Monday 12 December 2011

Rev from a Non-Rev

I can no longer watch the BBC's Rev in the manner of The American Soldier. Eh? I hear you read. The American Soldier is a sociological study about people who adapt and change their behaviour in expectation of a future role. All I want to say further on that is that I applied to train to be a Rev. with emphasis on the need for pastoral training, and that the academic had largely been done, so the rejection on the grounds of my intellect at services leaving people puzzled and character not relating to people in pastoral situations means I am untrainable. I sometimes wonder how I gave that chap a lift home today, who once occupied my house, or chatted to some very ordinary people over sandwiches after the afternoon advent-Christmas-Yuletide service.

The premise in inner city Rev (the focus of programme 5) is that he is in contact with a number of down and outs within his city ministry. There is a battle between the administration and the hierarchy and the pastoral needs on the ground. The banking chap played by Richard E. Grant is another kind of pastoral reality, preferring the group at Notting Hill near a model agency so that there is "pussy all round" - now he's sober. The Archdeacon represents the hierarchy and administration (after all, he was promoted) and increasingly so does the Reader: and the Reader is told by the Rev once out of danger with the accounts that they would review the week (that is, get the priorities right). The Reader is himself as in The American Soldier, an aspirant of the cloth and he is dangerously entertained by the amoral Archdeacon. He will come with recommendations.

Offering a bedroom to the crack addict who was going clean a little while after prison is, of course, over the fine line. In the end, he is back to where he was: his begging for his drug habit with a petrol can as if a taxi driver. Indeed, so was the banker, in reverse. The banker was better when he was rubbish, rather than managed on a sober life. He was as much a dodgy dealer as Mick, indeed a drug financier. The Rev. though stole from him, but it didn't matter - just another opportunity for a repayment schedule, suggesting that all banking is theft.

Colin, also of lowlife, is the sort of chap who just gets by, from one fantasy life in his life to the next, but he sort of manages to get by. He had no time for Mick, so there is discrimination among the dispossessed. Colin is within the church community, and can be contained, whereas Mick even with his weird reading of basic Bible stories, cannot be contained. The more general truth is that the Colins don't go to churches. Well, there are one or two that come within orbit, and he is the only one in the drama.

And meanwhile, unless Roman Catholic: there is the pastoral situation at home, which in the Rev.'s case is trying to get his wife pregnant (give her a role in life beyond the secondary attachment to his role) [I'm reminded that she is a solicitor, but the fiction suggests she finds the home life attached to his job limiting and she is in the driving seat for the baby - allowing for his willing duties in this regard].

I sometimes reflect on my own church community as a contrast. You would think Unitarians were intellectual and lower middle class. Once upon a time ministers were academy educated and preached on the Greek myths. Not any more. Ours is (I think it's fair to say) much more ordinary among the ordinary, and is across the north. Here is a small number of mainly retired and economically inactive folk who somehow hold their heads above the water line. They are all moderate plain speakers, many of whom would cheer on David Cameron on nationalistic terms (not me, not at all). The days of the middle class families who once supplied the trustees and core congregation down the generations have gone (the families still exist, however), and these folks left are the gathered. So we do not, as such, and probably never did, pick up the urban lost even in the days of education and welfare and leisure outreach. Not the Micks, and not quite the Colins either. But there is, including in the 'not much money' folk, a merging into a lower middle class and graduate (or similar through experience) grouping, and these tend to discuss, further, denominational matters. The denomination will have to recruit its ministers from this tiny handful as repeated in other congregations. Today's service, with its theme of 'colours' at this time of year, drew in residents of homes provided by the Leonard Chamberlain Trust - thus I had two invites to attend. A few of the usual core people stayed away: they don't believe in Christmas and don't like carols and all that (and neither do I, to be honest). These invited are our 'needy', so to speak, or at least those who have been enabled by the charity to live independently, including me. They come to this service, and also to the Sutton Feast Day service the Unitarians provide, and which, this last year, I took, and I didn't lose anyone intellectually at all. In fact some said it was the best one they had ever attended. Perhaps I should take up accountancy.

Note: all the images are from the BBC online broadcast and are here as illustrative.

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