THE public appetite for content about faith and belief “is as strong as ever” the BBC has said, as it announced new religious and ethics programmes for Christmas and the New Year, alongside familiar favourites for the festive season.
In a new three-part series on BBC 1 for Advent, My Life At Christmas With Sally Phillips, the actor, comedian, and Christian talks to three people about their memories of Christmas. In the first episode, to be broadcast on Sunday (4 December), the Revd Richard Coles reflects on his time as a chorister, as a multi-instrumentalist for the synth-pop band The Communards, life as a parish priest, and on the death of his lifelong partner (Features, 9 April 2021). Episodes two and three feature the poet Lemn Sissay and the Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas.
My Life At Christmas With Sally Phillips was one of the new BBC Religion & Ethics commissions announced last Friday. It was also confirmed that the Archbishop of Canterbury is to return for a new series of his Radio 4 programme The Archbishop Interviews, the first of which was broadcast earlier this year (Radio, 25 February). In each 30-minute episode, Archbishop Welby speaks to his guests about how they have navigated their private life with a public profile. Previous guests have included the former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The BBC Head of Religion & Ethics, Television, Daisy Scalchi, said this week: “The appetite for content about faith and beliefs is as strong as ever. These programmes can offer us a unique perspective on some of life’s big questions, provide support and comfort during challenging times, and bring us together in celebration for important moments like Advent and Christmas.”
The full Christmas schedule for BBC television and radio was announced this week.
The annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the chapel of King’s College Cambridge will be broadcast on BBC1 on Christmas Eve and will include a new composition of Angelus ad virginem by Matthew Martin. It will also be broadcast on the BBC World Service, and on Radio 3 on Christmas Day.
On BBC1 on Christmas Eve, midnight mass and the blessing of the crib is to be broadcast live from Blackburn Cathedral. The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Revd Peter Howell-Jones, is due to preside and introduce the service. The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, is due to preach. Music is due to include a traditional Ukrainian carol, “Deepest wonder”, set to a Ukrainian folk tune.
The Christmas Day service is also due to be broadcast live from Blackburn Cathedral at 10 a.m. on BBC1.
Also on BBC1 on Christmas Day, a festive edition of Songs of Praise, presented by Aled Jones, will be broadcast from Llandaff Cathedral, where a second episode will be broadcast on New Year’s Day. In his New Year message on BBC1, Archbishop Welby is expected to reflect on relationships within society, and the importance of offering care, after visiting a nursing home in Canterbury diocese.
On Radio 4 on Christmas Eve, a midnight mass will be broadcast live from Leeds Cathedral. Early on Christmas morning, Bath Abbey will host a service on the theme “Hope for the Nations”, at which the newly installed Bishop of Bath & Wells, Dr Michael Beasley, will preach. The congregation is expected to hear about the Abbey’s work with international visitors and to celebrate its links to the late Queen Elizabeth II. There will be prayers for peace and justice after an interview with a refugee family from Ukraine.
On Radio 2 later on Christmas morning, the Revd Kate Bottley will present carols, festive greetings, and a special message in Good Morning Christmas 2022. Also on Radio 2, on Christmas night, Mica Paris is to present personal stories and memories of the music she grew up with, including carols, hymns, and traditional and contemporary gospel standards for Christmas. Her four-part series on gospel music will return in the new year.
On Radio 3, on each Thursday during Advent, a new series, Compline, will explore the interaction between liturgy, prayer, and music through four reflective services of night prayer with words and music for the end of the day.
On BBC local radio stations in England, at midnight on Christmas Eve, listeners can hear a specially commissioned programme, “Keeping Faith at Christmas,” which is to include “uplifting, heart-warming, and inspirational seasonal stories” from the community. The Christmas morning service for local radio will be broadcast at 7 a.m. and will be led by the Archbishop of York.
The Journey of the Magi will be broadcast on Radio 3 on New Year’s Day, at 7.30 p.m. Michelle Fairley and Stuart Graham will narrate a poem about the magi by W. R. Rodgers, which was first broadcast in 1948. It will be set to a newly commissioned piece of music by the Belfast-based composer Paul Campbell to celebrate 100 years of the BBC.
The BBC Chief Content Officer, Charlotte Moore, said: “From magical stories to musical treats and content full of laughter, reflections and brilliant guests, there’s so much to choose from, and once again BBC Radio will provide the perfect Christmas soundtrack for audiences, whatever they are in the mood for.”