The next chapter in the extraordinary life of Cindy Kent

Cindy Kent has had an extraordinary life in the UK. She began singing with the popular British group, The Settlers, in the early 60s and toured the UK and many parts of the world for 11 years until 1973. During that time, she and the group often performed on stage with Sir Cliff Richard.

I remember once attending a radio broadcast in London during which Sir Jimmy Savile introduced her as "the girl with the unsettling legs" which brought the house down. The program was called "Speakeasy", (theme; "Yakety Yack" by the Coasters) and was an hour long young peoples' uninhibited discussion programm hosted by the highly eccentric Savile, interspersed with music which often included The Settlers. The unique show dealt with serious issues such as war, education, health and religion and politics.

Cindy (while with The Settlers) also had a hit record called "The Lightning Tree", which was the signature tune for the hit British TV series, "Follyfoot".

But then Cindy, who comes originally from West Bromwich in the English Midlands, left the group to "pursue other avenues".

In a complete change of career, she "fell in love" with radio and moved into broadcasting initially with BBC Radio 4, presenting features on the "Sunday Programme", a national show that covered all kinds of aspects of religious life in Britain.

After a time, BBC Radio 2 created an early Sunday morning slot which is now called "Good Morning Sunday" which she then hosted. After that she co-presented BBC Radio 1's show called "Talkabout".

Around this time, commercial broadcasting was finally emerging from the shadows in Great Britain, and Cindy helped to pioneer religious broadcasting at LBC and Capital Radio in London.

During that time, I would slip out on a Friday afternoon from my job at the Sunday People newspaper, and work with Cindy (and others) on the LBC show and do some of the interviews.

Cindy then moved north and presented a late-night programme at Radio Hallam, a commercial station in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
She also presented programmes on Tyne Tees Television in the Tyneside area of North East England.

Cindy wrote some of the tunes, with lyrics by David Winter, the former head of BBC radio religious broadcasting, for the Tees TV series, "Life With Johnny".

This was one of 25 songs that she and others wrote for the series.
Besides all of this, Cindy would also take time out to train others in media and presentation skills and ran the "Media Awareness Project" for the Mothers' Union, an international Christian charity that seeks to support families worldwide. Its members are not all mothers or even all women, as there are many parents, men, widows, singles and grandparents involved in its work. It main aim is to support marriage and family life, especially through times of adversity.

Then in 1995 came a breakthrough for Christian broadcasting in the UK when Premier Christian Radio, after a long battle with the British government, managed to secure a broadcasting license for London. Cindy was the first presenter they signed up and, during her long career with them, she has presented many different programmes and is currently is hosting "Premier Tonight with Cindy Kent" from 11pm to 1am.

Now she is entering into the next chapter of her life - as a Priest-in-Charge of an Anglican church in England.

I asked Cindy to tell me some of the highlights of her long and multi-faceted career.

"One of the highlights from the band days was touring with Cliff (now Sir Cliff) Richard on his first Gospel Music concerts in many parts of Europe and the UK - including one wonderful evening at the Royal Albert Hall where we helped raise money for the then new charity, Tearfund," she recalled.

Cindy then talked about some of the experiences she had during her time in broadcasting.

"I was about to go on the air when 9/11 happened and we had to abandon normal programming so we could react to the events as they unfolded," she told me.

"As I was on the air, I got an e-mail from a lady in the US who had been listening to us and was grateful that I'd got some of our guests to pray as she said she didn't feel able to do so.

"I can also remember waking up early on Sunday, August 31, 1997, to hear the sad news that Princess Diana had died and I rushed into the studio to help co-ordinate a response and then I was on-air for about six hours straight! As I drove home, I cried all the way in the car as the news sunk in."

Cindy's most recent on-air "gig" has been hosting the late-night phone-in show with Premier Christian Radio. She recalls what happened one one night when she was doing a show with the topic of forgiveness.

"A woman called in to tell us that she had just had a big row with her husband and was asking for advice and then, just before the end of the show, the husband rang and apologised to his wife live on-air," she said.

Cindy then revealed that she had "offered" herself for ordination in the Church of England about 16 years ago, but was originally not accepted.

"However, the idea didn't go away and I began training with the University of Wales Lampeter to be a Lay Reader, which means you're licensed to preach in the Church of England," she told me. "During that training the ordination vocation idea resurfaced and this time I was accepted.

"I did three years night school training with Kent University and was ordained as a deacon in 2008 and then, a year later, ordained a priest. The way it works is that you serve as a deacon for a year as a sort of an apprentice, and then and then you get ordained as a priest, which I did in 2009.

"I am currently a non-stipendiary (non-paid) Assistant Curate at St John the Apostle church in Whetstone, North London, as well as a presenter on Premier. I help with Sunday services both preaching and Celebrating the Eucharist and I am part of the multi-faith Chaplaincy team at the local hospice. I also help in other ways in the Parish.

"My Priest is retiring in September and the Diocese has decided not to replace him with a full time incumbent - so they've asked me to be Priest-in-Charge for five years with what's called a 'house for duty.' In other words - no pay - but you do get the house and, in return, you give the Church two days a week and all day Sunday.

"Although this is an unpaid job, I am taking it as a step of faith. I believe God has called me to do this and that He will provide. Most people in my position never get the chance to have their own church, and so I'm really excited at the prospect of furthering the mission and work of the church.

"Sadly it means me leaving Premier's full time employment as the programme hours I do at the moment don't fit in with what's required of me at the church, as the Vicar is expected to conduct a 9 am assembly every Tuesday at the Church School and that's difficult to do when you don't get home until 2 am! I shall also be on-call at the hospice and for needs in the Parish.

"I am sad to be leaving Premier after all these years. It's been great to have been part of a 'trail blazing' organisation, but I feel this is right. I'm talking to them about continuing to do some free-lance work as I don't want to stop broadcasting altogether!"

Cindy added, "It also seems the right time for moving on and out of this house where I've lived since my marriage in 1973. My ex-husband, Jack, died at the start of the year and very soon (August 7, 2010) I shall hit 65. I feel God is moving me on to the next phase of my life. I'm excited and scared in equal measures!

"My son, James, is very happy to stay in the family home and look after it for me during the next five years. He is choirmaster at the church that I used attend and then, who knows what will happen? 'In God's economy, nothing is wasted' and I feel that all that I'm doing now is a fulfillment of all I've done in the past."

Cindy concluded by saying, "I feel so privileged to have done so many things and I'm currently working on a book about it all."

So now, the pop-star cum-broadcaster, has become the Rev. Cindy Kent. I wonder what the next move will be after that? It certainly will have to be something spectacular to top what she has already done in her more than six-decades of life on this earth.

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