Pastor offers comfort over the airwaves

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— After his mother died, Tom Palmer, general manager of KBCR, began a grieving process that turned into a path to spirituality.

With the help of Hayden pastor Doug Zirkle, Palmer is taking radio listeners along for the journey.

"As he experiences his faith and ideas of God, he asks me, and I give my point of view on it," said Zirkle, explaining the basis of the "Good News" radio show heard Sundays on KBCR.

Palmer and Zirkle, who is the pastor at the Mission of Grace Baptist Church, started the show about a year and a half ago to reassure and hearten people dealing with similar tragedies.

The show, which Zirkle described as "reality radio," also addresses questions and curiosities people may have about Christianity through Palmer's unscripted inquiries.

"I have no problem sounding like an idiot when I ask a stupid question," Palmer said about the questions that many people, religious or not, may have about God and religion but are too afraid to ask.

Since its inception, the show has attracted a loyal following of listeners who have sought comfort during difficult times and who appreciate Zirkle and Palmer's honesty.

"I like the fact that they don't pretend to be higher than anyone else or better than anyone else and that they are regular folks," Karen Dooley of Steamboat Springs said.

After her husband died, Dooley fell into a depression that made her "give up on God." Zirkle and Palmer's show helped her understand God and love in a different light and brought her in tune with "the whole realm of spirituality," she said.

"I just really enjoy it, and I never expected that," she said. "I was surprised at the impression it made upon me."

The relaxed tone of the show helps people relate to the issues and also makes it accessible to those intimidated by the idea of going to church or turned off by forceful sermons, Zirkle said.

"People don't feel like they are being preached to," he said. "It's more like they drop into a conversation."

Zirkle has been a pastor in Hayden for about six years. He fell into the position by chance after ending his career as a small-business man in Texas, an experience that has helped keep him in touch with "real" people's issues, he said.

"I've been to a lot of churches over the years. For me, I think he is just a regular guy with a lot of faith ... and he's got a good personality over it all," said Susan Sky of Steamboat, who found comfort and solace in the show after her husband passed away in October.

Zirkle and Palmer are proud that the show is aired without commercials and solicitations for money. While the show is based in Christian beliefs, it does not promote any particular religion or church.

"We try to keep it very positive for all churches in the valley. We always encourage people to go to church and there's some great ones around here," Zirkle said.

Ironically, the only complaints they have received have been from those criticizing the show for not establishing a hard-line religious standard.

While Zirkle and Palmer continue to hear from listeners "from all walks of life" in the community, they also like that people passing through the valley, who are dealing with tough issues, may gain some solace from the show.

"We hope to provide some kind of comfort to some people we may never ever know," Zirkle said.

Good News airs at 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays on KBCR-AM 1230 and 9 a.m. on KBCR-FM 96.9.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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