The First Religious Broadcast: Re-staged
Saturday 20th January 7:30pm, Studio Theatre
Popular comic and British Comedy Award-Winner, Paul Kerensa, has written for numerous TV and radio shows including Miranda, Not Going Out, The Royal Variety Show, The Now Show and The News Quiz, as well as being a regular contributor to BBC 2's Pause for Thought. As a performer he has over 3,000 stand-up gigs under his belt, from The Comedy Store to the Edinburgh Festivals, via Spring Harvest and Greenbelt.
His latest show is a lively look at the very first religious sermon ever broadcast on the radio in 1922 - a seminal moment in media and religious history. Part-performance, part-sermon, part-talk - and a unique and entertaining night out.
The tale is a fascinating one... “I have preached the Gospel by wireless to the largest and most unique congregation ever man had.” Dr Boon: ‘The first man to use a Great Invention for the declaration of God’s Love to Man’
In July 1922, four months pre-BBC, a lone London preacher was inspired by a Marconi radio demonstration to broadcast a Sunday service into his church – and to homes 100s of miles away. Approximately none of Dr James Ebenezer Boon's congregation had either heard radio, or heard of radio.
Boon climbed his church roof, attached a transmitter to a clothes-rack, then drove his car five miles away. His congregation in Peckham were baffled to see a box of wires where their minister normally stood. They were more baffled when his voice crackled through it, with hymns via gramophone record and a live sermon from Blackheath.
Beyond his packed, minister-less church he was heard in:
Coventry (“Your sermon reached here quite clearly”)
Eltham (“It enabled me to concentrate much better than in a building.”)
Godalming (“I shall be glad to know if there will be another broadcast sermon next Sunday?”)
and St Albans (“My wife was concerned at my quietness. Hushing her I said, ‘I’m listening to a sermon.’ ‘Good for you,’ she replied. ‘I’m glad you’re listening to something for your good.’”)
This bizarre tale, including the exact wording of Boon’s sermon, has only recently been rediscovered – surprising media historians and changing the official BBC account, who’ve long claimed theirs was the first religious broadcast at Christmas 1922. And Boon’s sermon holds up! In fact, it’s a belter.
Expect period costume, props and excerpts of the original hymns Boon played. For the first time in 101 years, hear his words and the story behind a century of broadcast blessings – all true and thoroughly researched. This is where theology, history and entertainment meet.
Paul Kerensa at Christ Church Evangelical, Peckham where the first religious broadcast happened. The plaque says 'On 30 July 1922 Dr. James Ebenezer Boon 1867-1941 broadcast the first sermon by radio in Britain to the congregation in this Church'.
Lantern Arts Centre, Tolverne Road, London, SW20 8RA
Food and Drink
Please note alcohol is not permitted on site at any time.
The Lantern Arts Centre is accessible by wheelchair-users and people with restricted mobility. Lifts are available for studios on the first floor, and there is a disabled toilet on the ground floor. When booking please add any requirements in the accessibility requirements section.
There are no cloakroom facilities for storing bags and coats at the Lantern Arts Centre.
Once you have booked your seat you will be emailed your e-ticket which will be scanned upon your arrival to the venue. If you are unsure about booking seats please call 020 3761 7070.