*** DEBUG END ***

Radio review: Good Friday Meditation, Sunrise Service, Where Are You Going, Profile, and Drama: Hidden Treasures

05 April 2024


In Sunrise Service (Radio 4, Easter Day), the poet Jay Hulme made a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

In Sunrise Service (Radio 4, Easter Day), the poet Jay Hulme made a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

HOLY WEEK is the season of the docu-meditation: a hybrid form characterised by languid recitations from the Gospel narratives, interviews with people doing worthy things such as basket-weaving or cushion-crochet, and a soundtrack spliced together from Enya tribute bands. You are as likely to encounter theology in these shows as to be disturbed by a drive-by shooting, and the emotional glow of Passion and resurrection is low-wattage.

Of the two I sampled this year, the Bishop of Newcastle’s, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley’s, Good Friday Meditation (Radio 4) benefited from an extended treatment of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Dream of the Rood (Faith, 28 March), while the poet Jay Hulme’s Sunrise Service (Radio 4, Easter Day) did Lindisfarne and St Cuthbert, in what felt distinctly like a retread of two years ago. But, then again, distinctiveness is not the criterion by which such programmes are properly judged. They are liturgies composed for a radio audience that is, at best, indifferent and, at worst, imaginary.

For spiritual insight at this time of year, one must rely on surprises. This year, a trawl through one of the many lists of recommended podcasts brought to my attention Where Are You Going? (Loftus Productions, released Tuesdays and Fridays). The conceit here is that the presenter, Catherine Carr, strikes up conversations with people on the street, opening each one with that question. Carr has no appreciably winsome conversational skills, but one imagines that she is just one of those people on to whom you are happy to offload. Her exchange last week with a Mormon was beautifully measured and insightful, as the lady talked of her large family, diminished by the death of two sons. The concept of forgiveness implies something universal, but is realised in infinitely different ways; here, we encountered a particular and moving case.

What Carr, and other broadcasters with her skills, remind us is that everyone has something interesting to tell us, and the responsibility for finding that something lies with the interviewer. By the same token, the characters chosen for treatment in Profile (Saturdays, Radio 4) can project only what their profilers regard as significant. Thus we were left by Stephen Smith’s profile of the Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, with only two impressions: of her commitment to racial justice in the Church of England, and the hazards attendant on consuming too much of her notorious rum cake.

She was presumably chosen as a subject because of recent controversy, as Smith attempted only a rudimentary account of her upbringing and spiritual formation; but neither did he engage with the debate over reparations in such a way as to suggest that there was a debate. One might have hoped that the BBC had a least one reporter able to summon up the energy to do the job properly.

But let us finish on a positive: the BBC’s rebroadcasting of some Drama: Hidden Treasures (Radio 4) from the drama archive, including Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter (Palm Sunday) and Dennis Potter’s Traitor (Monday of last week). It was as if the 45-minute drama slot, often handled so awkwardly, was created especially for them.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)