Sunday, 6 November 2011

Not so great - Rev

I’ve returned to Blighty after a couple of weeks away to much excitement on the Christian blogs and in the Twittersphere about the return of the sitcom Rev. Clearly many people enjoyed the first series and are looking forward to what the new series has to offer. I have to confess I am rather more ambivalent about the programme.

revFirstly I ought to say I think Tom Hollander is a brilliant actor and plays the part of the Rev Adam Smallbone with a well judged balance of empathy and comedy. I recognise some of the characters and scenarios played out in the first series having served in an East London parish. There is a real appreciation of some of the challenges, frustrations and dilemmas of urban ministry. I’ll leave aside mention of some of the predictable inaccuracies which are used to help drive the plot; if you know anything about the C of E you’ll have spotted them.

However, the problem I have is with the ministry offered by Rev Smallbone. Put quite simply, I haven’t a clue what Good News Adam has to share with his parishioners. He seems to live out an incarnational ministry devoid of any sense of joy or hope. Watching the first series of Rev. I was often left feeling frustrated and miserable and the reason is that I couldn’t see where God entered the situation. I hardly ever heard any articulation of the gospel, or a gospel, nor was there much about worship and hardly any sense of Adam’s own relationship with God expressed in a devotional life.

One of the great strengths of the Church of England is that it has maintained a presence in communities that have been abandoned by just about everyone else, but maintaining a presence isn’t enough. The incarnate Jesus came that we might have life and life in abundance. I hope that in the second series of Rev. we might glimpse something of what that abundant life might look like.

I’ve just spent two weeks meeting with Christians living in conditions that make the parish Smallbone serves look like a cosy suburb so perhaps my perspective is somewhat distorted. Yet, having witnessed the vibrant faith and sense of mission of those with so little I’m left wondering why these aspects of ministry are missing from Rev.?


Gill said...

Is there any difference in view between the ordained & laity on your readings / twitter gatherings?

Warning in advance: I'm biased. I loved Rev. Absolutely loved it. It was the highlight of my week; this was partly down to the fabulousness of Olivia Coleman and the evil archdeacon, but not entirely.

I grant you the series wasn't overflowing with joy, but it didn't matter to me. I saw hope in it - the hope in sharing morning prayer with an ex-colleague, the hope in the humanity of the characters, for all their failings, the hope that the church would carry on after the invasion of the "awesome" HTB parody in the second episode - which was my favourite, for all sorts of reasons I shan't bore you with.

There was great joy in mischief throughout the series, and hope at the end of the last episode, where Adam might have found his vocation again. "Who shall we send?" "Erm, here I am. Erm, send me." was a decent description of my faith, and maybe the faith of a few others who are not habitually full of joy, or certainty, or conviction that we have any purpose in serving Christ.

Also, to this non-ordained person, the last episode looked like an eminently possible crisis of faith.

I'm just sad that they won't be able to include any of the St Paul's goings on. This time, anyway.

Tim Chesterton said...

Phil, I hope you're getting some extra traffic, because every time I tell people that I'm not keen on 'Rev' and they ask me why, I send them a link to this post!

Thanks for articulating what I'd been quietly feeling for a while. Adam seems to have nothing more than human love to offer, and that's an intolerable burden for the minister. And he can't help but feel resentful about it, hence his anger and misery. In my experience people don't usually respond well to a miserable minister!