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Songs of Praise to reflect changing Church

Sunday's new format for Songs of Praise has seen a relaunch for the popular Christian worship show, first broadcast in 1961 ...

Songs of Praise has dropped its traditional format of an Anglican service recorded in a cathedral, parish, or other church. Each edition will now feature a range of churches, locations, congregations, and choirs.

The BBC's head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, said a "different form of Christianity" had emerged in the UK.

The show will also change to a magazine format that reflects what the programme describes as the reality of Christian faith across the country. And it's not the first makeover for the programme, first broadcast in 1961.

Over the years, the face of Christianity in Britain has changed significantly, along with the UK's population, and the programme's audience has aged. It is now in its mid-70s.

In contrast, increased immigration – for example from Eastern Europe – has led to the growth of younger congregations, such as those at Catholic churches and at Pentecostal and black majority churches.

Mr Ahmed said: "At the heart of this, really, is the fact that Christianity has changed in Britain.

"Songs of Praise has been going for over 53 years, and no TV show can stay the same for ever."

He added: "We want to appeal to a different Christian audience, who may not necessarily have seen themselves every week on Songs of Praise in the past. Sometimes you have to find a way of reaching out to that audience to say, 'this really is for you.'"

In the new format, rather than going to one church a week, the programme will feature music performances from various different denominations, and different presenters for some of the segments.

Sunday's show was presented by Connie Fisher (pictured above), the Welsh singer who won the BBC One show, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

It included a segment presented by Paralympian Ade Adepitan, and seven songs broadcast from different venues, including a Catholic cathedral, a Pentecostal church, and a Salvation Army training college.

The change was welcomed by the Church of England's director of communications, the Reverend Arun Arora, who said: "The new format will welcome in something about people living out [their] faith, day to day, week to week, not just on a Sunday – and how their faith informs their approach to life and how their faith transforms lives."

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