Next Thursday evening, for the first time in weeks, the steps of St. Pauls will be clear of clergy. I've lost count of the number of vicars who've dropped in on the protest, or been hauled onto the radio to comment about it, or found themselves in Facebook campaigns to land one of the now-vacant posts.
Yes, it's the new series of 'Rev.', the BBC comedy starring Tom Hollander as an inner city priest. In a peculiar case of art imitating life, the first episode stars Lord Voldemort as the Bishop of London. If you happen to be involved in an Anglican church meeting next Thursday, rejoice, as the vicar will have at least one eye on finishing for 9pm.
There's an interview with Hollander in this weeks Radio Times, here's a few snippets which caught my eye:
on researching the series "We spent time with vicars and discovered how interesting it was that they sat right in the middle of society, althought everyone think sof them as marginal, because we are a secular society. But the church is still right at the heart of it, with weddings, funerals and schools.
You can look at what is going on in our lives through the perspective of the priest, because he has access to everything. Also their lives are full of tragi-comic stories and their beleaguered status seems to chime with our feelings about ourselves as a nation. From looking at the Church of England it's not so very far to seeing where we are with ideas about England."
on vicars reactions "People we have met in the Church since have said 'thank you for making me look normal'. Because they're used to being treated as weirdos, the moment they start talking about faith or a belief in God, people start to behave as if they have got the plague."
on his own beliefs "I believe in the idea of God now. Since doing Rev I believe in what the idea of God represents, but I can't say anything more concrete than that. ... since we stopped shooting I look forward to poking my nose in (to a church) without it being work. I went to Brompton Oratory a couple of years ago and watched a Latin mass where they were facing the altar, clouds of incense and all that. It was very powerful. I thought if there was a supernatural presence, I'd find it more convincing that the spoke a language I didn't really understand."
on life "I've certainly got more interested in religion as I've got older, and that's to do with my own awareness of the fragility of my own existence. Life has a way of making us look silly, so you have to think beyond the limits of your own capabilities. A scientist can tell you about stuff that is clearly measurable, but for stuff thats in the realms of hope, fear and speculation you'd be better off with a priest."
If you ring and get the answerphone between 9 and 9.30 next Thursday, you'll know the reason why!
PS todays comment about the Occupy London protest: I heard 3 protesters interviewed on 5 live this morning, and none of them had any concrete policy suggestions. They celebrated the absence of a command structure in the Occupy protests, but that very lack of leadership also makes the message much harder to hear.