Canadian televangelist David Mainse was the friendly face of 100 Huntley Street

If you crossed a stereotypical Canadian with a fire-and-brimstone preacher, you’d get Rev. David Mainse, the genial spirit of 100 Huntley Street. As the founder and host of the Christian talk show for over a quarter century, he would talk — not yelling, sweating or waving his arms wildly — about love, forgiveness, charity and grace.

For Mr. Mainse, the task of being a preacher was not about dogma, play or scare tactics. His mix of calm and joy came from just sharing the teachings and example of Jesus.

“We are not presenting a philosophy, certainly not a denomination,” he once told an interviewer. “We’re presenting Jesus. And people are open to Jesus.”

Consequently, 100 Huntley Street became Canada’s longest-running daily television talk show. This past spring, the series marked 40 years since its first broadcast on Global Television.

Mr. Mainse, who died last week at age 81, was this nation’s best-known television evangelist. He was “Canada’s pastor,” according to a recent magazine profile, and eminent enough in secular circles to merit a place on the inner flap of phone book covers, which comprised emergency numbers in bold print. One of these was 100 Huntley Street‘s prayer line.

A lanky man with craggy looks, who bore more than a passing similarity to U.S. talk show host Charlie Rose, Mr. Mainse wasn’t a televangelist in the form of many scandal-plagued American preachers.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who once shuttled guests to Mr. Mainse’s program, remembered “a loving person who was filled with empathy and [who] wanted nothing more than to speak about Jesus and what it means to be a follower of Christ. He was pastor and evangelist into the nation.”

He was also instrumental in convincing authorities to permit single-faith broadcasters. From the early 1980s, he helped convince the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to amend its rules and permit religious groups to own and run their own broadcasting facilities, opening the door to all religious broadcasting.

“The Canadian authorities broadcast regulator did not know what to do with Rev. Mainse,” commented Lorna Dueck, the present chief executive of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc., and an occasional contributor to The Globe and Mail. “He nagged the CRTC for a break in the 50-year ban on religious broadcasters owning and running a television station{}”

In 1998, he founded Crossroads Television System (CTS), after his successful application for a spiritual channel that broadcasts round the clock. (CTS has since been rebranded Yes TV and contains added stations in Calgary and Edmonton.)

Crossroads would mushroom to a family of ministries that comprised multimedia programming; a broadcast college that trained 1,200 Christian communicators from almost 80 countries; a national prayer center that fielded a typical 1,200 calls a day; and an international relief and development organization, Crossroads Emergency Response and Development Fund (currently Crossroads Relief and Development) which has disbursed over $37-million in humanitarian aid worldwide since 1982, according to the ministry. The operations are headquartered in the 13,285-square-metre Crossroads Centre in Burlington, Ont., since 1992.

During his career, Mr. Mainse talked out about social issues he felt were contrary to biblical teachings, such as same-sex union, homosexual publications, euthanasia and abortion. His son, Ron, who’s also a minister, claims that this was done not out of hatred or condemnation, “just out of love and wanting the best for individuals and our nation.”

David Charles Mainse was born Aug. 13, 1936, in Campbell’s Bay, in western Quebec. Both his parents, Roy Lake Mainse and Norma Hazel Pritchard, was missionaries in Egypt. Raised in a rural area outside Ottawa, David was said to be greatly influenced by his father, who went on to pastor in Ontario and Quebec.

However, his mom was his compass. In a memoir, Mr. Mainse remembered that as a child of nine, he swiped an apple from a grocer and ate the evidence. The moment he arrived home, his mother took one look at the lad and asked, “What is wrong, David?” After squeezing a confession from him, she delivered him into his room to pray for forgiveness, but also to receive five cents of his own money and give it to the grocer, who then rewarded the boy’s gumption using a shipping job. The episode taught him all he needed to learn about honesty.

His mother died of cancer when he was 12. “My Dad and I had a major pity party,” Mr. Mainse remembered in an interview this past year. “While doing dishes, our tears would flow in the dish pan due to our despair.”

A small rebel, he had been kicked out of a religious boarding school at 15. “I was angry at God before I was 16,” when he went to a youth rally “and heard a very simple message about Jesus.”

He taught public school for a brief while, then enrolled at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College (now Master’s College and Seminary) at Peterborough, Ont., and was ordained in 1960. He pastored several Ontario churches over the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada denomination.

Meantime, his new wife, the former Norma-Jean Rutledge, had two musician brothers who’d recorded a hit gospel album in Australia. Mr. Mainse, by this time a pastor in Deep River, Ont., persuaded a radio station in nearby Pembroke to play it. The station’s owner also ran the local television outlet, CHOV, and consented to provide the young minister his own TV slot: 15 minutes on Saturday nights, after the late local news, prior to the late film. It cost just $55, but that has been two weeks’ salary for Mr. Mainse.

The show, known as Crossroads, debuted on June 2, 1962, using a very simple arrangement: Mr. Mainse calmed his stage fright sufficient to deliver the message, while his wife and her brothers shared their musical abilities. The channel manager had one condition: no full-scale sermon. The switchboard lit up, the section was picked up by stations throughout the country, including the CBC, and the Crossroads tv ministry was born.

Mr. Mainse resigned his pulpit in a Hamilton church in 1971 to concentrate on television. Early successes included Circle Square, a series for kids that would operate in 50 states, and which inspired several children’s summer camps known as Circle Square Ranches.

The daily talk show 100 Huntley Street, known because of its Toronto studio location, debuted on June 15, 1977. Mr. Mainse’s first team comprised a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and clergy from several Protestant denominations.

“He was passionate about people, about Canadian unity and about ecumenical dialogue,” Ms. Dueck, the Crossroads CEO, said in a statement. “That passion led to invention. David used the platform of daily television to simulate open, respectful conversation on religion among taxpayers from coast to coast.”

Inspiration for his gentle, non-Bible-thumping TV-hosting and preaching style was drawn from the Bible’s book of Ephesians: “Speak the truth in love,” his son Ron noted.

He “never compromised the truth of God’s message, however he introduced it from a place of true love for the person and humility, often with tears,” Ron explained. “One of Dad’s quotes was, ‘If your eyes flow tears, your mind won’t swell{}'”

The 100 Huntley Street daily live telecast (initially 90 minutes long but now 30) was a mixture of gospel music, interviews and a telephone prayer line. According to a ministry tally, as of June, 2016, the prayer line had obtained over 11 million calls since its launch, with over 13,000 about suicide.

One of the thousands of guests Mr. Mainse interviewed over the years were British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, chicken magnate Colonel Harland Sanders, U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and actor Charlton Heston.

After over 10,300 episodes, the series, still the flagship program on Yes TV, claims an average of 1.3 million viewers every week, based on Crossroads.

In 1979, Mr. Mainse served as executive producer of a series of programs about religion which aired in the officially atheist Soviet Union. He travelled to Moscow to talk at what Crossroads says was the first-ever convention of Christian leaders from all 15 Soviet republics.

Scandals that swirled about American televangelists from the 1980s depressed donations. In the spring of 1987, by way of instance, following PTL Club preacher Jim Bakker resigned amid allegations of fraud and other offenses, Crossroads Christian Communications announced its revenues had dipped 30 percent over the past six weeks.

“All TV ministries have come under a cloud,” Mr. Mainse said at the moment. “If [the U.S. scandal] continues, there may be continuing difficulty for us{}” But contributions soon bounced back, Ron Mainse said, adding that his father started carrying his tax forms in his pocket so that he could present his modest wages if asked.

In 2003, Mr. Mainse retired as CEO of Crossroads, partially to campaign against same-sex union. He continued writing and launch new TV programs. His Thank You Canada tour took him to 170 communities throughout the nation from 2010 to 2012.

Mr. Mainse, who died of leukemia on Sept. 25, in Hamilton, leaves two sisters, Willa Hodgins and Elaine Boudinot; his wife of 59 years, Norma-Jean; kids Elaine, Ellen, Reynold and Ron; 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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