About A Vicar's Life

Programme synopsis:

A Vicar’s Life is a warm, frank and fresh observational documentary series following the lives and work of vicars in Herefordshire and south Shropshire, as they face the challenges of maintaining their place at the heart of the community in the most rural diocese of the Church of England.

Facing smaller congregations, financial problems and cultural changes, it has arguably never been a tougher time to be a vicar. 

The BBC followed four of our clergy, three established vicars and their parishes, from the cathedral city of Hereford and its rural surrounds, to the majestic Black Mountains and the picturesque market town of Much Wenlock

The camera crews were there as people shared their greatest joys and sorrows, on an intimate journey through the seasons to reflect the reality of life and faith in some of England’s most beautiful countryside.

Episode 1

We’re introduced to three vicars: Matthew, in a small Shropshire market town; Ruth, in the cathedral city of Hereford; and Nicholas, in the scattered hill farming community of the Black Mountains.

Today’s vicars have to take every opportunity they can to bring people into Church, and they don’t get better than a good summer wedding.

Matthew has twisted the arm of local hairdresser Mel and her fiancé Stu, a fireman, to get married in Church. Now he has to pull out all the stops to impress them. 

Ruth has a very different challenge, caring for her terminally ill Churchwarden as she faces the end of life. 

Nicholas has to face up to the fact that churches are not sacred spaces to everyone as he deals with a break in and theft of priceless church records.

Episode 2

The church may be struggling, but there are signs of hope. New life, new ideas and new vicars will help it to survive and prosper in future. 

We meet Matthew Cashmore, a trainee. He’s turned his back on a successful executive lifestyle and is moving with his family to Hereford to start a new life in the Church. But first he has to be ordained, at a grand ceremony in Hereford cathedral. 

In the Black Mountains, Revd. Nicholas Lowton believes his churches will have to adapt or die, so he’s come up with a plan of action that will bring in radical change. In one tiny remote church he’s seen an opportunity to offer champing, or camping at church. Now he needs to test it out. 

In the idyllic surroundings of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, Matthew Stafford is welcoming new life into the Church by baptising twins Ollie and Charlie. He will need to speak up – they are in fine voice.

Episode 3

Filled with fire in his belly after his ordination, new curate Father Matthew is determined to make an impression in his new parish. Dressed in his new cassock – which he plans to wear at all times – he hits the streets, introducing himself to the people of All Saints. He has noticed some tents in the middle of a roundabout and wants to find out more. He discovers a homeless young woman and resolves to help her find a roof over her head. 

In the Black Mountains, Nicholas is there to support others who are struggling in these tough times, as farmer Steve and his wife Joyce have no choice but to sell their cattle and vacate their farm. 

Revd. Matthew Stafford recalls helping a troubled young man who once slept in his shed, which remains in his garden as a tribute to him after he sadly died. But his most pressing issue right now is a visit from the Bishop to bless his new church roof. How will Bishop Richard feel about Matthew’s plan to send him up in a cherry picker?

Episode 4

It’s Harvest season, a busy time for the rural church. 

In the village of Breinton, where cider apples are grown, the ladies of the church are creating a spectacular display for the harvest festival. On the surface it’s a picture of a healthy village church, but as new curate Father Matthew plans his first harvest festival it’s clear that they need to attract newcomers to the village. He delivers the harvest message – of giving thanks and sharing – and asks the parish to dig that little bit deeper. He is determined to bring something of Breinton’s harvest to help the people further afield, and joins a relief effort taking aid to people in need in Calais. 

In the Black Mountains, vicar Nicholas is sowing rather than reaping, hoping that the young couple getting married in his church – and their congregation – will be touched by the experience. Back in Breinton, 

Matthew’s colleague Ruth believes that if people aren’t coming to church, the church needs to come to them. The village Bonfire Night proves to be the ideal occasion.

Episode 5

With the dark days of winter drawing in the clergy of Hereford Diocese are working hard to bring light into people’s lives. 

In Shropshire Matthew Stafford is determined to meet the needs of an increasingly ageing population, informed partly by his own experience. His father-in-law has complex needs and is in a local care home, and he also visits a couple who are struggling with Dementia. Matthew wants to help others with Dementia by making the church more accessible and understanding. 

Father Matthew Cashmore is ministering to the other end of the age spectrum in Hereford. He’s joining the local team of Street Pastors, who take care of people who need help on a heavy night out. 

In the Black Mountains, isolation in later life is a real problem. Vicar Nicholas keeps a check on the elderly in his scattered parish, and visits a local lunch club initiative that has made a real difference to people’s lives.