Huntsville’s religious community around town and in the prison system will soon be spotlighted halfway across the world. Pippa Quelch and two of her colleagues from BBC Radio Devon, have been in Huntsville for the past week putting together material for their weekly religious program.

“It’s sort of news and current affairs going on in the religious world,” Quelch said of the radio show. “I interview people about their faith and their thoughts on God and the afterlife. There’s a lot of traditional hymn music that we play, and occasionally gospel.”

While she put a strong focus on religion in the prison system, Quelch also surveyed the community as a whole, comparing worship in Huntsville to worship in her hometown of Plymouth, England.

“I’ve been interviewing a lot of the local faith community, just to try and get some kind of insight on how people here worship,” Quelch said. “There’s a lot more religion in this city than the city I come from, Plymouth. People have very strong views here about their religion and their faith. They’re not ashamed to say that they have a faith.

“In Plymouth, people keep quiet about it. They’ll go to church on Sunday, but for the rest of the week, they pretty much keep it to themselves.”

Quelch came up with the idea from one of her colleagues, Sister Maria Barber, who was writing to a death row inmate, Ron Chambers.

“Ron’s got a very strong faith, so I thought it would be interesting to speak to someone on death row and how they could cope with the emotions that they must have, after such a long stay, knowing that at some point, the end will come,” Quelch said.

One of the things Quelch discovered was how many prisoners, regardless of what they may have been done in their past, had an incredibly strong faith.

“We were talking to a lot of people about that today,” Quelch said. “The chaplains say that some people come into prison with a faith, some people discover a faith in there, some people discover they don’t have a faith after thinking they had one. All of them seem to want to talk and there’s a lot of faith within the prison.”

Even when prisoners are unable to congregate for church service, Quelch said they find ways to share with their fellow believers.

“I was talking to one of the chaplains this morning who said, ‘The catch is that the prison itself becomes a church for the prisoners who believe.’” Quelch said. “They share scriptures themselves through the cells and through the cell doors.”

What she is hoping her listeners will get from the program is to have a more open mind on how the world around them views religion.

Even though believers in each country may worship the same God, she said, they go about doing it in different ways.

“Through the interviews and through what people have had to say, they’ll see the differences between Britain and here in the States,” Quelch said. “Certainly the thing I wanted to achieve from this, right from the start, was to get people to think about things they don’t normally think about, i.e. the death penalty. It’s not an issue that we consider in our daily lives, so it’s a quite challenging subject.”

To learn more about Quelch, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/local_radio/ and click on the “Who’s On Air” and “BBC Radio Devon Presenter A to Z” links.

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