Methodist minister pioneers new chaplaincy to commercial radio

Revd Tony Miles, Methodist minister and broadcaster, willpioneer a chaplaincy-style role within commercial radio stationsfrom 1 September, aiming to show that the Christian faith isrelevant in a pop culture.

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

Influential figures from within the commercial radio industryand 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 hisexperience on the line and to venture forth into the world ofcommercial radio - a frightening world for most church-going people- is quite simply an act of faith, and I ask God to bless him inthis demanding way forward. It is on the airwaves that we meetpeople, where we cross boundaries, and where we have a chance ofentering into the prevailing culture around us."

Mark Browning, Programme Controller at London's Heart 106.2said: "I was interested to learn that Tony Miles is pioneering therole of Media Chaplain to commercial radio. I am encouraged that heis taking an interest in our industry and the people within it. Hisconcern 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 thiskind. Media people work under great pressure all of the time andthe deadlines don't go away just because you have a crisis in yourpersonal life. There will be many people who will be very relievedto find someone who cares enough to share these burdens and Tony inthis role will be greatly used by God."

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

Tony's strategy will be to build working relationships withnewsrooms through informal networking. He will visit commercialstations by appointment, and aim to become a recognised Christianpresence in the media.

Tony, who currently presents the Saturday morning breakfast showfor Premier Christian radio, said: "At the moment it is extremelydifficult to communicate the Christian message through commercialradio. Commercial radio listeners don't expect to hear Christiancomment. But we must 'keep the rumour of God alive' - that's whatmy new ministry will attempt to do."

He explained: "I hope to show in imaginative ways that theChristian faith is relevant in a pop culture. My wish is notto  'Bible bash' or preach, it's much more about showingpeople that we care, are interested in them, and that we have arelevant message."

Part of Tony's vision is to encourage young people to take aninterest in their local radio station and find opportunities to getinvolved. He said: "Younger people are avid listeners to commercialradio and these, for the most part, are the missing generations inour churches. Surely, this is where the church must seek to be. Ibelieve that the Christian message is best communicated to youngpeople by other young people, and commercial radio offers a greatpotential platform for that."

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

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