Media release: BBC unveils plans to support and represent faith communities during unprecedented times


THE BBC today announced further details of how it will support and represent faith communities during the Covid-19 pandemic across its networks. With public worship curtailed as social distancing measures have been introduced, the BBC is providing a wide range of different faith groups the opportunity to reflect, worship and mark key religious festivals during these challenging times.

The programming includes live worship and virtual church services as well as special new content on the BBC’s flagship religious strands on tv and radio including Reflections at the Quay on BBC1 Scotland , a Mass recorded at St Augustine’s in Coatbridge, Easter Allelulia on BBC ALBA, Songs of Praise on BBC One, New Every Sunday and Good Morning on Radio Scotland, Deanamaid Adhradh on Radio Nan Gaidheal and Sunday Worship and Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Four.

There will be a rich mix of new programming across tv and radio to mark the Easter weekend as well as special content for Passover which continues until next Thursday.

Further festivals from different faiths will be marked in the coming weeks, including Vaisakhi, Ramadan, Eid, Vesak Day and Hindu reflections during May, with a range of content across television, radio and digital. New online content includes a Mini St Matthew’s Passion from the BBC Singers and the Ramadan Lockdown Diaries presented by Mim Shaikh and Mehreen Baig across the BBC and Asian Network’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Newly-commissioned programmes include a new series for BBC One, Sunday Stories of Us (working title), which will shine a light on faith and spirituality from a variety of perspectives and there will be special items on BBC Breakfast, The One Show, BBC News and Newsround and guests from a range of different faiths across BBC Radio networks, all aimed at representing a variety of faiths across BBC content.

Daisy Scalchi, commissioning editor, BBC Factual, says: “We remain passionate about representing a variety of faiths in both worship and celebration, especially during the current crisis. Communities of all faiths and none are finding ways to come together, without being able to get together, and we aim to reflect that in our offering across multiple platforms over the coming weeks.”

Christine Morgan, head of Radio, Religion and Ethics, says: “In these unprecedented times music, worship, conversation and the lived experience of faith communities will be more important than ever. Unusually, over the next few weeks, the festivals of several faith traditions coincide. We will provide programmes to serve those who aren’t able to gather in their places of worship, those who rely on the breadth of our religious programmes and those who may be looking for them for the first time.”

Further details of the programming being made available:


* As well as Easter (further details below) the BBC will mark a wide range of upcoming religious festivals including Passover, Vaisakhi, Ramadan, Eid, Vesak Day and Hindu reflections during May, with a collection of specially-curated content across television, radio and digital. This includes items on The One Show, Newsround and Thought for the Day and special guests from different faith groups on Good Morning Sunday, the Vanessa Show and the Zoe Ball show on BBC Radio 2.

* Four new films will explore how people are celebrating Passover, Vaisaiki, Ramadan and Bahai in lockdown. They will be published on BBC and BBC World Service social media accounts.

* Martin Bashir will also be providing coverage of the key religious festivals on BBC News and BBC Food will feature a range of festival-related recipes which can also be found on the BBC Homepage.

Further coverage includes:


* The beginning of Passover will be marked with another opportunity to see the documentary Passover: Why Is This Night Different? on BBC One with Giles Coren exploring the significance of the festival

* Newsround will feature a new piece looking at how one family is celebrating Passover during such an extraordinary time and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will be on Good Morning Sunday

* There will be new digital content on the BBC’s social media accounts with Love Island’s Eyal Booker looking into Seder, Passover and the importance of the celebration in Eyal’s Passover Lockdown.


* A new documentary, Ramadan in Lockdown, will be on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 20th April. In these unprecedented times, Manchester-based Raees Mahmood Khan hears three very different stories about the serious dilemma Covid-19 presents for Muslims at a time that is supposed to be all about community.

* Special packages and reports – the Ramadan Lockdown Diaries – presented by Mim Shaikh and Mehreen Baig will feature on the Asian Network and across the BBC’s social media channels.

* Muslims unable to visit their mosques during the coronavirus crisis can tune into their local BBC station on Fridays at 5.50am where a different Muslim leader each week will lead reflections on 12 stations – Leeds; Sheffield; Lancashire; Manchester; WM; Leicester; Stoke; Derby; Nottingham; CWR; Three Counties; and London. The reflections will be available afterwards on BBC Sounds.

Vaisakhi 2020

* Digital content will include Davinder Panesar reflecting on the Sikh concepts of physical and spiritual sustenance and how this is playing out during the current lockdown, particularly through family life and how people will be marking Vaisakhi this year. This reflection will be available on the Sunday Worship website.

* BBC Two will repeat the documentary The Story of Vaisakhi, looking at the rituals and meaning behind the festival and Jasvir Singh will be on Thought For the Day

Worship and reflection


* A series of new Sunday Worship church services are being shown on BBC One aimed at providing a place for the nation to come together in worship and prayer at a time when churches are closed. The services will come from Bangor, Hereford, Pembrokeshire and Manchester and will bring prayer, readings and sermons, along with previously recorded congregational hymns, to the country. These will reflect the key Christian moments coming up over the coming weeks.

* A newly-commissioned series for BBC One, Sunday Stories of Us (working title) will bring together interviews and features from The One Show and Sunday Morning Live, aimed at shining a light on faith and spirituality from a variety of perspectives.

* BBC One will be broadcasting Pope Francis’s Easter Message and Blessing, Urbi et Orbi, live from Rome on Easter Sunday, presented by Martin Bashir.


* The Daily Service on BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a mix of traditional and more meditative services each weekday. Reflecting the events of the times, they will offer a range of Easter words and music for all denominations, as well as company for those listening alone.

* As outside broadcasts become very difficult to achieve with travel restrictions and distancing, Sunday Worship on Radio 4 will continue as a specially compiled studio service recorded close to transmission to reflect the immediacy of events.

On Easter Day – 12 April – the Archbishop of Canterbury will speak to the nation as part of Radio 4’s Easter Sunday Worship which will also include an intimate communion service with his wife from the Archbishop’s own kitchen in Lambeth Palace.

Full of the best loved Easter music the service closes with a special version of ‘Thine Be The Glory’, recorded by a Singalong with a virtual congregation of over 150 radio listeners.

* Three Vicars Talking brings together the popular trio of Reverends Richard Coles, Kate Bottley and Giles Fraser to swap curate shoptalk. Easter is the busiest time of the Church’s year and, from Ash Wednesday through to Easter, these three vicars share their inimitable stories and experiences in these anxious times.

* The multi-faith strand Prayer for the Day will continue to broadcast a range of contributors from the Christian churches and those from other world faiths. These important short reflection to start the day will be in tune with the mood of the moment. It will focus on human issues to resonate with early morning listeners of all faiths and none in mind.

* The Good Friday Meditation – Baptist Minister Richard Littledale presents a personal reflection for Good Friday as someone forced to self-isolate during the Coronavirus crisis, Richard considers why Christians see beauty and love in the Cross, which is central to their faith. Later that day, on Radio 2 At The Foot of the Cross presented by Dan Walker brings together Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir and
Euphony Voices for a rich mix of spiritual and traditional music as part of a dramatic retelling of the events of Good Friday written and narrated by Frank Cotterrell-Boyce.

* BBC Radio Four will celebrate the start of Easter morning with a Sunrise Service with award winning gospel group Volney Morgan and New Ye.

* Members of the BBC Singers, accompanied by Paul Plummer, are bringing listeners a Mini St Matthew Passion – recording in audio and video, an 11-movement, 30′ reduced version of the St Matthew Passion, including three chorales and a number of the best loved arias and recits. These will be played out on the BBC Singers social media channels throughout the day on Good Friday and will be available complete on the BBC Singers and BBC Radio 3 websites. The same evening there’s a chance to hear Bach’s complete work in Radio 3 in Concert. Captured at the 2014 BBC Proms with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, the starry line-up of soloists is led by Mark Padmore, Christina Gerhaher, Camilla Tilling and Magdelena Kožená. Earlier in Afternoon Concert, Radio 3 broadcasts a performance of Bach’s St John Passion with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by John Butt.

* Local radio is continuing with virtual church services on Sundays broadcast to all 39 stations at 8am. These have already been led by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace and from the superintendent minister at Methodist Church Central Hall in Westminster. The Good Friday service will be led by Tony Miles, of the Methodist Central Hall Westminster, at 3pm on digital radio. The service on Easter Sunday will be led by the head of the Catholic church, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

* A new series, Faith During the Coronavirus will broadcast at 6:45 and 7:45 each Sunday on local radio. It will hear the thoughts of two people from non-Christian faiths about how their beliefs are helping them come through the challenges of the pandemic. Listeners will then be invited to share their own stories.


* Wales – BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Wales will be maintaining their commitment to religious programming, using Skype to enable celebrants to hold virtual faith gatherings. And on BBC Radio Wales, the Good Friday Meditation will be presented by the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd. John Davies.

* Scotland – BBC Scotland is showing a new weekly faith service every Sunday morning on TV – Reflections at The Quay – in addition to their regular weekend religious programmes on Radio Scotland, New Every Sunday and Sunday Morning with Cathy MacDonald. For Easter Sunday, Reflections will be presented by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair, and Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. We will also show a Mass recorded at St. Augustine’s in Coatbridge on Easter Sunday afternoon.

* On BBC ALBA, Easter Alleluia sees Rev Donald M MacInnes and Father Seamus McNeil deliver a selection of hymns, psalms and readings. In addition the series of archive services Ar N-Aran Laitheil (Our Daily Bread) continue for the next eight weeks.

* On Radio Nan Gaidheal, the documentary Stations of the Cross goes out at midday on Good Friday while on Sunday Deanamaid Adhradh (Let’s Worship) will broadcast a special Easter service at 9am and 3pm. Later that day, the spiritual praise and readings programme Alleluia will air at 9pm.

* On Sunday 19 April, BBC Scotland is showing Priest School. Narrated by Scots-Italian actor, Daniela Nardini, this distinctive observational documentary gained unique access to the inner workings, personnel, seminarians and history of what is considered the oldest Scottish institution abroad, Il Pontificio College Scozzese – The Scots College in Rome.

* Northern Ireland – Morning Service on Sundays will continue its usual slot and will include an Easter Sunday Special. And Sounds Sacred will combine hymns, religious music and listener requests at teatime on Sundays with Richard Yarr. Sunday Sequence will continue to feature interviews and discussions about what’s happening in the news from a religious and ethical perspective.

Other key programming across the BBC

* BBC One’s flagship religious series, Songs of Praise, is adapting to the Covid-19 crisis. Over a period of 14 weeks the programme will show refreshed episodes looking at some of the most relevant moments from previous series, introduced with new links from the core Songs of Praise presenters.

These episodes will also feature new interviews to reflect the current situation, such as with the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell interviewed by Aled Jones and now available on iplayer.

* Other new religion series transmitting over the Easter period are Heavenly Gardens with Alexander Armstrong and the concluding episode of the new series of Pilgrimage: The Road To Istanbul on Good Friday.

* Cbeebies have commissioned a new series of My First documentaries featuring children as they learn, discover and experience things for the first time, including the key festivals of their faith.

Notes for editors:

* BBC television will also give viewers another opportunity to see a number of well-received religious programmes including Islam, Women and Me and Britain’s Easter Story on BBC One and Sacred Wonders, Mary Berry’s Easter Feast, The Greatest Story Ever Told and the film, The Robe on BBC Two.

* Passover: Why is Night Different? and The Story of Vaisakhi are also being repeated.

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