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.
Firstly 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.?
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