Tuesday, April 01, 2014
The Rev Diaries
The Rev. Diaries
By The Reverend Adam Smallbone
Published by Penguin/Michael Joseph, March 27, 2014
I had never seen a single episode of the cult series "Rev.", before picking up this book, but that did not matter at all. Within a very few pages I was in hysterics, and I alternated between laughing and crying as I devoured the book.
Our supposed diarist is the Reverend Adam Smallbone, an Anglican priest who moves from rural Suffolk to the rather less salubrious surroundings of a London inner-city parish. Valiantly supported by his non-believing, talented lawyer wife, Alex, he is thrown head-first into what initially seems like Bedlam.
His new church of St Saviour's in Hackney has a small, very mixed congregation and he throws himself heart and soul into winning souls for Christ and improving the church's attendance. We meet Adoha, the lady who rather fancies him, Lisa, the potty-mouthed girl who serves in the local shop, Colin - who attends every service, often sleeps in the church building and is always in trouble of some sort - and Nigel, the erudite and earnest young pastoral assistant who yearns to be a priest himself.
Adam's remit includes the local C of E school and he quickly discovers the lengths some parents are prepared to go to in order to secure a school place for their children. Added to this is the disastrous damage to one of the stained glass windows in the church and all the fund-raising to secure money for its repairs and Adam soon ends up spending far more time with his parishioners than he does with the long-suffering Alex, whose longing for a child seems unlikely to be fulfilled any time soon.....
Unsupportive (okay, frankly back-stabbing) clergy "friends" and superiors play ultimately quite mind-boggling roles and it is hardly surprising that eventually Adam's world falls apart at the seams and he has a mammoth Dark Night of the Soul during which anything which can go wrong, does go wrong. Catastrophically so, in fact.
I have several friends who are Anglican and Orthodox clergy, and I can see echoes of what they have told me about broadly similar episodes in this clever, thought-provoking, funny, touching and sometimes heart-rendingly sad book. Candid and sometimes crude, these diaries open up what Adam really thinks and feels about his London life and what others think of him too.
This definitely, definitely will have a permanent home on my bookshelves, and I am looking forward to catching up with the TV series!