Saturday, 21 February 2015

THE ATHEIST'S FAVOURITE VICAR?

CHRISTIANITY FOR GROWN-UPS

On March 8th we welcome a national figure, well-known to some Radio 4 listeners, a hero for others who have watched him go from pop star to pulpit, and - if one national paper is to be believed - 'the atheist's favourite vicar'. Some will have read Richard Coles' recent memoir which tells his very human story of surviving sex, drugs and rock'n'roll before going on to a 'classic Protestant conversion' (as he calls it) in the unlikely setting of a solemn high mass (so anything but Protestant) at St Alban's, Holborn. 

One reviewer compares his 'astonishingly honest' autobiography to Francis Spufford's Unapologetic - another startling but moving book about an adult and very contemporary engagement with faith and one which Wychwood Circle discussed just over a year ago.  You should, the reviewer suggested, hesitate to give either book to your elderly church-going aunt even if she is a fan of Saturday Live

The Reverend Richard Coles was on a panel at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival of Science alongside Robin Ince, the Bishop of Swindon and Timandra Harkness. When asked to explain their faith, the Bishop based his - rather dull - answer on the key elements of the Christian creed while Richard talked intriguingly about the 'topsy-turvy gospel', where 
The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. If you want to have anything worth having, you've got to give it all away. And you've got to die to live. 
He also complained that most people haven't given much thought to any sort of faith since they were eight years old and so no wonder they have rejected their childish view of religion - an experience which may be common to many of us. 

It is hard to gauge how many of his 70,000 Twitter followers will beat a path to Milton Village Hall on March 8th; maybe most of them are more interested in the activities of his four dachshunds or his updates on life at Finedon Vicarage. Those of us who are there may well find that, scandalous past or gentle banter aside, Richard Coles gives us something to think about in terms of how we live our lives and what on earth we base them on. 

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