One of the big downsides as a parish priest of appearing on a programme like Island Parish is the attention and extra pressure it brings – Rev Jamie Allen resigned following his appearance in A Country Parish (although he didn’t leave the priesthood and is now at another parish) and Seaside Parish noticeably shifted focus onto the Bishop of Truro later on, after Rev Christine Musser started getting hate mail.
Watching the final part of this series of Island Parish I started to wonder whether Rev Guy was experiencing the same level of pressure.
The series was filmed over the whole of 2007, and Rev Guy featured quite heavily in the early episodes, but as the series wore on, and in particular he started to run into pastoral problems with some of his parishioners he noticeably featured less. My thought is that if, alongside the pastoral problems he was also dealing with a large volume of mail from viewers it may be making a difficult situation worse, so maybe the decision has been taken to try to lessen his involvement and allow him to actually do his job.
Then last week, Rev David Easton, the Methodist Minister suddenly featured after being pretty well ignored up to then. I thought that might have been just for the baptism story, but this week there was a lot more of him, including pointing towards a storyline for next year as his posting to the islands comes up for renewal during 2008. Interestingly although Rev Guy briefly appeared, and turned up in the final group shot, it was Rev David who did the summing up voice-over. Certainly after that I’m expecting to see a lot more of the Methodists come next year, and hopefully showing more than one priest will help lessen the inevitable pressure the priests shown will receive.
If I were part of the Methodist Church on the Isles of Scilly, I’m sure I’d be decidedly annoyed with Nigel Farrell and the team behind An Island Parish. Up to now, the fact that there is a thriving Methodist Church on the islands, has been largely ignored by the programme. As I commented at the end of the first series Rev David Easton appeared in the background but isn’t acknowledged, and in the first episode of the second series appears only once making a joke in a Church service. After that, I nearly fell off my chair this week when he appeared in the programme more than Rev Guy – indeed you realised that some of the footage of Rev Guy has been filmed in the Methodist Chapel, and also how close the two church buildings are – if you look at the picture you can see the Anglican Church in the background, barely two minutes walk up the street!
I have to say though, that it has taken rather a tragedy to get some more balanced coverage. Earlier in the series the mechanic on the local lifeboat tragically died of a heart attack, deeply affecting the community. When it happened, Nigel Farrell interviewed Rev Guy, but then the commentary highlighted that it wasn’t Rev Guy that did the funeral. The family involved asked Rev David to do the service instead. To be rather brutal about it, the programme had to talk to the Methodists in order to actually get a continuation to that story. So as a result, this week we had a lot of discussion with Rev David, as the daughter of the family was brought to baptism, again in the Methodist Church.
He didn’t just appear without introduction, you had some shots in his Manse, and some establishing footage of him preparing for his role in the island panto. The commentary even mentioned the Anglican/Methodist Covenant that was signed nationally in 2003, and highlighted that when Rev Guy is absent, his congregation holds a joint service with the Methodists down the street. If all of this has been happening, it seems increasingly odd that he hasn’t featured more sooner.
Perhaps the An Island Parish team have wanted to simplify things – but if they have, I do think that they have simplified things rather too much by effectively sidelining the Methodist Church. Maybe the local superintendent and the local circuit didn’t provide support in the same way as the Diocese of Truro has done (only the Diocese is on this weeks credits). However, it is pretty apparent that Rev Guy and Rev David work quite closely together – another part of the programme shows them jointly leading a Remembrance Service – surely it would be a more accurate representation of life in the parish to show the two denominations working together rather than what has been done up to now. We’ll have to see whether this continues in the weeks to come.