PORTLAND – Sitting on a stool in the center of a TV studio stuffed with anchor desks, fake brick walls and wires hanging from the ceiling, the Rev. Peter Panagore closed his eyes and meditated.

For several minutes he sat there, his head bowed, as a technician prepared the TelePrompTer and camera monitors flickered.

“I was getting my act together,” Panagore said later.

Such is life at the head of Maine’s only media ministry: the First Radio Parish Church of America. “A lot of the stuff I do happens inside my head,” he said of his quiet moments, which include plenty of prayer and quiet thought around his East Boothbay home.

Though the ministry is known by Mainers for its contemplative “Daily Devotions” – a fixture on TV for more than five decades on WCSH-TV in Portland and WLBZ-TV in Bangor – Panagore’s voice is becoming even better known.

Since taking over four years ago, he has aimed to broaden the ministry’s place among increasingly varied media.

“We’ve always been at the cutting edge,” he said.

In part, that’s a reference to the age of the church, which began in 1923 on radio and moved to TV in 1954.

“We are the oldest, continuously running, non-sectarian broadcast in the country,” Panagore said. “As far as we know, we are unique.” When the church went online in 1995, it was ahead of the curve, he said.

These days, Panagore creates those morning TV spots, radio programs and online mailings.

Last year, he secured a deal with Armed Forces Radio to reach as many as a million U.S. soldiers each day.

He’s in talks with the Hallmark Channel to create a morning show.

And lest print media feel left out, Panagore is also an author. Simon & Schuster will release his non-fiction book in December. Its title: “Two Minutes for God: Quick Fixes for the Spirit.”

“I work a lot,” he said. Most weeks, that means 60 or more hours. But Panagore dismisses labels such as “workaholic.”

He’s working for God. That gives him the energy, he said.

Growing up ecumenical

Panagore grew up with more than his share of church.

His parents were a marriage of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox and raised him in both churches, in and around the Boston area. He took Greek classes and Catholic CCD (confraternity of Christian doctrine) classes.

Most Saturdays, he attended Catholic Mass. Most Sundays, he attended the Greek divine liturgy.

Though he felt most comfortable in the Greek church, and still does, he went to a Catholic high school.

He was a senior when he learned the fundamentals of meditation, what his instructor called “centered prayer.”

“I’ve always had this internal connection to God,” he said. But everything changed when he learned to be calmer.

“When I began to access God more directly by getting inside myself, by getting out of the way, things really started to open up for me.”

He earned an English degree at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a divinity degree from Yale University.

In 1987, he let go of both of his childhood churches and was ordained in the United Church of Christ.

He worked in churches in Connecticut and Maine before he was approached about the media ministry.

He’d never seen the TV program, but he adapted to it easily.

‘Daily Devotions’

For seven years beginning in 1999, Panagore had written sermons as a staff writer for Homiletics, a company that helps ministers across the country with generic sermons they can adapt to their own congregations.

The skill spread to the new ministry’s “Daily Devotions” mini-sermons. Each is 277 words long, give or take a few syllables. Panagore was also unafraid of the camera, since he had studied with Maine mime Tony Montanaro.

The daily pieces, only a couple of minutes long, remain the centerpiece of the ministry.

“It has been integrated into the culture of Maine,” he said. “It allows the unchurched access to God that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

It’s a job Panagore, 48, expects to keep a while, but there are no promises.

“I’m the fifth minister here in 82 years,” he said. “I have the most secure job in Maine. I’ll stay as long as God finds me useful here.”

“Daily Devotions” gives him something he cherishes: a chance to be a storyteller about faith.

In keeping with the ministry’s mission, the stories are not specific to any denomination. His goal is to find the common themes of the church – whether it be Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Protestant.

His stories can come from anywhere.

“They can be funny, serious, sorrowful and often loving,” he said. “And they’re all true, except for the parts that aren’t.”

One recent story, of a pilot who was killed when his plane was struck by lightning, was true.

Sitting in the studio, he prepared to capture the story on video. Since he was photographed above the waist only, his blue blazer, tie and white shirt were accessorized by cargo shorts and boat shoes, in which his feet fidgeted the entire time.

In preparation, he read the story as fast as he could, twice. The image behind him shifted from a coastal scene to an image of a blue sky and clouds.

Then the screen went black. A voice counted down, and Panagore began to tell the story of the pilot, a friend.

“What does one say about that? Was it God’s will?” he asked with a calm, reassuring voice.

A moment later, he seemed to answer his own question.

“God isn’t a puppeteer,” he said. “And we’re not marionettes. Unreasonable events happen. Living without certainty isn’t easy.

“Let’s pray.”

First Radio Parish Church of America

Broadcasts began on April 18, 1926

Led by the Rev. Peter Panagore

Annual budget: About $125,000

Operates with about $1 million each year on in-kind donations from WCSH-TV, which provides studio time, expert assistance and office space

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