“I want listeners to know God is with them, we’re with them, we’re all in this together.”
That’s the message Colleen Houde, news and on-air host at CHVN-FM (a Winnipeg-based Christian music radio station) wants to share with listeners as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Houde, 35, is host of Connections, a magazine-style show that airs from 10 a.m. to noon each weekday on the Golden West Broadcasting Ltd. station. During the pandemic, she said, she is “More conscious of people’s isolation, people stuck in their homes with no one else besides the radio to connect to.”
As for her show, it’s “all COVID now,” said Houde, who attends Oasis Church in Winnipeg. Recent on-air segments include working from home, adapting to having children at home, and keeping kids safe online.
As a mother of two small children, she understands what listeners are going through.
“I am living the same things as them,” said Houde, whose husband is a nurse. “I 100 per cent know the stresses my listeners are feeling.”
People are looking for hope and encouragement, and “how to find God in times like these,” she said.
Mike Thom, CHVN program director and morning show host, feels similarly.
“We want to be a place of peace and calm for listeners,” the 38-year-old father of two young children said.
While wanting to make sure people have the “news they need to know” about COVID-19, he realizes it can cause some to feel anxious.
“We want to reassure people God is still King, Jesus is Lord, we can rely on god at this challenging time,” he said.
The station, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year, also wants to be of service to local churches.
“Everybody has been thrust into new territory,” with the cancelling of in-person services and going online. “We want to provide them with ways to get their messages out,” Thom said.
This includes sharing links each Sunday to livestreamed worship services by Winnipeg churches on the CHVN website. Last weekend, 10 churches were featured from a variety of denominations: Mennonite, Pentecostal, Catholic, Baptist, and Lutheran.
Thom also hopes the radio station can be of service to those who might never go to church but are looking for spiritual guidance.
As this is also a scary time for many children, for a recent show, Thom invited kids to call in and give a shout-out to their friends. For adults, Thom hopes the music played on the station, which features a contemporary Christian format, will be helpful and soothing.
“When people are all alone, music can really speak to them,” he said, adding the station is considering adding a program of traditional hymns for older listeners who find those songs most meaningful.
The station is also looking for ways to promote local Christian artists who have lost work due to cancelled concerts.
The pandemic has meant changes for the way the station produces its shows. Houde still goes into the office each morning, working from an isolated studio; Thom works from a room in his basement converted into a studio.
So far, it’s working, although there have been a couple hiccups. “We’re keeping things simple,” he said.
“We want to be a connecting point between Sundays,” said Thom, who attends Trinity Baptist Church in Winnipeg. “Now, more than ever, we need to be connected to each other.”
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg’s faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.