William Aberhart began a bible study group in Calgary in 1918 that steadily grew until by 1923 the Palace Theatre was rented to handle the crowds. Soon after the services were broadcast on CFCN radio to a large audience in Alberta. In 1927 the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute building was constructed to house the weekly services and broadcast, as well as to train students in The Bible. Aberhart prepared most of the educational materials.
The broadcasts built on Aberhart’s literal and prophetic understanding of the bible. They incorporated aspects of what we would now think of as televangelism – seeking donations from across the province to cover the costs of the broadcasts – as well as aspects of a Christian variety hour – combining sermons with hymn sings, letters from listeners, homilies, reflections on current events and a series of radio dramas.
After Aberhart’s conversion to Social Credit, the broadcasts combined politics and religion freely – a combination that served the Social Credit party well for twenty years, and which lead to a raft of new regulations of the content of Canadian broadcasts.
The Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute wrapped up substantive operations in 1948, but the radio broadcasts, which became known as the “Back to the Bible Hour” in the 1950’s, continued to broadcast nationally until 1989.