Posts Tagged ‘religion’

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a religious person.  But seeing as it’s Holy Week, a spiritually themed post seems in order.   In fact religion has been quite prominent in the media lately what with this guy newly on the scene…

Pope Francis I image credit ABC News

Pope Francis I image credit ABC News


And this recent and shocking revelation behind the failure to pass the proposal that would have allowed female vicars to become bishops in the Anglican church…


Therefore, I thought it appropriate to share my recent telly encounters with two men of faith – the first is a small village Catholic priest who solves murders in his ample spare time and the other, a well-meaning Anglican vicar who’s in over his head trying to manage his shambolic inner city parish.

Father Brown

Father Brown image credit bbc.co.uk

Father Brown as portrayed by Mark Williams, well-known for playing other famous “fathers” including Arthur Weasley and Brian, Rory Williams’ dad from Doctor Who
image credit bbc.co.uk


While it’s obvious that the Church is Father Brown’s primary gig, the investigation of murders and other serious crimes in the 1950’s Cotswolds village of Kembleford is certainly his avocation.  Armed with his ever-present black umbrella, our cleric can frequently be seen, cassock fluttering behind him as he pedals his trusty bicycle hither and yon in pursuit of elusive criminals. Most importantly, he always seeks the truth, even when another explanation might be more convenient.

Another thing that makes Father Brown such a good detective is his advanced observational and listening skills, honed no doubt during his countless hours as confessor for his flock…and while suffering the endless blithering of village gossip, Mrs. McCarthy.

Father Brown is a man of humility, curiosity, compassion, patience and tolerance; a veritable saint, in fact.  How else could he possibly refrain from gloating every time he proves the village police chief, Inspector Valentine, wrong?



As accepting and calm an influence as Father Brown would no doubt be to a troubled soul, I think I’d prefer Reverend Adam Smallbone to be my spiritual advisor and I’ll tell you why.  He’s as frazzled and screwed up as the rest of us.  Between the demands of his home life (he and wife Alex are trying to conceive), his dysfunctional parishioners, and his charmingly cruel boss, Archdeacon Robert, Adam barely has time to listen to his calling, let alone carry it out.

Rev. Adam Smallbone and his flock image credit guardian.co.uk

Rev. Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) and his flock
image credit guardian.co.uk


The point is I can relate to this man; the fact that he is torn in many directions, has doubts about his career, and experiences a multitude of human emotions including jealousy, guilt, conceit and lust.  All these feelings make great fodder for the humorous situations Adam must endure.  But it also makes his private discussions with God and his personal discoveries more endearing, more real.  The vicar is by no means a perfect clergyman like gentle, constant Father Brown, but he lives and learns from what he teaches.


When I think of the way church leaders are portrayed on-screen in the US, my mind goes immediately to the intolerant minister from Footloose (played by John Lithgow) who banned dancing and “devil music” in his small town, the Jim Bakker-brand of televangelist or the priests in horror movies who perform usually unsuccessful exorcisms.  There aren’t many like the kind and ordinary men I’ve mentioned here today.

Both Father Brown and Reverend Smallbone trust in their faith and I can respect that, even when others cannot.

Oh, and did I happen to mention that like Father Brown, Adam is a cycling preacher as well?


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St. Paul's Cathedral

I am not a religious person; most of the time I don’t even think “spiritual” is a word that can be used to describe me.  So of course, as a secular being, I am well qualified to talk about the Christian Church as an institution and about religion in the UK specifically.  That’s my disclaimer and now here’s what I know:

In Britain you will find most of the Protestant denominations represented as well as the Catholic Church. Many of you will remember how Henry the VIII needed to get rid of a few wives and that pesky Catholic Church just wasn’t cooperating…  And so voila – the Church of England was born; basically the Catholic Church minus the Pope . While this explanation is exceedingly simplistic, it works for the purposes of this humble blogger.

Some years down the line from Henry the VIII’s convenient creation of the Church of England (aka the Anglican Church), it seems that becoming a vicar was one of a limited number of career choices for the privileged classes and not necessarily a spiritual calling.  Or so I gather from the many Jane Austen movies I’ve seen.

Fast forward to modern day and religious figures are all over British television. In Ireland, Catholic priests are the norm although I’m pretty sure Father Ted, along with his inept and dementia-ridden colleagues, are ridiculously exaggerated stereotypes.  Probably more based in reality is the depiction of spiritual life in the village of Ballykissangel.  Overseen by Father MacAnally (a very accurate representation of the traditional priest, I’m told) a series of young clergymen arrive to serve the community.  We see not only their great compassion, but also witness their dark and doubting moments as well.

Anglican priests are most often referred to as vicars.  Their vestments are similar to those of their Catholic counterparts including the familiar dog collar.  Unlike Catholic priests, Anglican clergy are allowed to marry and women can be ordained as priests.  There  is also a British tradition of Tarts and Vicars costume parties wherein guests dress as prostitutes or members of the clergy.  If you’ve seen Bridget Jones, you know what I’m talking about.   A cursory search yielded no explanation for the origins of such gatherings.

Representing the Anglican Church in Clatterford is the fussy, insensitive and vain vicar, Reverend Hillary (I don’t recall if his surname is ever mentioned).  To be fair, in series 3 we see a softer to side to the vicar and learn of his considerable loneliness.  On Keeping Up Appearances, Hyacinth Bucket terrorizes the handsome young vicar by constantly inviting him to her famous candlelight suppers.  He is also an object of seduction for Hyacinth’s man-crazy sister, Rose, much to the displeasure of his jealous wife.

My all-time favorite vicar is Geraldine Granger, The Vicar of Dibley. Although the members of the congregation of St. Barnabus Church aren’t too sure about having a female leading their parish, Gerry (played by Dawn French) eventually wins them over with her humor, warmth, and enthusiasm.  She drinks, she really likes men and chocolate, she can get starstruck and full of herself at times- she is human.  With someone like her in the pulpit, I might even make it into the pews on a Sunday.

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