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All Things Considered


Religious affairs programme, tackling the thornier issues of the day in a thought-provoking manner


Cardiff, United Kingdom




Religious affairs programme, tackling the thornier issues of the day in a thought-provoking manner




AI Emerging 1/2: Robot Helper, Robot Friend?

Rosa Hunt looks at the ethical and religious implications of AI's growing involvement in our lives. The first of two programmes looks at our relationship with AI in our daily lives. Artificial Intelligence might be our helper - can it ever be our friend? Rosa talks to: Zoe Kleinman, BBC News' technology correspondent; Hannah Rowlatt, RNIB Technology for Life coordinator for Wales; Myra Wilson, head of the intelligent robotics group at Aberystwyth University; and John Lennox, Oxford mathmetician and Christian apologist who writes about the interface of science, philosophy and religion.


All Things Considered: AI Emerging 1/2: Robot Helper, Robot Friend?

Rosa Hunt looks at the implications of AI's growing involvement in our lives.


All Things Considered: RE: Time for a Rebrand

Delyth Liddell and guests discuss the rebranded RE school curriculum in Wales.


RE: Time for a Rebrand

This September as part of the new Curriculum for Wales, students across the country will be studying a new Religious Education syllabus. The rebranded 'Religion, Values and Ethics' curriculum is being rolled out on a gradual basis, and the first pupils will take a GCESE in the subject in 2025. Rebranding one of the oldest curriculum subjects is a significant step, and to discuss the issues Delyth Liddell is joined by four guests; Mary Stallard, lead bishop for Education in the Church in Wales, Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists Coordinator, Jennifer Harding-Richards, RE Hub leader for Wales and Libby Jones from the St. Giles Centre in Wrexham. Together they discuss what is new and distinctive about this course, and how it marks a departure from the past. In Wales there's been a significant fall in students taking A-Level RE (748 entrants in 2023 compared to 1276 in 2019) and short courses GCSE entrants have decreased by 85% since 2010. Only 6 students have enrolled on a PGCE to teach Secondary RE this year. Can the new curriculum turn this rather gloomy picture around?


Pastor Mick Fleming

Today's guest is widely recognised for his hands-on ministry to people in need. During the lockdowns of the pandemic, when many churches in his home community of Burnley in Lancashire closed their doors, he offered ‘Church on the Street’; and it attracted wide media attention. Pastor Mick Fleming had previously spent decades in a life marked by hard crime and addiction. On the verge of an illegal operation, a spiritual encounter began a challenging journey: confronting past trauma and addictions, finding a new beginning with God and being called to ministry. Now, on the streets where he previously dealt drugs, he runs a network delivering hot meals, food parcels and clothing to the most vulnerable across the North West, as well as offering spiritual nourishment through weekly worship, and many other community services. His work has prompted a visit from the now Prince and Princess of Wales, and he’s just published his autobiography. Plans are also reportedly afoot for a television series based on his life story.


Sunday Best

Until a few decades ago congregations would regularly wear their smartest outfits to church or chapel every Sunday: women might wear a frock and adorn their heads with exotic hats, and men might don a sober suit and tie, and slather their hair in fragrant hair tonic. Meanwhile, such clergy as used clerical dress - and that's by no means all - tended to restrict themselves to a restricted palette of black, white and maybe grey. Nowadays, attitudes are far more relaxed among congregations; and some clergy, particularly members of the Catholic and Anglo-Catholic traditions, rejoice in wearing some fascinating vestments, full of vibrant colour and full of symbolism. Jonathan Thomas examines the complex dress codes at work among congregations and clergy in the past, and gets a feel for attitudes towards clothing today - and even gets to try on a beautiful green chasuble! Jonathan meets one of the premium makers of clerical vestments - Watts & Co - who have been involved in no fewer than five coronations (including the coronation of King Charles III (, and speaks to Bishop Mary Stallard, Bishop of Llandaff. Baptist Gethin Russell-Jones, recalls growing up under the 'Sunday Best' dress code, while Methodist minister Cathy Gale recalls the strict hat-wearing code at work when she ministered to congregations in the Caribbean. Jason Bray, vicar of St Giles church in Wrexham, explains what he wears for his very particular side-line as a 'deliverance minister'. As Rev Dr Bray explains, the contemporary relaxed dress code among congregations reflects a movement away from 'social Christianity', where church is merely a place to be seen, to an environment in which people take their spirituality seriously.


St David 900: Heresy

Delyth Liddell follows in St David's footsteps to Glastonbury, one of the most spiritually diverse places in Britain, and a community which David is said to have founded in the sixth century. David famously preached against heresy (the heresy of Pelagianism), so what what would he have made of a community that these days is home to 78 different spiritualities ... and what would they have made of him? Delyth visits the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, accompanied by an Anglo-Saxon guide - Edgar the Anglo-Saxon - and in the beautiful surviving chapel of St Patrick speaks to the Vicar of Glastonbury, Prebendary David McKeogh. That the once magnificent abbey now stands in ruins is a vivid demonstration of what happens when one orthodoxy is replaced by another, as the Reformation made heretics of former loyal Catholics, and dismissed the wonders of saintly cults such as the cult of St David. Dr Sarah White explains the nature of heresy past and present. Nowadays, Glastonbury is a more tolerant, inclusive society - Delyth visits not only a Catholic Shrine but also a pagan healing centre. Far from condemning modern pagans, many mainstream Christian denominations in the town are prepared to work alongside people who hold quite different views to their own - Vicar David McGeogh recalls fondly the occasion when he organised a funeral for an artist, and elves, pixies and druids all joined in to say the Lord's Prayer. As Methodist minister Tina Swire explains, 'Glastonbury is a place of seekers...and we are all seeking something'.


St David 900: A Day In His Life

As part of our series of programmes making the 900th anniversary of St David's international recognition, presenter and pastor Jonathan Thomas tries out a day in the life of St David. Jonathan's own contemporary religious traditions are quite different from the ancient practices of a Celtic saint. As he visits key locations in West Wales connected with David, and follows in his footsteps and practices (or their present-day equivalents) - what will he make of life lived in the style of a 6th century monk? And what will today's West Walians make of him? In this programme, Jonathan tries cold water immersion, street preaching, contemplative practices and more. Helping him along the way are St Davids' Cathedral librarian Mari James; Archdeacon of Ceredigion and dairy farmer Eileen Davis; and chaplain at the University of Wales Trinity St David, Emma Whittick. No day in the life of a saint is complete without a trusty band of followers: Jonathan is joined for part of the programme by students from Trinity St David's Lampeter Campus, and conducts some of his saintly duties in the contemplative environment of the campus' chapel, refectory and library.


St David 900: The Well-Travelled Saint

This year marks 900 years since St David’s place at the centre of Welsh identity was given international recognition by Pope Callixtus II. Two pilgrimages to St Davids, it was pronounced, were equivalent to one to Rome; a later version of this claims that three pilgrimages to the Pembrokeshire cathedral were equivalent to one pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But who really was St David, and what does he mean to us in 21st century Wales? For BBC Radio Wales, All Things Considered and Celebration are marking this anniversary during the seven weeks from St David’s Day to Easter. We’re exploring the locations connected with his story to understand what motivated him, how he’s been seen across the centuries, and what he means to us now. We’ll reflect themes linked to St David, and hear from contemporary pilgrims following in his footsteps, and we’ll worship as David did. David’s life and the stories which came to be told about him were from the very beginning shaped by an international dimension: David was given his status because of a relationship with Rome; he acquired his spiritual purpose because of a relationship with Jerusalem; his birth and upbringing involved a relationship with Brittany; while his spiritual leadership involved relationship with the whole island of Britain. In this programme Sarah Rowland-Jones investigates some deeper connections between our patron saint and the Holy City. The earliest biography of St David, written 500 years after his death, claimed that David travelled to Jerusalem and met the Patriarch, who declared him archbishop of all the the Britons. This may sound fanciful, but there is an abundance of evidence that early Christians actually did make that arduous journey to the Holy Land - not least from Britain. Not only that, David's famously austere monastic lifestyle is certainly indebted to the example set by the desert fathers, who lived in Egypt - a connection that David's earliest biographer, Rhigyfarch, explicitly acknowledges. Visiting the Garden of Gethsemane and the Old City of Jerusalem, Sarah searches for the historical context for a saint about whom so much has been written, but about whom so little is known for certain.


Hanan Issa. The National Poet of Wales

With the National Eisteddfod being held on the Lleyn Peninsula, our focus this week is poetry. Azim Ahmed is in conversation with Hanan Issa, the first female Muslim National Poet of Wales. She’s completed the first year of a three-year tenure of the post, organised by Literature Wales. Hanan Issa is proud of her dual heritage- she’s both Iraqi and Welsh and grew up in Cardiff. She’s has also made films, written short stories and is now embarking on a novel. During the programme, Hanan discusses her journey of faith, her dual heritage, Welshness, and the (long) process involved in writing poetry even before putting pen to paper. She also discusses and reads some of her work including ‘The Unsung’ a poem commissioned in her official role to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS. Hanan also speaks about her enthusiasm for 'cynghanedd' (the Welsh language poetic form in strict metre) and its use in her work. “Kicha and the Unicorn” - a short story by Hanan Issa is available on BBC Sounds The Golden Apple – a short film written and directed by Hanan Issa.


The Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph

“I want to build a church in which people can be themselves”. Delyth Liddell is in conversation with one of the most senior figures in the Anglican Church in Wales. The Right Reverend Gregory Cameron, son of a south Wales steelworker, became the 76th Bishop of St Asaph in 2009. Before his consecration, Gregory Cameron held senior roles in the worldwide Anglican Communion; at the time he was described by the Times newspaper as “arguably the most influential clergyman behind the scenes”. Before moving to St Asaph, he warned the worldwide church not to outlaw homosexuality, for fear of the destruction of their church. He has not been afraid to speak out on issues controversial for the worldwide church. When he’s not running a diocese – this year celebrating the 1450th anniversary of his predecessor - Asaph, Gregory Cameron is a best-selling writer and artist, has a long-standing interest in heraldry, noting that the Bishop of St Asaph’s coat of arms is “the most boring in Christendom". He’s even designed coins for the Royal Mint, and recently created a new flag for the city of St Asaph. In this programme, Bishop Gregory talks about his early years, his role at the Anglican Communion, his firm belief in the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, and the importance of recreation.


Caroline Leighton

Monastic life may seem remote to many. But beloved films such as the Sound of Music, documentaries, and television dramas like Call the Midwife mean that some will share an idea of what nuns are and what they do, and may even inspire a fascination and curiosity in the mysteries of a contemplative life. Today’s guest, however, has first-hand experience. Much liked the beloved Maria von Trapp, Caroline Leighton is an avid musician. A pianist, a teacher of music and a composer, with two works to be published this month by the Royal School of Church Music, her sacred output ranges from canticles to a requiem mass, along with a collection of anthems, carols, and art songs. She grew up in a busy musical household where faith was very much on the periphery. But her musical gifts led her to discover an attraction to contemplative monastic life, and through this, a deep and profound faith. After some months as a postulant in a Carmelite monastic community in Quidenham, Norfolk, she re-entered the noisy world, re-evaluating her sense of vocation, and calling. Azim Ahmed chats to Caroline about her experience, her faith, and her music.


Skanda Vale

Azim Ahmed visits one of Wales' most fascinating religious communities, now celebrating 50 years since it was founded in a peaceful corner of Carmarthenshire, near the village of Llanpumpsaint. This monastery and temple complex is devoted to worship and to service to both animal and human lives. Boasting no fewer than three elephants, the Community of the Many Names of God was established back in 1973 by a former Sri Lankan florist based in London, Guru Sri Subramanium. The Guru came to Wales guided by a vision. From unpromising beginnings - he had spotted a derelict farm for sale in the small ads of the Farmers Weekly magazine - the Guru built up a temple complex that is nowadays home to some twenty permanent members, and many more lay people and devotees. Still guided by the late Guru's vision, Skanda Vale attracts many thousands of worshippers annually, and is home not only to a human community - it is also home to numerous animals, including no fewer than three elephants!


St David 900: 5 - Pilgrimage

Fr Matthew Roche-Saunders, a Catholic priest from the parish of Aberystwyth is in Rome, following in the footsteps of faithful pilgrims across the centuries. 900 years ago this year, as recorded by the English historian William of Malmesbury, Pope Callixtus II granted a privilege to St Davids to be of significant spiritual importance for pilgrims. As part of our 'In The Footsteps of David' series of programmes celebrating our patron saint, Fr Matthew explores the act of pilgrimage, hearing from others visiting places around the globe linked to Saint David, to understand more about this journey of faith. This programme was first broadcast in April.


Gender and Identity

June is Pride Month, dedicated to celebrating people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and more, usually depicted by a plus, the inclusive symbol to mean and others, and includes people of all identities and queer communities globally. Pride is not just a celebration, it's also about protest, designed to get people thinking about acceptance, equality and deeper matters about identity. Today, we turn our attention to that very matter, considering gender. What does it mean on its most fundamental level? What did God intend? How does it make us who we are to ourselves and each other? And what of the interplay between biology, psychology and faith? Big topics and ones which can stir confusion, concern, and generate challenging questions. To help make sense of these matters, Delyth Liddell is joined by: The Bishop of Llandaff, the Very Reverend Mary Stallard Reverend John-Edward Funnell, Pastor of Noddfa, Abersychan Reverend Sarah Jones, a transgender Anglican priest and vicar of St. John's in central Cardiff and Jack Valero, founder of Catholic Voices


Churches Unlocked

This week marks the start of the 'Churches Unlocked' festival in South Wales running between the 3rd and 11th of June. During this time thirty churches will be welcoming the public for events; from bell ringing taster sessions to wildlife spotting in churchyards. With the closure rate of churches in Wales increasing, Christopher Catling, Chief Executive of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, explains why he believes it’s vital to preserve church buildings, and how he believes events like this can help. The festival’s founder Sarah Perons explains how she hopes the event will help connect communities with their historic buildings. Delyth Liddell visits three churches taking part in the festival. At Margam Abbey Mark and Ruth Greenaway Robbins show her the historic Stanton Vestments and share their vision for a welcoming inclusive church. Bev Gulley takes Delyth on her ‘Trails and Tales’ talk about the great and the good buried at the Abbey, and tells some captivating Victorian tales. At St. Cybi’s Church, Llangibi, Peter Foden leads a pilgrimage walk, ‘Camino Cybi,’ and shares the story of a wild-camping Cornish prince who founded the church in the sixth century. In Barry pupils from Oak Field Primary School show Delyth around Merthyr Dyfan church and share why they love this small sanctuary situated in the middle of residential housing estates. Emma Ackland explains how the festival has given them the boost to open the church that has been locked since the Covid pandemic, apart from for Sunday worship.


And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind

As Easter draws to a close, Christians around the world will be focussing on the Day of Pentecost which comes a week today. This major festival has been given other names too - Whit Sunday or Whitsun for short. It’s even been referred to as the birthday of the church. Coming 50 days after Christ’s Resurrection, it’s the time when (according to the dramatic account in chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles) the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. The passage continues, “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” The Holy Spirit had arrived in no uncertain terms. From then on – as the remainder of the Book of Acts relates - the disciples and their followers were inspired to go forth and set up the first churches in places like Corinth and Thessaloniki; their mission was far from easy. Down the centuries, churches have been opened and closed and indeed the landscapes of Wales and other places around the world are punctuated with neglected and derelict churches which were once proud testaments to fervent revivals. Here in Wales, many places such as Llandudno, Llantwit Major and Llanbadrig are testament to church cells founded by saints about 1500 years ago. Now, despite an increasingly secular society today, new churches are being opened with congregations growing in number. We ask why. With the help of his guests, Jonathan Thomas hears about the descent of the Holy Spirit on the very first Day of Pentecost, and its subsequent influence on new churches emerging around the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. He also explores the work of the Holy Spirit today in Pentecostal and mainstream denominations, and learns about the seeming exponential growth of neo-Pentecostal churches in south America. Our guests: Catrin Williams: Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Wales, Trinity St David. The Revd Dr Gareth Leyshon, a Roman Catholic priest and Director of Adult Education in the Archdiocese of Cardiff. The Revd Dr Jonathan Black: Lecturer in Theology at Regents Theological College of the Elim Pentecostal Church, and a minister in the Apostolic Church. Luca Sparey: an ordinand based at the Citizen Church in Cardiff. Professor Bettina Schmidt: Director of the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Centre based in Lampeter.


Muslim Mental Health

Azim Ahmed looks into some of the issues affecting mental wellbeing among the Muslim community in Wales and beyond. Whilst younger people might now be well versed in the language and lexicon of mental health, some older people may struggle to find the words to describe their mental state. In some cases, faith can be a balm for the troubled mind, but there are cases where certain religious beliefs can actually make things harder - beliefs such as attributing mental illness to the 'evil eye' or even demonic possession, for example. Attitudes are changing, but research suggests a need for sensitivity among health professionals in understanding the cultural backgrounds of some Muslim patients. And among Muslims, there's comfort in the example of the Prophet Mahommed himself, who evidently also experienced periods of low mood and anxiety, and yet was unafraid to express his feelings.


Art and Faith

Jonathan Thomas goes on a journey around Wales to meet three contemporary artists; Karen Jones in Anglesey, Mark Cutliffe in Swansea and Lois Adams in Treforest, Pontypridd. He finds out how their faith informs and inspires their art. Mark Cutliffe finds his inspiration in the outdoors and works with willow and sand. Jonathan joins him and together they create a piece of sand art on Swansea Bay. Jonathan finds out about his past as a rock musician and his personal journey to faith. We hear about his work with community groups and his firm belief that anyone can be creative, they just need to make a start. Mark runs the Essence Creative Christian Festival held each summer in Swansea. Karen Jones is a painter and lives in Waenfawr near the Snowdonia National Park. We meet her on Treaddur Bay in Anglesey where she is collecting shells to inspire a new painting. She explains how her art is influenced by the Italian mathematician Fibonacci, and how painting has helped her cope with the loss of her brother. Jonathan meets 3D artist Lois Adams at Parc Arts in Treforest, Pontypridd. Here she is exhibiting a piece in a touring exhibition "Biblical Women: Equity." The collection aims to take a fresh look at how women are depicted in the Bible by focussing on the work of female artists. Lois explains her thought proving 3D art, and shares her understanding about the role of artists to serve the community around them.


Britain's First Sheikh

Azim Ahmed looks at the extraordinary life and work of the nineteenth century Liverpool solicitor William Abdullah Quilliam. Although brought up as a Wesleyan, Quilliam would convert to Islam after a visit to Morocco. He returned with indefatigable zeal to establish a mosque in Liverpool, and to create a British version of Islam, complete with hymns and a very distinctive version of the national anthem. Quilliam used the title of 'Sheikh al-Islam' of the British Isles, a title he claimed was conferred on him by the Sultan of Turkey. Azim talks to Professor Ron Geaves of Cardiff University, and to Yahya Birt, an Islamic community historian. In addition, Azim talks to writer and historian Christina Longden, whose Cardiff-born ancestor Robert Stanley went on to become one of Quilliam's most significant converts. This programme was first broadcast in January.