Churches and Chapels on the Air

Some of our members participated in the first annual special event of CHOTA in the United States. This was at the Highlands Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, MS on Saturday, September 9, 2023. CHOTA is Churches and Chapels On The Air, an event of the World Association of Christian Radio Amateurs and Listeners. That organization began in 1957 in England by the Huddersfield South Methodist Radio Club. It’s been ecumenical since 1978. (See for details on CHOTA and planning for this event.)

The Jackson ARC managed the Welcome Tent uponr the invitation of event organizer Frank K4FMH and his church administrator, Larnie Shinnick. JARC invited members of VARC to attend, operate and exhibit satellite communications. Eddie Pettis N5JGK was joined by an area ham, Rick Largent N5ZNL to showcase this activity. All area hams were invited to attend the event through the dissemination of an announcement flyer and ARRL MS Section emails.

Four stations were set up to work Phone, CW, FT8, and satellites. The HF stations used wire antennas hung from trees on one corner of the church’s sixteen-acre campus. Stations were limited to these to avoid RF interference. The SSB and FT8 stations each had bandpass filters to help in this regard. VARC member Eddie Pettis N5JGK used his HT and Arrow antenna, as did Rick Largent N5ZNL, to work satellites. Mike N5DU used his Xiegu G90 station at 10 watts to work FT8 on 10 and 15 meters, reaching Europe, South America for several contacts that really excited TV reporter Walt Grayson in his story. Frank K4FMH brought his HF station built into a large Gator Case featuring an Icom 7300, Ameritron amplifier, MFJ ATU, Array Solutions Bandpass System, and BHI DSP speaker. Tom Brown AE5I brought his Yaesu FT-897 transceiver and CW bug where he and Mike Duke K5XU worked the meager options available on a very ragged 40M band. A total of over 100 contacts were made throughout the US as well as around the world. Two SSB contacts were with other activated churches in the US although those in England were not heard here.

The church provided a food truck on site and added ice cream. Both were free to those in attendance. We greatly appreciate Highlands Pres for being such a gracious host for this event! Truly, a good time was had by all in attendance.

The news media was present and gave great coverage of the event, including a front-page story in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger on Monday (see pic). The Clarion-Ledger has a gallery of pictures taken by reporter Ed Inman with a front-page story in the paper’s Monday, September 11th edition. Legendary TV news reporter Walt Grayson of WJTV Channel 12 in Jackson published a video feature story for the Monday evening newscast. Jim Armstrong AK5J said that for as long as he has been a licensed ham operator, he has not seen as much publicity for amateur radio as this event has received.

Clarion-Ledger, Monday, September 11, 2023. Photo: Frank K4FMH

Here is the coverage by Walt Grayson of WJTV Channel 12 in Jackson:

Video: Walt Grayson WJTV Channel 12 story about the event

Below are some additional pictures of the event for you to enjoy.

Friday setup: Jim AK5J, JARC President, and Clay AC5Z, JARC Board Member, getting lines ready for installation in trees
The portable phone station recently built by Frank K4FMH
Thomas Gandy N5WDG working 20M SSB on full battery power
Clarion-Ledger reporter Ed Inman interviewing the event organizer, Frank K4FMH. Clay AC5Z and Rick N5ZNL looking on
Eddie N5JGK tracking a satellite with the HT/Yagi system with Clay AC5Z tracking it by cell phone app (photo: Ed Inman, Clarion-Ledger)
Frank K4FMH logging numerous 20M SSB contacts made by Thomas N4WDG
Mike N5DU being interviewed by Walt Grayson WJTV about working digital modes on low power