Tom Hollander's Rev resonates with Christians

Olivia Colman and Tom Hollander lead the cast in Rev(Photo: BBC)

Christians can relate to the challenges experienced by the Reverend Adam Smallbone in BBC2's hit series Rev, new research has revealed.

The final episode airs tonight and according to a survey by Christian Research, just under two thirds (65 per cent) of lay and ordained Christians have tuned in to the series.  

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE), found just under half (48 per cent) would attend a church led by Rev Smallbone - played by Tom Hollander in the series. 

Women were more likely to attend (55 per cent) and only 12 per cent said they would decline the opportunity.

Rev Smallbone makes for a convincing character by the 1,900 Christians surveyed, with respondents rating him on average 2.1 on a scale of 1 for totally believable, to 5 for totally unbelievable. 

The last episode sees Rev Smallbone's congregation in a flurry over his desire to drop the dog collar in favour of becoming a management consultant. 

It airs as the real-life church used in the TV series faces the threat of closure, with reports that the future of St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, has been put at risk by a dwindling congregation that can no longer afford its upkeep. 

The Reverend Paul Turp, 65, was quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying the church had spent £250,000 in the last year on the Grade I listed church's roof and another £92,000 on railings and gates. 

"We will do a lot of prayer and hope to pull a miraculous rabbit out of an as yet non-existent hat," he said. 

Commenting on the TV show, he said: "Rev shows the truth about people who love their church and understand it but do not have the resources to run it." 

His comments echoed those of one respondent to the CRE survey who said: "I find Rev both extremely painful and extremely funny, because, having spent 15 years in inner city ministry in London, the situations, people and relationships it portrays are often too true for comfort." 

The survey revealed strong support for a greater sharing of resources between large and small churches, with 86 per cent of respondents saying wealthy churches should support smaller ones like Rev Smallbone's St Saviour in the Marshes. 

When asked whether churches that cannot pay their way should be closed, only 20 per cent agreed.

"I am not surprised the series has had such a big impact among church-goers – lay and ordained," said Bill Allen, event manager of the Christian Resources Exhibition.

"Adam Smallbone's struggle with a lack of resources, human and financial, mirrors the situation of thousands of visitors to our national exhibition where we show what can be done, even on tight budgets."

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the 30th National CRE when it takes place at Sandown Park, Esher, from May 13 to 16.