FOR those who listen regularly to Radio 4’s Thought for Day, the one name that they will probably not be familiar with is that of Christine Morgan, the BBC’s Head of Radio Religion and Ethics, who leaves today after 33 years in broadcasting. Christine produced and edited Thought over many years, and championed the slot both inside and beyond the BBC.
We first crossed paths in the late 1980s, over coverage of the debates on the ordination of women. I was, at the time, a TV producer on the Everyman programme. She was working on Sunday and other journalistic output. Later, we both ended up as part of one religious department in Manchester. Then, after I had left to be ordained, I became one of her flock as a Thought contributor.
Her leaving event, on Zoom, meant that many Thought regulars were present as an array of faces — visible evidence of her commitment to widening the slot to ensure contributions from a range of faith traditions and ethnicities. It was good to see each other when we normally encounter one another as voices, and the format cleverly prevented our mixing with those we already knew.
Christine is a self-defined extrovert with an extraordinary “ear” both for language and for the national mood. She brought to Thought a blend of enthusiasm, journalistic flair, and a rigorous attention to detail, which could be maddening, except that she was always right. She was also a good politician in the BBC. Her skill was such that quite a number of Today editors who might have begun their time hoping that Thought could be scrapped ending up respecting it.
Christine has been a Methodist lay preacher, and she exemplifies a blend of seriousness and kindness which I often associate with Methodism. The seriousness is not pious, nor the kindness saccharine. She has the non-aggressive confidence of a deeply internalised faith.
At her farewell, she spoke of Thought contributors as people with a vocation. There was a quick response to this: she herself had exemplified vocation in the way in which she did her job. I found myself thinking that the way she faithfully exercised her charism shamed many of us in holy orders; for Christine was ambitious, but for her work, and not for herself. She pushed us all to be better than we were, taking delight in our small successes without claiming them as her own. She was both utterly ruthless and unfailingly kind, and none of it was about ego.
I will miss her phone calls, late at night, early in the morning, on the way to a studio: “Angela, have you heard the news? We just need to tweak that third sentence in the second para. . .” It was true episcope. I nominate her as our first ecumenical bishop.