18 August 2004

Methodist minister pioneers new chaplaincy to commercial radio

Revd Tony Miles, Methodist minister and broadcaster, will pioneer a chaplaincy-style role within commercial radio stations from 1 September, aiming to show that the Christian faith is relevant in a pop culture.

In doing so, he will become the first ecumenical radio chaplain working across a region (London and Essex) and primarily in the independent sector. Tony will engage with an industry in which the church has little involvement or presence.

Influential figures from within the commercial radio industry and the church have backed Tony's vision.

The Revd Dr Lord Leslie Griffiths, who champions the churches' engagement with the media, said: "Tony's readiness to put his experience on the line and to venture forth into the world of commercial radio - a frightening world for most church-going people - is quite simply an act of faith, and I ask God to bless him in this demanding way forward. It is on the airwaves that we meet people, where we cross boundaries, and where we have a chance of entering into the prevailing culture around us."

Mark Browning, Programme Controller at London's Heart 106.2 said: "I was interested to learn that Tony Miles is pioneering the role of Media Chaplain to commercial radio. I am encouraged that he is taking an interest in our industry and the people within it. His concern and vision deserves the support of the Church."

Peter Kerridge, Managing Director of Premier Christian Radio, said: "There is a great need in the industry for a chaplain of this kind. Media people work under great pressure all of the time and the deadlines don't go away just because you have a crisis in your personal life. There will be many people who will be very relieved to find someone who cares enough to share these burdens and Tony in this role will be greatly used by God."

John Ellis, Secretary for Business & Economic Affairs for the Methodist Church, said: "This pioneering piece of chaplaincy is exactly the sort of work that the Methodist Church is encouraging. The Methodist Conference recently agreed that we must put much more effort into finding ways of communicating effectively with people who are not drawn to traditional patterns of church life. Tony has the rare advantage of being both an experienced media person and an experienced Christian minister, so he is ideally equipped for this chaplaincy.  He understands those that he will be chaplain to, and that is just as important as having a theological background. I hope he will help the Church to learn from the media as well."

Tony's strategy will be to build working relationships with newsrooms through informal networking. He will visit commercial stations by appointment, and aim to become a recognised Christian presence in the media.

Tony, who currently presents the Saturday morning breakfast show for Premier Christian radio, said: "At the moment it is extremely difficult to communicate the Christian message through commercial radio. Commercial radio listeners don't expect to hear Christian comment. But we must 'keep the rumour of God alive' - that's what my new ministry will attempt to do."

He explained: "I hope to show in imaginative ways that the Christian faith is relevant in a pop culture. My wish is not to  'Bible bash' or preach, it's much more about showing people that we care, are interested in them, and that we have a relevant message."

Part of Tony's vision is to encourage young people to take an interest in their local radio station and find opportunities to get involved. He said: "Younger people are avid listeners to commercial radio and these, for the most part, are the missing generations in our churches. Surely, this is where the church must seek to be. I believe that the Christian message is best communicated to young people by other young people, and commercial radio offers a great potential platform for that."

He added: "How many churches have actually listened to commercial radio? How many criticise without understanding the audience or the format of programming? The commercial radio stations I have visited have been intrigued. They are curious to see a minister take an interest - and it is this curiosity I want to build on."

Tony will be based at Methodist Central Hall in London, and will predominantly, but not exclusively, engage with the 100-plus radio stations that can be heard in Essex and East London.


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