Thursday, June 19, 2014

Watching Rev.

Adam Smallbone is the vicar of a dwindling congregation which worships in a crumbling shell of a once-magnificent sanctuary in the East End of London.  His wife Alex is a legal aid attorney and, at the beginning of the third season of this series, they are joined by Baby Katie, dramatically delivered by Alex with the assistance of Adam's nemesis, his archdeacon, in a taxi careening toward the hospital.

The show is billed as a comedy.  It had me from the first episode, when the camera focuses in on Adam, newly arrived from the countryside, welcoming his "vibrant" congregation to worship.  The camera then pans the congregation itself, the very small and motley crew whom Adam has been called to serve, spread out across the large sanctuary and looking anything but vibrant.

By the third season, which I've just finished watching, it's long been clear that the series is a comedy in the classical sense rather than in the modern laugh-track sense. As Adam's life crumbles along with his building, there is no sign of the sanctimonious Walton's Mountain preacher (except in another character) or of the the raucous Vicar of Dibley.  And there's no place for today's exhortations to the local pastor to be "missional" (although the archdeacon does send the hapless Adam to a seminar on the latest practices designed to teach him to save his church).

I found myself thinking of George Herbert transferred to the impoverished East End as the final episode wound down.  And was very moved by the scenes of those (sometimes surprisingly) dear to Adam praying for him in familiar, conversational ways, tossing in their own baffling concerns, much as he himself often prays.  

Rev. is a brilliant, lovely, and very real portrayal of what it means to be a true priest in the most human of ways.

(Rev. is a British series available on Hulu.)

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