Villagers desperate to recruit a vicar for their parish have posted an hilarious homemade appeal – on YouTube.
Churchgoers in Woodham Ferrers and Bicknacre, Essex, have been without a vicar for 16 months since the Rev Mary Cottee retired in June 2011.
The parish’s two busy churches, St Andrew’s in Bicknacre and St Mary’s in Woodham Ferrers currently “borrow” retired clergy and vicars from neighbouring parishes.
They have made repeated attempts to recruit their own man-of-God but have failed – so have now turned to YouTube.
Residents have made a comedy video appealing for suitable candidates – using a cardboard cut-out to show exactly where the new clergyman will fit in.
The video -featuring nearly the whole village – opens with one parishioner being told off for the director for making jokes about the graveyard being the “dead centre of the village”.
In his second take he says: “Here we are in St Mary’s churchyard. It’s a beautiful churchyard as you can see, but we have a grave situation – we have no vicar.”
Hilariously, the film then cuts to a packed wedding scene – with a white life-sized cardboard cut-out of a vicar stood in front of the alter.
Next, the light-hearted appeal moves to a christening scene, with a full congregation and a baby gathered round the font – with the same cardboard cut-out.
The tongue-in-cheek appeal then switches to a primary school assembly – with crossed-legged children saying ‘good morning’ to the cardboard cut out.
In another shot the cardboard vicar is even seen playing pool and watching TV with a group of village teenagers.
The narrator says: “You see, we have a lot of weddings, but we have no vicar.
“We have a lot of baptisms….but we’ve got no vicar.
“We’ve got a lovely Church of England primary school….but we’ve got no vicar.”
Other laugh-out loud moments include the narrator being drowned out by the sound of church bells, and beginning to talk before the director gets out of shot.
It ends by explaining the crew were so busy organising all of the church events in the village they had been forced to cut the production of the film short.
Finally an out-take shows the clumsy, elderly narrator tripping over a gravestone onto the floor before laughing so much he can’t get up.
Villagers felt they were left with no option when they realised they had received no applications for the position after a whole year.
The position is for a “house for duty” associate minister who would not get paid but would be given use of a four-bedroomed detached church house in return for working two days a week, plus Sundays.
Incredibly, only five people have downloaded an application form for the job but nobody has formally applied for it.
Churchwarden Nick Kitchen said: “We’re looking for somebody with enthusiasm who is flexible and willing to get involved in the community.
“For the people running the church it’s hard work.
“I’m in a full-time job and it’s difficult to juggle. People end up doing too much.”
He added: “The fact that it’s unpaid certainly doesn’t help. You immediately cut out those that need to make a living out of being a vicar.
“The churches are definitely unique in their style of worship and the way we run our services.
“These are fantastic villages and wonderful communities. We’re well located and close to London, Maldon and Chelmsford for commuting.
“We’ve got great local facilities: pubs, parks and quite a bit of open land in Bicknacre.
We’ve got a small village shop and Chinese and Indian takeaways.”
Parishioners decided to make the video, which has now been viewed almost 8,000 times, after a meeting between churchwardens, the rural dean and the Bishop of Bradwell.
Mr Kitchen said: “Someone suggested it and we thought it wasn’t a bad idea. Everybody needs a laugh and it’s nice to show church people aren’t dull.”
The official job advert on the Diocese of Chelmsford website reads: “The parish is looking for a leader – forward-looking and evangelical in approach (but comfortable with a variety of worship styles).”
It also says the successful applicant must help: “To develop and grow the churches; To evangelise, especially through the parish sports teams; To develop the ministry among children and young adults, and ; To develop a ministry of prayer and Bible study.”
Interviews are due to be held on 23 November.