By Cian Molloy - 15 January, 2018
It is said that there are weeks when the BBC Songs of Praise regularly wins a larger Irish audience than RTE produced religious affairs programming.
Queen Elizabeth II participated in a religious affairs television programme for the first time this weekend, after taking part in a Songs of Praise celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the Scripture Union, an interdenominational charity that promotes greater engagement with the Word of God.
The celebration, which was held in December, was aired yesterday on BBC’s Songs of Praise. Executive Producer Catriona Lewis, said she was delighted to have had the Queen in the congregation singing along with the hymns. Songs of Praise is one of the longest running television programmes on these islands, having first been broadcast in 1961.
The programme has defied the critics by winning a persistently large audience week after week, including a reasonably large slice of the Irish television audience early on a Sunday evening. Indeed, despite being broadcast by the BBC, it is said that there are weeks when Songs of Praise regularly wins a larger Irish audience than RTE produced religious affairs programming.
A feature of all Songs of Praise programmes is that all present are expected to join in the singing and Queen Elizabeth, in a fuchsia coloured outfit, wasn’t shy about joining in.
The Scripture Union’s anniversary celebration was held at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, in the Church of England parish of Islington. The hymns sung were: Lord for the Years, 10,000 Reasons, Your Love Will Last Forever, God of Unchanging Grace and Tell the world of Jesus.
Since the Anglican Communion broke with Rome, the English monarch has been the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In that role, Queen Elizabeth has participated and supported a number of ecumenical initiatives between the Episcopalian Church/Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, it is strongly predicted that Queen Elizabeth II will attend an ecumenical celebration in Northern Ireland later this year with Pope Francis, should the papal visit to Dublin go ahead this August, to the World Meeting of Families 2018.
In Ireland, the Scripture Union has not been as active as long as it has been in Britain. However, for more than 50 years, the Irish arm of the charity has been operating residential retreats, school retreats, holiday activities and outdoor pursuits for young people, especially those of secondary school age.