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Last Friday I was in Brighton to pick up a new record by the group Public Service Broadcasting. The band have a unique style that combines historic newsreel, big stories, sweeping soundscapes and interesting lyrics.

The band deals with big themes: The race for space, education, the rise and demise of the coal industry, the sinking of the Titanic, and the nature of the city. This album, The New Noise, which was recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall during the 2022 BBC Proms season, is a celebration of the centenary of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Chatting to J. Wilgoose the PBS frontman at the signing session for their new album, he told me that although with a band name like theirs they should be a good fit for a project like this which was both a benefit and a burden. Wilgoose also explained something of the process of putting together a project like this. It all began with a lot of reading around the subject of the BBC and delving into the sound achieves to choose appropriate sound clips to use in each of the eight songs. Then there was the work of shaping each song, recording and mixing the music ready for release.

I was intrigued by what their website says about their work: Public Service Broadcasting have been “teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future”

That mission statement and the process they describe is very similar to what I do when I am preparing a sermon.

I begin with the ancient text of Scripture. That means spending time reading the text over many times, highlighting key phrases, posing questions of the text as I seek to tease out its meaning. Then I read everything I can about the text and its core message. This can be a mixture of technical and popular commentaries on the biblical text, looking up half-remembered treatments of the text in books I have read recently or sometimes a long time ago.

While I am doing this, I am thinking about how the message of the text might land in the congregation where I am preaching. I will ask a variety of questions at this stage: “Who is in the congregation and what aspects of this message will address them?” “Will this topic raise questions, stir deep emotions or be challenging for those who hear it?” “What aspects of this cultural moment are reflected in this biblical passage?” “Does this cultural moment seek to affirm or subvert the biblical teaching?”

One of my favourite songs on this PSB album is entitled Broadcasting House It draws attention to a Latin inscription in the entry hall of the BBC:

"This Temple of the Arts and Muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors of Broadcasting in the year 1931. It is their prayer that good seed sown may bring forth a good harvest, that all things hostile to peace or purity may be banished from this house, and that the people, inclining their ear to whatsoever things are beautiful and honest and of good report, may tread the path of wisdom and uprightness."

This noble, almost sacred aspiration could be describing what preachers build when they prepare their sermons. The BBC might at times lose sight of these founding principles. It is important that preachers preach the ancient text with faithful imagination to the modern world.

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