THE Archdeacon arrived in a taxi; the church could be
bankrupt in two years' time; and the Vicar is "furious" that he
cannot conduct gay blessings. At a screening of the new series of
Rev at St Leonard's, Shoreditch, on Tuesday night, it was
evident that the writers really do hold up a mirror to parish
In the third series, set to begin on 24 March on BBC2, the Revd
Adam Smallbone (above), played by Tom Hollander, is
fighting on several fronts: new fatherhood, a diocesan secretary
with an eye on the bottom line, and the diktats emerging from on
high, including the statement on same-sex marriage.
The first two episodes screened on Tuesday include a multifaith
fund-raiser with the imam of a local thriving mosque ("I love your
church: there's always so much space"), and a request for a gay
As in previous series, the scripts show evidence of finely tuned
advice. "How shall we be church here?" the Archdeacon probes in the
back of a taxi. Back on the scene is Smallbone's old Ripon College
rival, Roland Wise (Hugh Bonneville), now given the task of saving
churches with his IED programme (not "improvised explosive device",
but "invade, evangelise, deliver").
The script appears to be underpinned by a genuine sympathy for
the struggles of a parish priest. "Why does the Church want me to
behave like a businessman the whole time, when I'm not?" Smallbone
The second episode shows a readiness to explore some of the
tensions currently gripping the C of E. Smallbone's attempts to
conduct prayers for a gay couple without falling foul of church law
provoked laughter at the screening on Tuesday, but are probably a
fairly accurate depiction of how such a service might look.
It is also clear what the creators of the show think of the
House of Bishops' guidance on same-sex marriage.
Speaking after the screening, the Vicar of St Leonard's, the
Revd Paul Turp, said that "every scene that happens is based on
something that happened in a church, somewhere. Nothing is a
The parallels with his own situation are there. He estimates
that, if nothing was done, the church would be bankrupt in two
Easters' time. This is not a new predicament: "In 30 years, we have
been there several times."
Asked about the second episode, he described the House of
Bishops' guidance as "morally vile, theologically inept, and
ecclesiastically dishonest. That makes me furious."
In one respect, however, he is more fortunate than his fictional
counterpart. Both the Archdeacon and the Bishop came over for a
friendly chat at the end of the night, and neither frogmarched him
into a black cab.
The Rev Diaries, written by one of the programme's
scriptwriters, Jon Canter, to accompany the series, is due out from
Penguin on 27 March.