Leicester Community has provided a solution to clergy members, who are digitally excluded access Sunday morning worship, whilst finding a prominent position for its transmission equipment.
Like clergy across the country, Revd Jonathan Surridge had to reinvent how his church operated practically overnight when the pandemic first hit. St Peter’s Highfields and St Philip’s Leicester initially opted to run Sunday services via Zoom and Facebook, but it quickly became apparent that many of the congregation were unable to join in, because they didn’t have access to the internet.
Amid this dilemma, a local community-led radio station approached Father Jonathan in April 2020, asking for help.
Leicester Community Radio had been offered an FM licence, but needed a prominent position to place the aerial. The tower of St Peter’s was the perfect height, and within a matter of weeks – and with the enthusiastic support of church members – the radio transmitter had been erected.
It occurred to Father Jonathan that the radio station might also provide the solution to Sunday morning worship during the pandemic. He approached a key figure in charge of the radio, Des, who is a widely known community leader of Bajan descent.
Des knew well that many families in the area struggle with extreme poverty and, when Father Jonathan explained the need to support his congregation, he was offered a 10am slot to broadcast the Sunday worship every week.
To Father Jonathan’s surprise, the Sunday service quickly became one of the most popular shows on the radio station, with over 1,500 people regularly listening online. On many occasions, people would meet Father Jonathan in the street and remark how much they enjoyed listening to his services:
“We are very homemade”, he says, “I could have made it a lot slicker, but I didn’t want people turning up at church later to find out it was very different!”
The partnership has born fruit in other ways, too. St Peter’s was in desperate need of refurbishment – but, without enough money to pay for an electrician and other essentials, the church remained dark and dismal. When Father Jonathan told the radio station about his dilemma, they sent their electrician in to install new lighting for free, as well as a new mixing desk and hearing aid loop.
Then, in 2021, the radio station moved into a studio within the church building on a 10-year lease. St Peter’s is receiving much-needed revenue towards the cost of refurbishing the church, whilst the radio station has a permanent home to operate from, which is mutually beneficial for both parties.
More than that, Father Jonathan is excited about what the church can offer the community and hopes this move will bring some vibrancy back. “Either we stay in a rut”, he says, “or we reinvent ourselves by understanding what is crucial here… sharing God’s love.”
You can find out more about Leicester Community Radio and hear Revd Jonathan Surridge’s programme via www.leicestercommunityradio.com