Farewelling a Christian radio pioneer

The Rev John Edmondstone OAM, 1932-2021

John Edmondstone was born in 1932 to Christadelphian parents in Sydney’s inner-western suburb of Haberfield. He was educated at Haberfield Primary School, Drummoyne Junior Boys High School and Mansfield Boys High School but left school at the age of fifteen to pursue a career as a trainee French Polisher.

His passion for soccer football led him to the Haberfield Baptist Church which fielded a team in the churches competition. There he was introduced to the Christian faith and baptised as a believer in 1948 by Rev (later Dr) John Drakeford.

Sensing a call to ministry, he entered the Baptist Theological College in 1954. At the end of his college course, he married Olive (nee King), daughter of the Haberfield Church Secretary.

John began his radio ministry in 1957 on Radio 2NZ Inverell where he was appointed following graduation from the Baptist Theological College. Later he transferred to Queensland, where he became active in radio ministry and in the Christian Television Association.

Upon his return to Sydney in 1970, John was approached by the then Secretary of the Baptist Union, Bruce King, to become a Baptist representative on the Council of Churches in New South Wales and a member of the Broadcasting Committee. Thus began his involvement with Radio 2CH and his service as Director of Religious Programs.

John brought to this service a vision of the potential of radio to spread the Christian gospel and a commitment to it.

Aware of the need to work closely with management, John quickly developed cooperative working relationships and a rapport with the then 2CH General Manager, Don Craig, and the Network Manager Bruce Rogerson. Over time he became a valued member of the 2CH team.

When, in the early seventies, the Broadcasting Control Board called into question the 2CH licensing arrangements whereby the licensee (the Council of Churches) and the operator (AWA Limited) were not one and the same entity – an arrangement unique in Sydney Radio – the station was asked to explain. As a representative of the licensee, John ably presented the situation before them. The outcome was positive.

During the transition from the no- so-successful “Snob Mob” to the current “Easy Listening” format, John, as Director of Religious Broadcasting, was given the difficult task of explaining the proposed changes to long-term church broadcasters – many of whom had developed an “ownership” of their programs and were reluctant to change. This he did successfully but at some personal cost.

His carefully crafted religious spots have considerable appeal to a broad cross section of the listening audience …

It was John who was given the task of “persuading” Rev Roger Bush, then a prominent broadcaster on 2GB, to join 2CH and develop its image as the station of “Concern and Help”.

Again, it was John who brought back from the United States the “People Who Care” concept and set it up as “People to People” – a program that is still broadcast today.

Much could be said about John’s radio ministry but the following needs to be said:

  • John proved himself an able presenter of the Christian gospel through programs such as Sunday at 7.30am and Nightsong which have consistently attracted high ratings.
  • His carefully crafted religious spots have considerable appeal to a broad cross section of the listening audience, many of whom have had no connection with the Christian faith. Many of these spots were brought together in publications entitled Have a Good Day and Another Good Day which were distributed widely through the station and beyond.
  • John stepped in to produce and present the Sunday 9pm to midnight Open Line program, whenever required to do so.
  • John’s willingness to conduct regional Sunday afternoon Hymn Singing gatherings – as an extension of his popular Nightsong program – and extend the influence of the station has been a major plus.
  • John’s advocacy of Christian principles and his guardianship of the “agreement” between 2CH and the Council of Churches has been carried out faithfully and with good grace.
  • John’s insights into radio and his personal relationships have held together a station which, of necessity, must live with the twin tensions of being a commercial station appealing to a wide-listening audience and, at the same time, serving the interests of the Christian gospel and the NSW Council of Churches.

For John, 2CH was not a full-time ministry. During his 36 years with 2CH John was not only the pastor of two city churches but President of the Baptist Union (1985-86) and Director of Home Ministries (1986-1997) where he had responsibility and oversight of some 330 Baptist Churches and 500 ministers. He also led a church-planting program in which 100 new churches were established, as well as being National President of the Baptist Union of Australia (1997-2000) and President of the NSW Council of Churches (1998).

John concluded his service as a member of the Broadcasting Committee and as Director of Religious Programs in 2006. The Council of Churches in New South Wales placed on record its gratitude to God, and its heartfelt and sincere appreciation for 36 years of dedicated and devoted ministry.

John concluded broadcasting in 2012, having worked for 42 years on 2CH.

The Council expressed its appreciation to John’s wife, Olive, who has been his encourager, supporter and partner during John’s 42 years of radio ministry.