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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Channel 4 to screen 'Priest Idol'
The new vicar will try to attract people to a church in Barnsley
Channel 4 will screen a new series which aims to boost a congregation in a parish with poor church attendance.

With the working title Priest Idol, the show will give a vicar 12 months to boost the church's turnout.

Backed by advisors, the vicar will be able to spend an undisclosed sum of money on anything he or she thinks will appeal to parishioners.

Being filmed in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the three-part series is due to be broadcast at the end of 2005.

'Forward-looking'

"It will feature a parish whose church is on the verge of closing, attracting only eight or nine people each week," a Channel 4 spokesman said, "but it is quite a forward-looking area which is willing to risk a new approach."

The vicar at the centre of the series will not be selected via a Pop Idol-style talent contest, the spokesman said.

He added: "By the end of the year the vicar will have to convince the local bishop and archbishop that he or she is the person for the job."

We are looking for someone with energy who is prepared to work in a place where there is a clear need for regeneration
The Rt Rev Stephen Platten
The series is being made by independent production company Diverse and will centre around the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Lundwood.

Its Bishop, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, said: "The programme-makers came to us. We feel that this is a gift we are being offered.

"If we can get the right priest, if we are able to make progress in this, then others in the same situation will be encouraged.

'Not suitable'

"We are looking for someone with energy who is prepared to work in a place where there is a clear need for regeneration."

But a spokesman for the Church of England said he was not keen on the proposed title for the show.

"We obviously need to see how the programme pans out, but for the moment we would like to see a better title," he said.

"Priest Idol is too reminiscent of Pop Idol, and that wouldn't be a suitable format."


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