Wednesday, 21 December 2011
The wonderful Rev.
Reaching for the alka seltzer at 5.30am; crib services; school nativities; carol services; visits to the lonely; difficult parishioners; awkward relations and an awful lot of mince pies. This is what Christmas means to Rev. Adam Smallbone, hard-pressed vicar of St Saviour-in-the-Marshes, inner city London. It has been difficult not to be transfixed watching this unlikely success story on TV. Our Rev. is endlessly used and abused, suffers doubt, discouragement, envy, lust and everything else normal human beings (and priests) feel. Each week something goes wrong - generally he is not blessed with a large, responsive congregation - even the local school children are rude and ungrateful - and the weasly Archdeacon is constantly on his back. The Christmas episode (19.12.11) was no exception. An untimely death, a difficult father-in-law, a blow to the eye from Colin the tramp and the sheer grind of daily ministry at the church's busiest time of the year all take their toll, coming to a head at Midnight Mass. A rowdy bunch of strangers gather in church, calling out, mocking and interrupting worship, letting off party poppers while the Rev. patiently offers bread and wine for consecration on the altar. A man starts up drunkenly: 'And did those feet in ancient times...' Hardly a carol...but at the precise moment he reaches the line 'And was the Holy Lamb of God/on England's pleasant pastures seen?' Adam holds the host up for all to see. A few more rowdy, irreverent comments, and Adam sighs: 'Great is the mystery of faith.' The Holy Lamb of God not in pleasant pastures perhaps, but in the world, in the mess, and certainly amongst those who do not even recognise him.