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Revving down?

A still image from the first episode of Rev

One of the great pleasures of televisual entertainment in the last twelve months was the BBC sitcom ‘Rev’. Regular readers will know how much I enjoyed the last series.

As of last night, we are two episodes into the much anticipated (at least in this house) series two.

I find myself trying to comment on the episodes so far and feeling a bit like Solomon stuck between his two warring women.

On the one hand, the series has continued to do its excellent homework and provide a contemporary portrait of life as a clergyman in the 21st century with considerable accuracy and no small degree of humour.

On the other hand, I find myself a bit cheesed off at opportunities missed and a bit of laziness in the laughs. Read more

I’m sorry, Tony. You’re spot on.

BBC Nativity, Image of Mary and Joseph

This Christmas week has been given a rhythm for me by the BBC’s new production of the Nativity story. Written and produced by Tony Jordan, who has a very long list of impressive credits, he was (one might have thought) an unusual choice to do the job for the Beeb but what a job he has done.

I have really enjoyed the story as portrayed by Jordan and, particularly, how he has picked up and understood how rejected Mary and Joseph would have been for the scandal of being pregnant before the engagement had become marriage.

Plenty of people are reviewing the TV programmes and that’s fine. I don’t really want to talk about that though. What has struck me is an interview he gave to Aled Jones on Radio Two last week. What follows is Tony speaking:

“I still have a hasty distrust of organised religion. I generally do and that’s the thing that hasn’t changed at all. My faith has changed and I have changed as a person because of the nativity, Read more

The Rev-iew

A still image from the first episode of Rev

Last night saw the debut of BBC2’s new comedy drama ‘Rev’ with Tom Hollander. Tom plays Rev Adam Smallbone, a new Vicar in an inner-city parish, with a standard array of peculiar characters orbiting Hollander’s star. In rev-iewing it now (oho, see what I did there?), I guess I give it a cautious thumbs-up. 6.5 to 7 out of 10.

To deal with the criticisms first, it kind of annoyed me that they had to start the series off by him waking up with a hangover, then proceeding to swear regularly and smoke at every opportunity. It’s too easy and too fatuous a laugh to portray the sort of Father Jack (from Father Ted) school of priesthood, burnt-out and only able to smoke, drink and swear. On another level, however, I am not sure if my annoyance is with the programme or with my fellow clergy who I know behave just like that. Long before Rev Smallbone was seen on my screen, I’ve felt my hackles rising Read more

Cross Purposes

Chagall development painting for the Tudeley church window
Painting for the East Window, All Saints' Tudeley, (Chagall)

Having grown up in Paddock Wood, I was for the most part unaware that just up the road at the tiny, rural All Saints’ Church in Tudeley I would have found the only church in the world to have all its twelve windows decorated by the Russian artist Marc Chagall.

When I became a Christian in my late teens, All Saints’ became a regular place for me to pray. It is, quite simply, one of my favourite places to sit and be in the whole wide world.

The windows are just beautiful and deeply enchanting. Commissioned as a memorial tribute to Sarah d’Avigdor-Goldsmid who died aged just 21 in a sailing accident off Rye, the main East window shows Sarah drowning in the sea while Christ crucified looks down. I don’t know much about art (or anything really) but I love the combination of honest brutality in showing Sarah’s plight in the midst of such beautiful stained glass. Sanitised Christianity this is not.

I write about this now because I had a chance this week to visit a special exhibition called Cross Purposes. Much kudos to my old mother church, St. Andrew’s Paddock Wood, who have combined with my old school and their art gallery, Mascalls Gallery, to put on a special exhibition.

In the Gallery, Cross Purposes has brought together powerful images of the crucifixion from some of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries. I was astounded to see the list of names – Stanley Spencer, Tracey Emin, Eric Gill, Maggi Hambling, Emmanuel Levy and (of course) Marc Chagall.

Shown for the first time in this country, Chagall’s original drawings and paintings for the Tudeley windows are on display. They are fascinating to see the development of Read more

Book of Eli

Photo of Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli

Late last week, I visited our local cinema with a small but growing group of men from our church to check out one of the latest releases. In this instance, we found ourselves watching The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, written by Gary Whitta and directed by the Hughes brothers (who have been a bit MIA since Dead Presidents in 1995).

I was quietly impressed by this movie and would encourage you to go and see it.

Denzel is the eponymous Eli, a traveller walking across a post-apocalyptic America, trying to survive and (as we learn) carrying a rather special book. With, no doubt, a nod to one of the names of God in Hebrew (El or Eli), Eli is carrying the last known copy of the Bible.

We are not given a totally worked out back history (which I liked). We are told there was a war, a ‘big flash’ some thirty odd years ago, and nobody seems to know very much of what actually happened. The younger characters born post-flash are intrigued by Denzel’s knowledge, as an older man, of the world before it turned into the hell-hole that they know. Their world is one where barren roads are patrolled by gangs of killers who will Read more