There's a reason for the rhyme, insists the rapping reverend

  • @tompeck

The parishioners of Uplyme in Devon are sticklers for yuletide tradition: get up, turkey in the oven, glass of Buck's Fizz, open the presents... then it's off to church through the morning mist to listen to the human beatboxing vicar.

The Reverend Gavin Tyte delivered a hip-hop version of the gospel according to St Luke to his congregation at Uplyme Church near Lyme Regis.

His Beatbox Nativity, in which he raps the Christmas story over a beat laid own by a beatboxing shepherd, has won him a flock far beyond the geographical constraints of his ministry through viral online videos.

Beatboxing involves using the mouth and the natural voice, with a microphone, to mimic drum beats and record scratching effects, musical instruments and production studio effects.

"People love it," said Reverend Tyte. "It's a translation of the bible in rhyme. If you rhyme, people listen."

Reverend Tyte says it was not God who called him to the mic and that he has been "spitting lyrics" far longer than sermons – since he was eight, in fact. He was ordained in 2002, while working as a music teacher at Farnborough College, Hampshire, and regularly indulges his other passion, both pursuits both sacred and profane.

"I'm only a part-time vicar. Four days a week I'm in church. Then I do two days of my own music production," he says. "I'll get rung up by a school who'll say, 'We just want a beatboxer to come in and do beatboxing workshops,' but inevitably I'll get roped in to do an RE lesson. I do electronica music production for the Bible Society too."

The Beatbox Nativity has been viewed by 110,000 people on Youtube, considerably more than could ever fit into Uplyme Church and with lines like: "No hotel, motel, custom baby-changer / She wrapped the baby up and laid him in a manger," it's a wonder it isn't more.

The vicar sits across a triple split screen, dressed as an angel, a shepherd and as himself in a dog collar. The lyrics appear above a panel indicating the relevant biblical passage.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called Reverend Tyte's work "pretty impressive".