Recently I ran across an intriguing notice on the RSGB website. It was a notice to “prepare for CHOTA” back in 2021. CHOTA is Churches and Chapels on the Air, a product of the World Association of Christian Radio Amateurs and Listeners (wacral.org). That organization began in 1957 in England by the Huddersfield South Methodist Radio Club. It’s been ecumenical since 1978. Intriguing! Another institutional space for using amateur radio as outreach to the public. If you are a church member, it reaches out to the public who may be unaware of your existence.
I wrote to John G3XYF (jhwresdell (at) gmail.com), asking him about the prospects of my assembling a team to activate my own church in order to get the US involved in this long standing event. He quickly replied and encouraged me to do so. John only asks for activators to merely drop him a line with the call sign being used and the location of the church or chapel (or other religious institution) being activated. John will be using the call GB0LOW from his local church in the East Riding of Yorkshire. If you’re in England, contact John ahead of time for an SES callsign. And don’t forget to obtain your church leaders’ permission!
This year CHOTA is on Saturday, September 9, 2023. After contacting John G3XYF, who manages CHOTA, I learned that there has been no participation from the States in this unique event. With the dramatic rise in Parks OTA participation, getting churches on the air in a similar “non-contest” style would be enjoyable.
From the WACRAL website: There is an award available for working any CHOTA stations on the Saturday of the event – . Let’s hope the conditions are good! Those claiming the award must contact eight (8) or more CHOTA stations. Copies of the logs must include date, time, frequency, call sign of station and operators name and call sign. To claim your award, send this information to Alistair McGoff (2E0TGF) amcgoff4 @ gmail.com
This year CHOTA is on Saturday, September 9, 2023.
It’s not a contest but more of a POTA-style event.
Consider putting your church (or any church) on the air in September from here in the US. Not every one will be blessed with the space that my church has (see below) but we hams are creative in fitting our operations into the space that is available. Don’t forget to drop John G3XYF (jhwresdell (at) gmail.com) a note letting him know of your activation.
My moderate-sized church, Highlands Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland MS, sits on a 16 acre campus. In the Southwest corner, there is a small meadow with full oak and pine trees on a small ridge. It is directly across from the Township at Colony Park retail and residential complex. After doing a walk around, my church administrator and I saw it as a very useful space, both for CHOTA as well as future outdoor youth and young adult social events (think concerts, movies, and so forth). An aerial photograph illustrates the layout.
But would RF noise make it impossible on HF? I took my Icom IC-705 and a 40-10M EFHW antenna with me and threw the far end of the antenna up in a tree. There was almost no RFI detected on 20, 17 or 10 meters. That doesn’t mean that none might not suddenly appear but it’s a good omen, nonetheless. Here’s a snippet of the low noise floor I heard on 20 meters. It was very similar on 17 and 10 meters.
If we stage four tents with stations, that will give us one each for SSB, CW and Digital modes. A fourth would be a Visitor tent for those who stop by. The Jackson ARC has agreed to attend and manage the Visitor tent. The Vicksburg ARC has agreed to have Eddie N5JGK and Chris AF5OQ on hand to work satellites. Eddie is an old hand at working the Sats. He will provide us with anticipated passes in view of the ISS and other birds workable by a handheld with an Arrow dual band antenna so we can advertise the estimated times. Chris AF5OQ is President of VARC who will drive some of their members over to this event. This spot is a great spot for our planned activation with plenty of room for visitors.
My church administrator mentioned having a food truck on hand for the event. The JARC is now working with the Madison County Library System. Their adult and youth services director is dying to talk to the ISS. She can drive library patrons to the event. The options for wire and vertical antennas in the pictures below are readily available (even if we wanted to put up an antenna for 160M). See the pan-around video beneath them for a better view. Can you spot the bonus item we discovered in this video? Some of our young people are making the rounds on the recent disc golf course established on the church campus. One of them designed the course.
Did you spot the electrical meter and service panel left from a previous construction staging site? My church administrator is getting it reactivated. It will not only assist our CHOTA 2023 (and beyond) activation but be critical for other outdoor activities held in this beautiful space. While we operate battery and solar powered on our portable ops, having mains power will just make things easier for the whole event.
Food. Retail shopping across the street. Public officials. Library staff. Entire church invited, especially the young adult and youth groups. Get a successful satellite activation or two with area club members dropping by to participate and this could be an event!