The Big Questions: Pam Rhodes
Pam Rhodes is an English television presenter best known for presenting the BBC television long-running religious series Songs of Praise.
Over the past 20 years with Songs of Praise, Pam has conducted high profile interviews and meetings with the Pope, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, Lord Lloyd Webber, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and members of the Royal Family.
Happiest in her wellies pottering about in the garden, Pam loves singing, plays the piano very badly when she thinks no-one's listening - and can turn her hand to a mean party piece on the concert xylophone when really pressed!
Find below Pam's answers to some of our questions!
Name: Pam Rhodes
Selfie in words: I have been one of the presenters of BBC Television's 'Songs of Praise' programme for more than thirty years which, for me, has never stopped being the most fulfilling and inspirational experience a journalist could ever have.
What’s your Faith background? I grew up in a traditional Church of England family who didn’t go to church all that often, but made sure that I heard about the stories of the Bible at home, at Sunday School and in school assemblies where Christian worship and hymn singing was always the start to every school day.
Unusual talent? Years ago, I learned to play the concert xylophone, and can still bash out an impressive party piece with sticks flying at great speed!
Three things still on your Bucket list:
As a child, I taught myself to play the piano, and ended up being reasonably proficient in a very amateurish way, although I’ve not owned a piano for years now. I’d love to learn to play really well – one of these days when I’m doing nothing…
Apart from just reading piano music, I’d really love to be able to busk – in other words, play any melody I fancy by ear without needing the notes in front of me. I’ve always wanted to be the person playing for a singalong at parties or family gatherings.
As a writer, my working life revolves round technology and computer skills – and yet I reckon the average 8 year old knows more than me when anything goes wrong! Are they born with a computer chip in their brains, I wonder?! I wish I understood more about the things I do wrong, so that I could avoid making so many mistakes when I’m trying to do something a bit out of the ordinary on a computer.
Any strange phobias? I have always hated the feel of wood, especially wood that has been planed or sawed on. Lollipop sticks are a particular nightmare. If I have an ice lolly, I always keep the stick cocooned in the wrapper, and go without the last few mouthfuls so that I don’t have to make contact with the lolly stick! Weird, eh?
From across all history which three people would you invite for dinner and why?
Jesus Christ – for so many reasons – but I would much rather be at a dinner HE was at 2000 years ago, than have Him join me round my table now. That’s because I would so love to hear what he ACTUALLY said on so many subjects. We have such pearls of wisdom translated and handed down through the generations, but there will have been countless variations and options in the translation of certain words. I would like to sit quietly and listen, and perhaps even have chance to ask questions myself. What could possibly be a better experience than that?
I am a complete anorak about hymn writers, and the much-loved and inspirational words they have created down the years until the present day. My absolute favourite writer, though, is Charles Wesley. The theological accuracy of his writing is awe-inspiring. The poetry of his words still rings with beauty and feeling today. Most of all, though, he is one of the first writers to express his personal relationship with God in his hymn texts. When he used words like ‘I’ and ‘me’, his brother John often felt Charles was being over-emotional and too familiar in his language to God – but surely this emotional, devoted man has created a legacy of deeply personal hymn texts which touch our souls today just as much as they flowed from his soul then.
Some years ago, SONGS OF PRAISE sent me to Istanbul, formerly the great harbour city of Constantinople, to learn about the work a young Florence Nightingale did during the Crimean War in the hospital there. She was shocked by the number of young British soldiers who were dying not from battle wounds, but from infection – and when she came home inspired to campaign for better standards in infection control in British hospitals, she brought back with her an infection of her own that robbed her of her health and energy levels. But nothing could stop this powerhouse of a campaigner, who wrote so many letters to the authorities of the time that, in the end, they had to listen to her. From her sick bed, she changed the face of health care in our country in a way which still benefits us all today. What a woman! What an inspiration to recognise that, whatever our limitations, we can still make a difference! I’d have loved to meet her – and if she came to dinner, I’d have to make sure the cutlery was scrupulously clean!
What keeps you believing in God? The way in which our prayers are answered in ways we sometimes don’t ever recognise – that is one of the most compelling reasons for my belief in God. Whether that prayer is shared together by millions watching a programme like SONGS OF PRAISE, or a lone cry of despair in the middle of the night, He hears – and responds in ways that are not always clear to us immediately, but become plain when viewed with hindsight. Prayer is profound and powerful – and the countless examples of answered prayers in our everyday lives make my belief in God certain and inevitable.
Who has inspired you most on your faith journey and why? Quite the opposite of there being just one person who has inspired my journey of faith, I have been inspired by hundreds of people, especially through SONGS OF PRAISE, when people I’ve met have shared so generously their own experience of God’s presence in their lives. Their wonder and commitment as a result of what they’ve been through, and their wish to pass on what they’ve discovered of the power and presence of God, has deeply enhanced my own faith.
What springs to mind when you think of Methodists? Born in song – and able to sing with natural ease in four-part harmony! You can always rely on enthusiastic and emotive singing from a congregation of Methodists with great hymns of praise that have the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end! Wonderful!
What’s your advice for the church in 2018? Don’t be complacent. Nowadays in school, children are taught academically about the whole range of world faiths – so although they may know the nuts and bolts of Christianity, they often don’t have contact with anyone able to bring that faith alive in a way that feels relevant to them. But surely there has never been a greater need for the Christian message to be heard loud and clear? Ours is a Gospel of love, forgiveness and holding out hands of friendship to our neighbours. Even at the most basic level, those principles form the basis of settled, caring community life. The Christian message needs to be heard – and that means we must never tire of sharing the Gospel of Christ in every way we can.