I was standing in line at the grocery store last Sunday, having just left church, and I was still wearing my black suit and clerical collar. A woman in line ahead of me kept glancing back at me, glaring. Finally she barked,
“Are you a priest like that Father Grantchester guy on TV?”
“Uhh, no, I’m a deacon, not a priest,” I replied. “But we’re kind of in the same denomination.” I gave up trying to explain the Anglican Communion while standing in line at the grocery store some time ago.
She was un-phased. “I think he’s terrible! It’s not right for a priest to go around drinking and chasing after women. It’s a sin! He should be disrobed!”
It got very quiet in the line, with all eyes on me, as if to say, “Your turn.”
“Well…” I drawled, “y’see, he’s an Anglican priest? Not a Catholic priest? Anglican priests can date and get married?” I was not going to touch the drinking thing, as a 750ml bottle of cabernet sat in my shopping cart.
She hadn’t heard a word. “Sinful! Him going around like that, chasing those women and all! Aren’t your insulted by that program? I want to know what you’re going to do about it. You have to live that stuff down, Father!”
“…deacon…” I muttered uselessly.
I thoroughly enjoy “Grantchester” on PBS, and follow Sidney Chambers’ adventures closely as he deals with the demands of his ministry and his PTSD from the war, all while solving mysteries in his parish. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first television series that has taken a mature, serious look at the life of a minister of God, even if it is wrapped in the genre of a murder mystery.
But that’s the Brits for you – they really have a knack for making the best of things. The British mystery writer P.D. James was the first to elevate the entire mystery genre with her work, using it as a vehicle to explore the human condition, not simply write a “who-done-it”. In the US, religion doesn’t even exist in television-land; in the UK, we get a complex and nuanced character like Sidney Chambers.
But I have been asked what I am going to do about him, as apparently it is sinful for a minister of God to be an actual human being. So, Bishop Smith, Right Reverend Sir, if you are following this post, would you please be so kind as to pass on to the ABC and the BBC a request from the lady in the grocery store? Disrobe Father Granchester.