Canon Brian Andrews became the Scrooge of Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire last week when he told children at his family service that neither Santa Claus nor the Tooth Fairy was real. Yesterday he admitted to being a turkey - but only while the children were safely tucked away at Sunday school.
After delivering his bombshell at St Lawrence's Church, during which he told children aged two to nine that it was their parents who left Christmas presents under the tree and money under their pillows, a number of children were reported to have burst into tears.
Some parents complained, but Canon Andrews explained that he was trying to impress upon the children the Church's view that the story of Jesus was not a fairytale. The children were not impressed.
After arranging for the youngsters to be entertained at Sunday school, he said: "At the family service on Sunday 10 December, I told the congregation, which included children and adults, that the money under our pillows and the presents in our stockings were put there by our parents and not by the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. I believe this to be an ill-judged remark and I apologise unreservedly."
About 150 adults heard Canon Andrews' apology. They were later joined by about 20 children, who unfurled a banner featuring a smiling Father Christmas. Canon Andrews' congregation already seems to have forgiven him. "He's an excellent vicar," one said after yesterday's service.
And there was support for him from the Right Rev Dr David Jenkins, the controversial former Bishop of Durham who, writing in today's Independent, agrees that the teaching of Christianity would benefit from the separation of fairytale from reality.
"Perhaps," he says, "the troubled vicar should not have apologised but tackled the parents about their dull materialism."
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