Launching a faith-based podcast during the pandemic

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By Tracy Simmons

Newspapers have always been my first love. There’s something about the ink, the smell, the design and the written word that I find satisfying.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I could do it all over again, if I would pursue public radio instead.

Maybe it’s because these days I spend a lot more time listening than I once did.

Thanks to Alexa, NPR plays almost all day long when I’m working from home. When I’m on my bike, I tune into my favorite podcasts. (OK, sometimes I listen to an audiobook. Go listen to “American Dirt” right away).

For my fellow religion geeks out there, you might appreciate “Inspired” (formerly “Interfaith Voices”), “Beliefs Podcast” and “The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber.”

I love these interviews and stories about theology, and after listening to them I’ve always felt encouraged to go start my own podcast.

So I finally went and did it. What better time than quarantine to learn a new skill? I’m still learning and accumulating equipment, though, so am grateful for listener’s patience.

The podcast is called FāVS Forward, and it’s about how local faith communities are responding to the pandemic.

This weekend we aired our 15th episode, which featured the Rev. Liv Larson Andrews of Salem Lutheran Church.

We talked about her congregation’s love for West Central and how they’re discerning ways they can continue to serve that neighborhood in this time.

We talked about why her church chose to gather in person, with masks and at a social distance, to protest police brutality and march in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

We talked about what it’s like to lead worship experiences on Facebook Live and how for parishioners seeing the sanctuary, if even on a screen each week, brings some comfort.

I get to have these conversations every single week, and I gotta say I’m pretty impressed with the faith leaders this city has.

I teach journalism students and oftentimes their dreams are to one day interview famous athletes or rock stars or politicians.

But for me, it’s always been faith leaders and lay people.

Talking to someone about their beliefs each week satisfies a deep curiosity in me. It feeds me, challenges me, inspires me.

Like when I spoke with the Rev. Walter Kendricks of Morning Star Baptist Church in our episode, “Be The Change You’re Looking For.” (Sadly, that episode had to be edited and cut almost in half due to poor audio).

Kendricks’ optimism and dedication to serving others energized me.

I needed to hear it because the friction among us right now can be demoralizing, if we let it. There are days when I certainly let it.

His wisdom helped me.

Another thing I love about the podcast, and I hope you do, too, is that I get to hear perspectives from a variety of traditions. So far: Evangelical, Jewish, Buddhist and mainline Christian. It’s a way out of the echo chamber, which right now is crucial.

Perhaps that’s another reason why I’m so drawn to audio right now. When I hear the inflection in someone’s voice – whether I agree with what they’re saying or not – the sound of their laugh and their thoughtful pause, I get a sense about them that I wouldn’t in print. It humanizes them.

There are some 500 houses of worship in this area, so I won’t have a shortage of interviews in my future. I hope you’ll join me in these conversations and listen in.

FāVS Forward can be found online at SpokaneFAVS.com under the “FāVS Forward Podcast” tab, or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Tracy Simmons

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. She serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and for the Religion News Service. She is also a Journalism Instructor at Washington State University.

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