Church elder prepares to take Britain’s largest Sunday service this weekend

Broadcaster, writer and Church elder Anna Magnusson presented the recent Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4 to an audience of around 1.75 million listeners on Mothering Sunday. The programme, titled ‘A Pearl of Great Value’, offered Anna the opportunity to draw on her personal experience to share her faith as part of BBC Radio 4’s special Lent series.

Anna Magnusson
Church elder, writer and broadcaster Anna Magnusson, who is taking the 'Sunday Worship' programme on BBC Radio 4

Anna says she has no desire to take the place of a minister in the pulpit, but in both her professional life and her church she has found alternative settings to explore and share her faith. The Church is encouraging members to take on more active worship roles, and Anna’s experience may help to inspire others to consider what they might be able to achieve.

"I believe it’s a matter of diversity," says Anna, who became a member of Glasgow’s Kelvinside Hillhead congregation around 20 years ago. "Ours is a big Victorian church, but I have always been drawn to the small in the midst of this size. For many years, as well as the big Sunday morning services, we’ve had evening meetings in small groups with one of us leading the meditation. We share this with other churches in our area. Now that the Church of Scotland minister numbers are reducing, I don’t see any alternative to embracing this diversification in how we worship and share our faith."

Anna, who is drawn from a famous broadcasting family, is a regular contributor to faith programmes across the BBC, including Thought for the Day, Prayer for the Day and Sunday Worship. "My broadcasting has always been informed by my faith, but it’s driven by wanting to share my personal experience with other people. The joys, the suffering and loss, the relationships of life, the search for meaning – these are universal human experiences, and also deeply religious quests. I’ve been lucky to be able to develop my approach to this kind of programme-making, particularly with BBC Radio Scotland."

This Sunday, Anna’s programme will take the theme ’What we receive we treat as ours’. "I’m looking at the ways we care and love. At its core, Christianity overturns our notions of who should care for whom, and how we should serve each other. This is what Jesus challenges in washing the feet of his disciples. As it’s Mothering Sunday, I’ll be reflecting on how, in later years, many of us ‘mother our mothers’ through old age and illness. In caring for our parents, we’re giving back something of what we have received. "

Anna says she appreciates the tensions facing the church over the need to preserve the Sunday church worship service, which remains the most important part of many members’ week, while at the same time trying to develop other opportunities for worship. "My experience, both professionally and personally, is that many, many lay people have great spiritual insight and strong stories to share about their faith. Churches should be encouraging them, and developing ways to build flexible worship around that."

If you are interested in resources for leading worship you can find them on the Worship section of our website.