two floors of the International Center. They feature white oak trim, high-definition equipment, new computers with enhanced streaming capabilities and five production rooms.
The main-floor facility, located off the lobby on the third floor, consists of an on-air studio with a call screen, two production studios and a suite. The station’s sacred and classical music stream, classic99.com, is located in a studio one floor above, on the building’s fourth floor.
The new technology is important because of the increasing number of ways that people can listen to KFUO, said Duncan, who has worked at the station for 20 years.
People can listen to KFUO on their radios, computers, mobile phones and wifi radios.
“We have people listening all over the world, driving in their vehicles,” Duncan said. “You can listen to radio on your TV. There are so many ways to listen to KFUO.”
KFUO is a non-commercial, listener- and donor-supported station that airs distinctively Lutheran programming that includes talk shows, sacred music, Bible studies, and programs such as “World Lutheran News Digest,” “Law & Gospel” and “Book Talk.”
A frugal move
Zwonitzer said the new studios were necessary because the seminary location was aging and becomingly increasingly difficult to maintain. He said it would have been more expensive to update the 86-year-old facilities than it was to build new ones at the International Center.
Synod executives also wanted to bring the station closer to the LCMS ministries so staff members and visitors could be more readily be available for on-air interviews, thereby making listeners worldwide aware of how the LCMS and its partners are sharing the Gospel.
“That gives us visibility that we’ve never had before,” Zwonitzer said.
Harrison said the timing of the station’s move is important because more and more Lutherans from all over the world are reaching out to the LCMS, primarily seeking help with theological education.
“This is the biggest shift in world Lutheranism in a hundred years or more,” he said. “This is really a crucial moment and blessing to have these studios here. To have these studios available as international visitors come in and to be able to keep the church apprised of everything that’s going on, that’s just one small piece.
KFUO “is growing in listenership all over the world.”
Airing since 1924
KFUO’s first broadcast aired Oct. 26, 1924, according to the Concordia Historical Institute. The event was the laying of the Concordia Seminary cornerstone, where the station’s permanent studio would be located. KFUO broadcasted the event in which the Rev. Dr. Francis Pieper delivered an address in Latin.
The station officially went on the air Dec. 14, 1924, from the attic of a building at the old seminary in St. Louis. It later moved to the seminary’s current location in Clayton. It was formally dedicated on May 29, 1927.
On June 23, 2013, KFUO aired a special hourlong farewell program from the seminary. Employees and callers reminisced about the old station and their experiences. KFUO aired Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
“One listener just showed up who wanted to be a part of it,” Zwonitzer said. “I wasn’t expecting it but it was fun.”
Joanie Harwell, KFUO’s manager of development and community relations, has worked at the station for 27 years. She said the final broadcast was a bit sad because it brought back memories of all the people she has worked with through the years.
“We’re just one small part of this large history of KFUO,” she said. “While it was sad it closed down … it’s just so uplifting to come to this new building and to know that we’re going to have an opportunity to let others learn about KFUO and partner with us in sharing Christ love around the world. It’s so new and state-of-the-art.”
V Three Studios designed the new facilities and ISC Contracting oversaw the construction. The second phase of the project is continuing and involves the relocation of the radio transmitter equipment to a new shelter by the transmission tower at the seminary.
Zwonitzer said the new studios have expanded the station’s production studio capacity, which will allow KFUO to expand its Gospel radio ministry and produce more of its own programs, such as the new family-oriented program called “Faith ‘n’ Family.”
More new programs and hosts will be announced in the coming months. The station also is adding a studio Web camera so it can include video to the airing of its roundtable discussions and other programs.
“We owe all the thanks, all the praise to our Lord Jesus Christ,” Zwonitzer said after the service. “He’s the one for whom we do this. He’s the one for whom we like to be the ‘Messenger of Good News.’”
To see a photo album from the dedication and blessing of KFUO, click here.
To support the KFUO ministry, click here.
For more information about KFUO or to listen to its continuous stream, go to kfuo.org.
Melanie Ave is senior writer and social media coordinator for LCMS Communications.
Updated June 26, 2013; June 27, 2013