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A space to reflect on Christian theology, spirituality, and ministry within the Church of England

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Vicar's FAQ

Today is the publication date of my book: The Vicar’s FAQ: All you ever wanted to know about Christianity and the Church, published by Darton Longman & Todd.

As you might expect, I’m pretty excited about it! Here are some things you might want to know.

Is it just for vicars / Christians?
No! It’s deliberately aimed at those people outside the Church who are curious about what we believe and do. I’ve tried to avoid jargon, or explain it where it’s unavoidable, and hopefully have managed to address all those questions you’ve been burning to ask!

What’s it about?
The book seeks to answer a vast range of questions that I have been asked both while training to be ordained in the Church of England, and since becoming first a deacon and then a priest. These range from simple questions about whether vicars get holidays and how much they’re paid to deeply complex questions about what members of the Church of England believe God is like or what our attitudes are towards same-sex marriage.

I answer all of these questions as myself. That is to say, I make no bones about the fact that I’m firmly at the ‘liberal’ end of the liberal-conservative spectrum, and reply accordingly. I try to present alternative points of view where appropriate, and in as even-handed a way as I can, but in the end will always make clear what my own stance is. Be warned!

What’s the style like?
It’s informal, with one question running into another in a conversational style. I try to answer complicated questions simply.

What topics do you cover?
There are five main chapters:

  • Being a Vicar (questions about the nature of the job)
  • The Church of England: Past and Present (questions about the history of the C of E, going back to Jesus)
  • The Worship of the Church of England (questions about our services and worship in general)
  • Christian Doctrine (questions about what Christians believe)
  • Ethics (questions about some recent hot-button topics)

Where can I get it?
It’s on sale in the UK (not the USA yet I'm afraid!), available at all good bookshops, and of course through Amazon. Here’s a handy link:



  1. Your book sounds great - I shall have to get hold of it in the new year.

    I came across your blog through looking up something SF, but am myself involved in theological education (and am myself one of those who goes on at ministers in training about the importance of theological reflection) and think your rationale for the blog is excellent and certainly something I'll suggest to others.

    On SF and religion, this Summer's French hit "The Returned" certainly dived right in first episode with the question to resurrected Camille's mother why she was so distressed when what she had been praying for (ie Camille not being dead) actually happened. I can't say I blame her though - but it does raise important questions !

    1. Hi Peter! Thank you very much for dropping in and commenting. Lovely to welcome not just a theological educator, but one who has an SF connection!

      I haven't managed to catch 'The Returned', but it certainly sounds interesting. I'll have to see if I can take a look. There was a fabulous episode of Buffy in its fifth season, when Buffy's mother had died, and it seemed she had been brought back to some form of life. We never saw the mother, but it was a genuinely horrifying prospect throughout the episode - not because she might be somehow grotesque, because that's not something even hinted at - but because it would so hugely *wrong*. Clearly we're seeing something here about our attitudes to death.

      Hope you enjoy the book!

  2. I love the book, but I have a bit of the technical question. In the section on confession, you say that treason, terrorism and money laundering may not be covered by the seal of the confessional. I was under the impression that the seal was absolute - even for Anglicans?

    1. Hi Richard, many thanks for your comment, and glad you've been enjoying the book!

      On the seal of the confessional, things are actually in flux at the moment, with the Church's legal professionals advising the House of Bishops on what our definitive stance should be. Oddly, those three specific crimes are not covered by the seal, thanks to the legal statutes surrounding them. I had no idea of all that before I spoke to Chancellor Rupert Bursell of Oxford Diocese, one of the foremost experts on church law, and most particularly on this particular topic. Strange but true!

  3. I lent a copy to our verger, who deals with the Church bookshelf at the back of the church, and we now have several copies available for purchase; she liked it very much, as did I. It's a great book.

    I probably would not have come across it if it hadn't been because I was looking up your name in connection with The Council of Nicaea, which is my favourite historical, not least because church history is a particular passion of mine, and you brought it very much to life.

    1. That's wonderful! Thanks to you and your verger for supporting the book, and thank you too for letting me know! I'm so glad you enjoyed both the FAQ and Nicaea. I loved writing the latter for just the reason you mention - there's something great about bringing church history (which can easily be made a very dry topic) to life.