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After the cameras leave

Father James McCaskill, image from Channel 4 website

There isn’t much I watch ‘religiously’ on television. The West Wing (now sadly no more) and 24 and of course football (the english variety) or football (the american variety). However, one thing I have been watching ‘religiously’ over the last few weeks is the BBC 2 series on York Minster. Primarily, my interest is in the fact that the Precentor Jeremy Fletcher is a friend from my previous existence in publishing.

The other day, word reached me about another TV programme that I watched ‘religiously’ last year. Priest Idol was a Channel 4 mini-series about a run-down parish in Barnsley, a run-down part of the UK, and the efforts of the new American vicar James McCaskill to turn it around.

There is an interview with James McCaskill from Christianity Today in November 2005 where James talks more about the experience.

By the end of the mini-series, we left James with signs of hope for the future but still with much to do. I always wondered what the church had made of the TV programme, indeed the name of the show always struck me as being pretty terrible, and crucially I was desperate to know what had happened next. A follow-up show seemed obvious and inevitable.

The other day I received an email from someone more knowledgeable than me on a discussion list of which I am a part. I was delighted to hear more about what the church in Lundwood had thought of the show and what happened next with Father James and his crew, although it also confirmed my worst fears about TV companies.

Quoting Ruth (my correspondent) verbatim:

“Look what happened with Lundwood in Barnsley. For a start off they called it Priest Idol, which no-one wanted. They missed the best bits, put in the daft bits, said they’d make a follow up and ended up cancelling, even though the church had had a fire and were struggling to come round from it. A real nightmare for them. Still. it didn’t daunt them, and they now consistently have a congregation of around 70, many more at Christmas. It’s definitely a traditional church, but I bet they won’t be long before they try out some fresh expressions and alternative worship, as the people there are just lapping it all up! Whole families are coming together and the Holy Spirit is really at work.”

Wikipedia confirms that the church did indeed receive a devastating blow when a fire broke out in the church hall as workmen replaced roof felting. The fire destroyed the roof of the hall and gutted the interior. If Ruth is right, how the TV companies cannot be interested in a follow-up when the church has suffered such a blow, I have no idea. However, what really encourages me is that the parish of Lundwood is on the up and the church is prospering despite the knocks. Very encouraging indeed.

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