Vicar quits over pressure of TV fame
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.
That and demands for a second series left his ability to minister effectively in his Wiltshire parish "irrevocably compromised."
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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".
He said: "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
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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 support him in every way we can," said Mrs Allen today.
Mr Allen, a former DJ, originally wanted to be a doctor. He studied chemistry, biology and physics in the sixth form at Woodbridge School, where his father was head of physics.
He then took teacher training for four years at Warwick University and taught for a while before answering his calling.
The TV series followed him as he moved from being curate of an urban parish to be vicar of the Wiltshire villages of Seend, Bulkington and Poulshot.
It proved a fascinating insight into the life of a vicar and the new ideas he brought to a traditional 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 the Rev Julian Harford and two readers covered services for him. He 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."
The Rt Rev David Stancliffe, bishop of Salisbury, said Mr Allen had resigned his licence, not his holy orders, and would remain a priest.