A SHORT film in which a priest describes “the extremes of emotion” which he experiences in his ministry has been watched more than 30,000 times on social media.
In the film, the Vicar of St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, in north London, Prebendary Graeme Rowlands, says: “I am what I do, and I do what I am. And so I can’t define when I’m doing my work as a priest, and when I’m not.”
He continues: “There is no such thing as an average day. The hardest part, I suppose, is coping with the extremes of emotion, not just in other people but in me — because I will go immediately from a graveside, back into school, and then on to a visit, which is quite hard going. My life is so ordinary and uninteresting; there’s nothing interesting to say. But, on the other level, my life is absolutely full.”
His message about vocation is uncomplicated: “Of course, if God wants you to be ordained, then you will; and, if he doesn’t, then you won’t. I can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else.”
Prebendary Rowlands’s story is told by the filmmaker Chris Haddock. Mr Haddock said this week that he embarked on making the film after completing a short documentary about delivery drivers. “St Silas is just off the street I grew up on, and I happened to be driving by, though my parents had long since left London. Like most things, I think it more started as a question: ‘I wonder what it’s actually like being a priest.’
“It occurred to me that I really had no idea. Whilst I could perhaps imagine the public-facing side — weddings, funerals, services, etc. — that’s such a small aspect of a life. I thought it might be the kind of thing people would be interested in, too.”
Mr Haddock said that he was not a regular churchgoer, although he already knew Prebendary Rowlands, a friend of the family who had taught him music in primary school more than 20 years ago.
Mr Haddock said that he did not set out to correct misconceptions about priesthood. “I try to start my own projects without any sort of agenda; I like to just ask people questions about their lives, and see what happens. That’s one of the nicest things about starting your own project: you just get to see what happens as it unfolds, rather than working to any sort of objective.”
Since the film was posted on Twitter, on 14 August, it has been viewed more than 33,000 times. The Twitter message promoting the video has had more than 8000 “engagements” (the number of times people have interacted with the tweet), and nearly 500 “likes”. It was not possible to ascertain the exact location of viewers, because the video was posted from a personal, not a business, account.
Mr Haddock said that he was surprised by the reaction. “A few hours after posting, I’d had very kind messages from quite a few people, from as far away as the US and Kenya.”
Interest in the video on social media began to increase after the Vicar of St Benet’s, Kentish Town, the Revd Dr Peter Anthony, retweeted it.