THE BLOG
11/16/2014 10:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

WATCH: Amazing Story of a Church's 2,000-Mile Journey

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A really odd thing once happened to my journalism. And then, equally oddly or more so, it happened again.

I never really had anything like a real specialty as a reporter or as a TV producer - "Generalist!" was my proud boast. But suddenly back in the early 1980s I was unaccountably put in charge of network programs (for Britain's commercial television service, ITV) that concentrated entirely on religion and ethics.

I say unaccountably because I had no serious background in religion - and, I thought, very little interest in it either.

Ethics were a different matter - they were viscerally fascinating to me (as evidenced nowadays, maybe, by how journalistic ethics have featured in THE MEDIA BEAT throughout its ten-year existence). Matters of faith and denomination, though, left me at that time pretty unmoved. But nevertheless ... religion, even organized religion - which I had airily dismissed as irrelevant, in the often typical fashion of my 1960's generation - unexpectedly grabbed my attention with great power and drama.

It turned out to be a hot time, journalistically. My teams and I got to cover a new Pope who was charismatic, Polish, and shot in the stomach - by a Turkish would-be assassin ... a fundamentalist Ayatollah who took over Iran, with all that this came to mean for the rest of the world, especially for the country he called "The Great Satan" ... and even in quiet old Britain, we covered the nation's established church undergoing fresh paroxysms about the role of women and about homosexuality. And there was more, much more ... from crazy exorcists to towering human embodiments of compassion and moral leadership.

Thus I came to enjoy one of the most rewarding periods of my working life - surrounded by some of the best journalists I have ever been with.

Life moved on of course, with other realms of interest opening up - not least my work in the developing world, Africa especially. And later (after I moved to the US) came a decade or more spent within the curious universe of the United Nations, both in its New York HQ and its many missions around the globe.

And then, that odd repetition.

I now find myself as a correspondent and producer with American television's major forum for ... guess what? ... religion and ethics. Aired by the PBS network every week, it goes by the matter-of-fact (indeed you might say plodding, but definitely accurate) title of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

It's likely that most of my efforts on this show concentrate on ethics more than formal religion ... but even so, the world of churches, mosques and temples does often force its way onto my sometimes world-weary journalistic agenda. And sometimes - as occurs this week - it can even be an occasion for sheer delight.
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Watch the video - at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2014/11/14/november-14-2014-church-relocation/24594/

In this report, broadcast over the weekend (times vary in different areas), we tell a remarkable tale about a historic, in fact 200-year old, wooden Anglican church in Nova Scotia that recently outlived its usefulness and was sold off ... to, of all people, a Southern Baptist congregation in Louisiana that needed a new church building.

Even more remarkably, the entire church was dismantled - by an ace team of heritage woodworkers - and then piled onto an enormous Mack tractor-trailer, and driven the 2,000-plus miles to reach the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. There it is now being reassembled by volunteer Baptist labor, under that same timber-expert guidance from Nova Scotia.

The story says much about two very different societal developments - declining religiosity in Canada intersecting with the entirely US phenomenon of surging church membership among southern evangelicals.

But it's also, quite simply, that journalistic gem - a striking instance of unexpected human endeavor, in this case yoked together with touching respect for history. And it has the extra virtue (for a TV guy) of deeply engaging and contrasting locations. That's not to mention a telling comparison between styles of music - the somber Anglican hymnal versus rousing jazz-influenced rhythms from the Baptists.

Oh, and in addition - but this is not going to count as any kind of journalistic specialization - my personal appetite for carpentry was greatly fed by learning a huge amount that I would never have known about early nineteenth century mortise-and-tenon joints.

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Read more of David Tereshchuk's media industry insights at his regular online column, The Media Beat at its new site. The Media Beat podcasts are always available on demand from Connecticut's NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.