The Rev. Jeff Kellam, of Owego, spent most of his career working in a radio or television station instead of a pulpit.
Kellam was one of two people known to be ordained as a minister of electronic media. The other is the late Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, who created and hosted the popular TV show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
While Kellam is now retired, he still puts his electronic media skills to work for the Broome County Council of Churches as one of the hosts of “Encounter.” The half-hour weekly radio and television show discusses issues of spirituality, faith and local nonprofit organizations.
“We’re looking at people who are actively involved in community service” to appear as guests to talk about their agencies, he said
His interest in electronic media is a lifelong passion, the Endicott native said.
“I really felt comfortable with that medium,” he said.
His interest in electronic media started back in college at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, where he completed a triple major in religion, philosophy and psychology. He started working for the college radio station there and loved it.
Then he went to the seminary at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, drawn by the seminary’s radio station and the blending of media and spirituality he found there. While it was back in the 1960’s, the seminary was already using videotapes to help students critique their sermons.
“That was kind of a pioneering effort back then,” Kellam said.
While he was still a student at the seminary, he was asked to do a show for teens on a local rock station. Called “Celebration Rock,” the program ran for 26 years. “Celebration Rock” eventually became syndicated and was broadcast on radio stations all over the United States, including WAAL in Binghamton.
“It was fun to have family listening in,” he said.
Kellam continued to do “Celebration Rock” and other radio and TV shows in a career spent mostly in Virginia. He also taught Christian educators how to use video in their church services. One of his students later became famous: Vince Gilligan.
“He wound up writing for ‘The X-Files,’” he said.
Kellam did some pastoral work at churches in Virginia, Vermont and then his home state of New York in nearby Trumansburg before retiring to Owego in 2007. But it wasn’t long after his retirement that he returned to his broadcast roots through the “Encounter” show.
“It takes a lot of time,” he said.
He’s done shows on programs such as Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES), local authors and music programs, he said. Whatever the topic, there is always a spiritual message that he shares with the audience watching at home from their living rooms.
“Encounter” airs at 5:30 a.m. Sundays on WBNG-TV and 12:30 p.m. on Spectrum Cable Channel 4. An audio broadcast airs at 6:30 a.m. Sundays on WNBF radio.
To learn more or to watch past shows, go to broomecouncil.net/encounter/