Monday, June 16, 2008

Nearer my God to thee . . .

While doing some research for my upcoming book at the NWA History Centre recently I came across this item in the May-June 1959 issue of the Northwest Airlines News:

"Religious Group Holds Services in Stratocruiser

Milwaukee - Church services of the Milwaukee Evangelistic Temple were held April 5 in a chartered Northwest Orient Airlines telephone-equipped Boeing Stratocruiser.

As far as it is known it marked the first time organized worship ever has taken place in an airborne commercial airliner.

The hour-long services were part of a drive to make Milwaukee "God-conscious," according to the Rev. A. C. Valdez, pastor of the Evangelistic Temple. They were broadcast "live" via telephone by Milwaukee radio station WMIL. Rev. Valdez preached his sermon from the plane and was accompanied by a 50 voice choir."

The piece goes on to say that the flight climbed to 16,000 feet and flew over the Milwaukee-Chicago area. Capt. Erling Johnson cut back engine RPMs to insure the best possible ground reception of Rev. Valdez's broadcast. The transmission was termed a "splendid success" by NWA Comunications director Ray Weihe.

I'm not suggesting a revival (no pun intended) of this religious outreach activity of 49 years ago but given the state of commercial aviation today "it couldn't hurt" as they say. Then again, at todays aviation fuel costs can you imagine the tab for lifting a pastor and his 50 voice choir over Milwaukee and Chicago for an hour? Can anybody out there calculate that for me please?


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