Vicar rocks the flocks with Queen

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The Independent Online
THE SPIRIT of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, who died a year ago, lives on at St Augustine's Anglican Church in Bradford. Three hundred people filled the church earlier this month for a new multi-media production based on Queen's hit records. It was written and presented by the vicar.

The Gospel According to Queen, says the Rev Robin Gamble, 'uses the words and feelings of Queen's songs to talk about life, materialism, God and eternity'. It has been such a success that next month, with his Bishop's blessing, he will take the glad tidings on the road.

'We are reaching out into secular society and using secular language to communicate,' said Mr Gamble, 39. 'It is a chance to make deep spiritual statements without using traditional religious language.'

The show is no mere tribute to the music of the bisexual pop star who had Aids and died in November last year. Produced by a 25-strong team, it incorporates giant images of Freddie projected on to the church roof, video screens and a live band playing theologically profound Queen numbers such as 'I Want It All', 'I Want To Be Free', 'Who Wants To Live For Ever?' and 'You're My Best Friend'.

Mr Gamble, the compere, also introduces Queen quizzes, competitions and a Freddie Mercury lookalike competition. But it is not just aimed at the group's fans. 'We are trying to talk about God to people who are normally a million miles away from God.'

Mr Gamble, vicar at St Augustine's for 10 years, had the idea after hearing Freddie Mercury singing 'Who Wants To Live For Ever', which struck him as 'a cry against death, a cry for something other than mortality'. He played it to his congregation at Easter, and was well received.

'It dawned on me that Freddie Mercury was an icon of the greedy, get-rich-quick Eighties,' he said. 'But another side of him was asking very important questions about the meaning of life.'

While not suggesting the late singer led a particularly Christian lifestyle - he was a Zoroastrian - Mr Gamble says: 'Freddie Mercury was prone to be a self-centred and sin

ful man and every single member of the Church of England is exactly the same. I might not have Aids but I am dying of other diseases of self-centredness.'

Brian May, Queen's guitarist, has met the vicar and approves of his presentation. But there is some opposition. Mr Gamble attributes that to non-churchgoers 'who believe the Church should be a religious version of the National Trust and nothing new should


David Smith, the Bishop of Bradford, has not yet seen The Gospel According to Queen himself, but describes it as 'very imaginative'.

(Photograph omitted)