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Curate’s Christmas double take

02 January 2015

DIOCESE OF YORK

Big fan: the Revd Richard Bat­­­­­tersby with some of the band's CDs

Big fan: the Revd Richard Bat­­­­­tersby with some of the band's CDs

WITH hits including "Pray", and "I Found Heaven", it could be argued that Take That have been baiting the nation's clergy for years.

This Christmas, the Assistant Curate at St Wilfrid's, Brayton, the Revd Richard Battersby, went on local radio to put his own spin on the Gary Barlow canon, suggesting that "If these songs had been around 2000 years ago, they would have struck a chord with Joseph and Mary."

In a broadcast for Radio York, Mr Battersby told the Christmas story through songs including "Shine" ("The Christmas story reminds us that we all shine"); "Rule the World" ("God gives us the chance to help with him rule the world . . . a rule of love, serving each other with his son, Jesus"); and "Could it be magic?" (Did the shepherds feel "spirits move me"?)

A fan of the band since they came to his children's attention after they re-formed, he was struck by the "highly prophetic" words of "The Garden", with its reference to fishermen, a crowd, and a "stranger on the hill". Using the songs to talk about God is not "trivialising Christmas", he said on Tuesday, but a form of "creative mission".

"What the Church has missed is its lost history of the secular and religious feeding off each other," he said. "Important parts of our Christian faith can be articulated in secular song."

He went on: "In Acts, Paul is in Athens, looking at the tomb of the Unknown God. I think it's our job as Christians to start pointing the world to our Unknown God, and I think we can do that through things like this."

Although he speculates that the references to God in Take That's latest album cannot be unintentional, he has yet to hear from Mr Barlow, despite attempts to contact him on Twitter.

Although he would "love" to stage an event in York Minster with the band, his current plans include using "Every breath you take", by The Police, in next year's midnight mass: "It's about God watching us."

To hear the BBC York broadcast, visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02dz1jd

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