A Church of England vicar has become an internet sensation after accidentally setting himself ablaze while conducting an online service.
Reverend Stephen Beach of Budeaux Parish Church in Plymouth, UK, was recording a low-key devotional time from his own home — complete with atmospheric background candles — when the hilarious mishap took place.
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“It’s a great thing to pause in the presence of God and to ask the question, ‘Lord God, what are you saying to us?'” Beach said during the final section of his church’s inaugural “online worship experience.”
Then, as he leaned over and spoke into the camera, one of the candles suddenly ignited the sleeve of his sweatshirt.
“Oh dear, I’ve just caught fire,” the vicar said matter-of-factly, as the flames began to spread across his shoulder.
Beach quickly extinguished the fire and brought the broadcast to an abrupt end. Speaking afterward, the reverend confirmed that he was unharmed during the incident.
“I just felt my arm getting a bit hot,” he told Sky News. “The nice thing is, it did damage my pullover and my shirt but my arm is fine – there’s no burn on my arm.”
Since the accident, Beach said he had been inundated with jokes from other ministers about being “on fire for Jesus.”
“People have laughed and laughed, really,” he said.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Church of England has officially banned all of its mass gatherings. On Sunday, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby broadcasted a special Sunday morning service across several BBC radio stations.
“At difficult times we have a choice. We can focus on fear, on ourselves and what we cannot do. Or we can turn to God and let God lead us into praying for the world, and let prayer flow into us, taking creative and loving action,” Welby said during his sermon. “That’s what we want to do today, to remind ourselves that life carries on and that there is much to celebrate in our communities.”
The archbishop warned that in a crisis of this magnitude, there is a temptation to “pull up the drawbridge and just look after ourselves.” Christians, however, should instead seek to “listen to the voice of God’s caring love for us, and his encouragement to turn ourselves towards others.”