Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Church Matters

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Church Matters

Article excerpt

Byline: By Francis Wood

Pause for thought

BBC's Thought for the Day is making news again. The atheists are keen to get their hands on it and Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, said this week that he hadn't closed his mind to people with other belief systems presenting it.

I can't see the idea doing much harm but strangely enough I hear criticism of Thought from all sides of the Church. At last year's meeting of BBC religious producers, one told me: "Thought for the Day feels like three minutes with a centipede up your nose." The late presenter of Today, Brian Redhead, once said: "If Today was presented in Chinese, you'd know when Thought for the Day began." He was referring to the parsonical nature of the piece.

It used to be called Lift Up Your Hearts but it often got so downbeat that in 1965 they changed it. But it remained part of the "God slot".

When 75% of people in the UK claim to believe in God, why shouldn't the BBC have a little something for them? It's not even three minutes long either. Five years ago they cut out 30 seconds. Anyway, you don't really need all that time to make a simple point. I once saw the late Spike Milligan give his Thought in a revue at Newcastle Theatre Royal. He said: "I thought I saw Jesus in a tram. I said: `Are you Jesus?' He said: `Yes, I am'." There's real food for thought in 10 seconds.

If atheists were given the slot, the next move would certainly be for there to be no mention of God at all. Even now he hardly gets a look-in and people like me listen because we like to have nice people talking to us. There may be some nice people among the atheists, of course. Why not get them to present Songs of Praise as well? Or would that be like asking a vegetarian to preview a new steakhouse?

JUST VISITING

A FORMER vicar of St Anthony of Egypt, Byker, is due to pay a return visit to his old parish. …

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