St. Matthew's Episcopal


Posted on: August 21st, 2012 by Robin Jarrell

Recently, I’ve gotten fondly attached to a wonderful program on BBC (and available online through ‘hulu’) called ‘Rev.’  The show is centered around the tiny and declining parish of St. Saviour’s of the Marshes in urban London, whose Vicar (Adam Smallbone) and spouse (Alexandra) both struggle with all things Church.

It is well-written, superbly acted and directed.  The casting is nothing short of brilliant (Tom Hollander of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame is Adam Smallbone) and true anglophiles are rewarded with guest spots by such luminaries as Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort) and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey).

While the program is a comedy (and it is painfully funny at times), it does not shy away from asking profoundly Christian questions about the age in which we now find ourselves.  And the characters themselves reveal both to the faithful and the not-so-faithful what is truly human about life inside the boundaries of the institutional church.

To me this is where the show is pure genius – for we get a macroscopic view of what is the church’s real crisis (a crumbling institution, aging and absent congregations, the onslaughts of a decidedly ‘post-Christian’ world) at the same time we see the microscopic view of one parish priest in the midst of his own struggle to be faithful – to his God, to his wife (a lawyer who is not a believer, but whose social justice work rivals that of her husband), and to his parish.

Aside from the fact that we are dealing with a BBC comedy show – I can tell you that, as a priest, this comes as close to my own experience as it gets.  And it is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Some folks might find it irreverent (it’s definitely NOT a show for anyone under the age of 18), but to me, such honesty in the face of trying be faithful is refreshing.

And, in the end – for me at least – my fear is that the Institutional Church as we know it is as doomed as the Titanic. So, instead of re-arranging the deck chairs, there’s no harm in laughing at ourselves.  That may be one way to help save the ship.



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