*** DEBUG END ***

Parsonage and Parson by Richard Trahair

23 December 2022

Fergus Butler-Gallie reads the memoir of a diocesan official

AT THE very beginning of Richard Trahair’s Parsonage and Parson is a note stating that the work is “entirely fictitious and bears no resemblance to any persons, living or dead”.

Of course, the book isn’t fictitious at all, though some might wish it were. The early admission that most of the rectories, built cheaply in the 1960s and ’70s, required considerably more maintenance and repair than their 18th- and 19th-century precursors in whose gardens they invariably stood is unsurprising but refreshing candour from a sometime diocesan official. Normally such officials have an ostrich-like aversion to awkward truths such as this.

Despite this, Trahair is a kindly and compelling narrator, even if, when I told one long-ordained cleric that I was reviewing a book by a diocesan property secretary, he expressed the view to me that, had the property managers of any other charity or institution so comprehensively stripped the assets that they were supposed to hold in trust, the failure of fiduciary duty would have resulted in a spell in prison.

There is some eccentricity and fun in the figures described, such as the cartoonist canon who spent more time in the pub opposite his expansive rectory than in the rectory itself. There is more tragedy, though: partly in the figures such as the family killed in a house fire at a church property, but also in the wider narrative. Tellingly, we are told of a village community “disgracefully” objecting to the conversion of a church building away from religious purposes, which eventually leads to an assault. It is all very sad.

But these are just parts; the resultant whole makes for a well-written, tightly structured, but fundamentally melancholy book. It is a must-read for anybody interested in what the Church of England once was but never will be again. Contra the note at the start, the picture of the managerial Church painted, though it purports to be living, bears more than a passing resemblance to one that is dead.

The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie is a priest and a writer.


Parsonage and Parson: Coping with the clergy — thirty years of eccentricity and delight
Richard Trahair
The Book Guild £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.09

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)