Things I’ve learned from Rev

Last year, a new sitcom rocked my world. Last time I wrote about it (2 episodes into the first series), I was undecided as to whether it was a good thing or a bad, mainly thanks to its depiction of ‘my kind’ of church. By the end of the series it was a firm favourite, and major excitement resulted from spotting Revd and Mrs Smallbone at Greenbelt just a couple of months later.

It’s still a little controversial. Some church friends hate it and only watch it because it’s classic Water Cooler chat at their Vicar School; others think it presents a very one-sided view of the church; others think it perfectly captures the strains, stresses and hilariousness of vicar life. My family have weekly discussions around every episode, with my sister saying just the other day “I thought I’d had a normal childhood yet it seems to make an excellent BBC sitcom…” – I couldn’t agree more.

When series two finally showed up last month, a lot of things had changed in my world. As I said on Twitter as episode 1 began, “Last time I watched Rev I was a normal individual & it was fun; now I’m a trainee vicar…it’s terrifying”. Tonight, the last episode of the series (and Christmas special) aired, and I’ve finished my first term of training. In some ways, Rev has taught me more* than a term of Vicar School has…

Episode 1:

  • Never have a meeting with your Archdeacon in a sauna.
  • The Church of England would be a much more exciting place if all bishops were in fact Ralph Fiennes.
  • Anything worthy in the church (like going on a day trip) involves a lot of paperwork.

Episode 2:

  • I now aspire to be a hot, intellectual and intimidating curate. According to my father, all I need to do to achieve this (aside from making it to ordination) is improving my piano playing skills.
  • There needs to be further debate in the church over the public versus private baptism debate. Colin should have been baptised in front of the rest of the congregation (as Canon Law dictates).

Episode 3:

  • All dioceses do actually have diocesan exorcists. (But it is ok to do the odd house blessing yourself, should the need arise.)
  • I am finally thankful for my traumatic viewing of The Exorcist some years ago, as it meant that I got all the jokes and references in the episode – other wannabe vicars should go and do likewise.
  • Cassocks aren’t useful clothing during heat waves.

Episode 4:

  • Football is not a good forum for conducting inter-faith relations.
  • The Dragonfly story is apparently the only acceptable way to explain heaven to primary school children. [Just before Adam began to tell it, I had a sudden flashback to being told a weird story about dragonflies when someone died at school – hadn’t thought about it in 2 decades – so was rather surprised that the BBC used the exact same story!]
  • Cycling vicars (clad in all the appropriate safety gear) do nowt for the reputation of the clergy.

Episode 5:

  • Don’t steal from prospective parishioners – even if they’re stoned, loaded, or Richard E. Grant.
  • Archdeacon inspections are, in fact, a bigger deal than I realised. [Within days of this episode our parish’s forthcoming inspection became a big deal.]
  • “Pray quietly Vicar!” is something to bear in mind at all times.

Episode 6:

  • Not everyone finds the BAP (Bishop’s Advisory Panel) acronym as amusing as my friends and I do. I couldn’t believe the BBC didn’t make any reference to it…
  • Those who don’t get through the aforementioned BAP should be kept away from church roofs.
  • There are parishioners who like nothing more than to cook delicious meals for their clergy.

Christmas Special:

  • It’s unwise to postpone visits to elderly parishioners, just in case…
  • Midnight communion in Shoreditch looks like rather more fun than my Tewkesbury Abbey/Gloucester Cathedral experiences.
  • Sharing a nervous breakdown with a congregation via The 12 Days of Christmas is possibly the best use of that particular Christmas ditty, and something to put on the bucket list.
  • Never cancel a planned waifs & strays Christmas dinner. [Incidentally, love that the BBC used exactly the same name that me and a colleague used to refer to it today. We love a good waifs & strays Christmas.] It will ultimately unite your entire parish and solve all family traumas.

The series will stay on iPlayer for another week, so catch it while you can (handy hint: if you download it, you’ll have a month in which to watch it, if the next 7 days are somewhat hectic for you). Here’s hoping there’ll be a series three, and in the mean time, I think I’ll need to stock up on the boxsets for future formational guidance.

*When I say ‘more’, I obviously mean ‘different’. Obviously, I have learned tons of things that 3 and a half hours of a BBC sitcom couldn’t possibly teach me. [Disclaimer endeth.]

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