Monday, 26 November 2012
I’m sitting on a train after an early start in Manchester for the Daily Service – it goes out on Radio 4 Longwave every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the year. On Friday there is a slightly different service but broadcast at the same time. The service has already had its 50th birthday and is one of the oldest broadcasts of any kind in the world. Of course it’s changed over the years – 20 years ago they moved from their traditional home of All Soul’s Langam’s in London to Emanuel Didsbury. The Religion and Ethics studio paving the way for the more recent exodus of the BBC to Media City. Essentially though it remains the same, a short Christian act of worship with a significant number of folk who regularly tune in at home and around the world.
I first led the service when in the Manchester and Stockport District – and it was always a refreshing and challenging part of the richness of circuit life. It’s fun to do – the service is live and with live music normally. There is a Daily Service group of professional singers but often, as today with the Manchester Chorale, very good amateur choirs. I love singing – and know enough to realise that I could never sing at that standard, but perhaps enough to really appreciate just how good these groups are. It’s always a shame to me that the broadcast is on Longwave (and now digital as well) and not FM – so most people don’t hear the service at its musical best.
If you present the Daily Service you are sent a little while before a briefing sheet with the hymns and songs to be sung, a reading and both a weekly and a daily theme. Today, following the Lectionary for yesterday was ‘Christ the King’ for the week and ‘King of the Jews’ for the day. The knack of writing the script is to get all your thoughts and prayers into about 1200 words, and to somehow link the music, what’s happening in the news, and the theme together. Because the service is broadcast live, timing matters! The continuity announcer introduces the Daily Service and you are in at 10.45 and you have to be ‘out’ at 9.59 and 50 seconds dead our you will either crash the pips (too long) or leave a Radio 4 horror – a space without anything at all!! The key to such close timing is the back times after the run through. With the aim of 9.59 and 50 seconds you know, for example, that you must begin your blessing at 9.59 and 40! To help there are several pages of blessings in case the timings have gone wrong – you’ve spoken too quickly or the choir have got carried away and expanded in the last hymn. The blessings are not listed in a thematic way but according to how long they take to give. I reckon the shortest should either be, ‘O dear’ or ‘Sorry’ as you land the service right into the pips before the next programme.
Today I explored the radical nature of ‘Kingship’ that the crucifixion forces us to notice. A Saviour King without the pomp and circumstance of the every day sense of royalty and majesty. It is a bit strange to be doing a BBC service as a Christian without the usual BBC stance of ‘not doing religion’. The dominant secular orthodoxy of the last 50 years or so isn’t known for its tolerance or balance, something I’m afraid they probably learnt from the faith communities. I’m sure there are few who strongly object that the Christian Community is allowed to do such things, but we are, and what a privilege it is something I suspect we must use more or lose. Here is a little space in the day when we can stop and think of the great reality in which we all live, and not have to pretend that we don’t in case we upset our secular friends. Here is a chance to let the King rule, the King of an eternal Kingdom which puts all of life into perspective.
If you haven’t listened – have a go – not that it matters, but there are a remarkable number of Methodists who are on the DS Team. Google ‘Daily Service’ and you can catch up on their website after the broadcast if you miss it live, or, as many do, get ready at 9.45 with your retuned radio and perhaps a lighted candle to join in the prayers. It’s no good going through iPlayer you’ll never find it. I’m not sure the high ups in the BBC are aware of this wonderful gem, or if they are, are that proud of it!
If you like it – tell the BBC and as my aunt used to say, ‘use it or lose it!’
With thanks to the BBC for this opportunity, to their wonderful producers, technical, administrative and musical people.