Alan’s name appeared on a mailing list that came in this morning. Fifteen or more years ago, does he still remember a Wednesday night in a studio in east Belfast?
It was decided that an interview with an African church leader who was in the Province might make an interesting piece for a programme on a local radio station. It was intended to be a ‘colour’ piece, an insight into the man’s life and ministry, some stories of his experiences. Alan was engineer for the recording.
Before going into the studio, we explained to our visitor what it was we sought – just tell us something about himself and his ministry. He nodded in agreement.
He sat one side of the octagonal baize table at which interviews and discussions were recorded, the headphones went on, the sound checks were done, and the recording began.
The actual recording stopped five minutes later. Out of the corner of the eye, I saw Alan, in the control room, throw up his hands, not realizing at that point he had actually stopped the tape. Assuming the tape to be still running, I made repeated efforts to break into the flow of the visitor’s words; he ignored me and carried on. It wasn’t even interesting – a disjointed sequence of hectoring and sermonising.
After twenty-five minutes, the monologue ceased. Our producer came through the door; thunder would not have described his mood.
“This will not do. We stopped recording after five minutes. We will try again, and this time it will be as we discussed”.
The visitor was indignant. “I think my way is the best way. The Lord gives me the words to say”.
The producer, a very firmly evangelical Christian, responded in kind, “We are doing things my way, I know about broadcasting and I’m the producer”.
The visitor seemed to sulkily concede check mate. We did a second recording; it wasn’t good, I remember not one word of it now.
As the visitor left, he began again to complain bitterly, “I think my way would have been the best way, I know about such things”.
Alan sat in the control room, studiously avoiding any involvement in the conversation.
The incomprehension of that evening was perhaps a taste of the sort of incomprehension of many bishops at the Lambeth Conference, many have no understanding of what it means to engage with a post-modern, post-Christian European society. They still believe that if one presents a series of propositions loudly enough, people will listen and obey what is said.
Alan would tell them that he stopped listening after five minutes, and if he, a friend and sympathiser has stopped, then who is left to hear?