Back in November, Songs of Praise refreshed it’s format in a bid to keep itself on the air and better represent Christianity in the UK today. There was a lot of noise about the changes back then and even more noise this month.
When this new SoP started, I was thrilled by the expanded range of topics and diverse churches, but slightly worried. Nine months, and one front-page splash later, now seems like the right time to answer my own question – has it become The One Show with added hymns?
Here’s some of the features they’ve had on the new SoP so far:
- Michael Ball performing The Climb, that teeny-bop ballad from Hannah Montana: The Movie
- Louis from GBBO baking epiphany bread
- An entire episode dedicated to the FA cup Final
- David Grant riding a tandem with the Bishop of Ramsbury
- Katherine Welby-Roberts, daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, discussing mental health
- The personal story of a transgender Christian playwright
- Carrie Fischer (her-who-played-Maria) learning about UK gospel music
- The annual School Choir of the Year competition
This week’s much-hyped episode provided the perfect mix. It was parochial, as they went through the keyhole and examined door knockers at Shakespeare’s church in Stratford. It was spiritual, as Matt Redman discussed what it means to be a ‘successful’ worship leader. And it was challenging. One migrant said to Sally Magnusson in Calais: ‘If it’s not right to go to the UK illegally, what are we supposed to do?’ Perhaps the answer for the viewer came in the hymn that followed:
Songs of Praise is not The One Show with added hymns. It feels like it when door knockers and Michael Ball pop-up on screen. But only Songs of Praise is bold enough to report from Calais, alongside the genteel and glorious spiritual and sacred music that remains at its heart. Take the show for what it is – a mix of music and features, rather than a great act of worship – and you’ll enjoy it.
I am proud of a show that celebrates my faith through diversity, encouragement and compassion. That’s why I tune in every Sunday, not because it’s the spiritual highlight of my week. I hope many who watched for the first time stay with Songs of Praise and join the viewers’ chorus, proclaiming: ‘We are Christians. We care about the world, everyone, including them.’