Sunday, 8 February 2015

BBC Radio Merseyside Acts of Worship

Having given notice to BBC Radio Merseyside that I am no longer willing to take Acts of Worship as part of the Daybreak Sunday morning religious programme some people have asked why this is. 

Firstly,

·       I am very happy with the people that I have worked with on a day to day basis for over a decade and I continue to hold them in high regard.
·       I still have the capacity to do this work and will, in fact, have more time from August 31st when I retire from full-time employment.

So why have I ‘given notice’?

During the autumn of 2014 presenters of the Act of Worship were invited to Radio Merseyside for a training session. Part of this related to Compliance. The gist of this was that each Act of Worship would need to be submitted for scrutiny on Thursday morning when it was to be presented live on a Sunday. In this process the script could be approved or amended and approved.

In principle there is nothing wrong with this.

The downside is that the whole script needs to be ready to be submitted at the end of Wednesday and cannot be significantly changed following this. In the event of local or national events taking place between submission and broadcast no changes can be made.

The week preceding February 8th was in some ways exceptional, but during this time two significant national news items related to child abuse, Lord Chilcot (reporting on the Iraq War) appeared before a Select Committee, a Parliamentray debate focussed on mitochondrial DNA, discussions were taking place at an international level relating to the Ukraine and Russia and ISIS displayed a video of a man being burnt alive. On the 7th February a man was shot in Liverpool.

Had I been leading worship in a church I would have at least mentioned some of these in the prayers. In reality I might well have reflected on one of them in the act of worship. The BBC response is that these issues were dealt with elsewhere in the programme and, indeed, some were.

Another BBC comment was that there, ‘are the days when our contributors cannot come in live and so we broadcast a pre-recorded Act of Worship. This will not reflect the news of the day.’

It was added, ‘But that is not necessarily a bad thing’.

As I believe

·       that worship ought to reflect context,
·       that it is an act of worship that I am seeking to enable,
·       that context includes an awareness by the congregation (audience) of what is happening in the world,
then not to respond to events is to diminish the act of worship.

From this perspective in 30 years of ministry it has been my experience that people seem to find it helpful to reflect within worship on such things. I have sought to do this publicly and by writing hymns on issues as varied as tsunamis and the death of Osama bin Laden.

Not to make such links may not ‘be a bad thing’ but it is, for me, thoroughly unsatisfactory.

The rightness of my decision was underlined for me this morning (8th February 2015) as I led an Act of Worship, broadcast live focussing on awe, wonder and hope without being able to relate to any of the things that had been a focus of the rest of the programme, or that had happened since submitting my script.

It is for this reason that I have indicated that I am no longer able to lead Acts of Worship on BBC Radio Merseyside with integrity.