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

The BBC will support and represent faith communities during the COVID-19 pandemic across its networks.

Published: 9 April 2020
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.
— Daisy Scalchi

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 Songs Of Praise on BBC One, Sunday Worship and Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4 and Heart And Soul on the World Service.

There will be a rich mix of new programming across TV and radio to mark the Easter weekend - including The Archbishop of Canterbury delivering his Easter message from Lambeth Palace on Easter Sunday Worship and Pope Francis giving his Easter message and blessing, Urbi et Orbi live from Rome - 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 Passion from the BBC Singers, and presenters including Mim Shaikh and Mehreen Baig recording Ramadan Lockdown Diaries which will feature 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 which will shine a light on faith and spirituality from a variety of perspectives and a new programme, My Mate's A Muslim, marking Ramadan for BBC Three. In addition, there will be special items on BBC Breakfast, The One Show, BBC News, Saturday Kitchen, Daily Kitchen 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.”

EDA

Further details of the programming being made available:

Festivals

  • As well as Easter, 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 BBC Breakfast, The One Show, Newsround, Saturday Kitchen, Daily Kitchen and Thought for the Day and special guests from different faith groups on Good Morning Sunday, Vanessa Feltz and The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2
  • Four new films will explore how people are celebrating Passover, Vaisakhi, Ramadan and how those from the Baha’i faith are managing 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 across 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:

Passover

  • 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 (pictured above) 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

Ramadan

  • A new documentary, A Very Different Ramadan, will be on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 20 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
  • BBC Three is enlisting some high profile young Muslims in My Mate's A Muslim to set a unique lockdown challenge for their non-Muslim friends as they persuade them to join them with the fasting tradition of Ramadan and experience one of the world’s biggest and most significant cultural moments of the year. In order to get a better understanding of what it means for the community, especially given this year Mosques will be closed, non-Muslims will be mentored, coaxed and cajoled by their practicing friends to take part in NOT eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset with all the highs and lows caught on camera
  • Mim Shaikh, Mehreen Baig, Poppy Begum (pictured above) and Yasser are recording Ramadan Lockdown Diaries which will feature across the BBC and Asian Network’s YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts
  • 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 live or afterwards on BBC Sounds

Vaisakhi 2020

  • Digital content will include Davinder Panesar and Jasvir Singh (pictured above) 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

Television

  • 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 (w/t) 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’ Easter message and blessing, Urbi et Orbi (pictured above), live from Rome on Easter Sunday, presented by Martin Bashir

Radio

  • 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 Sunday (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 in a singalong with a virtual congregation of more than 150 radio listeners
  • Three Vicars Talking (pictured above before social distancing measures were in place) on BBC Radio 4 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
  • Radio 4's 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
  • On BBC Radio 4, Baptist Minister Richard Littledale presents a personal reflection, as someone forced to self-isolate during the Coronavirus crisis, in the Good Friday Meditation. Richard considers why Christians see beauty and love in the cross, which is central to their faith.
  • Later on Good Friday on BBC 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 Cottrell-Boyce
  • BBC Radio 4 will celebrate the start of Easter morning with a Sunrise Service with award winning gospel group Volney Morgan & 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 6.45am and 7.45am each Sunday on 14 local radio stations. 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

Nations

  • 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. On BBC Radio Wales, the Good Friday Meditation will be presented by the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd. John Davies and on BBC Radio Cymru, Alwyn Humphreys and Heledd Cynwal will celebrate music inspired by the Holy Week in an uplifting two hour programme, Cerddoriaeth yr Wythnos Fawr
  • 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 Moderator of the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair and Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh
  • 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 the oldest Scottish institution abroad, Il Pontificio College Scozzese - The Scots College in Rome
  • On BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle, Morning Service will continue to broadcast on Sunday mornings and will include an Easter Sunday Special. Sunday Sequence will continue to feature interviews and discussions about what’s happening in the news from a religious and ethical perspective. And Sounds Sacred will combine hymns, religious music and listener requests at teatime on Sundays with Richard Yarr
  • 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 BBC iPlayer
  • Other new religion series transmitting over the Easter period are Heavenly Gardens With Alexander Armstrong (pictured above before social distancing measures were in place) 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
  • 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 (main image), Mary Berry’s Easter Feast, The Greatest Story Ever Told and the film, The Robe on BBC Two
  • Passover: Why Is This Night Different? and The Story Of Vaisakhi are also being repeated