Local Orthodox pastor hits the airwaves


SOUTHBRIDGE — The Rev. Peter-Michael Preble, St. Michael’s Romanian Orthodox Church’s pastor, wanted forgiveness.

During Rev. Preble’s weekly radio show on WESO 970, he had mistakenly hung up on a caller who had just won a DVD in which Rev. Preble’s guest, health coach Kathi Casey, shows how to relieve sciatic pain.

With all that was going on – an interview with Ms. Casey, weather updates to give, and a switchboard to operate – the pastor explained that it’s sometimes easy to forget a detail.

But the transition was seamless. He continued to guide the health dialogue with Ms. Casey, who said she enjoyed being interviewed by Rev. Preble, “an intelligent, fun and articulate host.”

And the DVD winner called back, as many listeners do at noon on Thursdays for “Father Live.”

Dick Vaughan, station operating manager, said Rev. Preble has a great audience, gets good guests and generates a lot of e-mails.

The call-in show covers just about everything but religion, Rev. Preble said.

The priest has another radio show, the syndicated “Shepherd of Souls,” which is religious in nature. It airs on WESO at 8:30 Sunday mornings. It is also heard on three other Massachusetts stations, five stations in western New York and one each in Texas, Alabama and Kentucky. It is also on a satellite network, the pastor said.

If that’s not enough, Rev. Preble has a Web blog and is on Facebook.

Religion has been multimedia for awhile. For example, the Vatican last month launched a channel on YouTube to cover the main activities of Pope Benedict XVI and relevant Vatican events.

Rev. Preble has been St. Michael’s pastor for over four years, doing radio and blogging about half that time. The church, at 16 Romanian Ave., has 65 to 70 congregants.

“As clergy, we’re required to use whatever the means or the median is to reach the largest number of people,” the priest said.

In the Orthodox church community, blogging is a couple of years old, he said.

The Orthodox message has been steady for some 2,000 years, Rev. Preble said. The countries from which it is derived “don’t need to evangelize, because everybody is Orthodox,” he said.

But here, he continued, “we compete for every person.”

St. Michael’s large Facebook presence has helped spread the word for ministry opportunities and church events.

Plus, it helps St. Michael’s in its goal of targeting people in their mid-20s to late-30s, the pastor said.

Laura N. DeAngelis, among the church’s older set, has taken to the new media, and the reverend.

The grandmother said Rev. Preble invited her onto Facebook, something she wouldn’t ordinarily have done, and he inspired her to blog.

Ms. DeAngelis said people immediately are at ease talking to Rev. Preble because he is nonjudgmental and friendly.

“You go to some churches, you feel like they’re judging you,” she said. “You can talk to him about any subject. We’re very lucky to have him.

“Like the local show, the reverend’s blog topics vary. He’s weighed in on everything from his concern about the town’s teenage birth rate, which is the state’s fourth highest, to sports. Last month his blog had a prolific 79 posts.

On his range, he said, “As religious people or clergy, we should be involved in what I like to call the public square: community, national issues and politics.

“He adds that a religion-only theme would limit his audience and message.

The syndicated show started as a Podcast two years ago. “I got on WESO first in August. It just sort of took off from there.”

St. Michael’s is his first assignment out of the seminary. Originally from Quincy, Rev. Preble had been a middle school teacher in the Hyde Park section of Boston.

Being from the city, the pastor said, it’s taken him awhile to get accustomed to this Quinebaug River community of about 17,000 people, where everyone seemingly knows each other.

“There are struggles here and struggles there and somehow we just make it all work,” he said.

His radio shows can be heard on the Internet at shepherdofsouls.com and fatherpeterlive.com. His blog is frpeterpreble.com.

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