The weeks leading up to Dec. 25 were exciting ones for several United Church of God ministers who were interviewed by major newspaper and radio outlets. The excitement spread to thousands of Church members as hundreds of stations and papers carried the interviews on the theme "Christians who don't keep Christmas."
UCG President Clyde Kilough attributed the media blitz to "God's power to open doors."
"We did nothing of our own power to plan for or generate that. It was undoubtedly worth hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars of exposure—there is no way we can calculate what it would have cost us to have bought our way into such prominent media outlets around the world!"
The blitz began with Tom Breen, an Associated Press writer in West Virginia, who contacted the UCG home office and John Foster, the UCG pastor in his area. Quotes from Mr. Foster made the lead of his article, and photos of Mr. Foster accompanied the story as well on the AP news wires sent to newspapers around the world Dec. 13.
Mr. Breen's article began: "As Christmas draws near, Pastor John Foster won't be decorating a tree, shopping for last-minute gifts or working on a holiday sermon for his flock. After all, it's been 50 years since Christmas was anything more than a day of the week to him.
"He's one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations—rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.
"'People don't think of it this way, but it's really a secular holiday,' said Foster, a Princeton [West Virginia]-based pastor in the United Church of God. He last celebrated Christmas when he was 8."
The article also quoted Mr. Kilough saying, "Is it acceptable to God for humans to choose to worship him by adopting paganism's most popular celebrations and calling them Christian?"
The AP story appeared in hundreds of newspapers from Massachusetts to Hawaii to the Philippines. Mr. Foster was quickly inundated with calls from people not in the Church and more reporters. He was interviewed by National Public Radio and CBS News in New York.
The Washington Post wrote a similar article, for which they interviewed Arnold Hampton and Todd Carey.
"Although the article referred to pastors of other churches, such a Jehovah's Witnesses, it featured Arnold [Hampton] in the lead, complete with photos of him preaching at Sabbath services and members in the audience," said Mr. Kilough. "The Post, of course, is one of the premier syndicated newspapers in the United States, so many other papers picked up the story, among them the Atlanta Constitution, Cincinnati Post, Boston Globe, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Omaha World-Herald, Palm Beach Post and Tulsa World, to name a few."
Fox News Radio Interview
Dec. 18 Good News senior writer Jerold Aust was interviewed by Alan Colmes on Fox News Radio. Mr. Colmes wanted to talk to the author of the November/December Good News magazine article titled "What's Behind the Magnetic Pull of the Christmas Season?"
A link to the 26-minute interview can be found on the members.ucg.org Web site.
Mr. Aust mentioned that his personal Web site, mentioned by Mr. Colmes during the interview, received 5,256 visits Dec. 18 and 5,054 on Dec. 19. "I've never gotten more than a few hundred before the Alan Colmes' interview," he said.
Dennis Luker, pastor in Seattle, Washington, was also contacted for a live interview on KIRO radio in Seattle Dec. 24.
Larry Salyer, Media and Communications Services operation manager, expressed his thanks to all the ministers who were interviewed. "I'm sure this will add some punch to our overall message," he said. "This may be only a forerunner of bigger things to come." UN