By Claire Walla
Back in the early 1990s, Pastor Doug Kinney of the Community Bible Church (CBC) in Noyac wasn’t a pastor. He wasn’t even Christian.
“I was Rastafarian,” he said. “I had the dreadlocks and all.”
Though Kinney said he read the Bible because, as a Rastafarian, he knew Bob Marley read the Bible, the scriptures didn’t quite click for him.
That changed in 1993. Around that time, Kinney, a musician who lived in Westhampton but often performed in New York City, said he spent a lot of time in his car — listening to the radio.
“One day I tuned into a Christian radio station and, through that influence, I started questioning the Rastafarian religion,” said Kinney, who’s been a Christian ever since.
Kinney first became a youth pastor at CBC in 1997 before taking over as pastor in 2002. As soon as he moved to the East End, he said, “I always thought, I’d like to hear some Christian radio out here.”
For Kinney, expanding his church’s reach via radio waves has always been a dream. And as of October 6 of this year, three years since the church received its radio construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), CBC has been broadcasting Christian programming on 90.7 and 93.3 WEGB from a newly built studio in the basement offices of the church, right on Noyac Road.
The non-commercial radio station — which Kinney said will survive on listener donations — currently plays a mix of nationally syndicated shows from well-known Christian radio personalities like Scottish pastor Alistair Begg and Pastor Chuck Smith, who actually founded Calvary Chapel (of which CBC is a part), to a children’s program broadcast every evening at 7:30 p.m. called “Adventures in Odyssey.” These brief talk-radio programs — lasting anywhere from five to 30 minutes — are intermixed with Christian music, making WEGB the only Christian radio station broadcasting out of the East End.
While the new radio station is certainly exciting for CBC member Barbara Souza, who recently graduated from Suffolk Community College with a degree in broadcast journalism, even more exciting is the fact that the station will be transmitting a weekly broadcast in Portuguese.
“Everyone in the church is really excited, because this is our project: to reach people who don’t know about Christ and the Bible and bring them to our service,” she said.
Souza, who is Brazilian, will be responsible for the Saturday morning Portuguese broadcast, which will air its first show on Saturday, December 24. The show will last 35 minutes at first, during which Souza will play Brazilian music (with a Christian flair), as well as a message from the church’s Brazilian minister, Pastor Eliel Asis. But she said she hopes that, over time, her on-air slot will increase and perhaps expand into weekday programming.
“We know we have a lot of Brazilian people out here [on the East End],” Souza said, explaining that there are already 50 who attend services at CBC. “And we want to reach more of them through radio.”
This radio service would have been helpful for Souza when she first moved to the East End, she said. After moving to Sagaponack from Brazil to work as an au pair five years ago, Souza said she initially attended the Presbyterian Church in Bridgehampton because that’s where her host family went.
“I didn’t see myself there,” she politely commented.
Souza eventually found CBC while browsing the Internet with her host family, and she decided to attend a service because she noticed the church had a Brazilian ministry.
“I said, ‘I can’t believe it! This is a dream for me,’” she said.
While Souza added she hopes the radio station will help promote the church because, she admitted, “we don’t do a lot of marketing,” she also hopes the Portuguese radio service will effectively reach out to the community of people who need it most; particularly young people who, like Souza, have come to the East End from Brazil.
“We come without family,” Souza said. “For me, the church can fill the spot of family. The people are so warm and, after services, we go down and have dinner together — we’re so excited to get more people.”
According to Kinney, the church has “a bunch of ideas” for original programming down the line. If all goes according to plan, the pastor himself will have a teaching program, and he’d like to set up a radio hour for the church’s youth, during which time they can play the modern Christian music they like to listen to.
But for now he’s just happy to be on-air.