A British priest’s first foray into the world of digital worship turned out to be a baptism by fire.
Rev. Stephen Beach accidentally set his sweater ablaze while filming part of St. Budeaux Parish Church’s Sunday service from his home in southwest England on Thursday.
“Oh, dear, I’ve just caught fire,” Beach can be heard saying in a YouTube video before quickly blowing out the flames. “Oh, my word.”
Beach told HuffPost that Thursday was the first time his parish attempted to put its entire worship service online. He had learned how to use YouTube “from scratch” just that morning, he said.
Like many houses of worship in the U.K., St. Budeaux Parish Church has indefinitely suspended communal worship services in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel strain of coronavirus. The Church of England, to which St. Budeaux belongs, has called on its parishes to live-stream services if they have the resources to do so.
After filming the first four parts of the service separately, Beach positioned himself by a candleholder with five lighted candles for the point in the liturgy when parishioners are called to pause and wait for Jesus to speak to them.
Beach said he initially thought the candles would help illustrate the message that Jesus’s cross is a light in the darkness. He was also aiming for variety with the setting, he said, after filming the first parts of the service standing up.
But seconds after he started recording, a flame began creeping up his arm.
“I just felt my arm getting warmer and warmer and looked down to see flames,” he wrote in an email. “There was a bad smell too!”
Though his sweater and shirt have holes in them, Beach said that he didn’t get hurt in the incident.
“I did not get burned at all! (Only my pride!)” he wrote.
Beach said his wife and daughter burst out laughing when they saw a video of the blooper. His daughter was the one who published it to YouTube, he said.
“I am glad, though, that she did ― it has caused lots of fun and laughter in a strange and difficult time,” he said. “I have had some great and funny emails from friends and colleagues, and it has helped cheer lots of people up.”
“My youngest grandchildren ask when granddad is going to set himself on fire again,” he said.
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