A passion for Coronation Street and social media has resulted in the Anglican Bishop of Jarrow being invited as the first clergy guest VIP blogger for the show.
The Right Revd Mark Bryant, who is a long-time fan of the soap, often uses plot-lines from the programme to make points about life in his own blogs.
Now, his tweeting following a visit to the set of the Salford-based programme has resulted in the show asking him to expand his thoughts in blog form in return for a donation to a charity of his choice. He selected DePaul as his charity for its work with homeless young people in the North East.
The Bishop said: “I cannot remember when I first started following Corrie but I think I have been following it for well over twenty years. Corrie is definitely my ‘cup of tea’.
“I like it because many of the themes in the show reflect what is happening in real life and drawing on them in my teaching of Christian faith allows me to reach people who might not normally listen to a priest.”
The Bishop cites as some of his most memorable episodes:
Hilda Ogden leaving on Christmas Day 1987 to “Wish me luck as you wave me good-bye”. Bishop Mark said: “A couple of weeks later I left a church in Wiltshire to move to the West Midlands and I made sure the organist played “Wish me luck…” at my final service as a homage to Hilda.”
The Duckworths taking over the Rovers in 1995. Bishop Mark said: “I remember Vera, who of course did not have a clue how to cook, cutting a tomato in a fancy way and telling us she had learnt it from Delia “on the telly”. The Duckworths are the patron saints of those who never quite make it and always feel a bit left out. I preached about them getting the pub at Midnight Mass Christmas 1995. The congregation was full of different people – some were always there, some were there just because it was Christmas – and I just had that sense that talking about the Duckworths just brought everyone together that Christmas night.”
Bet Lynch leaving the Rovers. Bishop Mark said: “As Bet waits for the taxi she puts the keys on the bar. The camera zooms in on the keys and, I later discovered, the next morning the phone for the key-makers in the Black Country was red-hot with people wanting Corrie keys. To cut a long story short I have a key to the Rovers Return but I did not phone up to get one!”
Roy and Hayley – especially Hayley’s last illness and the visit to Blackpool. Bishop Mark said: “What was so moving was not Hayley dying – though that was moving – but the way Roy changed and became so loving and gentle. Soaps can unite a nation and that is what Hayley and Roy did in those final episodes. It made me wonder how I could cope if I was in Roy’s shoes. I used to go round talking to clergy about just that; soaps, at their best, make us think about the things in life that really matter.”
Anna Windass going to the Foodbank. Bishop Mark said: “This was a brilliant portrayal of the courage and desperation that drives people to Foodbanks. In the part of the North East where I work, this is a daily occurrence. I was so glad Owen was alright about her going and the tender scene that followed was Corrie at its very best; portraying the everyday lives, mistakes and lives of ordinary people.”
You can follow Bishop Mark’s tweets on twitter as @BishopMark1 and his Coronation Street blog can be read at: http://coronationstreetupdates.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/exclusive-coronation-street-vip-blogger.html