Camera crews and producers followed around ordinands at St. Michael’s College, Cardiff, Wales, for a year recording what life is like for those preparing for the priesthood. The turned into a documentary called Vicar Academy, will appear on BBC One Wales starting on Monday October 15th.
Vicar Academy shadows several full-time students from Wales’ only theological college as they work in prisons, hospitals, schools and parishes.
Marcus [Zipperlen], 41, was a second year student from Holy Trinity Church, Aberystwyth, in the diocese of St Davids. Before training for ministry he was Head of Biology at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, for six years where he taught, researched and developed ecological water treatment, ecological toilets, and conservation.
Viewers will see him helping at a night shelter for homeless people at a church project in Merthyr Tydfil.
Marcus, who is married with two young children, said, “I enjoyed working in alternative technology very much but I could not escape the nagging feeling that I should really be a priest, and after a few years of uncertainty, finally gave in, and went to chat my vicar about ordination. A year and a half later I was at St Michael’s College.
“The life of faith and seeking to answer God’s call needs some air-time. People do have strange and antiquated notions about the church, and vicars in particular, largely garnered I imagine from media stereotypes or even misrepresentations. Showing trainee vicars that aren’t wet misfits, endearing bumblers, or strict puritans, will I hope show the church to be, as it is, home to as many types of people as there are.”
The series producer, Ian Durham, said, “We wanted to explore and understand the changes and challenges facing the Church in Wales through the eyes of the St Michael’s Ordinands…”
“Through their individual and shared journeys we hope that the programmes will reveal not only the human face of the Church in Wales, but also show the Church as an institution to be an accessible and relevant entity with a – sometimes unexpected – core role in contemporary Welsh life.
“The overall hope is to move away from still commonly held public perception that opening fetes, drinking tea and eating cake are the primary roles for which those who are called to Ministry should be trained. Instead, we aim to truly reflect the varied, complex and impactful roles the ordinands, chaplains and clergy have to play in day to day Welsh life and culture, at a time when the Church in Wales itself is undergoing dramatic changes and challenges.”
The Principal of St Michael’s College, Revd Canon Dr Peter Sedgwick, said he hoped the reality show might inspire others to consider a call to ordained ministry.