Connecting with Culture
Our blog reflecting on weekly news, trends, innovation, and the arts...
On a breezy winter’s day back in February, we hopped over to Soho to meet Heather Wall, producer at Jazz FM. She’s a Christian in a workplace that isn’t – a frontline where it takes confidence to live boldly as a follower of Jesus. And for her, ‘living boldly’ can mean all sorts of things. Because it’s a varied life, being in radio…
‘The role of producer changes almost every day,’ she says. ‘For some shows you have very little involvement, and for others you could be doing literally everything exceptspeaking into the mic. Although this is a very supportive office, over the years in various places I’ve seen how insecurity can have a really negative impact on work culture. I’d love to be so secure in my Christian identity, so confident in what I’m doing and who I am in Jesus, that that can be a witness.
‘So much of working in media is having to prove yourself, and it’d be very refreshing to not have to feel like that. To live in the freedom God has for us: that’s my aspiration.’
For Heather, living out her faith confidently at work is about more than just the words she says.
‘I used to see witnessing as being all about conversations on faith, but in reality I’m creating a whole picture with my time, forming people’s view of what I think God is like. When I joined this company, I heard about a former colleague who was a Christian, and his reputation was that he was always buying rounds at the pub. He was known for being generous – how cool is that? I seek to continue his legacy.
‘It’s also about being honest. Our national culture often puts less value on integrity than God does – there’s no grey area in his view. So that’s a practical way I can make a difference day by day, dealing honestly with my colleagues and guests.’
But confident discipleship goes even further than that. It’s not only the way you behave while you do your job that matters; it’s the work itself. And if you’re a producer at Jazz FM, there’s a clear link between your faith and your job.
‘I know God is creative and loves the arts – so it would be weird for there not to be Christians here. My job brings joy and entertainment. It helps people rest, it lifts their spirits, it might even help them work well! And I’m also helping the artists we feature – giving them an opportunity to connect to listeners. I get to champion great, godly music every day.
‘Something I’ve been thinking about as well is the “moral obligation” in my creative output. Media is storytelling. It’s where we get our ideas, so it’s so key to have Christians shaping those. For example, I recently did a documentary on Charles Mingus, who had a reputation for being “the angry man of jazz”. Although there were several stories of him lashing out at people, it was an opportunity to challenge a reductionistic title for a passionate, funny man who was forced to operate within the confines of structural racism.
‘I managed to get his son to do an interview and speak about the conflict and depression that underpinned his temper. It was great to be able to make the programme and challenge that racism, to present Mingus in a different light. It was a real opportunity to work out my faith through my work – because God hates racism.
‘I’m also always keen to chat to musicians about how faith has impacted their work. Many of them have an interest in spiritual matters, particularly as jazz has strong roots in church music. There’s a lot of depth and study that goes into jazz, which brings out opportunities to talk about something deeper.’
Despite all this copious evidence of God working through her, when I ask Heather how she feels about her faith-confidence, she’s less than… confident. It’s often easier to spot other people’s Christlike actions than your own – so what advice does she have for how we can grow our own certainty about God’s presence with us and interest in our daily tasks?
‘Time is really helpful – you grow as you go. And I really do believe that consistent Bible reading and prayer need to underpin everything. But you’ve got to be gentle with yourself, too, because we’re always going to fail from time to time. I read Nehemiah 8 today, and in it everyone starts weeping because they’re so convicted – but then Nehemiah says ‘do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength’. In the same way, reading the Bible can cause us a lot of worry, but it also gives us reason to hope.
‘Ultimately, God moves in his time. One of my old colleagues at a previous job was a freelancer, and on his first day here, we sang happy birthday to someone and I invited him to join in – and he told me he’d never been included like that before.We’re most impactful when we don’t even know it.’