Goodness and mercy

by CynthiaYockey on January 3, 2011

My late life partner and I used to love to watch the British comedies broadcast by the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., PBS stations — Are You Being Served?, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Chef, Last of the Summer Wine, Waiting for God, Blackadder, The Thin Blue Line and The Vicar of Dibley were among our favorites. I stopped watching most of them after Margaret died because their association with memories of her made me sad.

But late on Christmas Day, after my brother and his son, Awesome Nephew, had gone home and I had gotten Dad tucked into bed, I sat in the living room with my kitties idly browsing through the onscreen TV guide and noticed The Vicar of Dibley was about to come on. I love the arrangement of the 23rd Psalm that is sung over the opening and closing credits, so I tuned in and was delighted to see it was an episode I’d never seen. In fact — spoiler alert — it was intended as the last episode, in which the eponymous vicar, gets married and her side of the church is packed with other female vicars. Did I forget to mention the vicar was a woman, one of the first ordained by the Church of England?

The Church of England first permitted female vicars in 1992 and Richard Curtis created The Vicar of Dibley in 1994. Dawn French played the vicar, Geraldine Granger. Although only 20-ish episodes were created over the next 13 years, I suspect the show’s warmth and humor went a long way toward tipping the battle for acceptance of female vicars greatly in favor of, “This could work out better than we think.” And the fleeting image that captures the transformation wrought over the 13-year course of the show is when the camera pans over Geraldine’s side of the church before her wedding and all the pews are filled with female vicars:

Female vicars fill the bride's side of the church at the wedding of the vicar of Dibley, Geraldine Granger.

Female vicars fill the bride's side of the church at the wedding of the vicar of Dibley, Geraldine Granger.

As a woman I was glad to see how shows like The Vicar of Dibley can dispel fears whipped up by people whose real concern is losing power. As a lesbian, I wonder when liberal Hollywood will ever create comedies and dramas that will do the same for gays — illegal aliens and Muslims have rather jumped the line, in that regard. And as a conservative blogger, flabbergasted as I am that Obama kept a promise and signed the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on Dec. 22, the photo above is a symbol of where I believe gays and lesbians serving openly in the military will be a few years from now — making a valued contribution, equal and all the predictions of doom laid to rest.

If The Vicar of Dibley piques your interest, you can search on YouTube and find the first episode and the wedding episode. I learned this by searching YouTube to see if anyone had uploaded a video of the arrangement of the 23rd Psalm behind the credits — and lo!, someone has! I am joyful about this because the last time I searched for it on iTunes it was nowhere to be found, although that could have been because I searched for “Vicar of Dibley Lord’s Prayer” even though, dagnabbit, I know the words to both the prayer and the psalm. I hope you will find this arrangement as haunting and comforting as I do, and my new year’s wish for all my dear gentle readers is that goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and that you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever:

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  • Graumagus

    All the full seasons of Vicar of Dibley are also available on Netflix instantly streaming to your computer or if you have a blu-ray/Wii/Xbox etc hooked up to the net.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard good things about the movie “The Kids Are Alright,” a family drama about a family headed by lesbians.

  • Damian G.

    I found the Vicar of Dibley to be a cleverly-written show, as British comedies so often are, but I disagree with your assessment regarding women’s ordination in Anglicanism.

    As an American Anglo-Catholic (that would be under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church), my opposition to women’s ordination is an ontological one. It’s not that a woman priest “isn’t right” to me or some “it’s just not her place”-type argument; it’s that to me a woman in that role is as impossible as a man giving birth. It’s not that women shouldn’t be clergy; it’s that they physically can’t be.

    The Church can claim it ordains women, but that doesn’t make it so. To traditionalists, they are drag kings, performing invalid Sacraments and violating Christ’s example in selecting twelve male Apostles to be the first Bishops of the Church.

    And the fact is, ordaining women hasn’t really worked out at all. The entire point of this foolhardy endeavour was to make the Church more appealing and open. In England, there are now more Roman Catholics than Anglicans in attending Mass on any given Sunday for the first time since the Reformation. In the United States, the Episcopal Church has gone from over 3 million souls in 1965 to barely 2 million now, with fewer than 700,000 attending Mass on Sundays and the average congregant in his or her 60’s.

    Every argument in favour of women’s ordination is a sociological one and thus irrelevant in the context of the Church. I say this as a member of Feminists for Life and as one of Sarah Palin’s earliest and biggest supporters (I endorsed her for VP in May 2008!). Also, I supported repealing DADT.

    Also, I love that arrangement of the 23rd Psalm, too. The show had damn good production values; I can’t fault it for that. Happy Epiphany, Cynthia! 🙂

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