First Radio Parish Church of America broadcast its final “Daily Devotions” TV segment Sunday, a Maine program thought to be the oldest continuous religious broadcast in the nation, which is ending after 92 years because it could not raise sufficient funds to pay for staff and technical equipment.

The program, which was run for 14 years by the Rev. David Glusker, formerly of Augusta, aired its final program on WCSH-TV Channel 6 in Portland and WLBZ-TV Channel 2 in Bangor.

The Rev. Peter Panagore, who has put together “Daily Devotions” for the past 15 years, announced the program would be shutting down, in a broadcast the previous Sunday titled “The End.”

“It’s been a very, very sad and mournful week,” Panagore said. “I spent most of my time on Facebook talking with people who were concerned. There’s a lot of sadness for a lot of people.”

The 12-member board of trustees of First Radio Parish Church voted last November to end the weekly two-minute broadcasts of uplifting messages because funding from donations wasn’t enough to keep the program going.

“I can’t put my finger on how long we’ve been struggling to stay alive. It’s probably a couple of years,” said Rick Small, chairman of the board of trustees. “It’s not an easy task for nonprofits, especially for religious nonprofits. The day we voted to close the doors was not a happy one for any of us.”


Small said trustees wanted to keep enough money on hand to grant severance pay to Panagore and two part-time employees.

Small is a retired pastor in the United Church of Christ and past director of Good Shepherd Food Bank.

“To write a 20-minute-to-half-hour sermon takes a lot of research, a lot of work,” said Small. “To condense that down to two minutes is very difficult. Peter is just a master at it. He gets his point across. He does it by telling stories. I’m going to miss his wisdom, his sense of humor.”

The website of First Radio Parish Church says, “We seek the sacred in the secular through story telling.”

Brian Cliffe, general manager of WCSH-TV Channel 6, said, “Obviously, it’s something throughout our history that the stations have been happy to support. This was a decision that was made solely by their board.

“We’ve always enjoyed a terrific working relationship with First Radio Parish Church. I think their board had a very difficult decision to make. Ceasing operations is never easy to do. We’ve been happy to be the outlet for their spiritual message.”


WCSH provided the air time for “Daily Devotions” at no cost and also an office cubicle in the WCSH building on Congress Square in Portland. Panagore wrote and produced the programs himself, using a studio at his home in Boothbay, and also did the photography, often striking views of nature.

“Daily Devotions” was started in 1926 in the WCSH radio studio on the top floor of the former Eastland Hotel. The founder was the Rev. Howard O. Hough, who stayed with the program until 1964. TV broadcasts began shortly after the advent of television in Maine in 1953.

The time slot for “Daily Devotions” gradually shrank over the years. It started as daily broadcasts of four minutes each. The time was cut to two minutes a day when Panagore arrived and then, two years ago, the program was changed from daily broadcasts to one broadcast a week on Sunday mornings. The broadcast time for “Daily Devotions” also was moved back from 6:15 a.m. to 5:15 a.m.

Panagore said because “Daily Devotions” fell within the NewsCenter morning newscast, with its weather and news, the religious program could claim 100,000 viewers, the same as the newscast.

But having the program on the air only one day a week cut down on its viewers, and its potential donors.

“We had a donor base of about 2,000 people. It sounds like a lot. … Our time slot was reduced and we couldn’t support ourselves. We’re kind of passé in some ways,” Panagore said.


First Radio Parish Church had an annual budget of $140,000, but Panagore said the church had to get by on $120,000 to $125,000 for many years and gradually fell behind.

Panagore said “Daily Devotions” provided a message of “inspiration and hope.” It was aimed at all people — “from the grandmother to the schoolteacher to the ironworker at Bath Iron Works.”

He said “Daily Devotions” was picked up and rebroadcast by several international Internet networks.

“We had followers globally,” he said. “All over the globe people were paying attention to ‘Daily Devotions.'”

But the church couldn’t make any money off the global networks.

“We never figured out how to earn money from the networks,” he said. “We were giving away our product for free and asking for donations.”


Panagore said he met God when he had a near-death experience as a college student while ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. He described the experience in a book called “Heaven is Beautiful.”

He said he got one message from the experience. and that was “You are loved by God and God is love.”

“There’s super-sadness, for sure,” Panagore said of the shutdown. “But I have no hard feelings toward WCSH. I have to respect what they did for us for all those years. They were incredibly generous.”

Panagore had no experience in television broadcasting when he started in “Daily Devotions” in 2003. But he had worked as a professional actor and he said he learned as time went by.

Panagore is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Yale Divinity School. He is married and has two children.

Before he joined “Daily Devotions,” Panagore was pastor of a Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Boothbay Harbor.


“I’ll be doing something else now,” Panagore said. “I’ve got a couple of books to write. I might end up at a church or as a hospital chaplain. I am open to God’s direction.”

The church is planning to shut down for good on Wednesday, but Panagore said there’s still an opportunity for a philanthropist to step in and save the operation.

“If someone wants to rescue us, we will definitely talk to them, but they will have to speak to me,” he said.

The Rev. David Glusker, who was pastor of Green Street United Methodist Church in Augusta for 11 years, was director of First Radio Parish Church for 14 years before he retired and the church hired Panagore.

“For some reason, it was not difficult for me,” said Glusker, who spends his winters in Florida and his summers in South China. “I kind of see myself as a storyteller. I knew I was talking with people, half of whom did not go to church. It was remarkably comfortable for me.”

Glusker said, “Everybody needs to think a good thought. A lot of people are borderline depressed. This was a pick-me-up. I considered myself to be the assistant pastor of every church in the state. It was not a Bible-thumping kind of ministry.”

“It was a wonderful ministry. I’m very sad it’s coming to an end.”

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