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Cutting edge Christians: success, risks and BBC3

BBC3-2009-PromotionThe decision to take BBC3 off our TV screens and instead create an internet based channel has caused Rev Suzanne Cooke, founder of Soul Circus, to consider how Christians approach failure and how this impacts our willingness to be cutting edge.  

The TV channel BBC3 has become the latest victim of the change in our viewing habits.  BBC3, launched in 2003 has been the channel through which BBC TV has tried to attract and appeal to the elusive 14-35 year old viewing public.  Clearly the viewing figures have not been as they needed to be because it was recently announced that BBC3 is to be the first TV channel broadcast entirely through the internet, or more accurately the BBC’s iPlayer facility. 

iPlayer has always been at the cutting edge of TV broadcasting and was the first “catch-up TV” service of its kind when it was first launched back in 2007.  It will now be the first to release new TV series directly onto the internet, through the now internet based BBC3.

The BBC’s decision to change direction, to discard something that wasn’t working and try something new could well be seen as a huge failure.   Some would say that the BBC has wasted taxpayers money, investing huge amounts in a TV station that has failed to achieve what it set out to.  And in many ways those voices would be right – BBC3 is clearly not being watched in great enough numbers and has subsequently been pulled from our TV screens. 

But what interests me about all this is the BBC’s willingness, to radically rethink its strategy, making judgments about what works, discarding and moving on from that which doesn’t.  And as the channel designed to air all that was new and innovative from the BBC it seems to me that it is only right that BBC3 should be at the cutting edge of TV broadcasting even now representing the latest in media thinking.  

The ‘cutting edge’ is a risky place to be – the place where nothing is set in stone, where lines are blurred and ever changing, where goal posts have a tendency to move.  In this place failure comes as part of the scenery; if you are constantly trying new things, it becomes inevitable that some of them will work and some of them won’t – some of them will succeed and some of them will fail.

But this more creative approach to ‘failure’, as a process to be learned from – to grow out of, is something British culture is often unwilling to tolerate, choosing instead the comfortable life where we stick with what we know, what we are almost certain will work, where the voices of discontent are quietist.   However, such lack of willingness to take risks has fed an attitude that breeds an intolerance of failure in ourselves and others.  In our churches it can make us resistant to change and suspicious of those with new and creative ideas.

But learning and growing from our mistakes and failings has surely to be a fundamentally Christian process - one which could be said to be central to life as a follower of Christ; for certainly every time we come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper we are invited to make our confession before God, admit our failings, accept forgiveness and move forward in the love and service of all.   Importantly, this process is repeated EVERY time we come together for Communion, encouraging us all to humbly acknowledge the inevitability of our ongoing ‘failure’ and hopefully look forward to the unconditional opportunity to start afresh, made new by God’s love for us. 

For me Communion mirrors and enacts, much of that which most challenges us in life and as Jesus offers us life in all its fullness I believe we are, in our discipleship, invited to push the boundaries of who we are and what we do, knowing that there will be moments when we get it wrong and fail but believing that that is exactly where we are meant to be.

Photo: Promotional trailer aired on BBC3 in 2009

Rev Suzanne Cooke is the Priest in Charge of the Upper Tas Valley Benefice and the founder of Soul Circus, a regular creative, experimental service supported by the Diocese of Norwich and the Youth Task Force.  You can find out more at www.soulcircus.org.uk

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