TV vicar quits as fame gets too much
SUFFOLK-born TV vicar Jamie Allen today quit his post as a parish priest - because the pressures of fame were harming his work and family life.Rev Allen's face became known all over the country after the success of the BBC series A Country Parish – but no-one had foreseen how the TV exposure would affect his ministry, and life with his wife and children.
By Richard Cornwell
SUFFOLK-born TV vicar Jamie Allen today quit his post as a parish priest - because the pressures of fame were harming his work and family life.
Rev Allen's face became known all over the country after the success of the BBC series A Country Parish – but no-one had foreseen how the TV exposure would affect his ministry, and life with his wife and children.
It led to a postbag of tens of thousands of letters seeking advice and spiritual help, demands for a second series, and caused his ability to minister effectively in his Wiltshire parish to be "irrevocably compromised."
Mr Allen, 32, who was born in Woodbridge and whose parents live in Felixstowe, told his parishioners in a letter that he had resigned his minister's licence – a decision taken "with a heavy heart".
"A Country Parish had great appeal to a wholly unexpected number of viewers, and has caused literally thousands to respond anew to the Christian message – and for this we should be justly proud," he said.
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"But, on the downside, it presented a number of serious obstacles to my work."
His parents Pam and Roy Allen, of Victoria Road, Felixstowe, have supported Jamie, his wife Suzy, and their three daughters, Danielle, six, Carrie, three, and Katy one, through the past few months as they decided what to do.
"We are in constant touch with Jamie and supporting him in every way we can," said Mrs Allen today.
Mr Allen, a former DJ, originally wanted to be a doctor and studied chemistry, biology and physics in the sixth form at Woodbridge School, where his dad had been the head of physics.
He then studied teacher training at Warwick University for four years and taught for a while before answering his calling.
The TV series followed him as he moved from curate of an urban parish to the villages of Seend, Bulkington and Poulshot.
It proved a fascinating insight into life of a vicar, and the new ideas he brought to a very traditional old English parish. Audiences found him likeable and approachable, and inundated him with letters seeking help and advice.
Parishioners said Mr Allen was "tremendously conscientious" and wanted to answer the letters, but the situation became overwhelming and started to affect his family life, which could also be seen in the TV series when the pressure of long hours in his day to day ministry began to tell.
He took a three-month leave of absence in August while retired priest Rev Julian Harford and two Readers covered services for him. He also asked the BBC to postpone a second series of the programme.
Mr Allen and his wife declined to add to the statement read out in church. Mrs Allen said: "We are looking forward to settling down and being normal people again."
Rt Rev David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, said Mr Allen had resigned his licence, not his holy orders, and would remain a priest. He could resume ministry in a non-stipendiary role.