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More TV, Vicar? author now woman of the cloth

The author of a book on how the media portrays Christians and clergy is now a priest herself ...

The author of a book on how the media portrays Christians and clergy is now a priest herself ...

The Reverend Bryony Taylor, who will continue to serve at Houghton-le-Spring, St Michael and All Angels after her ordination as a priest in Durham Cathedral on Saturday (5 July), wrote More TV, Vicar?, a book examining the portrayal of Christians and the clergy in the media.

She said: “I started writing my book on the portrayal of Christians in popular culture whilst at theological college and finished it as I started my curacy at Michael and All Angels.

“It was a really interesting experience writing firstly from the perspective of a lay person, then reflecting on the experience of being ordained and wearing a dog collar. It made me see the portrayal of clergy in particular on television quite differently.

“Something that I certainly noticed is that people never grow up in their perception of the clergy. When we’re children we’re devastated when we see our teacher buying Andrex in the supermarket because we think they must live in the school. Adults have similarly childlike opinions of the clergy.

“When I started as a curate I was at a buffet and put a chocolate éclair on my plate. Someone at the event said ‘are you allowed those?’ as if chocolate should somehow be out of bounds to a woman of the cloth!

“Recently, a butcher in the town where I live asked me ‘what’s it like being the Vicar of Dibley?’ A bit dumbstruck I just replied ‘it’s great thanks’ and accidentally admitted to being the Vicar of Dibley!

“I’ve also had people ask me if I get to perform exorcisms and if I’m allowed to get married. This shows just how influential the television is and the portrayals of Christians on the television are on society’s view of us.

“Think woman priest and you think of Dawn French as The Vicar of Dibley. Hear the word ‘priest’ and you think of the film The Exorcist. This is what I explore in my book, charting how views of Christians and the clergy have changed over the years, moving from caricatures like Father Ted to more realistic portrayals like Adam Smallbone in Rev.”

Bryony Taylor, 37, grew up in Southend on Sea, Essex and went to university in Leeds. She worked in the lifelong learning sector, in museum and library education, at the Learning and Skills Council working with FE colleges, in workforce development policy at the Sector Skills Council Lifelong Learning UK and as an Education Consultant at Frogtrade Ltd – an educational software company working with primary and secondary schools.

Photos by Keith Blundy

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