The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass: Adrian Plass and
the church weekend
Hodder & Stoughton £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code
THE first Sacred Diary was published in 1987, and
Adrian Plass has continued to entertain his readers since then with
humour, pathos, and deep reflections on the Christian life and how
to live in our world of joy and pain. He has done this through a
variety of different types of book: novel, biography, non-fiction,
short story, and mixed collections of poems and short pieces of
In his latest offering, he has returned to diary mode. Some of
the original characters still appear, many of them too outrageous
to be believable, but with traits that we would all recognise. His
caricatures, though far-fetched, have some familiar elements that
anyone who has lived and moved in Christian circles will recognise
As the title of the book implies, Adrian's church is going on a
weekend away. Somehow, in spite of not volunteering for the
position enthusiastically, Adrian has ended up as group leader. His
son, Gerald, who was usually one step ahead of his father in
earlier years, is now a vicar, with his own parish. His
congregation is going to join the trip, too.
Their destination is Scarleeswanvale Deep Peace Retreat Centre.
Readers who know Lee Abbey and Scargill House well will immediately
spot the sources of some of Plass's ideas.
As the weekend progresses, all sorts of troubles befall them.
There is the couple who haven't managed to get on top of how their
sat-nav works, and who arrive at Scarleeswanvale as everyone else
is ready to return home. There is the community member who ends up
very upset because of a language issue (bustard and bastard are
easy to confuse), and the warden who is somewhat out of control and
treats his community in a less-than-helpful way.
Humour is a subjective thing. I didn't laugh out loud, but I did
find myself smiling wryly at times. Plass's greatest gift, in my
opinion, is to weave the serious in with his playfulness in a way
that doesn't seem forced, and can be quite profound. In the midst
of the inanity and hilarity, there is mention of Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, Julian of Norwich, a worrying medical diagnosis, and
the presence of Father John, who challenges the pomposity of some
Christians with his simple way of looking at things.
The Revd Sarah Hillman is Priest-in-Charge of Puddletown,
Tolpuddle, and Milborne with Dewlish, in Dorset.