BOOKS | Confessions of a Pole Dancing Priest

When I’m not tilling the soil, hoeing the weeds, or wrangling the slugs, I like to settle down in my study with a good book.

This is my study, or office. The bit that’s fit to show at least. The rest looks like the aftermath of a ramraid at the local Barnardos (not an exaggeration, ask anyone that’s been in here.)

It’s where I like to read, and write, and think, but mostly stare out of the window blankly and generally indulge in avoidance, denial, and escapism for as long as humanly possible.

Right now I tend to read “serious” books about history and politics and philosophy (with an emphasis on climate change) and it’s becoming rare I pick up a novel. But today I got offered a review copy of a book, Confessions of a Pole Dancing Priest, by The Reverend Laura Chapman, with Warren FitzGerald (an intriguing authorship and an odd spelling of the surname, which made me want to read on) that says of itself before the first page, “I wish this was fiction.” So, I wonder, is it even a novel?

It’s published by Armley Press. They sent this press release.

Laura has a calling from God. But, like many other twentysomethings, she also loves booze, sex and funny cat videos. Will this make her a bad priest

The crusty white male custodians of the ministry think so. But Laura has different ideas.

At theological college, despite hard partying and frequent hangovers, Laura is a good enough student to point out where the scripture is a misogynistic ‘crock of shite’.

Threatened with expulsion, Laura is silenced. For now. But she finds empowerment in pole fitness classes, and as a fully-fledged priest, older and wiser, she installs a pole in the vicarage, leaving visiting bishops agog.

Laura, an outsider herself, knows that outsiders are who the church is there for – from the old man barred from his lover’s funeral to the young woman in need of a secret abortion. But even Laura’s powers of inclusivity are challenged when she has to eulogise at a paedophile’s funeral and is hit on by a randy undertaker.

Confessions of a Pole Dancing Priest, one woman’s true-life odyssey of outrage through the patriarchal world of the Church, is full of whip-smart comebacks, stinging one-liners and scalpel-sharp observations. Laura’s story moves from episodes which are frank, crude, funny and rebellious to a traumatic conclusion of almost biblical proportions that speaks to the wisdom and humanity in all of us.

‘Laura Chapman’s “Confessions” should be required reading for anyone who wants an in to what is too often hidden! This is a fabulously funny, deeply
theological, all-too-recognisable telling of what ministerial life is really like!’

The Revd Canon Jarel Robinson-Brown.

They sent me a pdf, which I’m almost halfway through, and I’ll get a proper review copy in a week or two if anyone fancies it? It’s a good read, rude, crude, and lewd, with plenty of laugh out loud moments, so get in touch if you want to do the review.

I can send the pdf now, or get directly in touch with John Lake ([email protected]) and he’ll sort it out.

Armley Press’s many previous books include Chris Nickson’s Leeds: The Biography, Nathan O’Hagan’s The World is (Not) a Cold Dead Place and the encyclopaedia How Leeds Changed the World.