Did You Ever Wonder... about Fred Rogers?
There is a big interest right now in Fred Rogers, and his program, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, as this year is what would have been his 90th birthday. There are retrospectives and documentaries being released, and in fact Tom Hanks just signed a deal to play him in a movie coming out early next year.
Most people know that Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but there is a bit more to that story.
Fred Rogers never served a congregation. He started work at Pittsburgh Public station WQED in the mid 1950s, working on a children's show called The Children's Corner. It was at this show where he developed a lot of the puppet characters that would follow him to his own show. He worked on this show for quite some time, but studied theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on his lunch breaks.
He was ordained in 1963, but was not assigned a parish, instead, the Presbyterian Church commissioned him to continue his important work with children. Later that year, he was hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Company to develop a children's show, which turned out to be the first appearance of himself as Mister Rogers.
We went back to Pittsburgh in 1966, where the Neighborhood show became fully formed. Fred Rogers used to receive letters all the time from his young viewers (in fact, your pastor has a book full of said letters with Mister Rogers' responses). One such letter was from a young girl who was worried about Mister Rogers' salvation. She wrote him a letter to make sure he knew so that he could go to heaven someday. Here is part of Fred Rogers' response:
"You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD."
He closed the letter by stating something he often stated: “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”