Wednesday, 2 April 2014


It's impossible not to find Rev. utterly brilliant. It manages to be realistic, farcical, serious and incredibly funny all at the same time. Despite being primarily a comedy series, it highlights very real issues affecting the church today, such as dwindling congregations, gay marriage, financial problems, the promotion of women, the role of church schools, and trying to cohabit East End city life with other religions. The lead characters are funny because they are people with genuine human frailties rather than raucous comedy stereotypes, so they are completely believable. Tom Hollander and Olivia Colman are perfectly cast, showing how it is that an atheist and a devout Christian fell in love with one another and make their marriage work, come what may. They find looking after their new baby as exhausting and emotionally overwhelming as the rest of us. As for the scary characters, and by this I mean the bishops and archdeacons (rather than the homeless people with mental health and substance abuse issues who are forever ringing the doorbell at the vicarage), they are subtle with their menace, yet truly terrifying. Plus it’s nice to see Miles Jupp, as the intolerant lay reader, do something other than panel shows and playing Archie the Inventor in Balamory

The church playing the part of St Saviour By The Marshes looks like so many I have wandered past in London over the years – in Kennington, Shoreditch, Camden and Waterloo. It’s that Wren style of narrow tower and steeple over a Greek style portico, with sides built of brown brick. (Look at me, trying to pretend I know something about architecture.) The only one of these churches I have been inside, St John The Evangelist opposite Waterloo station near the IMAX cinema, was when I sang Mozart’s Requiem and Bach's St John Passion in concerts with Morley College Choir. Our choirmaster wore biker leathers and had a pathological hatred of John Eliot Gardiner. One particularly doddery bass (known uncharitably to everyone as Old Man) came with a minder and insisted on singing a third of an octave below the rest of his section. Halfway through the Bach concert, he stood up to take a photo of the audience, with a camera that was about as subtle as the one Martin Crane uses at Freddie’s bar mitzvah in Frasier. Old Man had dressed up, and was sporting several medals on his jacket lapel - medals which were not for armed services bravery in a bygone war, but rather for being a blood donor. The concert was a disaster, and the beer afterwards left me slightly hysterical.

I was a member of a London church congregation for approximately one month, the month when my future husband and I had to get our wedding banns read out in our Crouch End parish. The parish boundaries were rather strange, so instead of going to the rather grand looking church on Tottenham Lane that we could see from our flat, we had to walk up the hill behind us and down towards Finsbury Park, to a building that didn’t look much more permanent than a Portakabin and contained such a heady odour of incense mixed with fustiness and decay that it knocked you sideways. It was a thoroughly depressing place. The congregation was about 60% Afro-Caribbean, but with none of the colour and gospel exuberance you could hear ringing out from other local churches on Sundays. The other 40% of the congregation were couples wanting their wedding banns read out. The priest didn’t seem to like any of us. We did the legal necessities, stayed for a cup of tea and a stale bun, and never went back.

My husband says I should also write about a New Year’s Eve we once spent in the company of three gay vicars on a rooftop in Knaresborough. But given the difficulties faced by Rev Adam Smallbone when wishing to conduct a gay marriage of two close friends, until the church demonstrates a more universally enlightened attitude, I will keep quiet for now.

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