Religion being sidelined by BBC this Easter?

By Jonathan Bartley
March 30, 2010

Clearly not. I have just had an email from the Beeb setting out what is on. I thought it was worth reproducing some of the information here, in case the usual claims of religion/Christianity being 'marginalised', are made.

What is apparent however, is the huge domination of the religious establishment - particularly Anglican and Catholic contributions. So I imagine, as these are usually from where the complaints stem, they may be satisfied this year (?). All this is somewhat ironic for those Christians who believe that the Easter story has a lot to do with challenging privilege and power, of course... Watch out though for Nicky Campbell's documentary about Christians here being 'persecuted'. That's going to be the clincher! (I've chatted to him about it).

Good Friday

9.00am BBC1. Historian Bettany Hughes embarks on a journey to uncover the meaning of Jesus' death on the Cross The Day Jesus Died. Bettany enlists a cast including Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York; Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham; and Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster.

3.00pm BBC Radio 4. Good Friday Liturgy. Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King's College London, the Reverend Professor Ben Quash, traces the way of the cross through the sounds and cries he hears on his daily walk to work across London. The journey starts in the chant of the crowd and ends in a solitary cry. (A journey into post-Christendom perhaps?)

7.00pm, BBC Radio 3. Broadcast première of James MacMillan's St John Passion, live from King's College, Cambridge. Baritone Mark Stone sings the role of Christ and is joined by choirs and the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Cleobury. The Passion story, as told by St John, is given a personal setting by MacMillan.

7.00pm BBC Radio 2. At the Foot of the Cross. Salisbury Cathedral is the setting for meditation in words and music for Good Friday, hosted by Aled Jones.

7.00pm BBC 4. Three composers – James MacMillan, Sir John Tavener and John Rutter – provide insight into the challenges and rewards of writing sacred music for the 21st century and, through a series of in-depth interviews with each composer, Simon Russell Beale explores both the creative process of composition and the intentions behind their music.


5.40pm BBC 2. Easter From Kings A service of music and readings from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. The choir sings Panis Angelicus, Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus and extracts from Stainer's Crucifixion and Handel's Messiah.

6.55pm BBC 2. Private Life of An Easter Masterpiece explores The Descent From The Cross by Rogier van der Weyden.

Easter Sunday

6.35-7am Radio 4. Sunrise Service Bishop Nigel McCulloch, National Chaplain to the Royal British Legion, leads a meditation to mark the dawning of Easter Day from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Will be interesting to see if it is the myth of redemptive violence that kicks off the day on which Christians are supposed to celebrate the victory over such narratives.

8.10am Radio 4. Service at Westminster Cathedral where Archbishop Vincent Nichols is the celebrant and preacher.

10.00 - 11.00am BBC1. Eucharist for Easter Day live from Winchester Cathedral. The service is introduced by the Dean of Winchester, the Very Rev James Atwell. The preacher is the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester.

11.00am BBC1. Live transmission Urbi et Orbi – the Pope's traditional Easter Message and Blessing to the city and the world. Denis Nowlan sets the scene in St Peter's Square.

4.15pm BBC1. Songs of Praise from the Holy Land. Aled Jones sets out to discover what life was like for some of those who witnessed the first Easter Day, 2,000 years ago. The programme features interviews with Bible experts based in Israel. Dr Jerome Murphy O'Connor is a Dominican priest and Professor of New Testament at the École Biblique in Jerusalem; Dr Paul Wright is executive director of Jerusalem University College; and Dr Shimon Gibson is an archaeologist and author.

10.50pm BBC1. Are Christians Being Persecuted? Rather appropriate for a whole variety of reasons. Nicky Campbell investigates whether Christians are being discriminated against in modern society. Features Vincent Nichols. the Archbishop of Westminster, Jonathan Sacks the Chief Rabbi, Michael Nazir Ali the former Bishop of Rochester, Shami Chakrabati, the Director of Liberty and Polly Toynbee, President of the National Secular Society. No one is listed that has actually done any serious work in this area examining the claims (ahem!) but we won't moan about being sidelined or 'persecuted' :)

12.00 noon Radio 3. Easter Sunday’s edition of Private Passions. Michael Berkeley meets the newly appointed Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, to discuss his musical choices including works by Verdi, Borodin, Poulenc, Messiaen and Elgar.

8-9.00pm. Brian D'Arcy celebrates Easter with a programme of music, prayers and reflections from Manchester Cathedral in Easter Glory. He is joined by the choir of Manchester Cathedral, Manchester Camerata and the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year 2009, Laurence Kilsby and Jacquelyne Hill.

And, for those that missed it, there is another chance to view Palm Sunday’s Songs of Praise which came from St John the Baptist Church in the market town of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Aled traces the 800-year-old origins of the annual Royal Maundy service and interviews the Lord High Almoner, currently Bishop Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester.

There's even something for kids. The Cbeebies commission, Let's Celebrate - a vibrant tour of the UK showing how children experience different religious and cultural festivals around the country - the Easter episode will transmit on Easter Sunday at 5.00-5.15pm.

[Update 19.10 HT to @thurible who has pointed out that there is even more if you are in Scotland.

6.04 am Friday on BBC Scotland: The Dying of the Light Through music, poetry and personal stories, the Rev Dr Kevin Franz, Chaplain at Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow, reflects on the message of Good Friday.

8.05 am Easter Day on BBC Radio Scotland A celebration of Easter Day in words and music from St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow presented by the Provost, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth ]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.