WINNIPEG — For two hours every Sunday night, it’s all about the callers. And maybe, just maybe, about the bloggers and the texters and the tweeters, too.
From their darkened studio overlooking Portage Avenue, GodTalk radio show hosts Greg Glatz and Marlo Boux are willing to talk to anyone about what they believe — or don’t — and anything else on their mind.
“We’re looking for people in the 25-to-44 demographic who would identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, skeptics or seekers, but they’re likely refugees from religion,” say Glatz, aka the Rock ’n’ Roll Preacher.
Seven months ago, Glatz, 45, took over GodTalk from long-time host David Balzer, now teaching communications at Canadian Mennonite University. The pair had co-hosted GodTalk for two years previously. With that shift came a new direction for the Sunday night show, a fixture in the 9 p.m. time slot for nearly a dozen years.
“I believe the callers drive the conversation,” says Glatz, pastor of Central Baptist Church for the last 16 years. “I want conversation. I don’t want monologue and I don’t even want guest-driven radio.”
Neither do the folks at CJOB, who welcome the shift from Balzer’s more journalistic interviewing style to Glatz’s opinionated, provocative in-your-face shtick.
“There’s definitely a more contemporary feel and a more contemporary vibe,” explains assistant program director Kevin Wallace, who says calls and emails from listeners tell him the revamped show is on the right track.
The new format attracted Boux, 35, a former behavioural therapist and now stay-at-home mother of three, as well as blogger and self-described techie, who first met Glatz by following him on Twitter. After sending in an opinion about one of Glatz’s first shows without Balzer, he invited her to call in with her thoughts, and two weeks later she was sitting beside him in the studio co-hosting the show. Former co-host and producer Melissa McEachern stayed on until mid-May to smooth the transition.
“I grew up outside the church. It’s not my experience at all,” confesses Boux, daughter of Guess Who bass player Bill Wallace. “I have a real heart for people who are hurting and ready to talk about God, but maybe they don’t want to go to church.”
Glatz says GodTalk is one place for folks like that, and he’s committed to keeping the show on the air, despite the fact it is bleeding red ink. The radio station provides technical support, but no direct cash for what they describe as community-produced programming. Funding from Family Life Network, which employed both Balzer and McEachern, ended when McEachern left the show in spring. She still works at the Christian media agency.
For now, Glatz’s congregation frees up some of his time to work on GodTalk, but Glatz is also looking for sponsorships from small and medium business owners who believe in the GodTalk product.
“We’re going to go right to the wall. We’ve got the sense something will come through,” he says optimistically, shrugging off significant expenses for computer equipment and a BlackBerry for Twittering.
“It needs to be done. No one else is doing it,” says Boux of why she’s willing to work for free for the short term.
“And if somebody else does, they won’t be doing it as well as we are,” says Glatz, who spends about 30 hours a week on GodTalk business.
On top of the show’s website, the pair each have their own websites and blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles, all pointing back to the radio show.
In January, they plan to teach an eight-week continuing education course on the emerging church at the University of Winnipeg’s faculty of theology, where Boux has just started graduate studies. Now in the middle of writing a doctoral dissertation on the emerging church, an organic, informal post-modern religious movement in North America, Glatz brings his academic credentials to the classroom, and Boux her life experience.
“He’s got the formal training, but this is the kind of stuff I’ve been living,” says Boux, who refers to herself as “rough around the edges.”
And how people live is exactly what Glatz and Boux want to talk about on the air on Sunday nights or any time via the Internet. In the end, it’s all about the people who tune in and are moved to pick up the phone.
“We’re on North America’s number 1 talk radio station by market share,” says Glatz. “I can’t think of a better place to be where the people are.”
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