‘Song of Praise’ and the faith of Christians

My caller last Sunday evening was not angry but rather puzzled. “Have you watched ‘Songs of Praise’ this evening?” I explained that it was not something I often watched these days. My caller continued: “The theme was marriage, and after interviewing a young couple, they went to Scotland. There was a service being conducted by a Bishop but the couple were both men. When they interviewed the Bishop he said that he was glad to be offering marriage to gay couples … ”

The first time I took part in Songs of Praise was in 1974 when it was broadcast from St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate, in Yorkshire. The large nave was entirely filled with choirs from all the churches in Harrogate. The choir of St Wilfrid’s sang ‘Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour thee’ which is the English version of Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Adoro te devote’ – a hymn to the Blessed Sacrament. This was quite strong stuff for ‘Songs of Praise’, and I remember that the presenter recited those words of Queen Elizabeth 1 “Christ’s were the words that spake it” as an ‘explanation’ of the Eucharist which we could all agree on!

The second occasion when I participated in ‘Songs of Praise’ was in 1991, this time in an outdoor broadcast from Rathbone Street Market in Canning Town. In fact little of the market remained, because of the decision to drive the A13 directly through what had been one of the longest street markets in Europe. We began with a hymn specially written to the theme-tune of ‘Eastenders’ and sang ‘Shine Jesus shine’ and another song of which I can only remember the chorus which went
“nothing – nothing – absolutely nothing – nothing is impossible to thee-ee”

At the time I felt that a Protestant/Pentecostal takeover of the event had invented a mythical Christian East End to parallel the curious presentation of its life paraded by ‘EastEnders’. Moreover, it almost completely airbrushed from history the proud contribution of Anglo-Catholicism to East London over 100 years, represented by the great Dock churches, and its hugely influential religious community, the Society of the Divine Compassion, with its saintly founder, Fr Andrew Hardy. Nor shall I forget one of our women deacons patiently but firmly explaining that she was not wearing ‘robes’ (which had been ‘forbidden’) but the everyday working gear (the cassock!) of an Anglican cleric.

Last Sunday’s edition of ‘S of P’ raises for me a number of questions. I had assumed that the programme had remained firmly in the hands of the Evangelicals, but it would seem that the liberals are now back in the driving seat. It is less than a year ago that Parliament re-defined marriage, in the face of opposition from Catholics, Anglicans and the majority of the Free Churches. One is aware, of course, that there is a liberal minority – within the C of E and some of the Free Churches – which accepts this re-definition, and is willing to run with it. Nonetheless, one has to ask whether it is appropriate for Songs of Praise to ‘celebrate’ the new definition of marriage, in a Christian programme, even though the new ‘marriage’ is opposed by the huge majority of Christians worldwide.

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About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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One Response to ‘Song of Praise’ and the faith of Christians

  1. Harry says:

    Like you I rarely watch SOP now since it has changed so radically over the years, one of the last I saw was yet another competition (one of the many the BBC produces) for school choirs with all the usual ‘worship songs’ being over-arranged and the other featured a singer and a group of musicians in a garishly lit, but empty church. I hope I’m not being paranoid, but it all seems part of the beeb’s intention to trivialise religion, especially Christianity. The Sunday programme is now more about politics and ethics, their description not mine; at times it seems little more than an edition of the Today programme. Sunday Worship, which I used to think was for those who couldn’t get to Church is now usually a theme of the day politically correct ‘hymn buttie’ which makes little if any reference to the liturgical calendar.

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