HERMITAGE — The three men, wearing headphones and speaking into microphones, gather around a table, where they talk about the weather, and their personal preferences for hot or cold conditions.
At the table are Rev. Anthony Kladitis of Faith Presbyterian Church in Hermitage, Seth Walters, the church’s director of youth and family ministry, with New Castle Mayor Chris Frye. After talking about their favorite foods, the conversation turns to Frye’s family and his successful 2019 campaign.
It’s all part of Faith Presbyterian Church’s podcast, “Engage(d),” which Kladitis sees as an opportunity for outreach to the community. Frye agrees.
“There are some opportunities for interviews like this, but it’s important for someone in my position to be able to talk with people like Rev. Anthony or Seth about who we are and what we’d like to see in the community,” Frye said.
The podcast is recorded at Faith Presbyterian Church, and the discussion inevitably turns to religion. But Kladitis said listeners don’t necessarily have to be a Christian to understand or appreciate the topics being discussed.
“It’s been really thrilling to hear these community leaders sort of share their story or give advice on how to be successful, and it’s been having an influence not just on the church but on the community as well,” he said.
The church started its podcast started earlier this year during the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused churches across Pennsylvania cancel in-person services. Looking to continue reaching the congregation and others who wanted to listen, Kladitis said church officials looked toward a greater emphasis on technology.
Walters’ office was converted into a studio, which helps foster a more relaxed atmosphere through some dimmed lighting, and the presence of both religious and secular items in the studio. Kladitis said the laid-back setting helps generate natural conversations between himself and Walters, and their guests, as opposed to a more traditional interview atmosphere.
For the regular podcast, Kladitis and Walters may take a biblical quote and discuss it. Other digital offerings can include recordings of Sunday sermons and reviews of books that look at topics like leadership. Faith Presbyterian Church is unveiling a new series called “Leader2Leader,” while inviting guests such as Frye to talk about their life experiences and to give advice.
Previous guests have been Rev. Russell Penn of Second Missionary Baptist Church, who spoke not only from his experience as a pastor but the importance of education and being a good father, Kladitis said.
“Whether it’s a pastor, a teacher, a parent, an educator or a business leader, you can plug into this and watch it,” he said.
But while the guests bring a variety of backgrounds and real-world experience to the table, Kladitis and Walters still make faith connections.
When Hermitage Commissioner Michael Muha was on the podcast, he said public service has taught him that people want to be seen and they want to be heard. Kladitis said Jesus interacted with people the same way.
“If you read the Gospel, one of the things that’s always seen with Jesus is he’s always right with the people, and seeing and hearing people, while the ones who kept their distance from him were always very judgmental,” Kladitis said.
The podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and Apple, with more information available on Faith Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page.
Kladitis said Faith Presbyterian Church, through the podcast and other digital offerings, has been able to reach not only members of its congregation, but people throughout the Shenango Valley and potentially across the state and the nation. This means that the topics of the podcast and other content must be accessible to not just the audience he would normally address Sunday mornings, but people who may not even be religious themselves.
“The general feedback from everyone is, ‘the reason why I like these podcasts and these videos, is that it’s something religious, yet something that everyone can listen to,’” he said. “You take the Biblical message, and to see how important spirituality and the Bible is, you make that connection to everyday life.”