Casting the net: The UM Hour goes world wide to seek disciples


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.”

The United Methodist Hour now has the same philosophy – literally.

On Feb. 25, The United Methodist Hour’s programming became available to anyone in the world through the Internet. The UM Hour is working in conjunction with iSeeTV, a company of Continental Vista Broadcasting Group Inc.

“This expands our reach exponentially,” said the Rev. Eddie Rester, executive director and preacher for The UM Hour. “This allows people to watch us at their leisure.”

The United Methodist Hour’s Time That Makes The Difference television and radio programs will be available online. Viewers and listeners will be able to access the iSeeTV site through a link in the page.

“We’re pleased The United Methodist Hour has chosen iSeeTV’s solution to enable it to connect with even more viewers than ever before,” said Greg Demetriades, CEO of Continental Vista Broadcasting Group. “Our broadcasting technology will enable them to build upon their viewership numbers and reach people all over the world.”

The radio version of The United Methodist Hour show has been on air since 1971, the TV version since 1980. Although both shows are titled Time That Makes The Difference, they offer different content — the radio show features Rester conversing about scripture with the Rev. Keith Tonkel and a guest, while during the TV show Rester and others present Bible lessons, sermons, music, interviews and other inspirational material.

The TV show is seen on 14 television stations that reach 5 million homes in seven states. Now, anyone with a computer can watch the full, 30-minute program or their favorite segments. The radio program is carried on about 15 stations primarily in Mississippi.

Putting the shows on the Internet is just the beginning, Rester said. The UM Hour will be able to offer live events, such as Annual Conference, and interactive events such as discussions with guest speakers or training events.

Rester said each week’s program will be available on the web Thursday before airing on TV on Sunday. The shows will be available free for a week.

The UM Hour was able to enter the new venture thanks to a gift from Wells Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson. Wells is Tonkel’s home church. Members wanted a way to honor Tonkel’s 70th birthday. Tonkel has been part of the program for several years.

Rester also sees The UM Hour leading other United Methodist ministries into web ministry. “We understand our unique place in United Methodism,” Rester said. “There is nothing like The United Methodist Hour in the connection. We’re looking at how this opens us to be a vehicle for the connection.”

Rester also said this might just be the beginning of churches and organizations learning new ways to reach people for Christ. “If media is moving to where everyone is, we have to follow,” he said. “We moved from just radio to TV and now to the web. This is the next step, and we’re doing it in an excellent way.”