40th Anniversary of ‘In Praise of God’

Below is a copy of the piece that will hopefully appear in a forthcoming edition of our diocesan newspaper. I’ve had requests for the use of the photographs from the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Lichfield (C of E) and also from a local radio presenter, so since the pictures are soon going to be ‘out there’ anyway, I thought I’d share them with you.

Photo quality is not as preferred due to poor lighting, a lousy lens (lens donations very gratefully received) and various ‘obstacles’ getting in the way of a half decent shot ie: people, pianos, pews, archbishops etc…the usual stuff – well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it – though it happens to be true, actually! (click the images to enlarge them)

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Hanley


Boyce & Stanley


The Abbots Bromley Girls School Choir


Simon Penfold and Lamont Howie


Rt Revd Jonathon Gledhill (C of E) and Archbishop Vincent Nichols (Diocese of Birmingham, UK)


Stoke -on-Trent Methodist Singers


Representatives from Local Churches


Fr. Peter Weatherby (pictured below) does happen to have feet but they mysteriously disappeared before this photograph was taken….if you find them please return them to Sacred Heart Catholic Church. No reward will be given, but a blessing might be…


So, what was all the fuss about on March 12th?

Here’s the text I wrote to accompany the photos for the diocesan newspaper:

‘In Praise of God’ is the longest running faith service that is broadcast on any local radio station within the whole of the UK. The weekly faith programme is transmitted by BBC Radio Stoke and is recorded in churches and worship places throughout Staffordshire and Cheshire. It provides an invaluable service to the community, particularly to those who are sick, elderly or housebound and to all who are unable to participate in person, in a worship service outside the confines of their home.

At Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Hanley on March 12th 2008, a collaborative ecumenical celebration, an evening fostering Christian unity, was recorded in conjunction with BBC Radio Stoke for the 40th Anniversary of ‘In Praise of God’. The event was co-ordinated and led by Lamont Howie, the BBC Radio Stoke presenter and head of religious broadcasting. The ‘venue’ of Sacred Heart, Hanley had been specifically chosen to host this wonderful event as it has for many years enjoyed a considerable history with the local radio station, due to it having been the very parish from which BBC Radio Stoke had transmitted its first ‘faith service’ 40 years previously, during the first week of the stations launch.

Simon Penfold, a young engineer working for the radio station at the time, had suggested that BBC Radio Stoke’s first ever broadcast of a church service, be transmitted from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Hanley, where it was thought that being only a short distance from the studio, the clarity of sound and quality of the recording would be the best in the locality. Simon, who still works for BBC Radio Stoke making sure that such programmes continue all these many years later, joined us for the 40th Anniversary celebration.

In 1968, the parish priest of Sacred Heart, Hanley had been Fr Guy Coleman, and it seemed only fitting that as he had played a part in the very first broadcast, he should also play some part in the 40th Anniversary celebrations too. Via the wonders of technology, at the beginning of the service an excerpt of the original recording of Fr. Guy speaking at Sacred Heart’s very first broadcast, were played for all to hear, some of whom were gathered for the Anniversary celebration having been present when Fr. Guy had first spoken those same words, four decades earlier.

In attendance on the evening were Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Rt. Revd Jonathon Gledhill – Anglican Bishop of Lichfield, Fr. Peter Weatherby – parish priest at Sacred Heart, Hanley, the affectionately entitled ‘chain gang’, the Mayors of Stoke-on-Trent (Lord Mayor), Newcastle, Kidsgrove, Crewe and Congleton, Lamont Howie – Radio Stoke radio presenter, Sue Owen – Managing Editor of BBC Radio Stoke and representatives from local churches.

The music was of an exceedingly high standard and was provided by Boyce & Stanley, The Abbots Bromley Girls School Choir, The Leek Salvation Army Band, The Stoke-on-Trent Methodist Singers and Paul Barlow, the organist at Sacred Heart, Hanley. Jim Ward (also of Sacred Heart) conducted throughout the evening and successfully endeavoured to ensure that the evening went without a hitch. As a matter of interest, Nigel Morris, who played for the opening hymn, was organist for the first ‘In Praise of God’ recording in 1968 and is also one of the organists at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham.

At various points during the celebration, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Fr. Peter Weatherby, Bishop Jonathon Gledhill, representatives from Sacred Heart, Hanley and from other local churches led the congregation in prayer, read the readings and gave reflections on various aspects of the Christian faith. The Blessing at the end of the service was given by both Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Bishop Jonathon Gledhill (C of E), as they stood side by side.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols later wrote of the evening, to Fr. Peter Weatherby,

“I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and thought the singing was really splendid … my experience of Radio Stoke has been very positive”.

(Radio Stoke’s weekly show, ‘In Praise of God’ can be heard by tuning in to DAB & 94.6FM on Sunday mornings at 9.05am)

Writing and photography by Deborah Scalise (Sacred Heart, Hanley).

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4 Responses to 40th Anniversary of ‘In Praise of God’

  1. Tom says:

    Oh goodness, that first picture of Sacred Heart Catholic Church is absolutely beautiful!!

    It’s like a family portrait.

  2. John Bowden says:

    How wonderful! 40 years – thanks be to God for all of those who make this program possible.

  3. CO says:

    A beautiful article. Well done.

  4. mum6kids says:

    That Church is stunning. Beautiful article to go with a beautiful church.
    God pour out His blessings this Divine Mercy Sunday

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